Trudge Forth, Ecclesiastes
Sometimes, time and circumstance offer us hints of a possible divergence, a choice of roads yet to be hewn, or not. It remains for us to see and possibly sieze the offered alternative. One of my own little unauthorized progress indicators is a simple check, to see how often raw common sense outpoints the pomp and circumstance of official logic. To be useful, this type of analysis really needs to be applied over a broad range of decisions made: The simplest to criticize are government edicts, but it pays to look critically at ones we've authored, ourselves.
A couple of years ago, the main drag of our borough hit it big, in the grand roads and highways lottery. The DoT decided to rip up the main east-west artery through the town, right down to to the roadbed, and repave the whole shooting match. The process took a little over a year to complete, during which time, the town was effectively bisected. The town itself had seen its heyday as an agricultural distribution point, some seventy years earlier, and the streets were laid out accordingly. Its fortunes receding, a kind of calm resignation had spread over the whole area, and with it, a blessed tranquility which started about an hour before sunset. Unlike modern communities, the main routes here are also the narrowest, though the side streets are enlarged to more contemporary widths. The net effect was that it was a pretty good place to live, but not to do business. One more detail: the countryside which surrounds the borough is still, even now, diced into large tracts of farmland.
None of the improvements actually did much to improve the route itself, apart from slightly smoothing the journey through town. We still have occasional tractor-trailers in the poor guys front yard, when the driver heads up to the sharp dogleg turn too quickly. And brake retarders (whatever the hell those might be) have been strictly verboten in the borough. Why they didn't reroute this visionary path around the town, and relegate the place to being one big bedroom community, remains a mystery.
We even have the luxury of a closed regional railway station, complete with intact railroad tracks, which runs from the city to to our little slice of oblivion.
See? That's an example of government thinking, as the easy mark. Many of these decisions are either whimsical or clumsy in their effects, worthy of a chuckle or sharp remark, but not threatening.
Rolling the tape forward, our current tax code is yet another gorgon, with benefits intended to spur the economy, using the ever-popular "trickle down" theory. In theory, conservation of wealth among the elite will somehow cause domestic job creation, based on improving demand for goods and services. What a lovely sentiment! It might even have an element of truth, except for the domestic job creation part. This isn't even a knock on the wealthy, since the laws of Capitalism (or, is it a mutant form of Objectivism? I can't keep the goats apart from the sheep.) more or less mandates chasing down the cheapest labor, costs of goods, relaxed environmental regulations, in order to be competitive. Never mind that this will eventually eliminate large numbers of domestic consumers, and replace them with consumers who presumably start from a lower financial rung. I realize that the notion is anathema in some circles, but it would be good to actually put the money where it might do some good for 40 Million or so living below the poverty line, and fix some other broken things in the process. Corporations are getting cold feet over things like health care and retirement benefits. I would argue that, even in a conscientious business, the free market is running away from these costs of operation, as indeed they should, in our chosen economic model. I'm really not sure which is worse- leaving these in the private sector, and hope that any prevailing laws and ethics will hold up, despite shifting business conditions: or, give the government the task of providing basic universal health and retirement, and end the conflict of interests in the private sector.
In theory, the governments principal duty is to all of the citizens, not just the ones who bring their checkbooks to dinner. Businesses should embrace such changes, rather than barking about creeping socialism. They're quite right that the general well-being of citizens is not their concern nor responsibility. Increasingly (just ask someone who worked at Delphi) workers themselves are being lumped into the larger population. Somewhere in the midst of this brouhaha, the people who created the profits initially are curiously silent in the argument. Both groups are likely to wash their hands of these problems, if they do enough lobbying and public speaking appearances.
Businesses routinely cite internal cost controls as a differentiator between successful and unsuccessful operations, chief among these, health and retirement benefits. Placed in this situation, one wonders if it's even possible for companies to avoid an inherent conflict of interests, sooner or later. Unfortunately, the government also has a long rap sheet, when it comes to plundering our so-called entitlements. Neither party seems to realize that the money isn't theirs to spend.
All of the histrionics which attend any debate over social benefits seem to dismiss the people affected by the process as either idiots or of no consequence. Maybe there's a compromise solution that works, but right now, both sides are fumbling the future. A little personal culpability would help, with real criminal penalties and forfeiture of personal assets, for both government and private sector administrators who "forget" whose money they're coveting. Companies forget who built the value proposition, elected officials can't remember who elected them into office, after a short while. We need a system which either restores their missing recollections, or removes the equity from their spheres of influence as quickly as possible, before either can "repurpose" our futures out of existence.