Government as a designer or as an enabler

Dwight D. Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States.  He was also a very important general during world war 2.  Apparently also, it was Eisenhower who “talent spotted” Ronald Reagan and schooled him in foreign policy.  But before all of that (after the war, before the US Presidency), Eisenhower was the President of Columbia University in New York, one of the Ivy League colleges.

There is a famous Eisenhower story that illustrates not only Eisenhower’s wisdom, but also the accuracy of the experts.

During Eisenhower’s tenure at Columbia University, the campus was undergoing significant expansion and pathways and pavements needed to be built.  The architects and planners presented 2 different plans for the location and layout of the pavement.  The 2 proposals were different and incompatible.

Rather than making a choice between the 2 expert plans, Eisenhower decided to not commission the pathways but rather to lay grass and watch where the students walked (marked by worn grass).  At the end of 1 year, they would lay the pavement where the students walked.

Lo and behold, both of the expert options were nowhere near the mark.  The students found their own best path.

This is a true story.  It is also a metaphor for the role of government and the different philosophies underlying government.  Is the role of government to tell citizens which path to take or to create the conditions for citizens to work out the best path for themselves.

Spartacus knows what he, and probably many Cats prefers the role of government to be.  Sadly it does not appear to be the philosophy of our government-bureaucratic industrial intervention complex.  And unless we change our direction we will end up where we are headed, down the road to serfdom.

Follow I Am Spartacus on Twitter at @Ey_am_Spartacus

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29 Responses to Government as a designer or as an enabler

  1. C.L.

    A lovely lesson about catallaxy.

  2. Alexi the Conservative Russian

    Spartacus I don’t often agree with you but I think this is the best article you have written. It paints a picture that even a thick politician could see. Pity most won’t get to see it. Well done.

  3. duncanm

    (ignoring the metaphor) .. the great thing is, that with today’s technology, government can easily purchase exactly that data. Where people drive, where they cycle, and where they walk and run.

    Will they use it ?

    btw – architects and planners are often more interested in the feels than utility.

  4. Entropy

    O they wouldn’t Duncanm. Because government these days is thinking “how can I make those students walk where I want them to?” Just a nudge.

    The only reason modern politicians would want to know where the students might want to go is so they can pretend they agree while still putting the pavement where the politicians actually want it.

  5. H B Bear

    Anyone who wants to see the failure of government as a designer just needs to look at the NSW drink recycling scheme. Overly complex, excessively reliant on technology, multiple points of failure and on and on.

    And that is all before you ask whether it was needed in the first place or even improves the supposed problem.

  6. H S Grant

    Ike was also a very good mathematician.The D Day invasion was planned using the newly developed concept of critical path planning.

  7. Tim Neilson

    Great story Spart.

    It paints a picture that even a thick politician could see.

    Don’t bet on it.

  8. NuThink

    An old joke – it was funny when I was a kid.
    Firstly for those who are too young to remember.
    Dwight Eisenhower was President of the USA at the same time as Konrad Adenauer was Chancellor of Germany.
    Then the joke (FWIW).
    Eisenhower and Adenauer were due to have a meeting. Adenauer arrived an hour early and Eisenhower an hour late. Eisenhower said “Eisen hour late” and then Adenauer said “Ad an hour to spare”.

  9. NuThink

    Interstate Highway System
    Main article: Interstate Highway System

    Remarks in Cadillac Square, Detroit
    MENU0:00
    President Eisenhower delivered remarks about the need for a new highway program at Cadillac Square in Detroit on October 29, 1954
    Text of speech excerpt
    Problems playing this file? See media help.
    Eisenhower was assured of an enduring achievement when he championed and signed the bill that authorized the Interstate Highway System in 1956.[140] He justified the project through the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 as essential to American security during the Cold War. It was believed that large cities would be targets in a possible war, hence the highways were designed to facilitate their evacuation and ease military maneuvers.

