FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #84: “The bigger and more complex government gets the more unintended the consequences.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 20th, 2011

Filthy, Stinking Hippies never Liked Income Disparity.  Or Real Work.

Say you’re a server at a nice restaurant.  And you’re really good.  People ask to sit in your section.  For your prompt and courteous service.  And they show their appreciation.  With big tips.  And frequent trips to the restaurant.  Good food.  And great service.  It’s what makes a restaurant successful.

Now let’s say the restaurant owners retire and turn over the business to their children.  And let’s say they’re liberal Democrats.  Children of the Sixties.  Hippies.  Filthy, stinking hippies.  And still are.  Though they may bathe more these days.  Anyway, they take over the exploitation of the working class in this bourgeois restaurant.  (They see all business in these terms.)  And they’re going to make some changes.

They never liked the income disparity they saw between the servers.  (Or real work for that matter.)  And they don’t like you.  Because you’re getting more in tips than the other servers.  And that just isn’t fair.  You’re just lucky to get better tables.  As if you won some lottery in life.  It’s only blind, dumb luck that makes you the high earner in the restaurant.  So they’re going to level the playing field.  Make it fair for everyone.  Not just for the rich.  You.  But for everyone.  From now on all tips go into a jar.  And at the end of the day they will divide those tips evenly between all servers.  Everything fair.  And everyone happy.

People don’t Approve of Slavery and Prefer to Keep the Fruits of Their Labor

Or so they would believe.  Because you’re not going to be happy, are you?  I mean, you know why you made more in tips.  You provided exceptional service.  And your reward for your hard work?  A punitive tax.  They’re going to share part of your tips with the less exceptional servers.  So what will you do?

I’m guessing that you’re not going to say, “Vive la revolución.”  And work even harder.  Instead I’m betting that you will be looking for a new job.  At a restaurant that rewards hard work.  And if there are no other food service jobs available?  Because liberal Democrats are in power?  And they’ve killed the economy?  Well, then, you just won’t work as hard.  Because you don’t approve of slavery.  Having the fruits of your labors given to others.

So the new owners, the filthy, stinking hippies, will lose their best server.  And soon will notice a steady decline in the quality of service.  For their servers quickly learn that working harder doesn’t mean any more pay.  So they don’t.  Work harder.  Food sits in the kitchen longer.  By the time they serve it to the customers it’s lukewarm.  They don’t refill drinks.  Customers begin to complain.  Even about the quality of the lukewarm food.  The executive chef quits.  Business drops off.  The business goes into debt.  Losing some $10,000 each month.  And things get so bad under the new owners that not even Robert Irvine could save this restaurant.

The new owners thought their way was going to make a better work environment for their employees.  But the only workers who liked the new policies and stayed were their worst employees.  All the good ones quit.  And those who remained lost their jobs eventually as the business finally went under.  So everyone in the end lost.  Because these hippies thought they knew what was best for everyone.

Accidents Sometimes Happen when Men Control Complex Machines

So bad ideology has unintended consequences.  But complex systems to simplify complex things also have unintended consequences.

The modern jetliner is a complex machine.  They can literally take off, fly and land themselves.  But don’t.  Pilots still take off.  And land.  But the other 99% of the time these aircraft fly themselves.  Pilots input data into the flight computers.  And the computers fly the aircraft.

So pilots don’t fly as much as they used to.  They log a lot of hours in the cockpit.  But they’re not really flying.  They’re operating computers.  Pushing buttons.  Turning dials.  And communicating with air traffic controllers.  They’re not ‘connected’ to the aircraft like in the old days.  Fly-by-wire technology insulates the pilot from the flight controls.  The days of stick and rudder are gone.  When a pilot was one with the aircraft.  Through constant feedback via the senses.  Flying by the seat of the pants.  When a hand on the steering column told a pilot how the plane was flying.  Even while on autopilot.  While having a conversation with a flight attendant standing in the cockpit door.

