Government Has Made America Inept

May 14th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Philip K. Howard writes:

In February 2011, during a winter storm, a tree fell into a creek in Franklin Township, New Jersey, and caused flooding. The town was about to send a tractor in to pull the tree out when someone, probably the town lawyer, helpfully pointed out that it was a “class C-1 creek” and required formal approvals before any natural condition was altered. The flooding continued while town officials spent 12 days and $12,000 to get a permit to do what was obvious: pull the tree out of the creek.

Government’s ineptitude is not news. But something else has happened in the last few decades. Government is making America inept. Other countries don’t have difficulty pulling a tree out of a creek. Other countries also have modern infrastructure, and schools that generally succeed, and better health care at little more than half the cost.

Reforms, often embodied in hundreds of pages of new regulations, are tried constantly. But they only seem to make the problems worse. Political debate is so predictable that it’s barely worth listening to, offering ideology without practicality—as if our only choice, as comedian Jon Stewart put it, is that “government must go away completely—or we must be run by an incompetent bureaucracy.”

The missing element in American government could hardly be more basic: No official has authority to make a decision. Law has crowded out the ability to be practical or fair. Mindless rigidity has descended upon the land, from the schoolhouse to the White House to, sometimes, your house. Nothing much works, because no one is free to make things work.

Automatic law causes public failure. A system of detailed dictates is supposed to make government work better. Instead it causes failure.

The simplest tasks often turn into bureaucratic ordeals. A teacher in Chicago who called the custodian to report a broken water fountain was chewed out because he didn’t follow “broken water fountain reporting procedures.” On the first day of school he was required to read to his students a list of disciplinary rules, including this one, just to start things off on the right foot: “You may be expelled for homicide.”

It would be hilarious, if it wasn’t so sad.

Budgets are out of control because government executives lack flexibility to shave here and there to make ends meet. Soon after his election, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo thought he had found an easy way to save $50 million when he learned that a large juvenile detention center was empty, with no prospects of use anytime soon. There it was, sitting upstate, with several dozen employees—doing nothing but costing taxpayers millions of dollars. But no one had the authority to close it down, not even the governor. There’s a New York law that prohibits closing down any facility with union employees without at least one year’s notice. 

I look forward to Labour adopting this as policy!

Even matters of life and death are sometimes asked to yield to the rigid imperatives of a clear rule. In 2012, Florida lifeguard Tomas Lopez was fired for leaving his designated zone on the beach to rescue a drowning man just over the line. “On radio I heard Tommy saying ‘I’m going for a rescue but it’s out of our zone,’” said another lifeguard, who added that the “manager told him not to go and to call 911.” Lopez said he couldn’t just sit back, and was prepared to get fired, adding, “It wasn’t too much of an upset, because I had my morals intact.” After publicity about the incident, Lopez was offered his job back. He declined.

These are extreme examples, but they show why it is important to rely more on values and judgement than strict rules.

Let this be our motto: Just tell me the rules. In 2013, an elderly woman collapsed at an assisted living facility in Bakersfield, California, and a nurse called 911. The operator asked the nurse to try to revive the woman with CPR, but the nurse refused, saying it was against policy at that facility. “I understand if your boss is telling you, you can’t do it, but … as a human being … is there anybody that’s willing to help this lady and not let her die?” “Not at this time,” the nurse replied. During the seven-minute, sixteen-second call, the dispatcher continued to plead with the nurse: “Is there a gardener? Any staff, anyone who doesn’t work for you? Anywhere? Can we flag someone down in the street to help this lady? Can we flag a stranger down? I bet a stranger would help her.” By the time the ambulance arrived, the woman had died. The executive director of the facility defended the nurse on the basis that she had followed the rules: “In the event of a health emergency … our practice is to immediately call emergency medical personnel for assistance … That is the protocol we followed.”

Very sad.

