You Can Have My Parking Spot When You Pry It From My Cold, Dead Hands.

snow car.jpg

Flickr/woodleywonderworks

The Washington Post recently reported that Washingtonians aren't quite sure what how to handle the thorny question of whether, once you've dug out a parking spot, it remains yours. Jonathan Chait gives us the philosophical implications (short version: he's with Locke) today. I lived for almost a decade in Philadelphia, where the rule is clear: If you dig it out, you put a lawn chair or something similar in it. If it doesn't have some such marker, anyone is free to park in it. But if it has such a marker, and you come along and move that marker and park in the spot, then your car, your person, and possibly your offspring down through seven generations will feel the consequences, which will likely involve pummeling.

The problem Washington faces is that we don't get this kind of storm very often, which means that the society hasn't had the opportunity to establish and reinforce a set of social norms around the issue. But more important, Washington has less of what could be called a "society" than most places. The city is full of people who didn't grow up here. Lots of folks come for a few years after college and then leave, and others come and go depending on what administration is in power. That can make it more welcoming for new arrivals, since so many people you encounter are also new arrivals, and nobody really thinks having been here a long time makes you any cooler than the person who just got here (a common feeling in places that are, in fact, cool). On the other hand, it means more opportunities for arguments over dug-out parking spaces, since nobody knows what rules they're supposed to follow.

No wonder Americans think there's too much bickering in Washington.

--Paul Waldman

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