Balance and Lines

Life is about, among other things, balance. We all try — hard — to balance work and home life, our treatment of our children, sleep and awake time, our diet and a million other parts of our lives that, if they get out of whack, make us miserable.

So, too, with government. The country needs absolutely to balance the level of government, of regulation and rules, of authority and liberty, or else the country — you and I — is miserable.

We’re miserable, as a country, now because we’re out of balance in so many ways.

With that said, it’s perfectly impossible to be in balance.

How so, you might ever so reasonably ask?

Easy: imagine balancing a yardstick on your outstretched finger. Where does it balance perfectly? Also easy: right around the 18″ mark. You can fiddle with it and fiddle with it, and when you get there, it balances just fine and you can — very carefully — move around with it balanced on your finger. However, just a tiny fraction to the left or right causes the yardstick to tip, then fall, unbalanced, off your finger. The further away the yardstick on your finger is from that balance point, the faster it tumbles from your finger.

If you were to make a line on the yardstick at the balance point, you might call that the balance line. Perfect balance lives in an extremely constrained range. The best we can hope for at any time is to be close to the balance line. The country is full of such balance lines, and her mood depends completely on the gap between the ideal and the actual level for a thousand different things.

Take taxation, for example. Let’s invent a statistic: the average level of taxation for every man, woman and child in America. This statistic would be a simple calculation: the total dollars paid in taxes by each person divided by the total dollars earned by each person. This would give you, at a very high level, the average total taxation a person experiences annually.

Now, let’s take some examples. Let’s hypothesize that you could actually determine the ideal level of taxation — the level of taxation that maximizes revenues to the government — and plot it week by week on a graph, because it would be constantly changing. You would get a line, like the above-mentioned balance line.

About this ideal level of taxation: I’m assuming the following: if the taxation level is 0%, the government gets no revenues, because no one’s paying any taxes. If the taxation level is 100% the government gets no revenues,  because no one will work if they have to give all their income to the government. No work –> No income –> no income taxes, or other taxes paid –> no revenue to the government. This is the principle behind the Laffer Curve.

So, let’s assume that there is a level of taxation that maximizes both the revenues to the government, and the incentive for the people to work, in order to maximize their revenues. Again, this level would change day-by-day, hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute, second-by-second, as the mood of the people changed (seasonally, for example), as the nation’s average optimism, or pessimism, happiness or sadness, wealth or health, fluctuated over time.

So, now we plot the ideal level of taxation against the actual level of taxation, and we get two lines. Let’s not draw any conclusions just now about today’s level of taxation, but we can, certainly, draw the following conclusion and its corollary: Conclusion: The closer together these two lines are the better for the country’s general mood and well-being. Corollary: If the actual line is higher or lower than the ideal line, this exerts a downward pull on the national mood. The greater the difference the greater the downward pull.

So too with all such lines.

Exploring that just a bit more: if actual taxation is significantly higher than ideal taxation, the people feel they are being abusively taxed. If actual taxation is significantly lower than the ideal level, then the government can’t pay for services the people are demanding, the government runs deficits, and the people get irritated. You could call the gap  between the two lines the “Misery Gap.” The greater the gap, the more miserable the people.

This last will make my Conservative confrères upset, so let’s add an assumption above: Let’s assume that the hypothetical government, at the federal, state and local levels, is performing the correct, or near the correct, level of services (another balance and another line to track!) it is permitted under the various Constitutions.

Here’s the kicker: The country is composed of many millions of such lines — the ideal versus the actual. The levels of taxation for everything from income to the purchase of food, clothing, automobiles and other essentials; the levels of federal, state, city and local regulation for every industry in every state. For every home in every city and town in the country. The level of policing in every neighborhood. The amount of scrutiny you receive at the airport, for example. The level of security at your building when you arrive in the morning for work. The number of locks on your door. The cost of your insurances: life, health, homeowner’s, automotive, dental, vision… All of these have an ideal amount that should be in place, and an actual amount that is in place. Furthermore, they all have an ideal cost, and the actual amount that we all pay for them.

Every person has such lines: The ideal amount of vegetables, fruits, nuts, meat, dairy, caffeine, candy versus the actual amount of each of these, that we consume each day. The ideal amount of exercise versus the actual amount that we do each day. The ideal amount of reading, praying, resting, sleeping, relaxing, thinking, television in which we indulge, versus the actual amount.

And all this multiplied by more than 300 million Americans!

It’s likely that these two lines — the ideal and the actual — measuring these thousands of levels in the lives and conditions of these hundreds of millions of people, businesses, towns, cities, states in the country, are almost never at the same spot on the graph.

