Categories : Systems and you


Executive Orders are not magic wands

Sea-Tac Airport protest against immigration ban, Dennis Bratland on Wikimedia


The ongoing furor around Executive Orders highlights a very real problem in this world of ours: situations and issues are tackled at their surface, presenting levels. In short, we chronically treat symptoms and not the causes. Therefore, we have placed ourselves in an unending cycle of replacing old problems with new ones, while the rocky foundations on which all these quick fixes are balanced precariously, crumble past redemption.

Case in point: we have been treated to a slew of Executive Orders from the White House that have arbitrarily delivered on a quantity of campaign promises. Now this can be viewed, and is viewed by the people who voted for President Trump, as admirable, in the light of politicians promising the world and delivering nothing – an unhappy reality for far too long. However, just doing something for the sake of ticking it off your list is not enough, especially if you are the head of a country. Change for change’s sake without proper and deep consideration invariably has awful consequences.

We have already seen the aftermath of ill-considered directives and half-baked implementation, with every expectation of it getting worse and not much hope of it getting better.

Let’s take the one that has caused the greatest outrage and global dislocation thus far: the immigration ban that is not a ban, which is allegedly aimed at illegal immigrants from countries that allegedly export terror.

Leaving all the immediate and current arguments aside: that the U.S. is fundamentally a country of immigrants, that countries that fit the bill more accurately are not on the list, that the “ban” snared people that had gone through due process and were legal, that the countries on the list exported a whole lot more than possible terrorists, if any (musicians, doctors, etc), that the refugees have very likely been created by U.S. foreign policy and wars; the real problem is that it is a piece of show-boating that does not fix anything of substance at all but has created a whole host of other problems.

This is the aggravation of band-aids and unconscious leadership.

Do the systems and policies of pretty much every country on this planet need to revamped? Yes and yes again. But lasting and productive change is only arrived at through a step by step process of critical thinking and reverse engineering not from issuing orders that target the symptoms and results of a system.

This short-term, instant-results kind of approach typically victimizes the individual in the street – the easiest target and the most vulnerable. Taking down ordinary folk as targets is the least effective thing to do: it has zero impact on the stated aims ie, it does nothing while purporting to do something and in addition, only serves to cause fear and uncertainty in the society at large. It completely ignores and therefore, does not fix the complex engine of departments, policies and implementation that is causing the problem in the first place.

Instead a review should have been done to trace the actual issues with immigration to their roots and sort the business out from ground up, inside-out. Find the nail, for want of which the battle was lost, in effect.

I will say at this point that I believe borders, nationalism, sabre-rattling and the like are passé for the age we live in, but we are assuredly not at the point where we can dispense with them until we move further along the evolutionary chain. A consummation devoutly to be wished.

To proceed: something that has been muddled up in all the altercations is that the travel ban actually has two prongs. The first one having to do with the actual processes of awarding people residency and the second, the policing of said residency. Hence the conflict and chaos of including green card holders. The Executive Order was trying to take aim at the idea of these people receiving residency in the first place, but aside from that being a bigoted and disproportionate response to the issue, it was trying to put the genie back in the bottle, which was and is a profound waste of time and resources.

So let’s try and trace this to a root.

If, and that is a big if, the issue is discontentment with illegal immigrants because they take American jobs and live unfairly on tax-payer funded welfare schemes, then the solution is easy: have a requirement that a valid identification of residency be produced at every such point of contact with every person. So interviewers for jobs, hiring managers and social services personnel etc would first check for a valid ID and if none is produced the hiring / welfare process stops there and gets reported.

If such checks and balances were applied diligently and consistently, it is logically very likely that this situation would self-correct – if a set of actions and situations were not supported, they would not exist. So why do they exist at all?

Perhaps because employers and social workers prefer to look the other way? The former are probably motivated by the cost benefits of hiring illegals or non-Americans over Americans and the latter through a sense of altruism and humanity. In essence, both sides of the political argument have contrived to bring this reality into being, albeit for different reasons.

For the sake of brevity, let us take just one off-shoot of this second level of scrutiny. Why is the cost of hiring Americans so high? Because of the costs of minimum wage plus payroll taxes, healthcare costs etc which are difficult to meet and possibly unsustainable in the long run for certain industries.

And why is minimum wage so high? Because the cost of living: taxation, housing, insurances, transport and healthcare are astronomical. So now we get to one of the cruxes of the problem.

An American working at a livable wage would either drive up the cost of the product or drive down the profitability of the company, which would drive down it’s worth on the stock market and/or possibly put its survival at risk. If the company goes out of business, its employees are out of work and if that happens to enough businesses across the board, you have an economy in free-fall. Now you have the snake eating its tail in an endless downward spiral where living wages and cost of living are abandoned for simple survival. It has happened before… and this is just one thread in a very tangled skein.

To address the crux of the problem as per our earlier paragraph, an action worth its salt would look to bring down the cost of living for every citizen, starting with investigating the causes of the bloat from the individual to the corporate to local government to the federal government level. This would require a detailed look into what is being spent and why on a national and local level.

For example: does a city need new vehicles and equipment every year? How about budget allocations that expire if they are not used: a surefire way to encourage reckless and needless spending. What drives up insurance premiums? Why are citizens encouraged to live in debt? Are some of the many questions that are worth asking.

This requires a blended view of accounting, policies and human behaviour all together and at one time to discover the best way forward. Having separate departments review these things in isolation is akin to the story of three blind people describing an elephant. No one gets to the right and complete conclusion, therefore, the right and complete solution cannot and will not be found.

Conscious governance, which we are a long way off from, requires a review of all facets of a problem, a collaboration on best practice from every discipline, level and industry that can be brought to bear and then a test-run of probable consequences, before any mandate is handed down. A key point which should not need to be said, but is clearly necessary, is a high level of honesty, diligence and clear-sightedness aka consciousness and a profound absence of agendas from all involved.

Changing gears, whether it’s the individual or a company or a country, does not need to be complicated and fraught with missteps, but it will be made exponentially more difficult if it is approached unilaterally, with the thought that one can wave a magic wand and all the complex pieces of the jig-saw will fall perfectly into place. They almost never do and solutions that are imposed in this way, from the outside-in, rarely, if ever, work.

The more likely consequence of such actions is dislocation upon dislocation as each link in the chain uncouples from too much stress ending ultimately in anarchy. In our supposedly evolved, advanced world, surely we can do better? In actuality, we must do better.