The Government-Designed Mouse

29 Mar

One of the other important things to realize is many students want their privacy. There are many, for example, females in our school that when they go through their menstrual cycle, they don’t want people to see their tampons and stuff. It’s unnecessary, it’s embarrassing for a lot of the students and it makes them feel isolated and separated from the rest of American school culture where they’re having essentially their First Amendment rights infringed upon because they can’t freely wear whatever backpack they want regardless of what it is.

-David Hogg

Q – What is an elephant?

A – A mouse built to government standards.

There has been a great deal of sniggering, in certain parts of the internet, over David Hogg’s reaction to the new rule requiring students at his school to wear transparent backpacks and carry ID cards. Wags have been gleefully pointing out that a person who is prepared to strip a sizable percentage of people of their (Second Amendment) rights is in no position to complain about someone else being willing to strip him of his (First Amendment) rights. I have no idea if David Hogg appreciates the irony or not – punishing vast numbers of people for the crimes of a few is hardly fair, after all – but it is a worthwhile demonstration of the folly of expecting government to do anything sensible about anything.


(A funny meme)

Governments, like all big organisations, are driven by four interconnecting rules:

First, a government simply cannot see the little details. It will try to apply a ‘one size fits all’ approach because it is rarely capable of seeing subtle differences. We all look alike to governments.

Second, a government (and/or the people running the bureaucracy) do not want to give up a single scrap of power. Heaven forbid! The public might discover they don’t need the government after all.

Third, to a very large extent, a government will either search for easy solutions that make it look as though they’re doing something, (regardless of whether or not the solutions will actually solve anything), or do nothing rather than let someone else (i.e. someone outside government) get the credit.

Fourth, a government (and a government department) will do everything it can to expand its power as much as possible. The idea of cutting back, even when budgets are low, is anthemia to the bureaucrats. Thus we see government responsibilities mushrooming even as the government’s ability to actually meet its responsibilities – both the original and new responsibilities – shrinks.

The simple fact regarding the Parkland Shooting is that there were plenty of warnings about the shooter, all of which were ignored through a mixture of dunderheaded attempts to reduce arrest and conviction rates and simple incompetence. The NRA is not to blame, any more than the AA is responsible for drunk-driving. The true enemy is a mixture of government incompetence and a system that literally can neither be gotten to work nor internally reformed.

This is a common problem. The US Federal Government has tried to mandate standards for education right across the United States, ranging from Common Core to endless tests upon tests and race-based discipline. These ‘solutions’ tend to cause more problems than they solve, because the natural response for teachers (or anyone, really) is to look for ways to improve their standing and grades rather than actually do something useful. The system is broken because the people at the top are fundamentally disconnected from the people at the bottom.

‘Ban the Box’ is another American example, an idea that only a terminally-disconnected person could love. In theory, low African-American employment in America is explained by African-Americans having criminal records, therefore the solution is to ban potential employers from asking about criminal histories. Logical, right? What actually happened was that African-American employment fell … because employers, unable to separate candidates with criminal records from those who didn’t have criminal records, made the logical choice not to hire any African-Americans.

On the other side of the Atlantic stands a tottering institution, the European Union. The basic idea behind the EU was sound enough. However, it rapidly began growing towards a transnational institution that was largely unaccountable to the people it claimed to represent and, in doing so, expanded its powers into all manner of areas. It isn’t an exaggeration to claim that a whole series of woes afflicting Europe, from financial disasters to the migration crisis, might have been averted if the EU had bothered to actually think about what it was doing instead of mindlessly grabbing for more power and influence. Nor did it consider that its actions, however logical they might have seemed in Brussels, scanned very differently at a local level.

What made this worse was a flat refusal to grant concessions that might – might – have averted a number of major problems. The EU did not offer David Cameron anything substantial he could use to claim a victory, which might have averted the BREXIT referendum or allowed Remain to win. Instead, it was coldly dismissive of the people on the ground who, logically, voted against what they saw as an alien power that was actively harmful.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say this again. The more you ask your government to do for you, the less it can do for you.

John Ross, of Unintended Consequences, had an argument that ran something like this:

Suppose you want to ban abortion. Suppose you succeed … abortion is now a federal crime. Mothers who abort their children go to jail for five years, doctors who perform abortions go to jail for ten. Sounds great, right? Life wins?

