Column Date 2006-10-13

Feeling good about America

Every time I get angry with some positively inane action by Congress, I scan the international news to see how other countries are doing.

My fellow Americans, consider yourselves lucky.

Take this simple test: first, think of the dumbest thing your government has done lately – this can be from any level of government (local, state, federal) and be any thing (a stupid law, a ludicrous statement, a childish cover-up, etc.). And it doesn’t matter if you’re coming at it from a Republican or Democratic or Independent or Green or Libertarian point of view – stupid things know no political boundaries.

Got it? (Just for the record, my personal favorite stupid thing is the “Bridge to Nowhere” bill, requesting $223,000,000 from Congress. Alaska’s Republican Senator Ted Stevens is behind that one, which would build a bridge as long as the Golden Gate between Ketchikan, Alaska and Gravina Island, population 50. That comes out to $4,460,000 per inhabitant. Your tax dollars at work.)

O.K., now compare your favorite American dumb idea with this:

Let’s say you’re an advertising agency in London. Through hard work and creative brilliance, you’ve managed to convince a big international airline to switch its business to you.

Congratulations! This means millions more in income, and a chance to let your agency shine.

But wait -- under a new directive that took effect in April (conceived by bureaucrats in Brussels and expanded by bureaucrats in London), you could be required to hire all the creative and marketing people at the airline’s previous ad agency to work for you!

That’s right – to help workers keep their jobs, and not be tossed and turned on the capitalist sea, the British say you have to hire those 50 or 100 people who did the kind of advertising that the airline was trying to get away from! And you’ll have to pay their salaries and benefits, as well.

As an advertising agency, proud of the special team of people you’ve built, this is clearly government by the mentally deranged. It runs contrary to everything you know about running a successful business -- there goes your profit, there goes your uniqueness, there goes your quality of work.

As a client, this is pure madness. You’ve switched ad agencies to get fresh thinking, fresh writing, a fresh look. And what do you get? The same folks who gave you that old thinking, that old writing, that old look.

There’s no question in my mind that the Brits win the “2006 World Cup of Ultimate Stupidity,” hands down.

So the next time Congress passes a really inane bill (the F-22 fighter program comes quickly to mind – independent defense analyst John Pike of, said the F-22 "seems to be an awfully expensive solution to a problem that no longer exists."), the best thing to do is sit back and relax, have a cup of chamomile tea, and check out what’s happening in other countries.

When it comes to dumb laws, our government is still in the bush leagues. (No pun intended.)

© Peter Tannen 2006