The seductive temptation of inaction

Think of any recent news of political action or decision and you will find quotes in opposition. That's normal and expected - the easy, non-controversial decisions don't get coverage. However, it's much easier to oppose - to support inaction - than it is to take action. The person acting must take responsibility for outcomes. Those pushing for inaction have no responsibility. The easier side to be on is inaction/opposition, and many commentators have discussed this in recent years.

I want to highlight another tendency to inaction that is sneakier and a sibling to righteous opposition: the showcasing of a harmful outcome to someone involved in a policy.

We see news articles all of the time about the people harmed be various government policies. Many times, they feature people suffer from unjust gov't decisions or results, and put a human face on those harmed by poor decisions or policies. This sentiment is valuable, and I'm glad to see these types of stories, but they also represent risk.

The third character we don't see in these stories is the status quo, which has no face and no new victims to showcase. We get used to the constant pain of bad policies, especially when the pain comes from complexity or faceless bureaucracies that can't be easily placed in an article, and the victims are more collective than singular. It becomes hard to compare the harm of action and inaction, but without a good way to find or weigh the beneficiaries of a new policy against those harmed, inaction is easier.

I suppose the same problem applies in budgeting - the benefits of targeting spending may shine brighter than the collective pain of slightly hire taxes. Individual stories are easy - collective benefits are harder to see. Both matter.