Due to a complex series of misunderstandings and coincidences, I once found myself spending a long time in a small boat on the ocean in bad weather. I was forced to do it because the people on shore responsible for arranging the paperwork and landing details couldn’t be bothered. I learned a very important rule of thumb on that voyage which has been of great value to me ever since, viz:
Avoid putting your fate in the hands of someone with no skin in the game.
You see, at the same moment that I was slipping around the foredeck in a fifty-knot gale hoping to avoid going overboard, the people whose inaction kept me from landing were having a hot dinner and getting ready for bed. They wouldn’t have lost anything if I had missed a step and gone for a final swim. Oh, they would have been sad, they would have sent condolences, but they had no skin in the game.
Here’s another example. The remote control of aircraft is rapidly becoming just as good as having a pilot on board. We have US pilots in Topeka, Kansas flying drones halfway around the planet. That’s why we use remote-controlled aircraft, to save the lives of pilots.
And it is certainly possible to fly passenger aircraft remotely in the same fashion, saving the lives of commercial pilots …
So … assuming perfect remote control technology, which way would you feel safer—with a real pilot in the front seat, or with the same real pilot seated on the ground?
Me, I figure the important point is that onboard board pilot will likely be the first one to die in a crash. As a result, she’ll pay a whole lot more attention than if she were seated in a comfortable chair in Topeka, Kansas.
There is a curious corollary to that rule of thumb, which is:
I’ll believe something is a problem when the people who say it is a problem start to act like it’s a problem.
The textbook example of this is Leonardo DiCaprio leaving his diesel-guzzling mega-yacht in the Mediterranean and taking a private jet half way around the planet to lecture us on the horrors of emitting too much carbon dioxide … when Leo starts acting like it’s a problem I’ll reconsider my opinion on the issue.
I got to thinking about this while listening to the radio this morning. I like to hear both the liberal and the conservative points of view. On PBS, the generally liberal Public Broadcasting System, there was an interview with U.S. Representative Anna Eshoo, a Democrat. She represents a district in California about a hundred miles south of where I live.
She was talking about a bill she authored to require the President to release his tax returns. So I looked it up. Representative Eshoo and Nancy Pelosi, the House Minority Leader, are 100% for the bill … but guess what?
Neither one of them has released their own tax returns.
Here’s what I think. If Americans decide that releasing tax returns is necessary for public service, the rule should apply to everyone from your local City Mayor on up. State senators and congressmen. Governors. US Members of Congress. If our representatives claim that not releasing tax returns is a problem, then they should act like it is a problem and require that they release their own tax returns.
Me, I don’t think that releasing your tax returns should be a requirement for public office, neither for the President, the Mayor, nor anyone in between. The country worked fine for hundreds of years without requiring that politicians release their tax returns. Theoretically it is supposed to reduce the opportunity for conflicts of interest. However, I’ve not seen any evidence of that, and even if it were occasionally true, to me it doesn’t justify the invasion of privacy.
Finally, I think that these issues are more than adequately covered by the required Financial Disclosure Forms that our Federal Representatives have to fill out. But hey, that’s just me, YMMV.
However, I do think that the laws we pass should apply equally to everyone, especially our elected representatives. We need for our representatives to have skin in the game. As one example among far too many, our representatives pass laws that affect Social Security … but those laws won’t affect their own retirement. They have fat government pensions, so they have no skin in the Social Security game.
Here, sun followed rain, now rain follows sun. The cat is outside sheltering under the roof overhand and looking at the garden. I’m packing my bags to leave Saturday for surfing in Fiji. Hey, the waves won’t surf themselves, so someone has to do it. Now the cat is back at the door. I let him in. He shakes his head. Life is good.
Best wishes to everyone,