 

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55 Responses to “Government Has Made America Inept”

  1. All_on_Red (1,584 comments) says:

    Gosh they should have just asked Michelle O to help by taking selfies of herself holding up a sign with a hash tag.
    That will fix it.

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  2. beautox (422 comments) says:

    Good analysis of America’s biggest problem. They can solve budgetary and security problems (eventually) but this just keeps getting worse. There’s no end to the craziness of stupid rules – people being thrown in jail for taking painkillers prescribed by their doctor for genuine conditions, people being sent to jail for firing warning shots into the air, or not being sent to jail for shooting the person directly. The list is seemingly endless.

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  3. Kea (12,841 comments) says:

    I stopped caring when they voted Obama in a second time.

    The first time I could see why. I wanted to believe the marketing too. A second time is unforgiveable and they must reap what they have sown.

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  4. louie (96 comments) says:

    It is happening here. The comment has been made about the Christchurch Flockton basin flooding issue that 50 years back the problem would have been resolved already – the drainage board would have sent in a digger to enlarge the creek. No consents, problem solved.

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  5. Ross12 (1,432 comments) says:

    As DPF says these are extreme examples but similar things are happening in NZ.

    I remember listening to Danny Watson recounting a story about a pohutukawa tree in Auckland with a branch hanging out over a road –it was getting dangerous. Those wanting to resolve the issue had apply for permits etc. At the time Danny was telling the story they had spent $12K on fees etc. and the branch was still on the tree !!

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  6. Longknives (4,764 comments) says:

    I can handle the golf-loving and slightly inept Barry but that Michelle Obama puts the shits up me-a nasty piece of work indeed…

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  7. tas (625 comments) says:

    A friend of mine went on a trip to Chicago which was to be paid for by the University of Chicago. While he was there, he went to fill out the reimbursement forms. He was told that he couldn’t be reimbursed unless he gave them his boarding passes, which he had not kept. The reason being that he needed to prove that he actually flew to Chicago. This despite the fact that he was standing there in person.

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  8. Ryan Sproull (7,205 comments) says:

    Just to play devil’s advocate here, what are the scenarios that this bureaucracy prevents that might otherwise occur?

    For example, sure, $12,000 is spent fucking around about something we say is obvious: pull the tree out of the creek.

    Let’s imagine a situation where there’s a tree stump in the way of something. Someone says, “The solution is obvious – chain it up to the tractor and rip it out. No need for expensive consent bureaucracy!” And it gets pulled out, but turns out the roots run down and around some gas lines, and the tractor rips up the gas lines along with the stump.

    Obviously I’ve invented that scenario. I’m just saying that it’s very easy to point at the most ridiculous or worst consequences of something when its greatest successes are in the events that don’t occur.

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  9. Danyl Mclauchlan (1,070 comments) says:

    Obviously I’ve invented that scenario. I’m just saying that it’s very easy to point at the most ridiculous or worst consequences of something when its greatest successes are in the events that don’t occur.

    Nasim Taleb hypothesizes a similar scenario in The Black Swan. A US politician passes a law imposing stricter security regulations on domestic airlines, the law comes into effect on Sept 10 2001 and prevents the 9/11 attacks, the airlines are outraged by the pointless regulatory cost that’s been imposed on them by the government with no visible gain and fund the politicians’ opponent who defeats him in the next election.

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  10. Ryan Sproull (7,205 comments) says:

    Interesting, Danyl. Good example scenario.

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  11. gump (1,650 comments) says:

    The problem isn’t just that there are rules, the problem is that people have been conditioned to follow them blindly.

    It’s the same mentality that allowed the Holocaust to occur in an other otherwise civilised country.

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  12. Kea (12,841 comments) says:

    gump @ 10:38am , I think that will be the smartest comment on KB today.

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  13. tom hunter (4,893 comments) says:

    I think it’s a mistake to simply talk about government here. If you look at those examples what you’re actually seeing is a culture where people have been told not to think for themselves, especially if it involves breaking rules set by the state, no matter how stupid or immoral. That feeds in from a whole range of factors that make up our society; education, parenting, media messages – culture.

