Bambi, Wolves, Politicians and Black Swans

Posted on March 3rd, 2014 by admin in National Health Care Systems, Scenarios, Tipping Points

When wolves were re-installed into Yellowstone Park in 1995, after having had a zero population for 70 years, the first thing they did was eat deer, which had been grazing on pastures. We knew how this would turn out: less deer and more wolves, in a balanced population. But the chain of other events, unexpected events, is simply amazing, and includes the physical alteration of river beds. Watch this video which is really beautiful and hugely instructive. We see how complexity of an eco-system truly leads to unpredictable events. This should be cause for humility by humans who generate giant complex systems. The worst kind of surprise outcome from complexity is a Black Swan event.

It’s too bad that politicians continue to build massive, complex structures to control or buy voters (i.e., the pols’ eco-system, at the top of which they sit). They believe the votes they’ll buy with some new legislation justifies the “unintended consequences” of their legislation and regulations. They are wrong.

Consider this brief summary in Table 1 of government complexity, as measured primarily by numbers of regulations and pages they are printed on.

Govt complexity

Table 1: Quantitative measures showing massive size and thus massive complexity of government…let alone its cost

Note carefully the unimaginable size and complexity of ObamaCare: it’s Black Swan was the degree of failure of the web site used to insert users of exchanges into the regulatory/legal framework. The failure was of course always imaginable, since sofware always fails, but the breathtaking scope of the ObamaCare failure was a Black Swan.

Not all changes in nature produce such lovely results as bigger rivers from more wolves, but almost always, government complexity damages many of those intended to benefit.

2 Comments on “Bambi, Wolves, Politicians and Black Swans”

  1. John

    Glad to see you are becoming an environmentalist – and a purist at that. Very wise given that we are in a barrel heading for the falls.

    Interesting data about the federal regulations. Can you show some comparative data over say the last three or four presidents so we’ll know if this is unusual or not. Heck, there may be fewer additional pages than ever before!

    Is it right to compare the amount of regulations with the Guttenberg Bible? That was weird. Why not compare those regulations with the regulations, say, for the EPA to administer (considering your environmentalism).

    I love your work…keep it up.

  2. admin

    Thanks for your supportive and interesting comment. It calls for some clarification. The point of this post is to show how complexity by itself causes unpredictable outcomes, for any kind of system, some of which are “good” and some “bad”. In particular, while I provided substantial evidence of government-caused complexity of regulations, I did not assign blame to either party or any particular politician–although that would be tempting! The key idea is that government regulations and laws of such stupefying complexity as ObamaCare or the tax code inherently cause many unpredictable and usually unwanted outcomes…no matter which party writes them.

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