    Eisenhower’s goal to create improved highways was influenced by difficulties encountered during his involvement in the U.S. Army’s 1919 Transcontinental Motor Convoy. He was assigned as an observer for the mission, which involved sending a convoy of U.S. Army vehicles coast to coast.[141][142] His subsequent experience with encountering German autobahn limited-access road systems during the concluding stages of World War II convinced him of the benefits of an Interstate Highway System. The Interstate Highway System could also be used as a runway for airplanes, which would be beneficial to war efforts. This system was put into place by Franklin D. Roosevelt, in 1944, under the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1944. Noticing the improved ability to move logistics throughout the country, he thought an Interstate Highway System in the U.S. would not only be beneficial for military operations, but provide a measure of continued economic growth.[143] The legislation initially stalled in the Congress over the issuance of bonds to finance the project, but the legislative effort was renewed and the law was signed by Eisenhower in June 1956.[144]

  10. OneWorldGovernment

    Government as a designer or as an enabler or just a slut waiting for the next UN gentle putsch.

    There are 2 Australia’s and geographically they are divided by the Eastern and part Southern (coastal) divide AND the rest of Australia.

    The coastal part of Australia is just a foul cesspit represented by Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane which collectively would not even represent 1% of the Australian land mass.

    But if you want to look at bullshit then check ABS 1370.0 – Measures of Australia’s Progress, 2010 which states,

    Almost two-thirds (63%) of land in Australia has been modified for human use, primarily grazing on natural vegetation (BRS 2010a). Clearing of native vegetation continues to occur for agriculture, plantation forestry, and urban development (DEWHA 2006a).

    When the ships and trucks no longer bring produce to the foul sinks of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane then will Canberra shine in the glory of UN Forces who come to take control.

    As envisioned by the 1960’s Club of Rome.

  11. Tom

    It boils down to this:

    1. It costs government between two and 10 times what it costs the private sector to build or run anything. Therefore the real cost of government is half or less what we are paying now in taxes.

    2. The paramount objective of government, driven by its bureaucracy, is to get bigger. The reason this is occurring is that we are doling out “free” stuff to those who pay no net tax and ignoring net taxpayers who fund government. As Alexis de Tocqueville observed, that is the end of democracy — eventually.

    If you want democracy in the future, those who fund it must have the loudest voice, not the parasites of the left — whose power base is the bureaucracy and the media — using other people’s money to try to change our system into top-down socialist command economy favoured by dominant faction by both the current LNP government and the Opposition.

    Unless government gets smaller, Australia has no democratic future.

  12. Bad Samaritan

    Just thought I’d throw the following into a thread somewhere…. CIA Asset!

  13. Herodotus

    We are allowing activists (with the connivance of their fellow travellers in the media) to indulge in social engineering campaigns in so many areas. Eventually they succeed in brainwashing enough voters to produce the death-wish polling we see too often.

  14. Mother Lode

    It paints a picture that even a thick politician could see.

    You can generally position the incidentally, well natured ignorant so they can recognise that there is a point. They may not be able to discern the details, but they will accept it due to their nature.

    The wilfully ignorant are essentially holding onto ignorance for emotional or psychological reasons. If you can uncouple the point from the source of their wilfulness, they can see the point.

    But politicians? We are dealing now with seasoned professionalism. It is impossible to dismantle their ignorance because it is their forte and their power to cling to it is beyond the skills of an amateur.

    Instead, they weaponise it.

  15. Roger

    It paints a picture that even a thick politician could see.

    Er…no.

    An Australian politician would have given the contract to build the footpath to the most expensive and least practical proposal and then erected signs to keep off the grass or face a fine.

  16. Roger

    Oh…and the contractor would be a mate.

    His exorbitant fee would be paid by slapping an “amenity charge” on the already financially overburdened students.

  17. JohnL

    Unless government gets smaller, Australia has no democratic future.