    The real question is whether the numbers of people like the lifeguard are being overwhelmed by the numbers of people like the nurse. Here in NZ I don’t think we’re at the tipping point towards mindless rule-following – yet. But elsewhere in the West, including the US …..?

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  14. Nick R (507 comments) says:

    @ Kea 10:40am, I fear you may be right….

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  15. Ryan Sproull (7,205 comments) says:

    The problem isn’t just that there are rules, the problem is that people have been conditioned to follow them blindly.

    It’s the same mentality that allowed the Holocaust to occur in an other otherwise civilised country.

    I completely agree.

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  16. timmydevo (53 comments) says:

    Someone’s going to get sued for this… probably because there was no warning about not using it during high winds.

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/world/americas/10043178/Bouncy-castle-blows-away-with-boys-onboard

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  17. ROJ (121 comments) says:

    How many here have read US company reports, worked in admin for a US company, or had to return a US tax form?

    Thats a rising scale of detail obfuscating reality.

    The NZ IRD is a paragon of beaming customer service, by any comparison.

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  18. tom hunter (4,893 comments) says:

    Having said that there is also the fact that the very act of passing rules has increasingly been backed up by massive state efforts to ensure that those rules are followed – which includes education, parenting education, media messages, as well as the threat of force or the use of force (the latter usually being sufficient).

    In earlier times in the post-industrial revolution West it was accepted that the gap between having a rule and the enforcement of a rule was a part of what we called freedom. If your rule-breaking was large-scale, egregious, and damaging to society then you hit the wall of the state sooner or later.

    Nowadays you hit that wall a lot sooner, you do so over ever finer details, and the punishments for the small-scale stuff – including social ostracism – are a getting tougher: Is your child over 140cm? No? Well they should have been in a booster seat. That will be a $160 fine – and let that be a lesson to you!!.

    That’s how you produce compliant subjects. There’s no point moaning about them then refusing to act on their own moral, ethical or intellectual initiative.

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  19. unaha-closp (1,165 comments) says:

    Obviously I’ve invented that scenario. I’m just saying that it’s very easy to point at the most ridiculous or worst consequences of something when its greatest successes are in the events that don’t occur.

    If one generation spends its time ritualistically cavorting in meaningless, but increasingly expensive circles. Prevention definitely is on the agenda.

    The next generation doesn’t get a retirement.

    And the next generation after that doesn’t get an education.

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  20. martinh (1,257 comments) says:

    Yes reminds me of this govt, all they have to do is ban foreigner buyers and that will help kiwis buy their homes but they refuse to do so

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  21. Gulag1917 (929 comments) says:

    The displacement of common sense with rules and regulations. Idiot proofing systems is impossible because idiots will always find a way.

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  22. Weihana (4,557 comments) says:

    tom hunter (4,066 comments) says:
    May 14th, 2014 at 10:41 am

    Here in NZ I don’t think we’re at the tipping point towards mindless rule-following

    gump (1,275 comments) says:
    May 14th, 2014 at 10:38 am

    the problem is that people have been conditioned to follow them blindly.

    But is it “mindless” and are people acting out of blindness?

    Take the example of the nurse. The facility probably has certain policies to guard against law suits. That’s not mindless, that’s covering their backs. The nurse is inclined to follow rules which might otherwise see her lose her job, and being unemployed in the United States is likely not as pleasant an experience as in other countries with greater social safety nets nor is there much in the way of labour laws to protect against unfair dismissal. Again, the nurse is not being mindless, she is looking out for her own interests.

    Is the difference between the lifeguard and the nurse that one is more moral than the other? Or one of relative circumstance and ability to sacrifice employment for a moral stand? Given the lifeguard turned down the offer of getting his job back, even after the person had been saved, suggests considerable freedom to go without that employment on a matter of pure principle.

