The scariest part of our increasingly regulated society are the people who implement those regulations.
That is the subject of today’s 10-minute episode.
When regulators regulate, bureaucrats are used to implement those regulations. Years ago, in 1998 to be exact, my wife and I were in the process of adopting a 10-year-old boy, who eventually became our much loved son. No thanks to our assigned clipboard holder. One of the myriad rules, hurdles mostly, that we had to comply with in order to complete the adoption, had to do with the temperature of our hot water. No, the rule was not in place to make sure there was sufficient hot water for everyone with an additional family member. The rule limited the max temperature after the hot water had run long enough to hit its high. After checking off other boxes on her forms, and, yes, she had a clipboard, she announced that she was going to check the water temperature. Withdrawing a thermometer that was at least a foot long from its case, she walked over to the kitchen sink, ran the water for a while, tested it, and announced that it was 3 degrees too high. Three degrees too high, not thirty degrees too high. Three degrees.
We had failed as prospective adoptive parents. She scheduled a time 10 days later to re-check this apparently key feature of our home. No, we could not just promise to turn down the setting on the hot water heater. The process had to be delayed by 10 days for a difference of three degrees. And this while our then prospective son sat in Juvenile Hall, unwanted by anyone including his family. He was yearning to get out of jail, and be with a family who wanted him. And want him we did.
Ten days later, after I had turned down the water heater, we moved past this “critical” milestone. Satisfied, she took out her clipboard, made a note, and the adoption could proceed. As she was driving away, I simply reset the water temp. We all managed to survive the added 3 degrees, but her methods had nothing to do with water temperature. It was all about control and job security.
Today’s Key Point: Regulators, the rule makers and clipborders, the rules enforcers, need each other. And both should be focusing on the welfare of the people they serve, ensuring that rules and regulations as written and enforced are a plus in people’s lives, not a thorn in their sides–or worse. But they don’t. The vast majority of both types are serving themselves, not the people under their authority.
And clipboard holders are not always the lower level employees who appear in front of you looking for boxes you have not checked. They can be the heads of teachers unions using their own clipboard approach to checking boxes to restrict the growth of charter schools, and work to forestall any use of vouchers. Like the lady with the thermometer, they use their box-checking approach to satisfy their agendas, not the families and students they are there to serve. Clipboarders want control. They want to keep their jobs, and get promoted by having more boxes to check, requiring more people to work for them to check these ever-increasing boxes. And they know that making it easy for those they regulate and check on will not get them where they want to be–with more control, and more people reporting to them.
Private businesses, whether the local frozen yogurt shop or Walmart, know they cannot compete–or even survive–with unnecessary regulations and clipboarders implementing them. Amazon, for example, is famous for its “1-Click Shopping.” Quite the opposite of the clipboard approach, Amazon knows that it must make things work for those they serve in order to succeed. Unlike government monopolies, business must compete and serve, not regulate and demand.
Our local utility company, Colorado Springs Utilities, makes it hard to pay with a credit card, and charges a “service” fee on top of that. The Colorado DMV charges a hefty service fee for using a credit card. And both entities save a ton of money when people pay with a credit card online (the utility company requires one to call in to pay by credit card) as opposed to someone sending in a check, which requires a lot of handling. Aren’t monopolies great?
One time at Starbucks, I had entered the store and was standing a social distance away from where you order, with my mask down around my neck so facial recognition would work on my phone. The lady behind the register challenged me to pull up my mask. I let her know what I was doing but she was not satisfied, so I complied–then entered my password. It was mildly annoying, but I knew that I could have gone elsewhere for my coffee and snack. I was not powerless. And that made all the difference.
Some years ago, we were looking to acquire a boxer via a rescue program. The woman inspecting our home for suitability quickly zeroed in on the height of the railing running 70+ along the edge of our back deck. It was inches too short, so no boxer.
But we had other options. I hope the boxers waiting for new homes did, too. The only options we have with regulators and their implementers is to understand what is happening, and insist on politicians who get it that they are here to serve us, not us to serve them. With that as a standard for themselves as politicians, they can push to have the regulators and those carrying out the rules to have the same servant hearts.
By the way, we are now on our second Standard Poodle.
Tell me what you believe. I and many others want to know.
As always, whatever you do, do it in love. Without love, anything we do is empty.
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Will Luden, coming to you from 7,200’ in Colorado Springs.