16 February 2009

Change You Can Avoid by Legislation

A quick thought for today. I’ve just read a little motivational booklet called “The Survival Guide to the Stress of Organizational Change” by Price Pritchett and Ron Pound – a splendid piece of work describing 15 stress-inducing mistakes we make in the face of constant change.

The authors point out that change is unavoidable and ever more rapid, and change is stressful, but stress is manageable, and so forth. (Best point: Basic Mistake #8: Fail to Abandon the Expendable.) Continuing with my work of the day, in the next moment I picked up an expired invitation to meet with my Congressman, Mike Michaud, (a former co-worker from my old paper mill days). I did attend the meeting, but that’s another story.

Still contemplating the certainty of constant change as I disposed of the invitation, it occurred to me what happens in Congress, and what happens to us-all as a result.

Congress passes massive “bills” intended to alleviate our stress, yours and mine, by promising this and that and socking it to the rich, and so on. (State legislatures pass their own parodies of federal acts, so it happens on the state level too.)

Most federal and state legislation has predominately negative effects. If any positive effect to such legislation ever occurs, it generally takes years, and by then we’ve forgotten that in 1997 Congress passed the School Music Improvement Act, which cut funding for any school music program that failed to include instruction in gangsta rap-hop, and which included an amendment to prevent multi-vitamins from being made out of genetically-engineered corn. The usual Congressional logic.

So I was left considering how this year’s glorious porkulus/cripple-us bill will take years to deliver any positive effect, and by the time anything trickles down to those of us most oppressed by government, there will have been so much CHANGE in the country that the real benefits of the act will be like delivering crank telephones to rural Appalachia in the 1980s.

Congress doesn’t grasp that change happens at the speed of technology. Ominously, Congress appears to believe that the only important change which occurs is that which Congress has set forth. Insidiously, Congress believes that the change which it “stimulates” actually will take place – indeed, Congress seems to believe that the moment its act is signed into law, the matter has been taken care of. Until another national crisis occurs, requiring the benevolent intervention of government.

Congress is blind to the negative effects of all its acts – especially to the utter failure of most.

Congress doesn’t grasp that change happens due to forces that Congress did not vote on and that it happens faster than any compromise* bill of reckless government spending can affect.

I'm left with the only true impact of Congressional action on my affairs, and that is STRESS. Compromise, as practiced by Congress, makes me pray for gridlock.

*To explain congressional compromise, the following is excerpted from DamnYankee.com.

Here’s how compromise works, and why it must not be encouraged: The Democrats have decided that what every household needs is a pig. Pigs are ecologically sound; they take up little space, they consume solid waste, they can be domesticated and provide companionship, they reproduce willingly, promoting neighborliness between pig owners, and one pig eventually provides a freezer full of food. The Republicans have decided that what everyone needs is a Chevrolet. They are economical to buy and come in a variety of colors to let owners express their individuality, they provide reliable transportation, they’re safe to sit in during a storm, and they can easily be repaired with readily-available parts. Neither party is willing to go completely to the other party’s idea. So they compromise. After years of Congressional debate and insipid analysis by Katie Couric, Congress rolls out its prototype. It has the snout of a pig, an engine in place of a mouth, hooves on the left and wheels on the right, a lightweight metal body (with smiling Congressmen waving gaily from the interior – the prototype has bullet-proof glass), a round, hairy rump, an anus spewing exhaust fumes, and a curly chrome tail. It goes in circles, possibly because the hooves aren’t synchronized with the wheels, but that minor detail will be cleared up in the next Congress. It's called a Pigrolet, and it comes with a 7,800-page instruction manual that can't be followed without the help of lawyers. ©2004 DamnYankee.com

10 February 2009

The Lawyers' Chorus

This morning as I bumbled about the bedroom, I heard a woman’s voice on the television hawking some drug called Celebrex. I gradually became aware that she must have spent three quarters of the ad’s allotted minute just reciting the medical warnings about the drug. At the end, she said: “Ask your doctor if you could benefit from Celebrex.”

I thought: To heck with asking my doctor; it sounds as though I could benefit from a law degree. It seems to me that a drug company should feel free to advertise the wonders of its little pills without the need to warn us of the side effects. I don’t hear automobile ads warning us of the dangers of carbon monoxide, burning vinyl, sunburn (in case you use the car to take you to the beach), or obesity (in case you use the car to go out to eat). I don’t hear carbonated sugar drink ads warning us about diabetes. I don’t hear ads for personal injury lawyers warning us of the psychological peril in talking with them.

Sometime in the mid-1990s there was an ad on the radio that I heard two or three times and then it mysteriously stopped playing. I don’t recall what they were hawking, but the ad time was mostly taken up with the wonders of the product, and then, with maybe ten seconds left, the seller’s voice said: “And now the lawyers’ chorus will sing you the fine print.” The ad ended with an actual chorus of voices rapidly chanting a recitation of useless information.

I suspect that someone in the lawyer class heard the ad and threatened the radio station. (That would be the quickest way to get something off the air. Why bother with the ad agency or the seller – it doesn’t matter whether they want to keep the ad alive. It only matters whether it gets played, and therefore it is only necessary to threaten the player of the ad.)

I know some really fine people who happen also to be lawyers. I truly like these people. I truly like some people who are confirmed socialists, adulterers, and alcoholics. But my affection for someone does not confer approval of his do-gooder social maladjustment, masochism, or other misanthropy. To those whom I know who are lawyers, I would agree that, yes, a few laws are necessary, and so the world has need of a very few lawyers as well. But if you are a lawyer to whom a tome of regulation is a rhapsody, and if, for you, a government that is gushing murky law is a glimpse of heaven, I say you need to examine your worth to the world. See my additional take on this at DamnYankee.com.