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  23. simonway (387 comments) says:

    The last example has to do with the policies of a private business, not any government rules or regulations. If I can come up with several more examples of private sector bureaucracy overriding common sense, will you make a post titled “The private sector has made America incompetent”?

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  24. ldypen (40 comments) says:

    Here’s one.. recently decided that I needed a new shed around 150m off the road and into a paddock, got hold of local council to get approval. Two council employees turned up to take a look, both wearing fluro vests and hard hats, since we were standing at least 150m off the road in an empty paddock I asked in passing “Why the fluro and the hard hat?” the simple answer was it has policy. I did say that in the middle of my paddock there was nothing to fall onto their head so maybe they didn’t need the helmets? no sorry it’s policy!

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  25. Weihana (4,557 comments) says:

    tom hunter (4,067 comments) says:
    May 14th, 2014 at 11:01 am

    Nowadays you hit that wall a lot sooner, you do so over ever finer details, and the punishments for the small-scale stuff – including social ostracism – are a getting tougher: Is your child over 140cm? No? Well they should have been in a booster seat. That will be a $160 fine – and let that be a lesson to you!!.

    That’s how you produce compliant subjects.

    But we also have those types of rules for small-scale stuff. NZ doesn’t seem to have quite the same outcome as the United States, nor other countries which also have fines for minor violations of the rules.

    Also, while I think fines would tend to act as a deterrant, I’m not sure they’re quite so effective at producing compliant subjects for many repeat offenders who don’t stop speeding, don’t stop running red lights, don’t stop drinking and driving etc.

    It seems more like rigidity flows from harsh consequences for breaking the rules – e.g. losing your job, facing an expensive lawsuit etc. Having proportionally small punishments (e.g. fines) for minor stuff (traffic violations etc.) seems to be in line with an underlying reasonableness where in a life and death situation someone wouldn’t think too hard about running a red light with no other traffic around and someone bleeding out in the back seat.

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  26. Ryan Sproull (7,205 comments) says:

    Take the example of the nurse. The facility probably has certain policies to guard against law suits. That’s not mindless, that’s covering their backs. The nurse is inclined to follow rules which might otherwise see her lose her job, and being unemployed in the United States is likely not as pleasant an experience as in other countries with greater social safety nets nor is there much in the way of labour laws to protect against unfair dismissal. Again, the nurse is not being mindless, she is looking out for her own interests.

    Weihana, you’re describing a situation where someone, when offered the choice between A) losing their job through disobedience and B) killing someone, would opt to kill someone.

    Even if it’s not mindless in the sense of complete lack of thought, it’s surely the kind of troubling conditioning that Gump was highlighting.

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  27. Weihana (4,557 comments) says:

    Ryan Sproull (6,797 comments) says:
    May 14th, 2014 at 11:52 am

    Weihana, you’re describing a situation where someone, when offered the choice between A) losing their job through disobedience and B) killing someone, would opt to kill someone.

    Even if it’s not mindless in the sense of complete lack of thought, it’s surely the kind of troubling conditioning that Gump was highlighting.

    Or to put it another way it’s a choice between A) not being able to feed and provide for your children and B) potentially saving someone who is probably on the way out anyway. Ugly, but it’s questionable whether “conditioning” is an apt description for what might actually involve considerable thought.

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  28. tom hunter (4,893 comments) says:

    But is it “mindless” and are people acting out of blindness?

    Perhaps you did not read my second comment that started with … the very act of passing rules has increasingly been backed up by massive state efforts to ensure that those rules are followed ….

    The facility probably has certain policies to guard against law suits.

    The last example has to do with the policies of a private business, not any government rules or regulations.

    With regard to the latter comment, you cannot know that without knowing something about Aged Care facilities. I suggest starting with the California Department of Aging. Lots and lots and lots of regulations there.

