Wednesday, September 23, 2009

When Paperwork Attacks

Sometimes we have to wonder why it is so difficult to get things changed anywhere in this country of ours. Why are old ways of doing things so powerful in the local, state, and national levels of government; inside any organization without a dynamic manager; and most non-responsive buisiness practices?

It never seems to matter when a fantastic idea comes along that actually does something to solve a problem, instituting that idea can take decades.

For example, look at all the obstacles ignition-interlock devices for DWI drivers faced in California. Paperwork, process, "not punitive enough" philosophies and inside-the-box thinking all keep holding back an idea proven to reduce recidivism of drunk driving.


1 comment:

patsbrother said...

Resistance to change is actually one of the fundamental arguments against a one-size-fits-all national health care.

Having fifty States encourages different approaches, and each State works as an independent laboratory to find out what works (or what works best for each of them individually).

If you have a nation-wide program, that program stiffles innovation and positive changes. It encourages stagnation.

Nation-wide programs - especially very large ones - become immune to change or improvement because it takes so many people to jump on board to change it while at the same time creating settled expectations that provide many others with logical reasons to resist change.

There is a reason that social security is known as the third rail in American politics.

For example, if California functions like Georgia, those fines paid by drunk drivers went to fund important (and sometimes necessary) programs. If the statute required drunk drivers to pay a certain amount (as the article implies), and if such programs were funded directly from those fees, then cutting the fines in order to make the interlock devices more affordable was likely making significant cuts into other budgets. Viewed in this light, the prosecutors' suit against the judge makes perfectly valid sense, which has nothing to do with simple resistance to change.

In a State as large as California, it would be exceedingly hard to get enough people on board to change the law to futher both intersts.

In a nation as large as the United States, such an ability would be nightmareish.

As we have seen, messing with peoples' settled expecations can make them crazy. Just look at the "don't touch my Medicare" guy.

Conversely, the States have functioned magnificently as laboratories.

Think about the women's suffrage movement. One State tried it, then another, then another, and then, after enough States had tried it, there was the support to make it a Constitutional guarantee.

Think about the movement to allow gay marriage. If we followed federalist one-size-fits-all rules, there would not be a single married or unionized gay couple in the land. As it stands, there are three States that allow out-and-out marriage, and the example of those States is making such marriages more acceptable in other States.

Without the laboratories, we wouldn't have those types of changes.

As it stands, Massachusetts is the only State to go through a full-bore overhaul of health care funding, and it doesn't seem like any State is ready to jump on board that bandwagon. As I understand it, since that change, health care costs have gone up significantly faster in Massachusetts than in the rest of the nation.

Change looks lovely as a one-word mantra on a poster, but if you prize the ability to change, to modify, or to back-track, making something this far-reaching a national program is not the way to do it.