Mistakes are human — and they’re dangerous when an entity aggregates too much power

erase_mistakeMistakes.  We all make them. Lord knows, anyone reading my blog knows that there are days when I can call myself the Mistake Queen. I’m a careless typist and a lousy proofreader, especially when rushed or stressed, two things that describe me most of the time.  I have a large fund of facts squirreled away in my brain, but I still get facts wrong and am always grateful when those more knowledgeable than I correct them.  I’m a savvy internet user, but not infrequently fall prey to false information on the internet (especially falsely attributed quotations that dovetail too perfectly with my beliefs).

Here’s the deal, though:  My mistakes have minimal impact.  They amuse some and offend others.  When I learn about them, I’ll correct them (unless they’re ancient typos).  I don’t want to make mistakes because my credibility and quality are at issue, but nobody’s going to die or go broke because I’ve made a typo.

The same holds true when individuals in government make mistakes.  For example, Earl tipped me off to a very funny one from the offices of Rep. Paul Cook (R., Cal. 8th Dist.).  I have no bone to pick with Cook.  He’s a retired Marine colonel and Vietnam Vet, and he deserves full honors for both those things.  He’s a Republican and I’ll happily assume for now that he’s not a RINO.  Without further information, therefore, Rep. Cook is all good things and I wish him much success.

But the stuff that comes out of his office!  Oy vey!!  His staff recently mailed out a flyer to his constituents.  The flyer had on its cover this stirring image:

Paul Cook flyer cover

So far so good. We like Congressmen who look first to the Constitution before passing laws. The problem comes with the survey included with the mailing:

Paul Cook survey

Please think long and hard about how you would answer Question No. 2.  If pressed, I would pick “unsure,” only because, of all the answers that make no sense, it’s most honestly acknowledges the inevitable bewilderment the question creates.

So it’s not just me messing up.  This kind of carelessness, thoughtlessness, illogical, foolishness, or whatever else you’d like to call it, is an inherent part of human nature.  The problems begin when we give these careless humans too much power.  The fact that Rep. Cook has silly people in his office says nothing about him and his agenda.  Likewise, although it was good for a laugh, you can’t fault every Democrat for some foolish drone’s reference to Reagan’s hitherto unknown years in Congress.

The contrary is true, though, when we’re looking at mistakes in an all- (or almost all-) powerful organization, such as a modern federal bureaucracy.  In that context, mistakes can be catastrophic.  And that’s precisely what Jim Geraghty touches upon in his National Review article about the fact that liberals cannot govern — they have put too much power into entities whose mistakes are devastating and whose self-correcting mechanisms non-existent:

In most professions, when you end up spending ten times what you budgeted, the consequences are swift and severe. Heads roll. Responsibilities are reassigned. Budgetary authority gets yanked. This, of course, is not how things work in the federal government.

[snip]

Liberals’ belief in the inherent goodness of a far-reaching federal government drives them to avert their eyes from its wildest abuses, even when they are occurring right in front of them. Waste and mismanagement are ignored, dismissed, downplayed, and excused, because confronting them too directly would undermine the central tenet of their worldview: that the federal government is an irreplaceable tool for making the world a better place.

I hope I’m not being too mean when I point to Rep. Paul Cook’s silly flyer as a microcosm of everything that’s wrong with big government, even if that government is not actively malevolent and partisan.  When careless error comes out of a single Congressman’s office, it’s inconsequential; when it comes out of an all-powerful, unconstrained bureaucracy, it ought to scare the Hell out of each one of us.

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  • DL Sly

    Just a nit, but the answer to  number two can only be “Yes” simply because of their syntax error.
    “Do you support or oppose….”
    Why yes, yes I do.  Whether it be support or oppose, I do.  Anything else is a non-sequiter.  Now you knew the resident Grammer Nazi would say that, didn’t you?
    heh
    0>;~]

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    I’m not sure where the mistake is though.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    It’s not the aggregation of power that becomes a problem. It’s whether that power is situated at the top or bottom, and it is affected by how much consequences are suffered due to the exercise of power. Generally what we see with evil is that it accumulates a lot of power at the top, using authority and force to make their tools kill and enslave, then when bad consequences happen nothing happens to the leaders, only to the tools carrying out the orders.
     
     

  • http://photoncourier.blogspot.com David Foster

    When everything is centralized, then the stakes are so high that errors cannot be permitted to  exist.
    Arthur Koestler’s protagonist, Rubashov, in Darkness at Noon:
    “A short time ago, our leading agriculturist, B., was shot with thirty of his collaborators because he maintained the opinion that nitrate artificial manure was superior to potash. No. 1 is all for potash; therefore B. and the thirty had to be liquidated as saboteurs. In a NATIONALLY CENTRALIZED AGRICULTURE, the alternative of nitrate or potash is of enormous importance: it can decide the issue of the next war. If No. I was in the right, history will absolve him, and the execution of the thirty-one men will be a mere bagatelle. If he was wrong …”

  • http://OgBlog.net Earl

    @DL Sly:  Grammer Nazi?  Perhaps…..  But, not Spelling Nazi!
     
    Since it’s “grammar”, as well as “non sequitur”…..you could look it up!
     
    :-)

  • Matt_SE

    If one assumes good intent, the biggest mistake of those in power is assuming they have enough information/intelligence/wisdom to govern a nation of 310 million people in anything but the loosest fashion.

    • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

      That’s why Obama was elevated to Messiah by the Left. A Messiah has god’s ears for information. They know how to decide.

  • DL Sly

    Earl,
    Orrrrr, I could have had a second cup of coffee before commenting. 
    I would note though, that whilst I am a Gramm<b>a</b>r Nazi, ’tis only in my mind for I have yet to correct anyone in the comments.
    You could look it up!
    0>;~]

  • http://OgBlog.net Earl

    @DL Sly:  Too true, my friend….it was the Congressman’s mailer that you were correcting.
     
    On the other hand when you “outed” yourself, you overcame my usual reticence about calling out misspellings in public.  I hope you’ll cut me a break — I mean, when the self-proclaimed “Grammer Nazi” misspelled “Grammar”, it’s just TOO inviting!!
     
    Peace, brother?  :-)