    But given that it’s the USA the former comment by Weihana will also have some truth to. One always has to guard against lawsuits in that country. Of course the fact that Tort reform is in the hands of the government and has been fought down to the last unbroken bone by well-funded lawyers, rather brings us back to the State again. You could certainly argue that that part of the private sector has made America incompetent, but somehow I don’t think they’re the part that either of you were aiming at.

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  29. Ryan Sproull (7,205 comments) says:

    Or to put it another way it’s a choice between A) not being able to feed and provide for your children and B) potentially saving someone who is probably on the way out anyway. Ugly, but it’s questionable whether “conditioning” is an apt description for what might actually involve considerable thought.

    Hm. Yes, fair enough.

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  30. slightlyrighty (2,475 comments) says:

    This is a far more common problem than a lot of people realise. The fact is that those officials involved in making rules must keep making rules to justify their existence

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  31. SPC (5,636 comments) says:

    Too many lawyers. They infest all areas of society and regulate it to death. The ability to sue then allows them to work both sides of the fence. Compliance and negligence.

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  32. tom hunter (4,893 comments) says:

    … who is probably on the way out anyway? Ugly, but …

    That’s why we need ever more precise and prescriptive rules around who can do things like give CPR, so that subjects are spared these sorts of ugly ethical and moral decisions and the consequences that flow from them. In the aftermath one can say with pride: I followed the rules and regulations.

    O brave new world,
    That has such people in ’t!

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  33. wreck1080 (3,923 comments) says:

    I call bullshit on the bit about ‘you may be expelled for homocide’ .

    I just don’t believe that this could be in their other than as a joke. If this (and I don’t believe it was) was actually included as a list of rules then they have 50% too many staff.

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  34. wreck1080 (3,923 comments) says:

    Incidentally, america’s government is structured on the premise that people cannot trust government.

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  35. WineOh (630 comments) says:

    Our liquor license costs have tripled with the new Sale of Alcohol Act 2012 with the combination of new central government levies and big increases in the city council application costs.

    Surely that big fee increase means a better service right? No it just pays for much more time wasting bureaucracy- more than 12 weeks since we tendered our renewal for our license and still nothing issued… and this of for an operation with zero compliance issues in 10 years, including duty managers and the premise itself.

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  36. Kimble (4,440 comments) says:

    Those examples seem to lay the blame at the foot of the judiciary.

    Yes, there are too many rules and regulations … as that is what happens when you pay people to make rules.

    And yes, people are becoming conditioned to follow the rules regardless of the circumstance … but why is that?

    It is because if they break the rules, they have to face consequences that are determined by other people who have become conditioned to follow the rules regardless of the circumstances.

    And thats the way it goes right up the chain until they get to someone who doesnt have to follow the rules. Not the ones who make the rules, but the ones who enforce them.

    The citizen who pulls the tree out of the creek gets sued by the council (asshats who are following the rules regardless), and eventually they stand before a judge. Which way will that judge rule? That’s what the citizen and the asshats think about before they respectively act and sue.

    The asshats sue because they expect the judge to place their rules above the circumstances.
    The citizen doesnt act because they also expect the judge to place the rules above the circumstances.

    Nobody expects the judiciary to rule fairly or sensibly.

    Who the hell made those asshats judges in the first place?

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  37. Paulus (2,632 comments) says:

    I was told a while ago by an American Doctor that she witnessed a horrific vehicle crash, but she had to drive past as she was not licenced to practice in that state.

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  38. Kimble (4,440 comments) says:

    but she had to drive past as she was not licenced to practice in that state.

    I guess she values her licence more than she values human life.

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  39. tom hunter (4,893 comments) says:

    I guess she values her licence more than she values human life.

    Or to put it another way it’s a choice between A) not being able to feed and provide for your children and B) potentially saving someone who is probably on the way out anyway. Ugly, but it’s questionable whether “conditioning” is an apt description for what might actually involve considerable thought.

