Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens. . .

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We’re always gratified when our work appears on Blue Mass Group. So, of course we read with interest today’s post comparing our report on the Longfellow Bridge with an article on infrastructure maintenance recently published in The New Republic.

It was, however, not the post itself, but, rather, the comment string that caught my attention (and, I should say, the attention of my colleauges). The first comment reads, in part:

We should demonstrate our commitment to rebuilding the crumbling infrastructure by fixing the Longfellow bridge ourselves. Wouldn’t that be cool of we spent some of the money we raise to fixing the brdge. We could make a picnic out of it and start working like busy little bees to fix up the bridge.

Subsequent commentators generally reacted in one of two ways. Either they suspected the author of the above comment to be a red mole, as in

Which pathetically bored conservative commentator are you? Which sadly pedestrian gadfly are you, who’s thinking they’re being satiric with their dishwatery attempts at mocking liberals?

Or they suspected him of being irretrievably stupid, as in

Oh, and doing the maintenance as a citizen group is the dumbest idea I have heard in a while.

I would like to offer an alternative interpretation. To begin, the comment, if it is sincere, is also naive. That can hardly be argued. But I am also naive and, so, always appreciate it when I detect naivete in others. Moreover, rather than be attacked from what can be construed as both left and right (accusing the comment’s author of being a red mole is clearly to attack him from the left; though less obvious, to accuse him of being dumb is to attack him from the right), I believe voteatercerus (the commentator’s online pseudonym) deserves commendation instead: from the left for honestly believing that a committed group of citizens can still effect change (for, indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has), and, from the right, for advocating that the solution to a large and vexing problem in our society shouldn’t necessarily be left up to government.

This fall, Pioneer will host Peter Diamandis, who, more than a decade ago, founded the X Prize Foundation, which offered a $10 million prize to the first private entrepreneurs who could launch a manned rocket 100 kilometers above the Earth’s surface twice in two weeks. The belief, that private initiative could build a better rocket than government subsidy.

Dr. Diamandis and his colleagues have since expanded the foundation, which now offers competitive prizes in fields as far flung as genomics and cars, and, by the way, only eight years after announcing it, the original X Prize was claimed by the team of aerospace designer Burt Rutan and financier Paul Allen. It appears a little naivete goes a long way, even, in fact, 100 kilometers above the Earth’s surface.