Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Christmas Poem

Twas the night before Christmas
And all through the land,
Not a regulator was sleeping
They were readying their rules, with pen in hand.

With ink still wet
And time slipping by,
They crafted their plans
And laws born on high.

Three letter agencies
A dime a dozen,
Determined to remain relevant
Pumped out rules for every citizen.

Proclamations they read
And shouted with glee,
And filed in their federal registers
For everyone to see.

Thou shalln’t do this
And thou shalln’t do that,
Heed our commandants
And obey our diktats!

Every man woman and child
No escape waits for thee,
The sprawling federal bureaucracy
Covers all who live and breathe.

Drowning in paperwork
And living in fear,
The businessman’s pleas for waivers
Fall on deaf ears.

Please, no more rules
And no more laws,
Enough is enough
Is what I told Santa Claus.

Merry Christmas to All
And Happy New Year,
I’m off to Thailand
See you next year.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Unregulated (but fun) chaos

What can ice skating teach us about self regulation?  Much, I think.

I happen to believe an ice skating rink of any size is the source of much hand wringing and anxiety for many a regulator.  Consider the following:  a mass of human beings with metal knives strapped to their feet sliding around, all at varying speeds, wearing very little protective equipment.  Throw children into the mix and this must surely create feigned nervousness for those with a hankering for government rules.

There’s more.  Inside the rink, the absence of life saving safety devices is forefront – no stop signs, warning signs, speed bumps, traffic signals, right-of-way indicators, flares, flashing signals, directional indicators, or other crucial safety controls are present to warn wary skaters of the obvious dangers.

How is it then, despite this unabridged lawlessness, very few accidents actually occur.  (I base this on my own experience skating)  Given that during one hour of skating on an Olympic-sized rink filled with 350 skaters, opportunities for accidents must be north of 10,000.  In fact, casual observation of skating would seem to suggest that it’s suicide.  At the conclusion of one hour of frolicking on the ice one would expect to carry off numerous dead bodies, sweep rows of teeth off the rink, and mop the blood from the ice.  Yet, with few exceptions, this isn’t the case.

Yesterday, I took the family skating in Seoul plaza in downtown Seoul.  A mere 1,000 Won got you onto the rink, skates included.  They limit the number to 500 each hour (at only 1,000 WON, there is almost unlimited demand, so they ration).  During our hour-long skate, I noticed several accidents, but most were the result of inexperienced skaters stumbling and falling, not reckless careening into other people.  I was amazed at how, as human beings, we instinctively know how to avoid an accident.  People are adept at self-regulating and social adaption.  We rarely require prodding and herding.

The lesson here is this: observed chaos needn’t always regulating.  Top-down rules, well-meaning regulations, and other impositions by the state often lead to unforeseen and undesirable consequences.  One example is traffic on Yongsan (Army base) during school hours.

School hours on post are marked by interminable waiting and dreadfully long lines of traffic.  The cause, at least in part, is the over-regulation by the MPs (military police).  During school hours, MPs erect barriers, traffic cones, and other vehicular impeding devices, all in an effort to manage the traffic.  Army officials see traffic and devise plans (rules and regulations) because they think their plan for managing it will result in fewer accidents and decreased wait times.  I would argue their plans have the opposite effect.

If, instead, officials allowed traffic to behave organically and instinctively, results would dramatically improve, and at much lower costs.  But this rarely happens.

Why is the proclivity for regulating chaos so prevalent in our society today?  Why have we been fooled into believing that top-down instruction is always superior than bottom-up self regulation?  Not only do we tend to surrender our liberty with all this oversight, we are left with fewer (good) choices.   

So, the next time you witness chaos, tarry a bit before calling for government oversight.  Chances are people will figure it out on their own.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Dentist Visited – Korean Style

After lunch today, I began to feel a strange soreness in my mouth.  I had a root canal several years ago (like 30!) and my dentist back in the states told me this condition might rear its ugly head one day.  So, after lunch, we went dentist hunting.  And they are in season, so to speak.

Our search began at 1:00.  Walking around the streets of Seoul, we saw several signs for dentists.  We visited a couple of practices, but everyone was out to lunch.  I guess all Seoulites eat lunch around 1:00PM.  Instead of waiting around, my wife suggested we visit the dental office in our building.  That turned out to be wonderful advice.

