There’s an old adage which states that most armies are prepared to fight the last war. It has a deep basis in Reality. After our 1892 medium-power Krag rifles were outclassed by the full-power Mausers used by the Spanish in 1898, we adopted the Mauser-clone 1903 Springfield for World War I. The lessons learned about firepower in that war led to the adoption of the M1, which would have been a superior weapon in WW1, but was outclassed by the German Strumgewehr 44 (the original assault rifle) by the end of WW2. We entered the Viet Nam War armed with the M14, which would have been a great weapon for WW2, only to be outgunned by the other side’s AK47s, true assault rifles. I went through basic training with an M14, but was finally issued an M16 in Viet Nam.
Armies aren’t the only bureaucracies that cling to outdated “solutions.” The public health response to the Wuhan virus pandemic is a case in point.
The 1918 influenza pandemic was worse than it had to be, in part, because of the failure of some communities to take proper measures to prevent rapid spreading. The proper lesson from that pandemic is that dangerous communicable diseases must be contained by reducing interpersonal contact until other means of fighting it are available.
The initial restrictions imposed as public health measures dealing with Covid-19 were reasonable and cautious responses to a potentially catastrophic situation. They would have been excellent in combating the 1918 flu, but it appears that they’ve been overkill in vast swaths of America with disastrous unintended (I hope) consequences. For many the cure is worse than the disease.
Most Real World situations don’t track well with our attempt to model them because we never seem to be able to understand all of the ways that things interact. Experience and common sense and a willingness to take risks are necessary live in the Real World. Credentials are not the same thing as experience, and non-expert expertise has failed. It’s time to get back to living in the Real World. That will require that public health concerns take their rightful place among other factors to balances with economic realities and civil rights.
The Gentle Reader has no doubt heard of a catastrophic reactor accident that occurred in the Soviet Union in 1985 at a place called Chernobyl (now in Ukraine). The reactor was a typical example of Socialist engineering—the RBMK-type was in common use throughout the USSR—with an inherent design flaw related to the core’s cooling system. The Chernobyl reactor exploded during a reactor test of the core’s cooling system. This risk of a core meltdown was not made evident in the test operating instructions, so the operators proceeded with testing the reactor in an unstable state. Upon test completion, the operators triggered a reactor shutdown, but a combination of unstable conditions and reactor design flaws caused an uncontrolled nuclear chain reaction instead. Poor design, bureaucratic inertia, and operator carelessness created history’s worst peacetime nuclear event.
It’s being suggested that the Wuhan virus pandemic is China’s Chernobyl. If the virus got into the wild because of improper procedures in a Chinese laboratory, it would be a striking parallel example of Socialist bureaucratic incompetence acting with disregard for public safety. However, even if the actual source is something else, a wet market or whatever, the Chinese Communist Party’s attempts to strong-arm reality so as to avoid blame for the meltdown resulting from their carelessness and mendacity is a nearly perfect example of why socialist systems all fail. Wishing won’t make it so. Facts are stubborn things.
The Laws of Thermodynamics, when compounded with Murphy’s Law, assure us that bad stuff will happen on a random basis. It’s wise to take steps to protect ourselves from such events. “The battle is not always to the strong, or the race to the swift, but it’s the way to bet.” History tells us that competition in free markets has the best track record for generating the resources needed for healthy living.
The Chinese people will have to sort out their own political destiny. It may be that they will grow tired of their current masters and that the CCP virus pandemic will inch them along a path to something new.
Meanwhile, the Wuhan virus pandemic has given many Americans a 30-day free trial of nanny state control.
… I remember when people (including my wife and me) moved to California because it was a place full of opportunities for growth. I also remember watching those opportunities slip away as the state became more tightly regulated. Eventually, Mrs. Hoge and I slipped away as well.
Of course, there’s nothing particularly special about California’s politicians and bureaucrats other than the size of the bureaucracy. They function with a typical level of incompetence. It’s no surprise to me that a state with significant energy resources is facing power blackouts because it has mismanaged its forests and energy production and distribution systems.
If you live in a well-managed state and you’d like a preview of a tightly regulated economy looks like, look at California. If you’re a one-percenter or the right kind of bureaucratic professional, you may like it. Otherwise, …
Afterthought— I used the term one-percenter in the paragraph above. That can refer to either an outlaw motorcycle gang member or a member of the wealthy elite. Either meaning works in that sentence.
During the 2016 election, Donald Trump made a campaign promise to cut back on federal regulation by requiring bureaucrats to repeal two regulations for each new one they imposed. Paul Bedard reports over at the Washington Examiner that the Administration is claiming it has not only kept that promise but has done better still. The post quotes Russ Vought, the Acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget as saying, “We’ve hit 13 to 1.” The OMB is claiming the resulting reduction in paperwork has saved the economy 33 billion dollars.
The most significant rollbacks have been at the Departments of Labor, Agriculture, and Education and at the EPA.
Past performance is not a guarantee of future results, but wow, this sure looks like a good start!
Politico has a post up about how some bureaucrats and former bureaucrats are upset with Congress reviewing and repealing regulations under the Congressional Review Act of 1996. Toward the end of the post it has a quote from one of the regulators that shows his upside-down view of the constitution.
“I believe there’s a good chance that, in a legal challenge, that a court will overturn Congress’ actions here as an unconstitutional usurpation of the executive branch’s powers,” he said.
Uh, no. The ability of the bureaucrats to regulate does not generally flow from the President’s powers under Article II. It’s is generally derived from Congress delegating it’s Article I powers to the Executive Branch. What Congress can delegate, it can take back.
When Congress was not passing legislation to support his attempt at fundamental transformation of America, Barack Obama famously said that he would use his pen and his phone to bring changes through regulation. President Trump also has a pen, and he has already begun to use it. One of the results of his penmanship will be the need for bureaucrats to undo some of what has been done in the past.
Hogewash! is offering a deal on erasers through Amazon. I recommend the Staedtler Stick Eraser as an energy saving device compared to powered erasers. Click on the image on the left to order. We accept payment via government credit cards.