Sunday, August 05, 2007

Unintended Consequences and Government Control 

There are those who wish everything we make, say and do would be controlled by a central authority, in most cases the government. We have our own control driven politicians, those who think THEY know better or more than the rest of us for just about everything. These believers insist they can FIX anything just by either banning something outright or forcing some kind of imposed behavior. This kind of thinking tends to ignore a couple of critical factors: human nature and Mother Nature.

A recent example of government intervention to make everyone "safe" is summarized below. Though the bureaucrats' intention was good, the results could be devastating. And, those who enforce these practices will be the first to blame someone else, outside their bureaucracy for any future accidents or failures.

All of us use computers for much of what we do - not just the "computer" but our cell phones, cars, appliances, etc. In addition, computers run airplanes, our national electrical grid, space stations, satellites, etc. A key ingredient in the manufacture of computer circuit boards is solder, that stuff that lets you adhere metal to metal, to a frame, etc. Solder is also flexible. A small percentage but key component in solder is lead. Turns out bureaucrats in Europe and China, discussed in the Chemical & Engineering News, have decided that lead needs to be eliminated from everything. Problem is, Mother Nature has other ideas. Lead helps prevent computers from short-circuiting, developing tin "whiskers." If the lead is removed, the soldered components become more fragile, develop these "whiskers" and increase the possibility of breakage, short circuiting, etc.

It is wonderful to want to FIX everything with one fell swoop of a law, etc. But characteristics of metals are rigid. When we find a solution that works to minimize risk, breakage, contamination, etc. we would be wise to be very careful before we ban a component that actually saves lives in the long run. Flexibility should be an integral part of the legal process. Hmmmm

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