Both lines are constantly moving up or down depending on the conditions in the country, the government, the people’s moods and other factors. At best the ideal and actual lines intersect for a nanosecond or two before parting ways again.

The most important thing is to keep the ideal and actual levels for all things in a country’s or person’s life as close together as possible, so that if you were to graph them, they would look a bit like a strand of DNA.

DNA? Or Actual and Ideal

Assume that the red in our DNA picture represents the ideal, while the blue is actual. This would be a picture of a level that’s close to in balance. It seems to indicate that as conditions change, then the person or people in question adjust well, always changing it to accord more closely to the ideal.

Now, a comment about life in America today. Briefly: the country’s miserable. Everyone knows it. Things are out of whack, and we all know it, but sometimes it’s hard to put our finger on just what is wrong.

I can tell you that I know that a bunch of our country’s lines are way out of balance, and that these imbalances are important contributors to nationwide misery. Here are some of them:

  • Regulation: The actual line is way above the ideal line, and the gap is growing.

The more this gap grows, the greater will be the feeling of being stifled, suppressed, blocked at every turn, on the part of the American people.

How can I tell that the regulation lines are out of whack? Lots of ways.  The size, complexity, cost and intrusiveness of the simple efforts required to remain in, or get into, “compliance” with various regulations, for example.

How about, on the local level, the increase in stories of kids’ lemonade stands being dismantled by the police because the kids didn’t pay the $500 fee, and the like?

Anecdotally, I remember a project  at a company where I used to work. I managed part of this project. The point was to get our company into “PCI Compliance.” PCI = “Payment Card Industry.” It was an effort to mask all possible “PII (Personally Identifiable Information) Data” from the employees handling that type of data. Things like a credit card number, phone number, address and the like.

We estimated that the project would take 40,000 man hours. Each man hour cost the company an average of 60 dollars. Hence the whole project was projected to cost 40,000 hours x $60 or $2,400,000. The project ended up requiring more than 60,000 hours, or $3,600,000. That was more than three and a half million dollars that the company paid, and 60,000 man hours (30 man years!) that we spent to get into compliance with this PCI organization.

To remain in compliance, we projected that we would need to take at least 5,000 man hours ($300,000) every year thereafter. This effort produced no product, improved no process, reduced no costs, added no efficiency — in fact, decreased efficiency and productivity — added no innovation. It was pure cost.

Furthermore, the time taken from developers, project managers, managers, executives and others, was time taken away from the opportunity to produce products, improve processes, improve efficiency, reduce costs, improve productivity and innovation.

Interestingly, the fact that our software was collecting all that PII data in the first place was in response to earlier regulation!

Remember, all that effort, all those hours worked, all those hours taken from real business pursuits, all that money — all of it was thrown at regulation in our company alone. Thousands of companies across the country had to do the same thing. Furthermore, it was all required only by this one PCI organization. All companies have to be in compliance with dozens and dozens of OSHA, DEP and other organizations’ rules, all requiring similar efforts.

A corollary to excess Regulation:

The more money and time devoted to parasitical “industries” like “Compliance,” the less money there is that can be devoted to other important business pursuits, like: compensation and advancement for people who actually do make products, improve processes, reduce costs, improve efficiencies and innovate.

Furthermore, now that complying with the vast regulatory apparatus is a huge industry and there are trillions of dollars wasted on it, people who might have been encouraged to go into other more important careers — like doing things that produce products, improve processes, improve efficiency, reduce costs, improve productivity and innovation — choose to enter this parasitical industry, making it even more of a drag on the country.

  • Taxation: My hypothetical government above does only the things it was supposed to do. Our real government does a lot more than it’s supposed to do. The actual taxation line is well above the ideal one.

My evidence: a thought exercise. (1) Name for me all the ways you are taxed. (2) Tell me how many hours and how many dollars are spent each year by the population in complying with American tax law. First of all, I’d be surprised if you could tell me either, and this is no discredit to you whatsoever. Second, American tax laws are so complex, so byzantine that the possibilities for abuse are legion. If we were not overtaxed that would say that (1) no politicians ever abused the maze-like tax code, and that (2) taxes, as they become unnecessary, simply go away. When was the last time you ever heard of a tax that “just went away?” Bottom line, as the distance between ideal taxation and actual taxation grows, the more discontented America becomes.

