Trouble Seeing the Forest for the Trees
Why is it that the same people who are supposed to be the smartest people in any given room (if you don’t believe me just ask them) are the most inept when it comes to human behavior? Yeah I know, they went to Harvard, Yale, MIT or Wharton, but does that necessarily confer genius status on them? Come to think of it, few, if any, of the actual geniuses I know can tie their own shoelaces properly. Maybe that explains all of the Birkenstocks, loafers, and (Lord help us) Velcro-enclosed sneakers amongst the self-proclaimed “best and brightest”.
These people have been extensively (and expensively) educated in the Law, Medicine, the Sciences, Public Policy, Education, Business, etc. They have had access to the most celebrated professors in their respective fields of study. They have interned with Supreme Court Justices, Senators and Captains of Industry. They have been Fulbright and Rhodes scholars. They want us to believe all their “fancy book learnin’” has given them a greater understanding of our needs and of how to best fulfill them.
Yes, they have been taught how to operate a system. When one gets down to the basics of any education, it’s about operating systems. The practice of Medicine is about operating within the system of the human body. The practice of the Law is about operating within our system of jurisprudence. Within those systems they have learned to produce predictable results using techniques which have been achieved through much trial and error.
They have learned to take for granted the predictability of results from a proposed change in some variable with which they have decided to tinker. This attitude is completely understandable when dealing with an individual patient, client, subject, student, etc. The problems arise when they try to extrapolate their specific understanding upon the greater world outside of their area of study. In this case they have leaned the exact wrong lessons from their studies and experiences.
However, these “learned ones” have not benefited from a true “liberal arts” education. The purpose of the “liberal arts” was to free one’s mind. Instead they have been taught to specify. The classics of “liberal” thought of have been replaced with “statist” gender and minority studies. This emphasis on specificity has failed to teach them a vital lesson when dealing with fellow human beings: The one can not be treated as many, just as the many cannot be treated as one.
This failure of understanding has resulted in two contradictory but dangerous phenomena: policy by anecdote and one-size-fits-all policy.
When these “brainiacs” decide it’s time to correct some perceived “wrong” they immediately begin a predetermined multi-step process, one which they have been using for quite some years now. They begin by presenting statistics indicating how a “sizable” (if questionable number) minority of the population is being slighted by government inaction (most often) or action (much less so). They begin lining up individuals within this subgroup who are “victims” of the “problem”. The sob stories begin. These tales of woe are repeated endlessly and magnified to the point where it is forgotten that these are anecdotes. Those opposed to the proposed “correction” are then asked to justify not helping this person (don’t forget “you cruel, heartless SOB’s”). So, public policy is altered not to aid the vast majority of the people (i.e. as in “the general welfare”), but instead to aid specific individuals at the expense of the majority.
Inevitably, the tears dry, the dust settles and the new policy prescriptions are passed (few wanting to seem like a heartless SOB). Only then does someone actually read the new regulations (or laws). Lo and Behold! Not only are some of those “victims” no better off, some actually fare worse. In the process, many (if not most) who had no desire to be included have been ensnared within the new policy. The new policy being “fair”, little quarter is given for individuals’ situations. All must be treated equally, and as most often with government “equally” doesn’t mean “well”. How do you enjoy being treated “equally” by the IRS, DMV or the Post Office? Good times… good times…
Whether it’s “entitlement” reform, “health-care” reform, “immigration” reform, “environmental” regulation, the pattern is the same. Public policy sold through anecdotes. Heck, they even pulled the same trick while passing “finance” reform, except they made everyone think marble bathrooms and trips to Las Vegas were the order of the day for most financial institutions (those greedy SOB’s). Actual, useful statistics need not be presented when a “victim” (or “villain”) is readily available. Why let pesky facts get in the way?
As expected (by the SOB’s), every government program sold as helping the “down-trodden” has cost multiples of the original estimates, failed to properly address the real issues, or most likely both. Want examples? That’s easy. The ’86 Immigration Reform Law (yes, signed by Reagan) was never fully implemented, except for the amnesty part. Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security have taken over the government like a cancer. The recently passed “health-care” reform law has already doubled in cost, even before actual implementation. CAFÉ standards cause more US deaths each year than the entire Vietnam War.
Maybe the “experts” need to be sent back to their original areas of pursuit. Most are probably good practitioners in their original careers. The only downside I see? Some may end up as professors at their alma maters. Can’t see how that would be helpful. I guess it’s a risk we may have to take…