Back then you needed far more piloting skills than you do today.  Because there were no flight computers.  Like they have today.  That’s why a lot of pilots came out of the military.  Because the military pushed pilots in their training.  Taught them to fly through anything that can happen while flying.  Including recovering from a stall.  Something that just doesn’t typically happen in a modern jetliner these days.

Pilot error has accounted for the majority of accidents.  So removing the pilot from the ‘flying part’ of flying an airplane made sense.  And it would make aviation safer.  And it has.  This is not to criticize pilots.  It just shows that accidents sometimes happen when men control complex machines.  So reducing the amount of time the pilot is in control of the aircraft makes them safer.  That is, as long as the computers have good data.

The Safer You Make Flying by Removing the Pilot from the Flying the less Skilled Pilots Become

And that’s a problem.  Sometimes the computers don’t have good data.  For various reasons.  Such as iced up airspeed sensing pitot probes.  Which has happened a few times.  Giving false airspeed data.  Or sometimes conflicting airspeed data.  There’s more than one probe.  And different flight computers get their airspeed from different probes.  One could show a dangerous high airspeed.  Another can show the actual airspeed.  Giving a pilot a bit of a problem.  Which is compounded if that pilot spent more time inputting data to a computer than flying.  Because when computers get bad data they often disengage.  And the modern pilot will spend most of his or her time trying to reengage it.  Instead of flying the airplane.  As they are trained to do.  Because it’s safer.

A dangerous high airspeed indicates that the plane may be accelerating.  Past its maximum airspeed rating.  Which could make the plane break up in flight.  So a pilot may pull back the engine throttles.  To slow the plane.  To keep it from breaking up in flight.  Of course, if that was an erroneous airspeed, the pilot will only slow the plane down.  And perhaps cause it to stall.  And that has happened, too.

A plane has a ‘stick shaker‘ to warn the pilot of a potential stall.  Normally after you get a stick shake you push the yoke forward to lower the nose and pick up speed.  Of course, if you just got an over-speed warning you might not do this.  And you may interpret that stick-shake as buffeting from the plane just before it breaks up in flight.  So you may raise the nose.  And pull the throttle levers back. To slow the plane down.  And that’s exactly what you will do.  Slow the plane down.  Right into a stall.  Which is flying too slowly to create lift with the wings.  And once the plane stalls it will just fall out of the sky.

There’s a tradeoff in aviation.  The safer you make flying by removing the pilot from the flying the less skilled pilots become.  So when something happens, such as an erroneous airspeed indication, their initial reaction is to fix the computer.  Not fly the airplane.  And planes have fallen out of the sky because of this.  Because even the simple problems don’t have a lot of time to fix.  An old-school pilot who flew B-52s, on the other hand, would probably say something like this.  “Hot damn.  The idiot box is broken.  Now I get to fly this son-a-bitch.”

When Legislation goes Wrong those in Government Simply Say they had Nothing but the Best Intentions

Every time you try to make something too complex.  Or try to change human behavior.  You are going to get unintended consequences.  Always.  Because complex things are complex.  And people are like snowflakes.  No two are alike.  And it is the height of arrogance to believe that you know an individual better than they know themselves.  Or that ‘one size’ fits all when it comes to solutions.

But that’s government.  Complex.  And where the few think for the many.  And decide what’s best for them.  This is a recipe for unintended consequences.  Which is why so much of their legislation goes wrong.  And when it does they simply say they had nothing but the best intentions.

Of course, you see what good intentions can do in a restaurant.  Or in a jetliner at 30,000 feet.


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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #32: “America is great but it can’t make bad ideology good.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 21st, 2010

We’ve Always Done Things This Way

The Old World was set in her ways.  Change didn’t come easy.  When it came it often spanned centuries.  But not always.  As the Roman Empire incorporated new territories into the empire, she modernized those new territories.  Roads.  Fresh water.  Sanitation.  Rule of law.  Markets.  The things that made cites better.  Civilizations better.  But as a civilization grows, so does its government.  And as government grows, taxes inevitably become more onerous.

