Thursday, January 21, 2010

Failure of nations and contract law

If history and physics tell us anything, it’s the guaranteed failure of all things, including companies, countries, people, and entire civilizations. (Packard? The USSR? George Burns? Rome?)--Mike Rowe

I don't know if all things fail.  Most things fail.  Things which are not properly maintained, certainly.  Things which move even moreso.  The Egyptian pyramids still stand.

I don't think that the US will fail simply as a function of the nature of things.  It may grow or morph into something else.  If we look at failure in absolute terms, where something ceases to exist, then as long as a Packard operates on a road, the company still (in a sense) exists. 

The US can trace its history to the Magna Charta, and even to Hammurabi's first codified law.  What nations in the future will trace their origins to us?  When the combined federation of planets signs its charter, will that charter have origins in the US constitution?  The United States isn't a living thing, it is an idea.  Ideas are notoriously hard to kill, just ask Buddha,  Christ, Abraham, Mohammed (peanut butter on him) and the Sumerians.

I doubt there is much about our country that our founders would recognize (even less that they would approve, but that goes beyond the scope of this comment.)  That doesn't mean that their America doesn't exist, or that we will eventually decline and then become dispersed like the legions of Rome.  It means that anything which changes can adapt, and adaptability is what makes things resilient.  The founders sought only to create a *more* perfect union.  Their intent was not to create *the* perfect society, nor that we should settle for the one we have, and that it was the responsibility of generations to improve that society, learning from the mistakes of their parents and grandparents.

What can the government learn from the contractual bonus debacle?  (Not wanting to pay AIG execs bonuses.)  That the free market works.  That they cannot possibly hope to have lawyers working for the government (except the very rare few who serve for services' sake) who can compete professionally with the lawyers who earn millions writing contracts for wall street.  It's roughly the same thing as a state champion high school football team playing the 6-time superbowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers.  Even with the worst team they've ever fielded, the Steelers would absolutely murder the high school team.  Both teams have drive and desire.  Both teams know how to play the game.  Both teams love the game.  But only one team is populated with players drafted from the very best that the sport had to offer.

If your local congressperson (who, odds are, is a lawyer) were any good as a lawyer, they'd either be a judge or still be a lawyer.  There's tons more money in private lawyerin' than there is in public politics (assuming an honest politician.)

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