At 2:00PM I walked into Dr. Kim’s office and was happily greeted by the good doctor himself.  I briefly explained my discomfort, and he told to have a seat and that he’d be right with me.  He wasn’t kidding.  I barely got my jacket and scarf off when we began leading me back for an examination.  He, along with the help of his cheerful assistant, sat me down in his fancy dental chair and leaned me back.  After a few moments of probing and questioning, he decided I needed an x-ray.  He walked me to his x-ray room, and after a few zaps, I was back in the chair.
While he waited for the film to develop, we began chatting about America (Koreans are always interested in where you lived in the states) and the recent presidential election (Korea elected their first female president yesterday).  After 2-3 minutes, and with film in hand, he explained the cause of my discomfort and suggested I make an appointment for minor surgery.  I told him we were planning to travel to Thailand in a few days.  He assured me the surgery could wait and prescribed some drugs (I don’t really know what they are) for inflammation and the pain, along with an antibiotic.
He didn’t charge me a dime for the visit or x-ray, and I paid less than $10 for the drugs.  I made an appointment for the surgery, which he estimated would cost around $100.  I was stunned.  I looked at my wife and we both were stunned.  No waiting, superior customer service, a free visit, and cheap drugs.   


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Good v. Evil – and Good Wins!

I have nothing to offer in the chatter about the terrible incident that took place in Connecticut.  I, for one, am not one asking “Why?”  There is no answer to the question.  Had the killer not cowardly executed himself, and instead choose to explain his evil work, what words could he have uttered that would bring any amount of sensibility to this tragedy?  None.  Nothing could be said.  This was pure evil. 
To those that shake their fist at God and demand answers, I say cool it.  God did not perpetrate this act.  A murderous thug did.  Yes, God permitted it, and we won’t know why this side of Glory.  But know this, God’s mercy and love is shown brightest in times of suffering and tragedy.  And what happened in Connecticut happens throughout our sinful and broken world every single day.  Yes, more civil societies are shocked when children are slaughtered for no reason, but thousands, perhaps even several thousands of children across the globe suffer terrible horrors similar to the one in Newtown, CT on a daily basis. 
During the 1990s, famine in North Korea was estimated to kill 2 to 3.5 MILLION people, many of whom were children.  Today, South Korean officials estimate the forced-labor camp population inside the hermit kingdom at 250,000.  And a full third are children.  That’s over 80,000 children enslaved to do the evil bidding of the murderous Kim family.  Conditions inside these death camps would horrify the average world denizen.   Starvation, torture, severe cold, and unimaginable working and living conditions are everyday life for all who reside there.  Why?

Also during the 1990s, ethnic cleansing lead to the murder of nearly 1 million people in Rwanda.  Families were systematically executed – shot in the head, for no other reason than being of a certain ethnic background.  Children, thousands of them, were slaughtered like cattle.  Women were raped, tortured, and them murdered.  Why?

Consider the forced abortions in China, or children sold as sex slaves in Cambodia and Laos.  The list of evils committed around the globe is long and horrifying.  And there is no “why” to be had, except that this world we live in is broken and corrupted by sin.

Mankind’s evil reign on earth isn’t to be forever.  God has promised to restore his creation to its original glory (see Isaiah 51:11; 65:17; 66:22, Romans 8:21, 2 Peter 3:10-13), and evil’s grip will be taken away, once and forever.  Christians everywhere celebrate this hope with the birth of Jesus Christ.  Christmas is reason to hope – to know with certainty that in the end, good will overcome evil.  Just as Christ triumphed over death and sin on the Cross, one day he will make all things new.  This is our hope and our promise.

Merry Christmas!

Fourth Grade Learning

Here are a few multiple-choice questions from my child’s Unit 1 Test.  She’s in fourth grade.

How does globalization affect the economy? 
Why are many regions of the United States economically interdependent?

Which of the following is a factor that affects climate? 
       A)   Natural resources
       B)   Humidity
       C)   State boundaries
       D)   Elevation
My FOURTH grader chose option B.  It was marked wrong.  Yes, I took issue and emailed the teacher. 
Why is it important for citizens of the U.S. to understand their rights and responsibilities? This required writing a few sentences to correctly answer.

Is it me (and her mother) or are these concepts a bit advanced for a fourth grader?  I’m not sure my kid knows what a “right” is just yet.

Even more frustrating are the science lessons.  These meaningless activiteis distract from real learning (reading, writing, and arithmetic) and attempt to orient kids into politically-correct thinking.  Now I have to spend time unlearning my kid, but any time spent with my child is good.  So maybe it's a blessing in disguise.