Reporting on ‘reports’ in 1968...

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This week we bring you this classic G. George Ostrom column he selected from 1968...

Was readin’ about a ski bum report last week. The report is 72 pages long, cost $106,000 and was carried out by the Colorado Division of Commerce and Development. In typical fashion, the AP didn’t tell what the purpose of the report was.

As is the case in most of these shenanigans, the tab was picked up by the U.S. taxpayers by way of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

I personally have no quarrel with surveys and reports, per se. I think that sort of activity provides unlimited sources of amusement and information, besides lending dignity of sorts to a lot of civil servants who might otherwise be hanging around the pool halls.

What I do object to is the secrecy that surrounds these public supported programs. In this particular instance, I have enough personal experience to know that the report really should have been sponsored by the Department of Interior Division of Wildlife.

My curiosity has been unduly kindled by the “ski bum” report and I wonder if the government is planning a whole series of “bum” reports.

There are many kinds of bums, you know. There are “yacht bums, “golf bums,” “beach bums,” “parachute bums,” et cetera. Perhaps if the project gathered enough momentum and caught the public imagination, we could eventually have a report on “U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development bums.”

You may recall hearing of an appliance store in Butte called Ossello’s. Earlier this month, Ossello’s advertised that if you bought a major appliance, you would be given a “free” home burglar alarm. The burglars who came the weekend of the 15th took 23 TV sets and 19 portable tape recorders and stereos.

Just why they took a dozen burglar alarms wasn’t figured out by the police.

There seem to be two theories: (a) Burglars do not have any respect for burglar alarms and stole said alarms to keep the public from spending money foolishly on such contraptions or (b) they respect burglar alarms and wanted to install them in their hideout to prevent theft of their loot.

I think all of this theorizing by the police, the press, and the public has missed the most obvious clue of the whole case. It appears elementary that burglars were not well informed, otherwise they would have known that a burglar alarm went with each major appliance. TVs are major appliances and, although they acquired 23 such instruments, they only got 12 alarms.

If I was handling that case, I would have posted a plainclothes officer on the scene and arrested the first guy who came back saying he’d been shorted 11 burglar alarms.

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