A sprawling empire required a sprawling bureaucracy to control it.  And a huge standing army to protect it from without.  And to police it from within.  When you expand and conquer new territory, the spoils of conquest can fund your empire.  When your borders are relatively static, though, you have to use alternative sources of funding.  Taxation.  As the tax burden grew, dissatisfaction grew.  Fewer citizens volunteered to serve in Rome’s legions.  So Rome relied more and more on hired armies.  This increased the cost of empire.  And it increased taxation.  The tax burden grew so great that people gave up their small farms and worked for the bigger farms.  Worked for the rich landowners.  Some tried to quit farming all together.  This caused problems in trying to feed Rome’s legions.  And her bureaucracy.  The food supply became so critical that the Romans wrote new laws forbidding people to leave their farms.  Farmers were bound to the land.  They could never leave.  If you were born on the land you would farm the land.  Forever.

During the decline of the Western Roman Empire you saw the rise of the economic system that would dominate the Middle Ages.  Feudalism.  As the Western Empire declined, the power began to shift to the rich landowners.  As did loyalties.  As the empire further disintegrated, the power of Rome could no longer protect you.  Or feed you.  And thus food and protection became the foundation of feudalism.  Land owners, the nobles (i.e., lords), would let you work their lands.  The bulk of the proceeds went to the landlord.  But you also had a portion of the manor to farm for yourself.  In exchange for the use of a lord’s land you provided military service to the lord.  When needed to protect the lord and his lands.  Property rights allowed the lord’s sons to inherit the estate upon his death.  So property ownership became hereditary.  As did the nobility.   And so it would be for centuries.

England Leads the Way

From the nobles arose one.  A dominant one.  A ruler of nobles.  A king.  A king consolidated the many nobles’ estates into a kingdom.  A country.  And the king became sovereign.  The supreme authority.  The nobles pledged their loyalty to the king.  Provided for the king.  And fought for him when necessary.  Thus the few, the many and the one.  The masses (the many) served the lords and worked on their estates.  The lords (the few) were the wealthy land owners who served the king.  The king (the one) ruled the kingdom.

Thus the European monarchy was born.  In France it was absolute.  In England, in 1215, the nobles met King John on the meadow at Runnymede.  And the king reluctantly set his seal to the Magna Carta.  In England, there would be limits to the sovereign’s power.  The king may be king, but the nobles held the wealth.  And with it a lot of power.  Sometimes they saw things differently.  And the little people, the masses, often saw things differently than did the king and lords.  These different interests were reconciled, in time, by king and Parliament, a two-house or bicameral legislature (comprised of the House of Commons and the House of Lords). 

England was the place to be.  Rule of law.  Bill of rights.  Commerce.  Banking.  Capitalism.  Liberty.  Food.  Security.  Your common everyday Englishman had a better quality of life than your common everyday [insert any other European national here].  As transoceanic trade took off, the great European powers collided with each other.  Fought for that lucrative trade.  In the Old World.  And in the New World.  These wars became very expensive.  And some lasted for years.  Like the Seven Years War.  Which the British won.  And took many French possessions throughout the world.  But at a huge cost.  She incurred a great debt.  Especially in securing one of her colonies.  British North America.

Tea Anyone?

So England taxed her British American subjects.  Only problem was, these English subjects had no representation in Parliament.  And this was very un-English.  Taxation without representation.  This caused tension.  Also, Great Britain’s mercantilist policies were also rubbing the colonists the wrong way.  America was growing.  And she wanted free trade.  But that was impossible when the home country maintained a favorable balance of trade at your expense.  And had the Royal Navy to enforce it.  As a colony, everything had to ship to/from England ports on English ships so England could accumulate bullion.  The British protected their industries.  Her colonies fed raw materials to these industries.  And that’s all they did.

Trouble brewed for a while.  When Great Britain legislated what type of tea they could drink (only British East Indian tea), the American colonists had had enough.   There was a tea party in Boston, a revolution and formal independence.  And then a new nation.  With a bicameral legislation.  An executive.  And a judiciary.  It wasn’t quite Parliament, but was very similar in function.  The president was the one.  The Senate was the few.  And the House of Representatives were the many.  But there were key differences.  There was no king.  No hereditary nobility.  And there would be no mercantilism.  Despite Alexander Hamilton’s best efforts.

