Why Do We Not Make The Most Of Experience?

It is intriguing to watch our governments repeat known mistakes. I do it in my life too and I doubt I am alone in that ability. It is as if we watched the movie and saw the lesson and then decided it was not for us.

I came on a thought from German philosopher George Hegel. Most of his thoughts are understood only by those above my paygrade, but this one made sense.

“We learn from history that we do not learn from history.”

Is that not close to the truth and yet so very strange? We pay the price for experience and refuse to use the lesson.

I can understand children doing that because they must try things before they believe. It is how they come to trust their parents and others who are trying to mold them into good citizens. With the way the education leaders are behaving, maybe not trusting the curriculum and some of the teachers is not so crazy.

Where we are

The political system has never been very trustworthy, but at one time, they hid their real intentions. No more. They are quite upfront about their intent to seize power. The good of the people is barely on their agenda.

There is a federal election in Canada to be celebrated on 20 September. I sometimes wonder what would happen if they held an election and nobody came. Like where your dinner party guests don’t show up. There seems to be little or no purpose to the whole affair. Do you think any alternative government would act to minimize the power they have and back away from the powers they have chosen to acquire during the “pandemic?” Sure they will. And I have a nice bridge for sale for the scrap metal value.

During an election decades ago, I recall a lawn sign that said. “Don’t vote, it just encourages them.” Could be true.

I doubt they are brazen enough to even mouth words about reducing their power. If they do, no one will believe them anyway. I recall a story where a young child asked his grandmother, “Grandma do all fairy tales begin with “once  upon a time”?” Her wise response was “No some begin with, if elected I promise” This time will be no different.

There seem to be no easy ways left to deal with them. The politicians are bad enough, but in the United States, the civil service has become politicized too. Historically the civil service has provided continuity and was the well of experience from which governments could draw ideas and methods. And trust!!!! Watching the agencies involved with the pandemic contribute little but confusion and rhetoric is a very bad indicator of what is to come for the Americans. The courts are corrupt. It is not so obvious here. Possibly because the American example is drowning out our own.

A friend recently commented that inside the beltway surrounding Washington, the laws of logic do not hold. He added, “I am not certain the laws of physics hold there either.” Their world is completely relativistic. Whatever we want to do must happen because we want it and we are always right. Alice in Wonderland makes more sense.

What to do?

The real world operates on incentives and disincentives. It is not complete, but essentially the idea is you get more of what you reward and less of what you punish. If we continue to reward politicians and their allies, we will get more of the things they are busily doing now. If we choose people with standards and integrity to replace them, we might do better. The system has a way of capturing the corruptible.

The defence to system capture is term limits. I doubt we could rely on the governments to pass the necessary legislation. Term limits reduce the incentive to gather and clutch power.

The people must understand the limits of government. Once they understand the limits they will be disinclined to ask for more. The limits are:

  • They have no money of their own. Every cent they have comes from the people, either now or in the future.
  • They have overhead to run any of their programs. At one time, I have not checked lately because it is difficult, it cost on average, $1.68 of revenue to deliver $1.00 of value to the recipients of the programs. Some programs cost well over $2.00 per $1 delivered.  $1.68 might be a fair and reasonable price for some programs, but not all. Anyone who thinks government money is free money lives in the same logic-free world as the governments themselves.
  • They really don’t care about value for money. If it entrenches them and their power, they will do pretty much anything and pay anything to do it.
  • Many good people don’t want to go into government in its present form. Decisions to reverse the foolish parts don’t influence outcomes in real time. All cuts hurt someone and they push back. It’s hard on popularity.
  • Personally, it is profoundly expensive. Time, money, relationships.
  • All of the politicians I have known are, or were while alive, good and capable people. They wanted to do something valuable. It is not the people, it is the system that denies action and hides failure.
  • All politicians work hard, very hard, but there is no good way to measure value for effort. As Peter Drucker has said, “There is nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency something that should not be done at all.”
  • There are people who earn their living by causing the government to act in ways that suit their clients. Not much, if any of that, helps the people.
  • Turn off the news. The media operates on the same principles as political parties – create emotional responses. Emotion is not where the answers will be found

The takeaway

It is time to provide better incentives. If you notice, old ways worked better. Government used to be the last place people went for help. Today it is the first. That is bad strategy. Think about what it incentivizes. People helping people worked. Governments helping people costs too much and encourages the parties to look for things to do to solidify their election chances.

Let’s suppose they solved every reasonable problem tomorrow. Why would we need them any more? We would not, and they know it. Never assign a problem to anyone who will be harmed if they solve it. Reduce their incentive to create problems just so they can be seen to be working at solving them.

We will work very hard to overcome the damage already done. Surely we can have the wit to stop making the problem bigger.

I was less pessimistic when I started this piece. Time for a half hour or so of music to rebalance my brain. You could try it too.

I help people have more retirement income and larger, more liquid estates.

Call in Canada 705-927-4770, or email don@moneyfyi.com

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