Saturday, October 30, 2010


If you haven't seen Dog Day Afternoon, quit procrastinating. I won't unleash any spoilers, but before you read further, understand it is a film about a bank robbery.

Watching it, I was struck by changes we've seen since 1975, the year of its release (the events depicted went down in '72).

Mr. Pacino and Fredo try holding up a small Brooklyn bank. Although the bank is mom-and-pop-sized, it is stacked with employees. Nowadays, thanks to innovations like ATMs and online banking, even major Manhattan banks don't carry such top-heavy staffs.

Yet when the camera shows the street in front of the bank, you notice the parking meters they had then are like the ones you see now; nearly four decades later. There has been no inventiveness on the parking meter front. Steve Jobs stubbornly refuses to release an iPark.

The reason for this stagnation? Banks compete, parking meters are government enterprises. Government enterprises mean no price mechanism, no market feedback, no competition. The closest thing to a parking innovation a municipality seems capable of is making parking harder and less legal with barnacles like school zones. Hence, parking remains a constant migraine, while banking keeps getting simpler. Thankfully, parking in front of a bank is far less necessary, thanks to improvements like online banking.

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