The Emperor Has No Lightbulbs

For thousands and thousands of years, street lights have been one of the basic tenants of civilization.

Things like light, fire, potable water and the rule of law keep anarchy at bay.

They separate us from animals.

These days, Washington, D.C. is the center of political and military power on the planet.

Washington, D.C. can’t keep the lights on.

It’s pathetic.

A drive around town will take you through stretches where dozens of light poles stand impotently, illuminating nothing. At least half of the street lamps around the Beltway are dead.

The few lights that do work flicker on and off at random.

Plus, the light bulbs are weak.

The light produced is so dim that it barely reaches 20 meters down. That’s inconvnient since this is where the people and cars are.

While these critters spend billions teaching sea otters how to break dance and trillions flinging bombs off to faraway lands, none have noticed that they can’t even see the road right in front of their eyes.

There’s a hypothesis of criminality called the broken-window theory.

The idea is that signs of disorder and vandalism in ghettos — like broken windows — are environmental cues which create more crime and neglect.

Fix up the windows, keep everything clean, and crime will stay down. Programs based on this theory have been successfully implemented in Japan.

In Washington, D.C., people making decisions which affect the entire planet are surrounded by environmental cues of decline, neglect, laziness, and mistaken priorities.

If fixing broken windows can reduce criminality in criminal areas, could fixing the street lights in Washington, D.C. reduce corruption and decay?

Change a lightbulb, change the world.