Thursday, September 01, 2005

Too Clever by Half. From what I read, it will be weeks and perhaps months before the economic disequilibrium caused by Hurricane Katrina will stabilize, although we are assured that it will stabilize. The length of time that it takes will depend in part on what reserves or "slack" in the economy we had at the time that the disaster began. With "just in time" processes well embedded in the economy, processes meant to banish idle resources from the system, unanticipated jolts could make recovery more difficult than it would be otherwise. So, in the longer run, day to day efficiency may be more costly than allowing a bit of inefficiency to linger in the system.

A law school professor of mine once described the advantages of inefficiency in the criminal justice system. He said that we would really not want to have a zero crime rate. Instead, he said public policy should seek an optimum crime rate, which would not be zero. He argued that the application of enough coercive government force to attain a zero rate (assuming it would even be attainable) would create a police state that would be intolerable.

"Inefficiency" and "slack" are probably the wrong words to use in this discussion, because they are pejorative. Maybe the right words are "rest" or "Sabbath". When there is no "Sabbath" in the economy, then a crisis can break the system. It remains to be seen whether our economy will be broken or merely strained.

And this, of course, applies in our individual lives as well. We are maxed out, and then we get sick and we find ourselves behind where we would have been had we taken care of ourselves right along. Married couples with children are maxed, whether it is because both spouses work outside the home in demanding jobs, or because a full bridge, golf, church, or soccer schedule sucks up time and energy, and nothing is left in the tank when the family gathers except to watch TV.

On the other hand, just think what God could have done had he worked that seventh day?

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