Backwards Epcot: Turn Venice into a Disney Park?

30 Sep

Nope, that wasn’t my idea! Mr Broke Hoedown’s informed me of a Yahoo! News article on a British economist winning an award for proposing Venice turn over its management to Disney.

“Only one man can save Venice: Mickey Mouse,” read the headline for [John Kay’s] article explaining the concept, published in March in British newspaper The Times. “The city is already a theme park and should be handed over to Disney — they would do a better job of running it.”

Its population long dwindling, Venice’s remaining 70,000 residents are far outnumbered by the millions of tourists who flock to the city every year — creating an artificial economy that cheats tourists and sends locals packing, Kay wrote.

“If the first thing visitors to Venice remember is the magnificence of the setting, the second is the frequency with which they were ripped off,” he wrote.

“Disney wants its guests to have a good time because it cares whether they come back. Most residents of Venice would rather that visitors didn’t come back.”

Now, my first inclination is to bristle. I mean really, I’d be the first to praise Disney for its superb crowd and traffic management strategies, especially at Walt Disney World itself. But there are certain infrastructure requirements that one simply cannot meet in an existing urban environment (retrofit Venice’s transportation networks, anybody?), and certain things are lost in hyper-efficient processes. A certain, well, je ne sais quoi.

But then I get to thinking a bit more, and I might just want to defend the paper, rather amusing given I have not read the darn thing. Nonetheless, there’s a general point here.

Remember a while back, when Lani Guinier got raked over the coals (and lost her Assistant Attorney General nomination) because she had suggested alternative voting systems in her academic papers? Well, here’s the thing people forget about academia….it is a place that encourages and celebrates the discussion of ideas which are not necessarily yet implementable. In some cases, academics put forth ideas that are wildly improbable, for the sake of discussion and learning.

So hey, I’d give that John Kay article a read. It doesn’t seem to be on The Times Online….anybody got a link to the full text?

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