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  40. Kea (12,841 comments) says:

    you’re describing a situation where someone, when offered the choice between A) losing their job through disobedience and B) killing someone, would opt to kill someone.

    They are called soldiers. If soldiers started thinking (and acting) for themselves, then politicians and religious extremists would lost their power to kill so many.

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  41. Kimble (4,440 comments) says:

    Or to put it another way it’s a choice between A) not being able to feed and provide for your children and B) potentially saving someone who is probably on the way out anyway.

    How many homeless doctors do you know?

    A Doctor that loses their licence can easily get another job in a different field.

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  42. backster (2,174 comments) says:

    I think Local Government especially, in NZ is well down this path. The problem arises from unlimited power to tax ratepayers, borrow as much as they like and have unlimited staff ceilings……grotesque.

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  43. backster (2,174 comments) says:

    I think Local Government especially, in NZ is well down this path. The problem arises from unlimited power to tax ratepayers, borrow as much as they like and have unlimited staff ceilings……grotesque. Nick Smith made some effort to come to grips with this problem, but the several other holders of this portfolio have been compliant yes men.

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  44. Shunda barunda (2,983 comments) says:

    Well, I’m glad our country still has a few rule breakers, during ‘the storm of the century’ here a few weeks ago a creek got choked with trees and created a flooding issue, and the local council staff had an excavator there within a couple of hours to clear things up.

    If people couldn’t just take the initiative in a storm event like what hit the West Coast, we would still be without power and struggling to make the essential repairs up and down the region.

    It would make the magnitude of the event many times more destructive economically and socially.

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  45. davidp (3,581 comments) says:

    Plenty of similar US rule-following stupidity here:

    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20140508/12023027170/cops-to-kids-youre-never-too-young-to-be-handcuffed.shtml

    If a five year old is acting a bit boisterous, then naturally a US police officer would handcuff and arrest them.

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  46. Ed Snack (1,883 comments) says:

    The legal issue is very real and is a specifically US problem. A very similar situation to the rest home case is that most doctors will not stop and help road accident victims. Even if they do their utmost under very difficult circumstances if there is any adverse outcome it is very likely that they will be sued. No cost lawyers who settle for a chunk (often the major chunk) of any settlement will run the whole case at no cost to the person suing. Insurance costs for doctors in the US are horrendous and often contain clauses that invalidate cover in such impromptu circumstances. the high cost of US medical care can at least in part be sheeted home to this.

    Tort reform would seem to be a genuine issue that could assist, but the trial lawyers are a large, powerful, and very wealthy group that contributes heavily to election campaigns (very largely but not exclusively to one (guess which) side) and thus tort reform just doesn’t get any serious attention in Congress. Where there’s large sums to be made, greed trumps common sense, and lots of people think they just might hit the settlement jackpot at some time.

    Kea, in lots of (for example) African countries the soldiers do indeed “think for themselves”, but sadly what they largely seem to think is “if we have all this firepower, why not put it to use pillaging the country via being the “government”” and stage a coup to put those thoughts into actions. Politicians are venal scum, but making soldiers politicians is quite possibly one step worse.

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  47. tom hunter (4,893 comments) says:

    Minimal comments, minimal upticks/downticks, and no appearance in
    Top Posts
    – General Debate 13 May 2014
    – Labour hits the 20s during “National’s worst week”
    – General Debate 14 May 2014
    – Greens do want taxpayers to lose 96% of their funds also!
    – Will this appear on TV3?
    – Mayor Naylor for Palmerston North
    – The perfect partner for the Mana Party
    – David and Karen at home
    – The Taurima report
    – Are Labour planning smear campaign on Shane Jones?

    I’m not surprised. We would not have got to the state we’re in were it otherwise.

    Do this. Don’t do that. Stay back in line. Where’s tax receipt? Fill out form. Let’s see license. Submit six copies. Exit only. No left turn. No right turn. Queue up and pay fine. Take back and get stamped. Drop dead — but first get permit.