Let’s Just Agree to Disagree

Getting the colonies to come together to declare their independence was not easy.  It helped that there was already a shooting war going on.  Lexington and Concord.  Bunker Hill.  The coastal towns the British burnt and left in ruins.  They were already fighting a rebellion.  The declaration was almost a moot point.  But it was important.  And, after some arm twisting, they voted for independence and posted their Declaration of Independence.  But that was then.  After the Revolutionary War, there was no such unifying force.  Everyone was back to looking out for number one.  Well, most. 

Locked in a Philadelphia hall during a sweltering summer thick with horseflies, a collection of America’s finest worked to create a new government.  George Washington, Ben Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, to name just a few, could hardly agree on anything.  The Constitution they created was not great in their eyes.  But it was probably the best that they could do.  So acknowledged, they sent it to the states for ratification.  The odds were against them.  It would take some persuading.  And persuading they did.  Hamilton and Madison (and John Jay) wrote a series of essays appearing in newspapers to make the case for ratification.  They addressed and answered all arguments against ratification.  (You can read these today in the Federalist Papers.)  And this effort was successful.  The states ratified the constitution.  There was now a nation known as the United States of America.

Our first Secretary of the Treasury was Alexander Hamilton.  A capitalist genius.  And a great admirer of the British Empire.  Being a recent transplant to the American Colonies, he had no deep-seated resentment of the former mother country.  In fact, he wanted to emulate her.  She was the greatest empire in the world.  She was obviously doing something right.  But he pushed too far.  His mercantilist plans were a bit much for some.  Especially the ‘simple’ farmers of the South.  The planter elite.  Led by Thomas Jefferson (covertly) and James Madison (overtly), they fought Hamilton tooth and nail and did everything to destroy him.  (After seeing his plans Madison switched to the opposition.)    And ultimately, did.  When Aaron Burr shot him in a duel on the field of honor at Weehawken, New Jersey, across the Hudson from New York City.  All because Hamilton tried everything within his power to keep him from becoming president of the United States and governor of New York.  Because he was on unprincipled man.  Burr took offense to that.  And, well, the scoundrel challenged him to a duel and killed him.  But I digress.

The American Ideology

The American ideology is simple.  It includes things that have been proven to work.  And excludes things that have been proven not to.  A large, diverse people make up America.  So at the heart of our ideology is that we agree to disagree. 

We don’t have kings or nobility.  We don’t have an entitled class.  No hereditary rights.  Here, it doesn’t matter who your father was.  Or what group you belong to (religious, societal, etc.).  No one person is better than another. 

We have property rights and live under the rule of law.  We honor legal contracts.  We built our nation on laissez faire capitalism.  Free markets.  With a minimum of government interference.  We do what we want and respect that others do what they want.  And we are free to do this as long as we play by the rule of law.

It was a long road getting here.  We took the best history had to offer.  And rejected the worst that history included.  Nations who did likewise went on to greatness, too (like the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, Canada, Australia, etc.).  Those who didn’t have been repositories of great suffering and human bondage (North Korea, Cuba, The People’s Republic of China, the Soviet Union, etc.).  Of the latter nations, please note that life is getting much better in China and the former Soviet Union with the introduction of capitalism and free markets.  And it’s not in North Korea and Cuba where these governments stubbornly cling to failed policies to keep their governments in power.  Whatever the cost is to their people.

It’s the Ideology, Stupid

Good ideology makes good nations.  Bad ideology makes bad nations.  A good nation can NOT take bad ideology and make it good.  A good nation that implements bad ideology will only make that good nation bad.  All people have the capacity for greatness.  And that greatness will shine through if the government doesn’t suppress it.   To see this all we have to do is look to history.  It’s all there.  The good.  The bad.  And the ugly.


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