12/21/2006

When I am King: Capital Appreciation

When I am King...

Locate my government's capital in a nice place.

Sacramento, Richmond, Salem, Trenton, Indianapolis, Albany, anywhere in the Dakotas, ....

There is an infinite list of capital cities located in places that just aren't what people normally think of as "destinations". And they're certainly not what I think of as fun places to look out on from the throne every day.

Why are capitals usually located in such dull, or at least odd, places? This seems to be a tradition with a fairly long history. Internationally, St. Petersburg, Russia comes to mind. It's actually quite a beautiful city, but it's also one that is covered in snow, ice and inhumanly cold temperatures for about 12 months out of every year. But Peter the Great went out of his way to establish St. Petersburg as the new capital of Russia (calmer, warmer heads have since prevailed and the capital is once again located in the (still damn cold) city of Moscow).

In the U.S., there is also a tradition of picking off-beat locations for capitals, dating from the first federal capital which George Washington chose to be built on a swamp. It may not look like one now, but go to D.C. in August and you'll understand.

Is this approach to building capitals a tourist trap? Like putting billboards out hundreds of miles for incredibly awful attractions? Are we trying to drive visitors to places that they otherwise would avoid like, say, a swamp? And do we think that putting a bunch of bureaucrats in big government buildings will really be an attraction? I can hear the dinner table conversations now: “Oh, honey, let's go to Sacramento this summer. I hear they've repaired that leak in the men's room near the Assembly room.”

It seems more likely that it's done as a motivator for all of the civil servants stoking the blazing furnace of this democracy. If a city was too interesting, the workers might be tempted to amuse themselves outdoors occasionally. Perhaps by making them work in such dull locales, we encourage our gorvernment workers to pursue their jobs at a fever pitch, driving them to work all the way until 4 pm in some extreme cases of diligence.

My administration will take a different tack: capitals should be located in areas of splendor, worthy of leaders and visiting dignitaries. As such, I will place my kingdom's capital in one of the better spots of our nation.

No decisions have been made yet on where the capital will end up. Bidding may commence at any time. The approach of Salt Lake City in bidding for past Olympics venues is not out of the question; I am not opposed to accepting large sums of cash to help sway the decision. I can't say I would actually ever choose to relocate to Provo, but I wouldn't mind being bribed to consider it briefly. One possible outcome, based on the number and amount of the bids, would be to have several capitals and to move the seat of power as weather and whim decree.

I still subscribe to the principal of leaving the actual government workforce in the current, boring locations. For one thing, maybe the whole “nothing to do in this town, might as well work” premise actually works to some extent. But more importantly, it just seems like my government would be so much more productive without all of that bureacracy around.

So by saying I will relocate the capital I mean, of course, me. L'├ętat, c'est Chet and all that.
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