It's Not Just a Name, It's an Invitation


Via Marginal Revolution comes this Harvard Gazette profile of Bogota's eccentric ex-mayor Antanas Mockus. A former academic, Mockus looks vaguely like Phish frontman Trey Anastasio and appears to have been put on earth to answer the question: What if some mad deity gave Patch Adams political power?

There's plenty that's unsettling about this guy's enthusiasm for turning a city full of real live people into a laboratory to test his wacky ideas—including, apparently, a souped up "ladies night" on which men were forbidden to be out on the streets. Still, the pol-theory geek in me is intrigued by any elected official whose governing style bears the influence of both Doug North and Jurgen Habermas—and who deploys policing strategies like these:

Another innovative idea was to use mimes to improve both traffic and citizens' behavior. Initially 20 professional mimes shadowed pedestrians who didn't follow crossing rules: A pedestrian running across the road would be tracked by a mime who mocked his every move. Mimes also poked fun at reckless drivers. The program was so popular that another 400 people were trained as mimes.

Now, in my old stomping grounds in Manhattan, that sounds like a recipe for 400 dead mimes. But then, one might count that as a successful program too…