I remember when the lawn mower was a Dangerous Machine. When I was growing up, I got paid to mow the lawn if I had been doing well in school. Bad grades, I still had to mow but I didn’t get paid. The Lawn Mower was … fun. It was a self-propelled monster with a huge engine on top, and I got to pour gasoline in it and start it up by myself. It was exciting to mow. Really.
As I got older, the thrill wore off, but I still own a lawn mower. But my mower just isn’t the Lawn Mower I remember. See, the engines are not as powerful due to EPA regulations. They don’t move as fast because they might get away from you. And they don’t suck up leaves and grass and put it in the basket as well, because the skirt has to come down almost to the ground to keep you from lopping off your toes.
I do have a lawn mower injury story. I was mowing the lawn, wearing tennis shoes. I shut off the mower and was taking the grass catcher off, and turned to carry it to the trash. My heel caught under the lip of the mower skirt and I cut my heel, pretty badly. The mower wasn’t even running. This, on a government approved mower.
So we can blame the likes of the nanny state for why our mowers are no good. What else can we attribute to nanny politics? Light bulbs that contain mercury, cost more, and take several minutes to reach full brightness; shower heads that don’t put out enough water to take a decent shower; water savers ON THE SPOUT FOR THE BATHTUB so that you have to wait so long for the tub to fill that the water is cold by the time it is full. REALLY????
How about spas that limit the temperature so you don’t cook yourself; cars that beep at you until you comply with all state and federal regulations… the list is endless!
I am at heart an engineer, and I am bothered by how things get regulated. I am similarly, and for the same reasons, bothered when my wife comes home with another trinket, be it a plastic plant that dances in the sunshine or a new piece of furniture. Alright, I am not really bothered. Much. I know I have worse habits.
See, in queueing theory we learn that if the rate at which things arrive in a queue is the same as the rate that things depart from the queue, then the ultimate length of the queue is infinite. What does that mean? It means that if you buy stuff and bring it in the house without throwing an equal amount away, the house will ultimately explode from having too much stuff in it.
Similarly, if our elected officials in Washington and our local states continue to write legislation without voiding other existing legislation, then ultimately every single aspect of our lives will be regulated in some way.
I travel through a local intersection on a regular basis. I remember when, in that intersection, you could turn left on green. At some point they changed it so you had to wait for the green arrow. It is a long light, so this change was annoying — after all, in the name of safety, my commute was extended by at least a minute or two. (It adds up when you consider how many cars sit and idle in that intersection waiting for the arrow)
So I called the City and talked to the traffic engineer.
“So I noticed that you changed the protocol at this intersection so you can’t turn left on green anymore”.
— “Yes, there was an accident, so we changed it.”
“Do you change the protocol in every intersection when there is an accident where someone is turning left on green?”
— “Yes, because we don’t want to get sued.”
“So that means that eventually there will not be any intersection in the entire city where anyone can turn left on green.”
— “Huh? How do you figure that?”
See, it is the queueing theory thing. There is no mechanism to undo the thing, but there is a mechanism to do the thing, so eventually everything will be in the “do” state. All the lights will require turn arrows. And over the past 5-8 years, that is exactly what has happened. Left on green intersections are all but a memory.
Congress is now passing laws without even reading them. They pass laws about things they know nothing about. They pass laws with severe unintended consequences. Just stop it!
We need a new law! We need a law that says, that for every new piece of legislation that is passed, the same number of pages, plus 10%, of old legislation must be voided. That way, we beat out the queueing theory problem. And maybe we would get to keep light bulbs and lawn mowers that work. Heck, we might even be able to do away with entire government agencies. Now there’s an idea that has merit!
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