There’s a drug that causes abortions and it works, put simply, by inducing a miscarriage. Think about it for a moment. How long do you think it will be until you see federal agents harassing women who had natural miscarriages, citing probable cause? And they will be right – there will be probable cause. Those federal agents will want to improve their statistics in a manner that won’t put them in any danger … of course they’ll go after (formerly) expecting mothers. And those mothers will not be able to prove that they didn’t have an abortion.

The risk of giving the government – or any large institution – power is that they will use it in a manner you will not like. And by then it is difficult to stop them.

The government may not be evil, in the classic sense, but it is bloated and stupid and, to a very large extent, driven by forces most people cannot match. A large percentage of school shooters were on prescription drugs of one kind or another, but this is barely challenged because the drug industries have enormous clout. The teachers on the spot are often at the mercy of rules handed down by Washington or London, but they don’t have the ability to say no. Declaring schools gun-free zones seems logical, but it rests on an assumption that criminals follow the law … which is utter nonsense. Most school shootings in America seem to take place in gun-free zones …


(Another one)

So, as David Hogg says, we now have students exposed to (yet another) humiliating practice that will do absolutely nothing to prevent violence. Say what you like about Hogg, he’s right on this point. And, perhaps, it will teach students something about the blindness of the people right at the top.

The solution to this problem – and many others – is simple. Decentralise. Give the school administers, the ones parents and students actually see, actual authority to do something about potential problems. Come down like the wrath of god on bullies, no matter who they are; make it clear the rules apply to everyone. Suspend and expel problem students; head teachers to have the power to suspend or fire problematic teachers (and have clear guidelines to identify troublemakers). Resort classes to put people with the same basic level together. Concentrate on reading, writing and maths rather than social justice and the soft sciences; stop talking about what divides us and focus on what unites us. Decent school meals, no more tests than strictly necessary and teachers who actually know what they’re talking about …

I submit to you that these changes would radically improve British and American schools. But don’t look to the government to give them to you. Bureaucrats are very good at coming up with reasons why they shouldn’t let people have more control over their lives. And David Hogg and his friends, as well-meaning as they might be, are only making it worse.

29 Responses to “The Government-Designed Mouse”

  1. Alan Sharkey March 29, 2018 at 1:49 pm #

    It was similar with the child maintenance system used for ensuring that fathers paid for their children. The agency was given targets and, of course, they went after the easy ones – the ones who were already paying, but maybe not quite enough. They met their targets, but the ones who were in real hardship got away with it.

  2. Ian Birchenough March 29, 2018 at 1:55 pm #

    The AA and NRA are approaching their issues from opposite directions AA attempting to assist their constituency in avoiding Alcohol and the NRA in attempting to prevent restrictions on their constituency. Not a good example to use I feel.

    • chrishanger March 29, 2018 at 2:12 pm #

      I meant the Automobile Association, not Alcoholics Anon. Sorry. .


  3. Veraenderer March 29, 2018 at 2:48 pm #

    I think you mean a centralized gouvernment and not a big gouvernment. If a country is strongly federal, but has a overall big gouvernment with many responsibilities the decision makers would still sit closer to the problem than the decision makers of a small strongly centralised gouvernment,

  4. M March 29, 2018 at 3:27 pm #

    Compromise – make David Hogg (and only him) wear a transparent backpack.

  5. clbeam March 29, 2018 at 6:20 pm #

    what is your opinion on the Britain librialist movement

  6. PhilippeO March 29, 2018 at 8:15 pm #

    Good Analysis, Terrible Solution.

    In Decentralized School, Headmaster and Teacher will have favorites who will immune from punishment and always get good grades. Office Politics and popularity in headmaster eyes would be only standard in teacher hiring and retention. Rather than rules apply to everyone, personal relations will triumph over all.

    For all terribleness of Bureaucracy, its Basic Building Block of Civilizations. having indifferent person who you don’t know applying rules he neither interested nor care is ALWAYS better than have to depend on other people favor.

    As for NRA, Britain and Australia had proven that gun control works.

    and all laws is always trade off, banning gun affect far fewer people on their private hobby, while transparent bag affect large number of students who do their daily activity.

    • Pyo March 29, 2018 at 10:00 pm #

      I agree. A central government has the big advantage precisely that it reaches for watered down solutions when everyone panics (unless it’s an insanely popularistic one…) – what you really want to avoid is a small town siege-mentality, the sort of “Wild West”-local sheriff approach that will solve nothing but is guaranteed to rekindle old prejudices and ‘old boy’ club approaches which lead precisely to the social situations that cause these outbursts of violence …

    • Ryan March 30, 2018 at 6:59 pm #

      The real solution is school choice. It doesn’t matter what model the school itself uses so long as parents can evaluate what they believe works best for all parties and choose to participate. I’m a big proponent of school vouchers. The the parents chose the best possible choice for the funds they have available instead of foisting the bureaucratic mess that is government schooling.

    • Bewildered March 31, 2018 at 12:08 pm #

      Actually PhilippeO gun control is a myth. Australia has had just as many mass murder events in the years since imposing strict gun controls as it has in the years before. It may (or may not) have reduced the gun component of these events – it’s impossible to know. What is clear is that gun crimes were on their way down prior to gun control. Worse, a recent gun amnesty program showed just what a farce the gun control claims are. Amongst the almost 60,000 firearms handed in were a rocket launcher – never legal in the country, and several machine guns – also not legal for civilian use. The only ones harmed by it a law abiding folk. Civilians wanting permission to own a gun have to demonstrate a need for it, and depending on the firearm type, may need to maintain annual records to prove they’re compliant or face forfeiture or worse. Add in spiraling crime in parts e.g. a carjacking that was only thwarted because the female driver pulled out a handgun and threatened to shoot the jackers – she was a mufti cop, and it’s obvious things can’t stay the way they are.

      As for decentralised schools having headmasters and teachers with favourites immune from punishment and getting good grades, how is that different to a centralised state system? At least when local authority exists problem students are more likely to be controlled.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard March 31, 2018 at 3:03 pm #

        Regarding “decentralized schools”, in the US the local school districts started out controlled by a local school board elected by the local citizens.

        As state and federal moneys started to flow into the local schools control started to shift to the state & federal governments from the local school boards.

        Would there be problems with a local big-wig in situations where the schools are controlled by the local school boards?

        Yes but no system is going to be perfect and IMO the advantages of local control outweigh the disadvantages.

      • chrishanger April 1, 2018 at 7:43 am #

        It’s also easier to hold local authorities to account.


      • Vapori March 31, 2018 at 8:33 pm #

        It is like many things historically gown, and I disagree on the disadvantages kinda. But that has much to do with how it is implemented.

        and details matter a bit there, so lets get into the deeper history of education or at least a part of it.

        Local school boards were of course the first things that started to form when, general public schooling became a law or was implemented not only in the US but also all over Europa or other early industrial countries like Japan.

        The teachers were mostly professionals from a university or collage or another form of higher learning, and they were few and well respected. of course they had to be there was no quick Communication to e-mail or even express mail to mail test results quickly too a central school board or education ministry or such.

        That also often resulted in the fact that local town or district school- boards funded themselves, so with taxes that the city collects or the district or the prefecture or what have you.
        That on the other hand often resulted in wildly varying levels of money available for that public school. Town A might be relatively rich while town B was poor at least in taxes. Many People living in town B might actually start working in the big factory in town A.

        Now Town A is rich and can employ more teachers for better university while town B can’t.

        That wasn’t really that much of a problem when schools were first implemented as few people traveled even ten miles a day to get to work at that time.

        But bigger corporations were employing people from further away and soon they of course noticed a difference between students from town A and B and noted that the marks were noway comparable.

        They demanded of course that Town B raise the standards for it’s students.
        (the first institution that was worried about the local differences between marks and other certs was actually the military at least over here because the Recruitment officer in town C didn’t know to much about the differences between town A and B)

        But town B of course tried but after 5 years it wasn’t much better and they said sry we can’t we don’t have enough money to provide as good an education as town A. Please give us money so that we can do so.

        Now the government had a number of options give town B some of town A’s money. Town A wasn’t liking that proposal.

        So came the second idea up, the government would pay the education for town B from all it’s taxes or at least help them. Of course for a say in how the money was spent so that they could control that the money was spent well.

        Town A was unhappy because Town B didn’t have to pay for schooling so they also asked the government to help them with schooling so that they had more of their own money to spent, or maybe the car or bus had been invented and more people from Town B who worked in the rich town A to get students to the better school even when they didn’t live there.

        (of course paying directly for schooling was also an option but then every school had to cost the same to make it fair
        or if it wasn’t the parents of the more expensive schools would demand what was teached and it would give the parents more say about what to teach, and they were not always of one option.)

        Now I wonder what type of education you would suggest and what should be managed local state wise and federal big companies big universities the government itself and by that the military and the bureaucracy would demand uniformed teaching plans and one standard for marks. Locally people might want, stipends for school buses in a rural area or that everybody reads “the road to serfdom” if the region is brimming with conservative republicans, similarly people in a strongly liberal district might want that everybody reads the book “stupid white man”

        Or maybe that everybody visits the local battle memorial or stuff like that. Now that might become tricky, students or parents might demand that students all read the same books, after all it might be that some parents have to move during the schoolyear, and then their daughter gets to the new school and everybody reads Stupid white man while she slaved away to read the road to serfdom.

        Actually small bodies like a commune are not really able to develop laws on complex matters quickly and effective.

        They might not have the manpower to spend a million man hours, to develop the most ideal plan for teaching children. or they may just give a test at the end of the year and every teacher headmaster has to figure out how to prepare his teachers and students for that one.

        Somebody here said something about 200000 VW ass sitting ducks in California while Chris mentioned the Brexid referendum, in both cases people VW management and the former UK PM were actively ignoring the bureaucracy and that is normally stupid.

        VW ignored environmental rules and tried to cheat, letting them go easy only encourages the next Cheater.
        I mean you don’t tell a thief, to keep his stolen goods.

        As for Cameron, he actively ignored a good number of key facts about the EU, for ones the UK already had to pay less then other equally rich nations. Secondly the changes he demanded were effecting the EU treaties(the constitution if you want to call it, that and they had just been changed a few years ago, and changing them would take longer then he had given the other EU states before the Brexid referendum. So what they were those other nations supposed to think.

        General solutions don’t really work. max centralization like a planned economy doesn’t work obviously. , might actually get better at some point with computers who knows.

        max decentralization. is also no good. it’s harder to say if more decentralization is better from our current stand point, and it might be a topic standpoint.

        my current list based on were I live,
        Education, more centralization.
        public grid.. for water and public trains decentralize , for electricity more centralization the actual grid less, on the supply side., roads are fine as it is maybe a small bit more federal money.

        On the EU, it is right that they expanded way to quickly after some early successes without having the necessary power structure or legitimacy for that. Currently the single market works well, some other things work also, some like the Euro are flunky at best but parts of it are and that is the bigger problem not reformable.

  7. P March 29, 2018 at 8:54 pm #

    People want simple solutions. How many people think that if we just did X, it’d solve everything. Life is never that simple. For any simple solution that exists, there exists someone that can abuse that system. Give a central government control, they won’t be flexible. Give a local government control, they turn into tyrants. There are exceptions to this, but we don’t elect people to government on the basis of how well they can do their jobs. We the people wouldn’t even know how to judge whether someone is qualified. That pretty much guarantees that we’re going to elect charismatic, but power hungry people, who will inevitably abuse the system.

    If you want real change to the system, the first step is for us to change ourselves and realize the answer is probably going to be a lot more complicated than what we can fit in a blog post.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard March 29, 2018 at 9:04 pm #

      “If men were Angels, we’d need no government. If Angels were to govern us, government would need no limits”. James Madison in the Federalist Papers.

  8. Billy March 29, 2018 at 10:02 pm #

    Kind of like * Red Light Cameras in the USA

    Most people when the Red Light at the intersection is red.
    (And are wanting to turn right)

    They come up to the intersection and instead of stopping 100 percent.

    They do a pause-stop and turn.

    That is almost all drivers.

    So the Red Light cameras can be set so if you don’t 100 percent stop(And for a minute or two be stopped) to give most every driver a ticket for running a red light.

    That is why they go into a city and almost the same time they go in the lawsuits start flying and the city takes them out – after coughing up a lot of money back to the ticketed drivers.
    (It make take a few years in some cases)

    Great idea in theory

    Not so much in application.

  9. Anarchymedes March 30, 2018 at 12:25 pm #

    stop talking about what divides us and focus on what unites us

    That is, quite simply, the best suggestion I’ve seen on these pages. And it’s so un-conservative: so, in fact, opposed to all this America-first-Brexit-my-corner-your-corner theme.

    • chrishanger March 30, 2018 at 5:58 pm #

      To be honest, I think it is a very conservative idea


      • Anarchymedes March 31, 2018 at 9:07 am #

        It’s conservative when it opposes the identity politics; but it’s as progressive as they come when directed against isolationism and nationalism.

  10. Billy March 30, 2018 at 6:48 pm #

    I just saw this on Fox News web site 3-3018

    300,000 VW diesels ( Cars) are sitting in the California desert , because

    Volkswagen cheated on emissions test.

    So Volkswagen has to buy all those new cars back from the owners(And they are still buying them)

    And each one has to be fixed so that they get a tiny bit better emissions before they can be resold or exported.

    So now there are 300,000 (And going to be more) new Volkswagen cars , sitting there in the desert surround by chain link fence.

    I would imagine the desert will just cover them all with sand eventually .

    Seems like a major waste to me

    Common sense out the window

  11. Ryan March 30, 2018 at 6:54 pm #

    Hogg claiming that clear backpacks are a violation of any rights, let alone the 1st amendment, proves he has no idea what he’s talking about. First, it would be a 4th amendment violation, not first. Second, attending a specific school means you CHOOSE to adhere to whatever rules the schools imposes on its students. Be it a dress code, clear backpacks, ID cards, etc, obeying those rules is conditional to attending that school. Don’t like it? You’re free to attend a private school, find another public school, or be home schooled.

  12. Bewildered March 31, 2018 at 11:50 am #

    Respectfully I think the abortion example is a strawman. You’re arguing that authorities will take a guilty ’til proven innocent approach rather than follow the evidence. Worse they’ll be fighting science – natural miscarriages are a proven fact, and bad PR – persecuting a mother in mourning for her dead child.

    • chrishanger April 1, 2018 at 7:42 am #

      You may be right.

      However, given some of the absurdities we’ve heard over the last few years, I wouldn’t care to bet against it.


  13. Big Ben March 31, 2018 at 8:11 pm #

    The problems with local control of schools are well documented …
    Take away “Big Government” regulation and schools in the southern states would immediately begin the return to segregation.
    The text books in Texas would once again misrepresent the history of slavery – they got in hot water for doing exactly that a year or two ago.
    Schools in Kansas and Missouri would ban the teaching of evolution in favor of creationism. They’ve been trying this for years and get laughed out of court every time.
    Who the heck knows what they’d start teaching in California.

    Most folks agree that there need to be certain minimum standards on most things, from public education to automobile and food safety … even the thorny issues like abortion and gun control.
    The wailing and vitriol and finger pointing starts when otherwise intelligent people “debate” what those minimum standards should be – and who should responsible for enforcing them.

  14. Big Ben March 31, 2018 at 8:24 pm #

    Oh, and my favorite canard about the idiocy of government engineering …
    When NASA hit the space race running someone pointed out that the astronauts would need to be able to write in space – they’d need to fill out all those government forms (in triplicate) and document all the supplies they used and account for every second, etc., etc.
    So NASA hired the best writing implement engineers to design the highest-tech ink pen ever created … because everyone knows that government forms are only valid if filled out in blue or black ink.
    Millions of dollars were spend creating an ink pen that would work in micro-gravity without leaking all over everything.

    The Soviet cosmonauts used pencils.

    • Vapori March 31, 2018 at 8:52 pm #

      The Story happens to be wrong

      you can still buy them here.

    • Bob March 31, 2018 at 11:30 pm #

      The NASA pencil is an old chestnut, and totally wrong. 1. They both used pencils and 2. it was a safety issue as graphite is conducive and pencil bits in microgravity can cause short circuits and fires. I appreciate people who post opinions I don’t agree with especially when they are well stated and cited as it is a good way to see things from a different angle and I might change my mind. Things like this don’t add value to the conversation.

  15. William Ameling April 1, 2018 at 4:35 am #

    or Fifth: The government (of the ruling party) will do nothing or something else worse than the best suggestion because it came from the non ruling party. (a variation on Not Invented Here, it is only a good idea if we came up with it, not someone else, or if it is such a good idea, we would already would have had it ourselves).

    • chrishanger April 1, 2018 at 7:48 am #

      It’s very annoying when real-life polititions can’t manage the competance of Neddy Seagoon:

      Ellington:Boss, boss.

      Seagoon:What Ellington?

      Ellington: Why don’t we build a higher mountain?

      Seagoon:Build our own mountain?


      Seagoon:What rubbish, get out!

      Grams:[Door shuts]

      Seagoon:Has he gone?


      Seagoon:Good. Gentlemen, I have a brilliant idea. Why don’t we build our own mountain?

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