Western State Lines and Handicap Parking

My theory is that the further the people making the law – or rule – are from the people having to obay the law, the more arbitrary the law and the more likely it will not relate to what is actually happening on the ground. The borders of almost all states west of the Mississippi are an example.

Most of these state borders are straight lines following a compass heading totally ignoring any relationship to the topography. Because the people drawing the lines way back in Washington had no idea of any topographic detail. They didn’t know where the streams or mountains were so they couldn’t care. California where our northeastern border runs from some arbitrary point in the Great Basin near Goose Lake, due south to Lake Tahoe, is typical. That corner of California, about the size of New Jersey, is on the Nevada side of the mountains from the rest of California and would have been in Nevada if the people dawing the lines had lived anywhere near the lines being drawn.

A couple of days ago, Michele and I went on a short walk in the Thornwood Open Space Preserve. When we got to the parking lot, I noticed that the Handicap Space was little used and it re-booted my gripe about bureaucratic rules. Having Handicap Parking at the trailhead for a walk that handicapped people can not make is stupid. That is not to say that the people who made sure the handicap space was there are stupid but that the law – made from afar – is stupid.

I do not think that this applies only to government it applies equally, maybe even more so because there is less chance for recourse, to big business. Just think of trying to get something changed through a big bank or insurance company. The rules override reasonableness. I suspect it is even more frustrating to the person charged with enforcing the law that they know does not fit the situation.

Ironically, these arbitrary rules hurt more than they help.

First, they make the enforcer stupider and more likely to make a mistake. When I first started my own building company, our lender was Wells Fargo Bank and our lending officer was a local guy. (His brother was a real estate broker, so the real estate biz was in their blood.) When we wanted a loan for a project, we had to convince him. Wells trusted him to make the right decision and he was responsible to know the project and know that it would work.

Now there are twenty five times as many rules, the decision gets kicked up to a committee and – if the project meets all the requirements – it gets passed with none of the decision makers having to actually visit the site. Nobody really has a vested interest in the project working. That is part of the problem that lead to the bank failures.

If the lending officer – who now is really only a data collector at a large bank – follows the rules and the project doesn’t work, nobody is to blame, they all followed the rules, after all. The rules are made to make the lending environment safer but they really make it more dangerous. Everybody knew there were stupid loans being made, but nobody cared.

Second, this arbitrariness pisses people off and builds disrespect for the government or company. People are more willing to cheat; to design a project to fit the rules rather than be successful. In schools, it becomes teaching to the test rather than educating students.



2 thoughts on “Western State Lines and Handicap Parking

  1. I share your frustration. I think part of the problem (likely 80%) can be explained by the 80-20 rule: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pareto_principle

    The issue is how we can focus our efforts on the right issues (civil rights, global environment) without getting too far into the weeds.

    (FYI, while I don’t know the specifics at the park you visited, many parks do have facilities for use by the handicapped. Again though, with better local knowledge the rules could be more fine tuned.)

  2. It is not just focusing on the right issues, handicap parking, in many cases, is the right issue. I also think it would be better if the decision making process were pushed down the bureaucratic ladder.

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