Sunday, April 20, 2003

I was a very early anti-fragilist!

In April 2003 this is what I argued in a formal written statement delivered as an Executive Director of the World Bank:

"A mixture of thousand solutions, many of them inadequate, may lead to a flexible world that can bend with the storms. A world obsessed with Best Practices may calcify its structure and break with any small wind. Who could really defend the value of diversity, if not The World Bank?"

Thursday, April 10, 2003

Out of the box tourism: Lessons from Florence


My apologies to the Florentines, but their beautiful city is like the Magic Kingdom of the Renaissance. The inexhaustible flow of tourists, hotels, prices, and lines for attractions, fast or slow meals, and souvenirs, all makes one question, between Medici and Disney, just who copied the model of whom. In my opinion, not only are the gelatos of Florence richer, but also, with the possible exception of Goofy, Michelangelo’s David and the frescos of Fra Angélico are far superior to Mickey, Pluto, and the rest. 

What an inheritance the Medicis left to their city! The Florentine economy will always be easy to manage, since the only thing that their Paperon de Paperoni (Scrooge McDuck) has to do is fix admissions prices. The one little cloud on the horizon could be the quantity of English, Venezuelan, German, and other immigrants who try to take advantage of the infrastructure. What would Machiavelli have thought about entering the European Union?

We know that despite all its possibilities, Venezuela, in a local saying, still has not managed to connect the foot to the ball when it comes to developing its tourism industry. This will never be resolved by naming ministers who spend their time conducting publicity campaigns, or visiting Orlando and Florence. We are not proposing that other Medicis substitute for those who govern us—we can discuss this on another day. But in the meantime, we could emulate the experts.

In Florence 500 years ago, the contest system was used to assure that the best artistic proposals were utilized to adorn the city. So let’s organize a grand contest.

It will be a grand contest to choose a grand team and a grand plan for the strategic development and management of the tourism sector for the next 30 years, with an estimate of costs and results.

A qualified panel of judges should choose the best three proposals, and the proposals should be publicly debated on television. The losers will receive an important prize, and the winners will be commissioned to execute their proposal during thirty years, with a significant fixed, indexed and guaranteed annual budget.

Since televised public contests enjoy high ratings, this contest could also be a way to build pontes novos, new bridges, in our divided society.

The Santa María del Fiore Cathedral took more than 100 years to construct, and for a long time everyone thought its dome would be impossible to build. And so, friends, let’s not lose the hope of finding a local genius like Brunelleschi for our Helicoide (a local 45-year-old monstrous white elephant). 

Extracted from "Voice and Noise" 2006