    What’s the government going to do about it?

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  48. griffith (1,111 comments) says:

    Kiwi version of nonsense health and safety

    Driving down the southern motorway I spy four large arrow trucks and a ute five guys and over a million dollars worth of kit doing fuck all.

    why?

    because one guy with a rubbish sack is picking up rubbish on the grass verge well away from traffic.

    I would do it by my self quite happily for what must be $1000+ hour to pick up litter. I have a nzdiploma in health and safety and are well aware of the law…. this is totally over the top in excess of the law requirements waste of time money and resources.

    FFs and we pay rates for this waste .

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  49. TM (99 comments) says:

    Having lived and worked in many countries, NZ has one of the most common sense bureaucracies in the world. It may be somewhat bloated and inefficient, but you don’t feel like you are living in a Kafka novel. The tangle of US law and especially the tax system is a complete clusterfuck.

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  50. ross411 (842 comments) says:

    griffith (951 comments) says:
    May 14th, 2014 at 7:18 pm
    Kiwi version of nonsense health and safety

    Driving down the southern motorway I spy four large arrow trucks and a ute five guys and over a million dollars worth of kit doing fuck all.

    why?

    because one guy with a rubbish sack is picking up rubbish on the grass verge well away from traffic.

    Unless they’re in a vehicle, or holding a stop/go sign, I’ve yet to see a council worker who isn’t standing around in a clump with the rest of their co-workers when I drive by. I guess your guy is being punished.

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  51. Viking2 (11,488 comments) says:

    WineOh (448 comments) says:
    May 14th, 2014 at 12:28 pm

    Our liquor license costs have tripled with the new Sale of Alcohol Act 2012 with the combination of new central government levies and big increases in the city council application costs.

    Surely that big fee increase means a better service right? No it just pays for much more time wasting bureaucracy- more than 12 weeks since we tendered our renewal for our license and still nothing issued… and this of for an operation with zero compliance issues in 10 years, including duty managers and the premise itself.
    ========================
    That’ll be because Mr “know it all” plod has got his sticky finger on the situation.
    The are hell bent on closing down alcohol consumption. As bad as the anti smoking arsewipes.

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  52. Viking2 (11,488 comments) says:

    Another example.

    An elderly Otaki couple facing charges for cutting three native trees are relieved after being discharged without conviction yesterday.

    It came as Kapiti’s council, which took the prosecution, is reviewing its prosecution against the contractor who did the work.

    Keith and Lorraine McLeavey, 72 and 68, appeared in Levin District Court after pleading guilty to council charges of having a contractor cut down three mahoe trees on their Oriwa Cres property.

    Council legal representative Emma Light suggested the McLeavey’s pay about $3000 to an environmental cause, a much lesser fine than the maximum of $300,000 for each charge.

    However Environment Court judge Brian Dwyer described their unintentional offending as ”trivial”.

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/10043836/Couple-relieved-tree-cutting-charges-thrown-out

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  53. Scott1 (552 comments) says:

    This issue isn’t just a state issue.

    It is the same sort of thing as how insurance companies hold up rebuilding in Christchurch, And residents taking legal action about needing compensation for being a part of a red zone. So common sense solutions are not just held up by unions protecting their patches – they are also held up by companies and individuals protecting their patches too.

    In a way Wreck’s point that the USA is constructed on the basis that you cannot trust government is part of the issue, if you don’t trust government and yet you insist on getting government to do tasks, the government ends up being paranoid about not breaking it’s own rules (least you get to use your ample opportunities to sue it). As a result people in that government are trained to follow bureaucracy to reduce that risk.

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  54. berend (1,711 comments) says:

    Note that what Danyl Mclauchlan does is effectively saying: “measurement is impossible.”

    Just imagine a CEO saying: if you didn’t hire me, the company would have been losing 10s of billions instead of billions.

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  55. ROJ (121 comments) says:

    Scott1 – YES!

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