L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 74, May 29, 2000
Progress Report from a New Libertarian
by Dave Jiles
Special to TLE
For months now, I have expended much of my free time reading the wisdom of people like El Neil, Vin, Victor, Minority Mike, and others that share their knowledge and humor with us in these cyber pages. I envy their ability to express my thoughts, as I never could. This reading has not only made me aware of the actions of my Government (and I'm mad as hell about it), but brought me to contemplate how we came to be in this situation. I mean after all, can all these people that work for Uncle Sam be evil, sneaky co-conspirators? Most of them aren't that smart after all, and I've never caught them in a secret handshake or seen them wearing funny hats. Ah, perhaps the Founding Fathers were correct in their assumption that what we are experiencing is the natural path of government and its hired sheep, if left unchecked.
The phenomenon of the power of stupid people in large groups is present at all levels, even non-government organizations. I will cite for you an example from personal experience. In the late 80's I earned my keep as a maintenance supervisor for a small manufacturing plant in the Northwest. The company seemed to be genuinely concerned with providing a safe work place for its employees. Since many of the safety concerns were maintenance related, I was given the dubious honor of heading up the "Safety Committee". We put together a group of people from all over the plant, one or two working supervisors, but mostly machine operators, fork lift drivers, general gophers, and one of the ladies from the office to add the "woman's perspective" (also to brighten up the group and make us collectively smell better).
Our group spent up to an hour each month doing a "walk around" safety audit looking for real safety hazards, not just missing warning signs, but things like electrical conduit that was pulling apart or gas lines to heaters that may be easily snagged by fork lifts. After the audit, we would meet to assign priorities to the items we had listed, and a person that was responsible for its correction. In some cases they had to be dealt with immediately even if someone had to stay that night until it was done (often myself). Since companies often make lists but do nothing to correct the problems, our rule was that all items on the list had to be taken care of before the next safety audit, or someone would be having a prayer meeting with the plant manager.
We also had the power to make rules relating to safety, which started out ok, but quickly got out of hand. The company's original rule was that anyone working around equipment could not wear loose jewelry such as bracelets, neck chains, large earrings and the like. Good rule, after all, working next to a 200 tooth saw blade spinning at 2700 rpm, is not the place to wear your "Mr. T" starter kit. The committee extended this to prohibit all jewelry including watches and wedding rings. Then it extended it to anyone working on the plant floor. The concept of "if this is safe, this would be safer" quickly disabled the committees brain cells, and it went down hill from there.
Finally when the group made the rule (I was out of town), that even visitors to the plant should not wear any type of jewelry even if they were not anywhere near machinery, I interceded. It was surprisingly difficult to get the ruling reversed and get them to see the light. What this rule would have required is that we ask (read here, force) visiting customers touring our facility, often ladies, to remove all rings, necklaces, bracelets, earrings and leave them in a bowl in the entry way. I was finally able to convince the manager that this was not only world class stupid, but damn poor customer relations as well. We scaled it back to no loose jewelry on any employees working on the plant floor, and no jewelry at all on machine operators.
This is only one example I have seen over the years of otherwise intelligent, rational people, brought together in a group and given the power to make rules. Not only did they have the power to make rules, but felt as though if they were not making rules, they were failing their goals. Consequently, they made rules for the sake of making rules, and reality flew out the window. The same natural laws apply to government. Given time, funding, power, and the demand to set goals of achievement, any group is likely to jump the tracks of rationality. Periodically, we as the "ruled class" need to slap them in the face and make them face reality. Now is the time to start slapping.
If the funding for HUD was drastically cut, perhaps they would have to get back to their original purpose (as much as we may disagree with that purpose), and stop trying to change laws through intimidation by lawyer. If the CDC found themselves working in WW2 style Quonset huts, using surplus O/D green desk and file cabinets, maybe they would not have time to worry about the "epidemic of firearms in civilian hands". And if the "Justice Department" would go to Home Depot and buy a bunch of full-length mirrors to hang on their office walls, they could find enough to investigate without going out after Microsoft or chasing Internet goblins. Now go out and slap a politician for the cause.