How About Some Quality Control

by Don Boudreaux on February 13, 2010

in Politics, Reality Is Not Optional, Seen and Unseen

Here’s a great letter appearing in today’s Wall Street Journal:

Regarding Holman Jenkins’s “Toyota and the Curse of Software” (Business World, Feb. 5) and John Hofmeister’s “The U.S. Needs an Industrial Policy” (op-ed, Feb. 8): Fly-by-wire and drive-by-wire systems are examples of the complexity and consequences of centralizing the control of any function to the point where it precludes timely override by individuals.

Centralized control requires that the designers/legislators consider and allow for any and all possible conditions of normal operation by both the machine and the operator, as well as all possible conditions resulting from failure or malfunction of any component in the system, including the operator. In the case of military aircraft with multibillion dollar development and production costs spread over a dozen years, it is feasible to balance all the untested possibilities against the costs in dollars and lives. In the case of commercial aircraft and liability laws a far higher standard of quality control is necessary.

In the case of highly centralized control by governments there is no evidence that any thought is ever given to a possibility of a malfunction in the legislation. The best we can hope for is hospice care for the survivors. Where is our legislative quality control and failure analysis? When will we have any of either? How did our entitlement programs morph from the money-making 1938 Social Security Act to the Supplemental Security Income and Medicare projected deficits that will exceed the probable GDP of the nation sometime near the midcentury?

To misquote Thomas Jefferson, “That government is best that misgoverns least.”

Ross D. Rash

Winfield, Kan.

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