Today’s Guest Saturday post comes to us from Pat Slattery of The Free Market Project blog. Today you will learn that the government’s apparent definition of “comprehensive” is more like the definition of “chaos”. This essay was originally published on June 22, 2913.
At some point in the recent past, Washington decided that they could “comprehensively” solve problems. Websters defines the word comprehensive as follows:
or broadly : inclusive
having or exhibiting wide mental grasp
First of all, it’s pretty damned cocky to think that one can come up with a comprehensive solution to a problem like, for example, immigration reform (or health care). What our legislators are saying is that they can, in one bill, solve every bit of the problem and take into account all of the ramifications of every aspect not only of the problem but as a consequence of their solution as well. It’s ALL considered. It’s ALL handled in the bill. Moreover, it’s all handled so brilliantly that there will be no unintended consequences, because anything that is comprehensive should take into account every possible consequence and address it, so there should be no unintended consequences.
Second, the above is impossible. It is especially impossible in a political environment. In a political environment, one person’s problem is his political opponent’s opportunity. How do you solve for that? If the Democrat desire is a wave of new Democrat voters taken care of by the largesse of the welfare state so that they vote Democrat at the polls, and the Republican desire is to control immigration so that we don’t overwhelm our country with unskilled, low-wage workers who drive down wages for existing citizens, and the Republicans don’t want deficit increasing spending on federal (or even state) support for these new immigrants… How do you resolve that comprehensively? Isn’t having agreed upon goals step one in producing something that is comprehensive? Even something that is supposed to be comprehensive can’t meet all goals, because some of them are in conflict. Or, we could just go back to the proposition that “comprehensive legislation” is impossible, because you can’t meet all goals simultaneously.
Obamacare was supposed to be comprehensive legislation. What it ended up being was a monstrosity with so many internal conflicts, and so many unintended consequences, and so much complexity that the talk now is that we don’t have to kill it, it will be crushed under its own weight. The only thing comprehensive about it is that they screwed it up in every way imaginable.
It is an artifact of the Progressive movement that people in Washington (the President and the bureaucrats in the Executive Branch, and the legislators in the Congress) think that they have the intelligence, wisdom, and compassion to “comprehensively” solve problems. It is an audacious belief, and one that is completely without foundation. What have they ever resolved comprehensively?
Wouldn’t it make more sense, and be far more humble, to attack problems a chunk at a time? Then you wait and see what the consequences are, and take a next step.
It’s not that difficult (unless you suffer from the hubris that you can see all aspects of a problem and every permutation of both the problem and the proposed solutions). Let’s try it. Problem: Too many illegal immigrants and more coming all the time. Hmmmm. The humble first step: Stop illegal immigration at the borders, and actually use existing enforcement mechanisms (perhaps upgraded) to track the people who got in legally, but have overstayed their visas. Was that so difficult?
The likely second problem is what to do with those who are already here. How do you approach the problem? Well, they’re mostly here to work, or collect welfare. The humble second step: use E-verify and punish employers who hire illegal workers. Let them self-deport when they can’t find work. Simultaneously, make damned sure that they aren’t getting welfare. That should cause even more to self-deport. Use the courts to either lock up or deport anyone here illegally that commits a crime. AFTER doing that, you can figure out how big the problem is with illegal aliens already here and staying.
Do you really have to go beyond that at this point? The step by step approach–where you take one step, observe the results, then take another after assessing those results–would seem to me to be a better approach.
I’d love to see Washington become more humble and begin to try to come up with “tactical solutions” rather than “comprehensive” solutions. They need to realize that they literally can not come up with comprehensive solutions.