PREVENTING DISASTERS. The Minnesota bridge collapse may have absolutely nothing to do with the topic of this post but it made me think again about the particular problems the political system creates in attempts to prevent similar disasters. For example, consider an elected politician who notices that the area's infrastructure is in poor shape and who works to repair it. These repairs require higher taxes, let's say. Suppose that the roads and bridges are then all fixed and new elections come around.

What do you think this politician's competition will run on? Probably on how the government has been spending too much and taxing too high, and how it is time for a lean-and-mean new government (which, of course, doesn't need to fix the infrastructure now, either). And these arguments might very well win the day.

Now suppose the initial politician in my story had instead neglected the infrastructure problems until some major accident occurred in which people died. Suppose that only then would this person rise up and start fixing bridges and roads everywhere, while also turning up at every patriotic rally. All this patching up could cost more than a thorough maintenance program might have cost. But the politician is now a hero, and in a much better position to get re-elected.

When is a leader a good leader? The first type appears preferable on logical grounds, but the second one is more likely to be viewed as a good leader. Yet people had to die for change to come about.

--J. Goodrich