May 19, 2011

Stick to the code!

"We stick to the code!"

Pirates of the Caribbean enthusiasts will remember the references to the pirate code. The specific part of the code I want to talk about is the mention of "anyone who falls behind, gets left behind".

It's a sort of a Darwinian survival of the fittest. It plays into the notion, in a sense, of how free market capitalism. A company that is inefficient ultimately falls behind or is defeated by its competitors. Those that can keep up, meanwhile, continue. That's how capitalism works. Perhaps that's why liberals, socialists and communists don't like it. Not everyone who runs the race wins. Some lose. Everyone doesn't cross the finish line at the same time.  That's so sad. It doesn't matter if one company is brighter, more innovative, more efficient, cheaper and/or better. Those benefits are outweighed by the fact that that business outperformed another and someone else lost. That of course overlooks the benefit the winner provides to thousands perhaps millions of consumers who benefit from it's 'betterness'.

In my previous post I ended with a vague reference to No Child Left Behind - the Bush educational law meant to help students.  It also hinges on that equality of outcome mentality.  Just like in business, not all students are equal. Some are smarter, some more artistic, some better athletically. Some are not particularly talented in any area. In this homogenized outcome mentality, the ONLY way to get everyone to feel good about themselves is to lower the bar as far as is needed to ensure everyone makes it over. That, more than how much we pay teachers is a critical roadblock to creating future innovation.  That's because it starts from a place of not sticking to the code.

In order for America to survive it must stick to the code in all aspects of the economy and all aspects of education. With one exception. The American people are not heartless pirates.  While the economy needs to work that way to be lean and efficient (no Government Motors for example), people don't really get left behind. Society doesn't have to be cruel. And it isn't. There is welfare, unemployment benefits, food stamps, social security, medicare, medicaid, and of course a myriad of privately run charities.

The argument conservatives make is that we should not sink the ship in a suicide mission to rescue those left behind. Instead we throw them a lifeline and try to get them to start swimming on their own. That's more efficient. And if the economy is lean and innovative there is reason to expect they would act in a similar way if a significant portion of their own resources were freed up to provide charity to those in need.

That's the fundamental philosophical difference. Conservatives are not monsters. We donate. We volunteer. We don't want people left behind - we just see a smarter avenue to preventing or minimizing that outcome. We've tried the suicide mission approach for decades. There are still way too many people drowning. It's not working and we don't want to sink more ships. Consider our lifeline approach. It's not like we haven't spent decades thinking through smart ways to do this. We've had the time to come up with smart solutions. Consider giving them a shot. 

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