Getting a Camel

SUBHEAD: What do you get when you design a horse by committee?
Answer: You should at least get a camel, but with this situation you won't even get an ungulate.

By George Mobus on 17 June 2009 in Question Everything

Image above: Arabian camel from

 Today the Obama administration unveils its 'plan' for regulating the financial industry. This looks like the classical closing of the barn door after the horse is out. They are assuming that the economy, and hence the financial basis of that economy, will recover and we will be once again on the borrow-so-we-can-consume track to Nowheresville.

Then, once the economy is running again, these regulations will kick in and all will be rosy thereafter.

Perhaps I should smoke what they are smoking in the White house so that I could stop worrying about outcomes and reality. The proposed regulations look a lot (to me anyway) like what we call a kluge in engineering.

You throw together a bunch of reactive solutions to a set of problems in the hope that they will somehow all work together to keep the 'device' working. Complex systems have all these little pesky variables that need to be 'controlled', so you look at each one individually, figure out how to apply some local 'fix', and then go on to the next problem.

Only what too often happens is that the fix for one problem variable causes something else to go haywire. After all, the whole thing is a system. Things are connected. A local fix to one variable doesn't mean you are fixing the whole system. This is what we know as unintended consequences. 

The system that was already in place was a huge kluge. So many different agencies with different authorities and different jurisdictions (except that many overlapped in ways making it hard to know who should do what and to whom!)

Now the proposal is to 'patch it up'. Fix it incrementally. Once again I wonder when wisdom will prevail in these decisions. I have been writing for nearly two years about the need for a more naturalistic approach to governance, one based on hierarchical management with strategic, coordination (tactical and logistical), and operations controls suitably designed and placed, and I still think that is the only feasible way to approach these problems.

Instead we limp along trying desperately to make an already proven failed system work.

And it is even the wrong system! I have also been writing about the idiocy of our current approach to financial management, banking, liquidity markets, and the like.

So now, what I see is that we are going to try to make a bad system work better at being bad for mankind's long-term good! I need a drink!


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