Or You Can Just Put Gas in the Car

Follow me here, because I believe that much of our public policy, from education to economics, is predicated on this idea.


I’m envisioning a 500-page manual on what to do when you run out of gas.  There will be reams of information on what kind of container to use as you transfer the gas from an approved station to your car.  Pages of regulations on what kind of shoes should be worn on the trek from your abandoned car to the station.


There will be dozens of instructions on how to transfer the gas from the aforementioned container to the tank of your car, and we mustn’t forget all the threats and punishments for not completing any of these procedures in the proscribed manner.


Or…you could put gas in the car before you embark on the journey.


One approach assumes everyone will run out of gas.  It assumes the situation will happen and turns it into a matter of compliance.  The other assumes you won’t need the manual.


So much of our policy is predicated on the notion that no one is capable of making good decisions, of doing simple planning or taking simple, obvious actions that prevent the problem.


I vote that we allow people to make good decisions and focus policy on the vast majority of people who do the right things.  I vote we acknowledge that we’ll always have people who don’t do the right thing and stop pretending we can legislate excellent behavior.