Sunday, July 02, 2006

Theoreticians Should Have Only Theoretcial Impacts

I just read Mark Steyn's latest article, The Right to Jihad. In it, he talks about the Supreme Court's rulling that the terrorists have the same rights as soldiers and remarks

The U.S. Supreme Court has now blown a hole in the animating principle behind the Geneva Conventions by choosing to elevate an enemy that disdains the laws of war in order to facilitate the bombing of civilian targets and the beheading of individuals. The argument made by Justice John Paul Stevens is an Alice-In-Jihadland ruling...
Justice Stevens rules not on how things actually function, but on how they should function. In a perfect world, the terrorists would have their own oversight committees holding inquests into whether or not this or that captive should have been tortured and beheaded. Guilty parties would be publicly punished so that their enemies on the battlefield could be reassured that such horrific acts did not go unchecked. That's not the real world.

If you then go and read Hugh Hewitt's take on the New York Times' and Los Angeles Times' decisions to expose secrets of national security, he comments on their lack of experience working in or around the NSA and it's sister organizations.

Keller and Baquet don't know counterterrorism. And because they don't, terrorists have been given a gift, and innocents will die.
The editors' arguments make sense in a theoretical world, but not a practical one. Exposing secrets does not cause well-informed debate among citizens, but instead is exploited by the nation's enemies to disastrous effect.

I wrote earlier about the upper management where I work attempting multiple, parallel organizational improvement techniques simultaneously.

Assume your typical executive has one day a week to devote to strategic planning. The rest of their time is devoted to tactical matters such as budgeting, VIP meetings, program reviews, travel and the like. With 6 simultaneous management efforts going on, that means that each gets 80 minutes of their time per week.

Each of these techniques is a new tool. Like any new tool you need time to become facile with it. How good would you be with a scroll saw with only 80 minutes per week of practice?
In a theoretical sense, each process improvement effort should provide a substantial return on investment. In practice, they cannot be fully executed because in the aggregate the proper application of these techniques requires more work-hours to implement than are available. The end result is an enormous waste of time.

The consistent theme is that theoreticians are just that. Strictly applying theory in the real world without allowance for the true mechanisms of how things work can have terrible side effects.

I'm trying to close this post, but many more examples are coming to mind. Take all of the unintended consequences of social support programs by various governments. Certainly the legislatures of France and Germany had no intention of crushing their economies. In theory, it was right and proper to support the poor and unemployed. In practice it is stifling their countries.

It could be argued that the farther removed you are from the application of these rulings and policies, the less you should have to do with them. You certainly would have fewer events like we've seen in the last few weeks.

Technorati tags:

No comments: