Friday, December 24, 2004

Social Security versus Global Warming

There's an interesting parallel between the way the right treats social security and the way the left treats global warming. Both are potentially large problems that occur way off in the distant future. Private accounts are a tiny step in what might be the right direction to solve the Social Security problem but as currently envisioned they are obviously on too small a scale to solve the whole thing.

Similarly, the Kyoto Accord is a tiny step in what might be the right direction to solve the global warming problem, but obviously it makes no significant difference in the scope of the problem if we stop there.

In both cases, "do nothing" is probably the prudent course, but the next-best course -- and one that will help get people elected and viewed as problem solvers -- is to make a very small change and see how that works with the idea that if nothing horrible happens, they might make a slightly larger change a decade later, and so on, until the problem is eventually solved. If the change works. If the change turns out in practice to have negative or no effect,it's easier to back out and reverse a small change than a big one.

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