Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Bad Case of Magical Thinking

A FB friend shared something from an outfit called "Americans Against the Tea Party."

It was something that was written/prepared in response to the disaster at the fertilizer plant in Texas recently. But there is always something. I have to presume that this post is aimed at a federal initiative to improve safety inspectors, that it isn't aimed at the state government in Texas. After all, the state government can't print money, and may be limited by scruples against running deficits and borrowing money from the Chinese.

But I'm going to ignore a lot here in order to sharpen my focus. I'll ignore federal/state questions, philosophical taxation-as-theft arguments, arguments about the folly of printing money, etc. Sometimes you have to pick your targets. My target at the moment is a certain magical two-goals-at-once thinking that goes with many such appeals.

Here is a bit of what the FB "share" said,' "Don't support deregulation. Hiring inspectors in numbers enough to make a difference would put a small dent in unemployment. And we'd be safer...."

Wow. Those are presented as two separate arguments, and the first one is a prelude to the second: put a dent in unemployment and be safer.

How much of a dent in unemployment is desired from the creation of new safety inspector positions?

However many inspectors you deem the right number, "enough to make a difference" in safety, ask yourself: why not twice that many? Why not three times? Wouldn't that make twice as big a dent? Three times as big a dent? I suspect the phrase  "enough to make a difference" is meant to indicate some level of modesty in the plan. Not too many, just enough for a specific purpose. or even only enough to make a "dent" in a specific purpose.

But if you -- and I address the actual author of this silliness -- if you really believe that hiring inspectors is an unmitigated good thing, why be modest about it? Why not abolish unemployment overnight by declaring every unemployed adult an inspector of fertilizer plants so you can start sending out the checks?

Because you sense a practicality issue with that?  Ah ... we're getting somewhere then.

There is always a tension between two different reasons for doing X, when it comes to the specifics of X. If you want to hire more safety inspectors for a certain industrial process because (a) you want to make that process more safe and (b) you want to put a dent in unemployment, there will come times when those goals pull in opposite directions. What if a heavily automated process turns out to be the best way of making the process safer? Are we supposed to favor a labor-intensive process anyway, because of our high-employment goal?

Here's a not-at-all-farfetched scenario: suppose the best way to make fertilizing plants safer involves the hiring of a small group of human inspectors, assisted by robots, and involves giving advice to the management of those plants that leads to the plants' themselves becoming more automated and less labor intensive than they are.

Suppose that after a month or two of such inspections and re-structuring, there is more unemployment than when we started, because the loss of jobs in the newly re-designed plants exceeds the initial "dent" made by hiring the inspectors. Yet (by hypothesis) the neighborhoods are all safer.

Good plan ... or bad plan?

There is a certain sort of social welfare policy that consists chiefly in refusing to ask one's self such questions. But among those who do ask those questions, safety-as-jobs-policy doesn't find may defenders. Safety for safety is one thing, jobs policy is another, and only a bad argument confuses the two.

Perhaps safety can be best served by a vigorous tort law system. If businesses see the bottom-line costs of safety lapses through an effective litigation system, those costs are internalized, and they'll hire the optimal number of inspectors themselves. But in no case should we think of that as a jobs policy: even then, they might well decide the best way to lower their liability costs is to automate, and should they not be free to make that call?


Steve Finnell said...

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Steve Finnell said...


What preceded water baptism under the New Covenant?
Under the New Covenant terms for pardon, all who were baptized in water believed before they were baptized.

Jesus said in (Mark 16:16 Those who believe and are baptized will be saved. But those who refuse to believe will be condemned.)

Jesus did not say those who are baptized and then believe will be saved. Water baptism always follows belief. There is no Scripture under the New Covenant where water baptism precedes belief.

Infants do not qualify for baptism because they cannot believe.
Atheists do not qualify for water baptism because they have not believed. Infants and atheists are both non-believers.

On the Day of Pentecost all three thousand had some things in common.
1. They heard Peter preach Jesus as a miracle worker. They heard about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. They heard Jesus preached as the Lord and Messiah.

Infants cannot understand the meaning of the apostle Peter's sermon. They cannot believe. They do not qualify for water baptism.

2. Peter told the three thousand what they had to do after they believed. (Acts 2:38 And Peter replied, "Each one of you must turn from sin, return to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of yours sins; then you also shall receive this git, the Holy Spirit.)

Infants do not qualify for water baptism. They cannot turn from sin because they are not guilty of sin. They cannot return to God because they have not left God, they are innocent of any sin. Infants cannot follow the instructions to believe, repent and be baptized.

Acts 2:40-41 Then Peter preached a long sermon, telling about Jesus and strongly urging all his listeners to save themselves from the evils of their nations. 41 And those who believed Peter were baptized--- about 3,000 in all.

Peter was not urging infants to save themselves. Infants do not understand sermons. Those who believed were baptized. Infants cannot believe, they were not baptized on the Day of Pentecost.


1. Acts 2:22-41 (The 3000)
2. Acts 8:13 (Simon)
3. Acts 8:26-38 (The eunuch)
4. Acts 22:6-16 (Saul)
5. Acts 10:30-47 (Cornelius)
6. Acts 16:13-15 (Lydia)
7. Acts 16:29-34 (The jailer and his household were all believers. Infants cannot believe.)
8. Acts 18:8 (Crispus and his household were all believers. Infants cannot believe, they were not baptized.)
9.Acts 19:3-5 (They were baptized in the name of the Lord (New Covenant baptism) after they believed, not before they believed.

If infants can be baptized for the forgiveness of sins before they believe, then atheists can also be baptized for the forgiveness of sins before they believe.


(Scripture from: The Living Bible ---Paraphrased)

YOU ARE INVITED TO FOLLOW MY BLOG. http//:steve-finnell.blogspot.com

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