God designed our world to be extremely inefficient. I daresay this was intentional. In all the seeding and spawning functions, we see that one in a hundred, one in a thousand, one in a million, take root or otherwise grow to maturity. The rest goes to feed the birds and the fishes and the pigs. Almost everything they consume is in turn wasted, spewed away. And this is true down the line from biology to geology. Fossil fuels and the better building materials take countless centuries to form. Now, look up to see that a trillion trillion stars went to the making of one habitable planet. He (God) takes His time, and makes the necessary sea room.
“And yet it moves,” as Galileo didn’t say. It works, and in glorious moments we glimpse some aspect of how it fits together; how every particle is cycled and recycled — from the bloated cow to the wee dung beetle rolling his gleaming pellet away. There is extreme inefficiency and no waste at all. Often I am staggered by the scale of the thing; by the universal attention to microscopic detail; by the adaptability of every constituent part; by the constant interweaving relaxation and restoration of a purposeful order.
Humans, on the other hand, are efficiency freaks. We are always looking for a way to slash the costs, to eliminate redundancy, control the outcome, guarantee success. And in the course of this, we bind ourselves in tangles.
Let us take milk for today’s example. We have a little crisis at the moment, up this way, because we are producing it too efficiently. In an effort to secure their votes, our politicians created marketing boards to assure a price to dairy farmers. Perhaps it did not occur to them that other jurisdictions might do the same; that each would create immense competing milk lakes of surplus. That they would have to enforce quotas to limit over-production. That they would then have to subsidize the milk for which they were overpaying, to sell any of it abroad. That such nonsense would result in e.g. the current feud between Trudeau and Trump, over who’s cheating whom. Verily, as in all government schemes, everyone is now cheating everybody, and consumers are paying not a small extra amount, but double or triple what they would otherwise be paying for a pint of tasteless homogenized cream or a hunk of tasteless pasteurized cheese. And that’s before taxes.
An immensely cumbersome and self-defeating apparatus has been created to advance the cause of efficiency. It soon includes sprawling commercial networks, in which even if there is no technical monopoly, the large buyers squeeze out the small ones. And the system cannot be peacefully dismantled because by now it is inhabited by vested interests throughout, each with the expense of maintaining a lobby. And after every negotiation, the arrangements become more complicated, and the authority expands until the last independent operator becomes a piece of the machinery.
One could spend one’s working life trying to master these complexities, in the invariably disappointed hope of making the system more responsive and “humane.” Or one could do what Mr. Trump appears to be doing, which is to march in with a sledgehammer and make a mess of it. I think that the best and most godly method.
Friday, May 05, 2017
"The best and most godly method."
David Warren writes about efficiency and waste at his Canadian blog Essays in Idleness yesterday.