These are two big — gigantic — items in the life of the country. However, many other vital things are profoundly affected by these two things. When the lines between the ideal and the actual levels of regulation and taxation are out of whack, and getting worse, then so are those same lines for people’s compensation, employment, advancement, and any other measurement reflecting economic conditions.

  • How about Prices?

Again, out of whack. How do I know? Simple: the prices for very important things have skyrocketed recently, while there’s no indication that they were undervalued before, or that their actual value has increased for any valid reason. What things might these be? Gas, a college education, healthcare (with expectations that this will only get a lot worse in the near- and mid-term future.). Worse, the skyrocketing price of gas increases the price of everything that has to go from here to there to get on a store shelf. As compensation and advancement stagnate, for the reasons mentioned above, and prices increase, Americans experience greater and greater hopelessness. Trust me, I know.

So, how do you fix America? Simple: get the important metrics back into balance. I’ve named three of them: Taxation, Regulation and Prices. If you were to fix Taxation and Regulation, you’d fix prices. You can develop thought exercises like the ones I’ve formulated above. It’s not difficult. You can tell whether important things are out of balance in the country.

It’s significant that the increasing imbalance between the ideal and actual levels of vital societal metrics is entirely a Democrat Party phenomenon. Yes, it’s entirely possible that Republicans would implement imbalances the other way, or even in the same wrong way as the Democrats, but simply less.

In any group of people, if one in ten of them is miserable, then justice and fairness, for the Democrats are when ten of ten are miserable. In the same circumstance, justice and fairness for Republicans consist of implementing policies that maximize the opportunity for the tenth person to become happy. Needless to say, neither of these approaches guarantees happiness for anyone. It’s just that the Democrats’ way maximizes misery, because it always maximizes the imbalance between the ideal and the actual.

Republicans have said that they want to reduce the size, scope and reach of the government. They have understood that the country is out of balance. Way out of balance. Size, scope and reach are also things that could be understood in terms of actual and ideal levels. In terms of two lines on a graph.

Republicans got their understanding of that imbalance from their Conservative wing. Absent that Conservative wing, the Republicans would be little more than Democrats-lite. They would market themselves as better stewards of the welfare state that the Democrats have spent decades imposing on America. One way — the way — to restore America is to restore her balances, to get the actual and ideal lines a lot closer together, to close the increasingly yawning Misery Gap.

If the Republicans re-take the Senate in 2014, and if they re-take the White House in 2016, and if they do the right and courageous thing and roll back the Obama-Pelosi-Reid depredations, then they will save the country. The people will save the country by demanding that the Republicans do the above. That’s just a whole lot of “if’s” for a country in the condition of imbalance as it is now. It sure won’t be easy. As soon as anyone tries to bring the lines closer together, it would unleash a barrage of vituperation, vitriol and venom from the Democrats and their brainless minions in Hollywood, the media, pop culture and academia, the likes of which you have never seen before.

The Obama Administration has been a hammer blow to the character, the happiness, the strength, the vitality, the work ethic, the creativity… the very spirit of America. Is there enough of that spirit in ordinary Americans to save America? Is there enough character in the Republican Party to save America? It’s a sure bet that there’s not enough character in the Democrat Party to save America. They’ve spent the last decades eroding everything America has ever stood for. Is it even possible, after Obama, to save America?

Restoring her balances and lines will restore the American spirit and the American dream.

Simple as that.

— xPraetorius

5 thoughts on “Balance and Lines

  1. That was really interesting. Somebody once said an economy is about nothing more than the price of bananas and your ability to access them. It sounds very simplistic, but that really is the bottom line. When people are too regulated, too taxed, too insecure about the future, and it takes too much of their money to buy bananas, the whole social order starts to collapse. I have no idea how bad things are going to get before we right ourselves and go seeking balance again, but I am sure that everything is out of whack and it feels a bit as if we were all sitting on a powder keg.

  2. Interesting metaphor.

    Of course, taxes can be lowered below the ideal point of max work incentive/max revenue, IF the government realizes the nation’s welfare is best left to ministering individuals than dislocated bureaucrats.

    1. Thanks, Joseph. You are, of course, right on the nose.

      My imagery works only with some admittedly far-fetched assumptions, one of which is that “… the hypothetical government, at the federal, state and local levels, is performing the correct, or near the correct, level of services (another balance and another line to track!) it is permitted under the various Constitutions.”

      I phrased it that way, because I assume that the very nature of government is to seek to collect ever more power to itself.

      Really, other than guarding the shores, and a few other things (among which the mischievous “regulating interstate commerce”), the central government really shouldn’t be all that involved in our lives at all.


      — x

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