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"Do something" should not be the ultimate goal!

By Scott Tibbs, January 9, 2012

Crime is a serious problem in the heart of a major American city, and the people are clamoring for a solution to bring the crime rate under control. Politician X proposes that we level every building and kill every person in the high-crime areas of the city. With that part of the city a barren wasteland, we can now rebuild. There is no more crime because no people are left to commit crimes. This would "solve" the crime problem.

Sane people object to this plan, saying it is not only inhumane to indiscriminately slaughter people, it is evil. Politician X responds: "Well, what is YOUR solution? We have to do something!"

This is an admittedly absurd example, but I chose it to illustrate that "do something" is not always the best solution to a problem, because doing something destructive is worse than doing nothing at all.

This leads me to the following statement in the January 1 editorial in the Herald-Times:

Letís hope all who win, on the national and state levels, are willing to work with their colleagues for the benefit of all.

The problem with the Herald-Times and others is a shallow and vapid desire to compromise and "do something" for the sake of compromise. I am so tired of hearing this I want to scream every time I hear someone spout this nonsense.

We heard a lot in 2011 about the political parties being unable to "work together and get things done" and the gridlock in Washington. But we have to consider the benefits and drawbacks of the policies being proposed, not just whether we are getting something done. If what is being proposed will make things worse, it is better to do nothing at all.

It is the habit of the mainstream media to focus on the template that Washington is "broken," feeding the frustration of the American people with the inability to get anything done. But very little is ever said about the policies themselves, much less about the arguments for and against those policies. You see legitimate analysis of policy far too rarely, with the coverage instead focusing on the fact that legislators disagree.

Well, of course legislators who have fundamentally different philosophies about the role of government are going to disagree about the best way to solve a particular problem. So instead of pouting because they do not agree, we should have both sides put their best ideas and arguments on the table, examine those ideas and arguments, and then the American people can decide which policy is best.

I have intentionally avoided saying anything about any specific policy proposed by either party. That is because the point of this post is not to argue that one party's solutions are better than another. The point is that you cannot expect any legislator to go along with something he believes is destructive for the purpose of saying he "did something." That would be a grave disservice to the American people.