The Death of Common Sense

I borrowed my title from a great book by Phillip Howard. In it, he gives many telling examples of outcomes that don’t make sense because the powers that be keep trying to make rules and laws impervious to human interpretation and implementation. They don’t trust people to apply common sense so that try to make it unnecessary by writing the rules so detailed as to cover all circumstances.

My current example, which I’ve encountered and written about before, is zero tolerance. It has been a while, but once again I was carded today when buying a beverage in a restaurant in the Orlando airport to help me get through the usual two-hour plus flight delay.

The waitress asked to see my ID. I looked at her closely so she could see that I was about the age of her grandfather. Then I asked if she was kidding. Then I told her I had a granddaughter that was probably legal. None of this mattered, of course. “Rules is rules.” I watched to see if she gave my drivers license a perfunctory glance, thus signaling to me that she realized the silliness of the situation. She looked at it very carefully, however, trying to compute my age from the birth date on the license. It was normal for her.

I didn’t ask her if carding everybody was a Florida state law or just a company policy to keep the law off their backs. Either way, the substitution of one-size-fits-all arbitrary rules for sensible rules applied with common sense is a major factor that erodes my faith in the law. Individual liberty gets trampled.

By coincidence, I just heard yesterday of the law proposed by Barney Frank and Ron Paul to legalize pot at the Federal level. I think I’m for it. Prohibition doesn’t work, and we are wasting too many tax dollars and jail space on victimless crimes. Besides, I went through college and graduate school in the 1960s without experiencing pot. After all, it was against the law. I might like to try it before they put me in the old folks home.

While I’m at it, let me say why I was so sensitive to such a minor thing today. I arrived at the airport at least an hour early and immediately saw a sign saying my flight was delayed by more than two hours. No explanation. I think that’s the new normal. The same thing happened on my way here earlier in the week, except the reason finally came out in that instance.

It seems that someone had reported one or more mosquitoes on the plane on an incoming flight, so the ground crew insisted on fumigating and the flight crew refused to fly a recently fumigated plane. So, we all waited a couple of hours for them to find another plane.

If they had asked my opinion, I would have suggested they wait to fumigate the plane until it was out of service for the day. Meanwhile they could give everyone a rolled up newspaper to swat the little blood suckers. But, no, they couldn’t fly with a single mosquito airborne. No, not one.

If it’s not the law, it’s the lawyers advising their clients how to avoid lawsuits and regulators. Zero tolerance is spreading and wiping out our freedom.

By the way, how do you like the overly-dry over-cooked scrambled eggs the lawyers are serving up these days?

Comments (5)

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  1. Sarah Onach says:

    Legalizing drugs. The argument against is always either moral, that marijuana, etc., are “gateway” drugs, or that more people would be killed from drug-driving. But I wonder what the body count is now, both from illicit use and abuse in the US and gang wars both in Mexico and in US border cities? I’m guessing the death toll from the latter far exceeds the former. And then there’s the cost of the War on Drugs.

  2. rich (arizona) says:

    The whole zero tolerance policy has always annoyed me. It should just say zero common sense. In life decisions cannot be made from a flow chart, instead you have to use judgement (otherwise why do we have judges?) and trust your employees to make the right decisions (most of the time).

    We get stories like schools suspending little kids because they bring in some tiny toy gun or other such nonsense. You got to let people make decisions and realize at times their judgement will be wrong.

    Enjoy reading your blog. Thanks Rich.

  3. It would seem that common sense has been lost in the economic and budget balancing area also. Think about how this country was developed and grew to a financial giant. Stock markets do not make money, they use and move money. Money can only be made in a few basic ways, (1) Agricultural and agriculture production, (2) Extraction of raw materials, (3) Conversion of raw materials to products, and (4) Marketing finished goods. This country wasn’t built on service jobs and government job programs. These are no more than transfer of wealth programs. It was built on the above basic methods from the land and from an honest days work for an honest days pay. Does anyone see and honest days pay at $35.00 an hour on the assembly line?? That is more than teachers with 4 years of college get. Where is our common sense?? Let’s bring the jobs back to this country and let people out of work go to work. Let’s charge import tariffs and import taxes. Let’s pass laws making it illegal for foreign companies, individuals, corporations, and foreign countries from owning US real-estate. Let’s stop export of any and all raw materials and products. Let’s take the US of America back. Put everyone back to work, let the worked buy from us and we can get out of debt without penalizing the old and the helpless, without cuts in health and social security. Lets overhaul and reform the tax codes that allow such loop holes as corporations with overseas headquarters are all but tax exempt. What has happened to common sense in America?? I feel better now and hope you are angry after reading what I have written.


