Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Dangers of Blind Faith

There is faith all around us, in everything we do.
 - Every time I pull out a dollar bill, I am reminded that the currency is backed by the "full faith and credit of the U.S. government".  I have faith that the system designed to handle finances in this country and the value of that bill are valid - there is (ironically) a theoretical solid foundation to that dollar and every other one flying around;
 - When I am driving through an intersection and I have a green light, I have faith that the folks with the red lights at the intersection will actually stop and grant me my right-of-way;
 - When I drink some milk (or Silk or similar product), I have faith in the system that has been put in place to make sure that the food I eat is safe to eat;
 - When I turn on the TV and watch the evening news (ABC, NBC, NBC, or PBS), I have faith that the information being broadcast is true.  There may be varied opinions mixed in with that information, but the basis of those opinions are facts.

Faith is a wonderful thing - when based in reality.

Blind faith, however, is neither a wonderful thing, nor based in reality.  It does not matter if that blind faith is in a supreme being, a driver's ability or willingness to grant right-of-way when they should, the financial system, or even the food delivery system.
 - I have the skills and tools needed and the ability to protect myself should our financial system collapse.  (No, I am not a survivalist nor do I believe in any sort of armageddon - but I do believe in personal protection);
 - While I may have faith that the next guy will stop at a stop light, I still purchased a vehicle with many safety features in case some fool has had too much to drink, is IM'ing on their cell phone, or their brakes fail;
 - I give my food a quick sniff-test (for what that is worth), and have my doctor's phone number on speed-dial;
 - I double- and triple-check the data that is the basis of news reports, and filter out the bullshit.

Those that have blind faith are doomed to failure.  Those that foist that blind faith on the rest of us doom us.

A common refrain during Bush the Second's administration was that business was capable of regulating itself.  This was not limited to W's administration - it has been a factor in many administrations during my lifetime - both Democratic and Republican.  In the late 90's some new financial instruments came about (well, they existed prior to that, but started being used widely during that time).  Some financial geniuses decided that the market was the best regulator of, well, the market for these instruments.  In fact, a law was passed specifically prohibiting the governmental regulation of the market.  Those who had blind faith in the ability of the financial industry to regulate itself were wrong.... very, very wrong.  They failed to take into consideration that people controlled those markets, and that those people may consider their own selves and their own short-term needs and desires over the market's long-term well being.  The cost of that blind faith?  Trillions of dollars.

Another arena where blind faith by a few has failed many is the current oil rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.  5,000 barrels of oil per day are being discharged into the Gulf.  The Deepwater Horizon was a reasonably new rig - built in 2001.  Those in charge of the rig, and of regulating the rig, had blind faith that a major catastrophe could not occur.  In fact, up until the April 20th explosion that killed 11 and led to the oil spill, some people responsible for the safety of the rigs, workers, and environment mocked the possibility of a major spill (see "Landrieu mocks offshore drilling safety concerns" at Daily Kos).  A U.S. Senator, sitting with a BP executive, deriding the concerns of those who feared a disaster... See what blind faith can get you?

It doesn't matter if that blind faith is in technology, markets, people, mythical creatures, or a church leader's connection to that mythical creature.  Accepting anything as gospel (so to speak) without any question will simply lead to trouble.  And if the person doing that is a leader, they are simply leading their people into trouble - and those people deserve better.

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