Tag Archives: Traffic engineering (transportation)

Protecting Privilege

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Some people will do anything to preserve their privileges. For instance, an engineer working for the Department of Transportation of the state of North Carolina recently initiated an investigation of a private citizen after the citizen presented a well researched and documented argument supporting the installation of traffic lights at two intersections near his house when the state engineer felt there was no such need.

Kevin Lacy, the chief traffic engineer for the DOT of NC apparently felt threatened by these yokels who had presented a solid case indicating his own research to be inadequate, flawed, suspect, etc. Of course, we can’t just let anybody go around making informed decisions and reasonable arguments. I mean, unless we stamp out such uppity paupers, what good will all those expensive college degrees do?

Read all about it at Reason.com

“When you start applying the principles for trip generation and route assignment, applying judgments from engineering documents and national standards, and making recommendations,” that’s technical work a licensed engineer would do, Lacy said.

Lacy is right. Imagine the chaos that would ensue if we let just regular, unlicensed people use sophisticated arguments when petitioning their government.

This made me think of a bit of the conversation I first had with deirinberg, the most recent and vocal commentor on many articles here on I, Pandora.

Deirinberg stated his belief that it is a good and necessary thing that those who have attended superb schools, those who have achieved superb things, in short, the elite, run the country. Better than you and I, better than the bumpkins that seem to populate the Republican platform. Initially I agreed with him. There are people far more intelligent, far more well read, far more able in many, many ways, than I, to take the reins of power and steer the great ship of state.

But thinking about this topic more in light of this article I see there is a weakness in that argument. The weakness is that it assumes that what it is I do not know that the elites do know is capable of making a significant difference were we to compare our relative abilities at leadership.

Like getting married, one is never quite ready, even as you’re walking down the aisle hand in hand. As the bloom comes off the rose you are faced with serious issues that are growth or failure opportunities. What is necessary at the outset is not some omniscient knowledge regarding marriage, but a basic level of maturity. A basic modicum of appropriate character.

So it is with leadership, responsibility, power, skill, even engineering: what matters is not the initials after your name or the school your diploma came from, what matters is whether or not you are capable of doing the task. This is also the great fallacy regarding government regulation. The faulty assumption is the same in either case. The government assumes there is somebody who knows best regarding how houses ought to be constructed or stop lights arranged or whatever the case may be.

But, you say, those houses constructed according to standards and regulations survive in “act of God” situations far better than those not so constructed.

The problem with this argument is that those who are most likely to have better ideas which are illegal or do not meet standards and regulations are also those most likely to desire to act in a manner consistent with the law. It’s the same with firearm regulation: when it is against the law for people to own firearms, only those who don’t care for the law will have firearms.

Regulations, standards, bureaucratically determined directions for who things ought to be done are inherently incapable of allowing technology, innovation, fresh ideas, positive growth to improve quality. Instead of pointing out how well standards-built houses survived storm X, Y, or Z, we ought instead to be asking why so many of them failed if they were built the best ability of our amazing technology.

Back to the elites, though. Anytime someone or some group finds themselves more interested in the preservation of their own position than they are in fulfilling the obligations of that position, be they Kevin Lacy, Chief Engineer, or Charles Rangel, Corruptocrat, or anybody else, they have exceeded the point of benefit. And you and I and any others with sufficient clarity of thought and purpose, regardless of our education or aptitudes, guided only by our responsibilities and choices, may step in and do the job we are called to do.

Oh, and reading Kevin’s Myspace profile, it seems like he and I would agree on a lot more points than we’d disagree on.  And he probably has excellent reasons for why he did what he did.

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