  4. Let me make a correction: let the world buy from us NOT let the worked buy from us.

    Thank You

  5. David Chester says:

    If you are looking for common sense, then consider how social justice can be created and maintained by the taxing land values instead of productivity (income tax, purchase tax, customs duty, investment gains, property etc.)

    14 ASPECTS of LAND-VALUE TAXATION affecting Government, Land Owners, Community and Ethics

    3 aspects for GOVERNMENT

    1. Most of the ground-rent being collected as LVT, adds to the national income. It allows the other taxes on earnings, purchases and family/corporate ownership of buildings to be reduced and eventually to be eliminated.

    2. The ownership of each land parcel is registered. Then the cost of collecting the LVT is much smaller than for income tax and other production-related taxes. Using regularly updated maps, the rental value of each site (as if without buildings) is public knowledge. Then the LVT is simple to understand, the amount of tax is easily found and its payment by the land owner is impossible to avoid.

    3. With LVT, the national economy stabilizes and no longer experiences the 18 year housing boom and bust cycle, which was due to the changing prices that arose from speculation in land-values during town expansion.

    6 aspects affecting LAND OWNERS

    4. LVT is progressive, the owners of the most potentially productive sites pay the most tax. None is paid on marginally productive sites, since their owners cannot claim ground-rent from possible tenants.

    5. The land owner pays his LVT regardless of how the land is used. When the land is leased to tenants most or all of the resulting ground-rent is the tax.

    6. LVT stops the speculation in land prices because any withholding of land from proper use is too costly.

    7. The introduction of LVT reduces the sales price of sites even though their value (or potential usefullness) may continue to grow.

    8. With LVT, land owners are unable to pass the tax on to their tenant renters, due to the competition for land use. The users of (untaxed) marginal sites price their produce according to the costs of their labour, the use of the durable capital and the added transport needs. Owners/occupiers who access more productive land pay LVT/ground-rent and compete in their production, so this tax cannot be added to what buyers willingly pay.

    9. With the introduction of LVT, land prices will drop. Speculators in land values will tend to foreclose on their mortgages and to withdraw their money for reinvestment. Depending on the rate of these changes, bankrupcies can result. Then LVT should be introduced gradually to allow the investors sufficient time to transfer money to company-shares in durable capital goods, where their greater use will meet the increased demand for produce (see below).

    3 aspects regarding our COMMUNITY

    10. With LVT, there is an incentive to use land for production, rather than it laying idle or being partly used. An optimum amount of urban land is brought into use, which reduces the spread of suburbs onto rural land and avoids vacant city centers.

    11. With LVT, greater working opportunities exist due to cheaper land and a greater number of available sites. Consumer goods become cheaper because entrepreneurs have less difficulty in starting-up and running their businesses. Demand grows, unemployment decreases and with it a reduction in the polarization of our class-society and its degree of poverty.

    12. As LVT is introduced, investment money is withdrawn from land and placed in durable capital goods. The investors in company shares tend to be wage-earners (as well as banks and monopolists). Their decisions favour more competition and cheaper local production without heavy transport costs, whilst the monopolists have less control of prices and the unavailability of alternative goods. This is a natural trend of our free-marketing social system.

    2 aspects about ETHICS

    13. The collection of taxes directly from productive effort and commerce is socially unjust. The associated philosophy favours coercive robbery and is “Robin Hood” in style. LVT replaces this form of extortion by gathering the surplus rental income which comes without exertion. Consequently LVT is a natural system of money-gathering, which avoids the present-day distortion of business economics.

    14. Bribery and corruption cease with LVT. Before, this was due to the leaking of news of municipal plans for housing development. However, the speculation in land values is no longer worthwhile after LVT is in place.