    Australian government(s) are big (and there is too many of them). In relative terms, the biggest in the world.
    Australia lost it’s democratic future when Federation, States and Territories and in particular, Senate was created.
    Revisit the “difference between democracy and democratic republic”.

  18. DaveR

    we will end up where we are headed, down the road to serfdom

    We are a long way down this road already, but not as far as the UK or Europe, and the USA is behind us, resisting the increasing incursion of government more strongly.

    I look at the road laws as the canary in the coalmine of government intervention in daily lives. I am sure urban Australia has the greatest number of road signs per km of road in the world. Things are not looking good!

    And Australians seem to be reluctant to push back against this.

  19. OneWorldGovernment

    Bad Samaritan
    #2712648, posted on May 17, 2018 at 5:13 am

    Just thought I’d throw the following into a thread somewhere…. CIA Asset!

    I put it over on the Open Topic under your name.

  20. H B Bear

    And Australians seem to be reluctant to push back against this.

    The myth of the Aussie larrakin is the biggest lie Australia has ever told itself. The reality is it has been tugging on government apron strings since colonial days and enshrined in law in the Harvester case.

  21. JohnL

    I look at the road laws as the canary in the coalmine of government intervention in daily lives. I am sure urban Australia has the greatest number of road signs per km of road in the world. Things are not looking good!

    In South Australia, where else, some “rural roads” that for years carried speed limit of 110km, have recently the limit reduced to 100km.
    Why?!?!?

  22. OneWorldGovernment

    JohnL
    #2712731, posted on May 17, 2018 at 9:10 am

    I look at the road laws as the canary in the coalmine of government intervention in daily lives. I am sure urban Australia has the greatest number of road signs per km of road in the world. Things are not looking good!

    In South Australia, where else, some “rural roads” that for years carried speed limit of 110km, have recently the limit reduced to 100km.
    Why?!?!?

    batteries

  23. Tim Neilson

    In South Australia, where else, some “rural roads” that for years carried speed limit of 110km, have recently the limit reduced to 100km.
    Why?!?!?

    Probably the same reason as here in CFMEUistan.

    They’ll be slashing maintenance of rural roads, in order to have more money to divert to maaaates and vote herds.

    But they want to have a ready made excuse if there’s a sudden spike in road deaths on those roads.

    And they’re banking on “but we reduced the speed limit to make sure it was still safe” to do the trick.

  24. RobK

    In South Australia, where else, some “rural roads” that for years carried speed limit of 110km, have recently the limit reduced to 100km.
    Im only guessing but, I note that in WA where the speed limit is 110kmh, trucks and cars with trailers are limited to 100kmh, so an argument might exist that making them all the same may prevent some risky overtaking…..just a thought.

  25. manalive

    This is a true story …

    Some say it’s apocryphal but it doesn’t matter, it makes the point.
    A green-socialist would have a wide path directly connecting the arts building with the student union and cafe with ‘keep off the grass’ penalty signs each side.
    A conservative would have a severely symmetrical patterned paved courtyard with a statue of the founder in the centre.
    A libertarian would have something like this.

  26. Jannie

    This is a true story …

    What is the source? As per manalive link to the NR story, it supposedly happened at the University of Kansas. Ike lived in Kansas so he may have been aware of it and done the same thing at Columbia. He also knew how to manage large bodies of men on their trip from A to B.

    Whatever, I have often thought of it when seeing pedestrians ignore the concrete paths and cut ruts through the grass. And yeah the response is to put Keep Off the Grass signs and appoint prefects to fine and harass students hurrying late to lectures.

  27. Robber Baron

    Adolph would be proud of the Australian government.

  28. Mother Lode

    Some say it’s apocryphal

    I heard that too, but when ever you try to pin down who said so, it keeps changing. Was it reall Reagan. Or Blob Ellis? Or Balthazar F Luent, newsagent to plumbers and the stars? Or Benjamin Disraeli? I guess we’ll never know.

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