The Road To Hell

One of the things that people hate the most about orthodox Christianity is its insistence that everyone is deserves the wrath of God. Surly nobody finds this particular belief more objectionable then that class of people we call liberals. Therefore, it is highly ironic that liberals always seem to be pushing for laws and regulations that makes everyone guilty in the eyes of the state.

Granted, liberals have no desire to make everyone guilty. But they do want the world to be perfect place where no one is treated unfairly and everyone can be happy. And the harder they try to achieve this perfection, the more they create a world where everyone is guiltily.

This mindset was on full display in the New York Times article on New York’s juvenile prison system that I blogged about earlier. The would-be reformers profiled by the article seemed gripped by the illusion that the existing system can be fixed with more rules and more money. To my mind, this is self-evidently absurd.

It already costs over 200 grand per kid and how those kids can be treated is already heavily regulated. Even if New York State could afford it, does anyone really believe that spending 400 grand per kid and doubling the amount of regulations would improve outcomes? Anyone who does believe this does not understand how striving for perfection can make things worse.

One of the things that I tried to demonstrate in my follow-up post is that more regulations can make it harder to punish the bad state employees. When everyone is guilty how do you deiced who to punish? You can’t punish them all or you will not have anyone left to do the work.

The problem is exacerbated by the fact that most rules and regulations are not based on reality. I talked about absurdities that arise because the State insists on treating men and woman as if they were exactly the same. But the fundamental problem is that policy makers have lots and lots of incentives to base their rules and regulations on lies.

For example, wards of the state can sue the state if they are injured by state employees. But state employee can not sue the state if they are injured by a ward of the state. Thus, the rules and regulations governing how state employees can interact with wards of the state are geared towards protecting the wards of the state no matter what they do. But for political reasons, policy makers have to pretend that this can be done while still keeping the employees perfectly safe. So they pretend that there is no trade offs between those two goals while in practice they sell employee safety up the river.

These are all examples of how striving for perfection can make things worse. And yet it seems that would-be reformers think that can make the system better by pushing more of the same on the system until it becomes perfect.

I do think the system can be improved. But the first requirement for any real improvement is honesty. And the first requirement of honesty is the acknowledgment that there will always be trade offs and we will never have perfection.

So what kind of trade offs do we want to make?

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