Saturday, August 14, 2010

Helpers Who Fear Arrest

"Frustrated by red tape, some officials have been warned they'll be arrested if they take matters into their own hands."
  - Patrik Jonsson, July 1, 2010, in The Christian Science Monitor, regarding Deepwater Horizon cleanup.
In my opinion, the best strategy to handle this is PR, but it must contain names.  The same article has Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen (incident commander) saying "There is nothing standing in the governor's way from utilizing more National Guard troops," and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal relaying an instruction from the White House saying "Coast Guard and BP had to authorize individual tasks."  Is Thad Allen unaware of instructions issued by President Barack Obama?  We have the names of these two, and since Allen was directly quoted, but Obama was not even named, and there wasn't any explicit threat, this isn't a very good example of warning officials of arrest if they act responsibly.  Who warned officials of arrest if they take matters into their own hands?  Were any officials brave enough to try anyway?  Were any of them smart enough to do it in a way that helped?  Were they arrested?  If so, what are the names of the agents responsible for arresting them?

Every species swarms, and when they do so, it is generally in the best interest of the species.  The behavior is an evolved response which, evolution has proven, is beneficial.  Humans do it too, though to a lesser degree because they fear each other in addition to Mother Nature.  When that fear of each other is private, it protects the cautious from the crazies who go out and kill each other.  But when that fear is institutionalized with laws and the threat of arrest, it ceases to protect, and merely hinders.

Contrary to the foundation of most of the legislation that attempts to control us, humans are not idiots who blunder around all the time and mess everything up.  Such behavior requires centralized control and limited liability: governments and corporations.  Individuals acting in their own self-interest nearly always trump centralized control when it comes to effective solutions.  For one thing, they provide myriad competing solutions, the best of which are recognized and copied, rather than monolithic solutions that fail catastrophically when they fail.  For another, individuals have a sense of reputation to be maintained.  They have names to protect.  Adam Smith called these effects the "Invisible Hand" because they seem to bring about balance without any centralized control.

So I appeal to Mr. Jonsson and other journalists, officials, and anyone who would like to help in any situation where problems are big: Please name those who show more respect and honor for laws than they do for life.  I must admit a bias against centralized control, and if that rubs you the wrong way, please go be a mindless slave on some other planet.  This one needs real human beings.

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