Principles and Consequences

Let’s talk about something that doesn’t have anything to do with politics.  Let’s talk about principles.

A principle is a rule to inform one’s behavior, particularly when the consequences of that behavior aren’t predictable or consistent.  However, when followed, individual and societal consequences generally work out better than when they are ignored.

So, “don’t stick your finger in the electric socket” isn’t a principle under this definition, it’s simply common sense.  (Or for those of us with authority issues, “operate conditioning.”)

“Don’t accede to blackmail,” with its less predictable outcome for any specific case, would be a principle.  For instance, although it seemed reasonable to avoid economic costs and violence by paying ransoms and not arming ship crews, this policy in the shipping industry virtually created the booming Somali piracy industry.

Closer to home, years ago we observed insurance companies routinely paying up to several thousand dollars on questionable workers comp claims, on the pragmatic grounds that it was less expensive than contesting them.  Again, although this seemed to make sense in the immediate term, this substitution of spreadsheet analysis for principle resulted in a flood of nuisance claims that were much more costly in the end.

So, by ignoring a fairly common, straightforward principle because of a shortsighted focus on near term results, a completely avoidable crisis was created.

You may have correctly sensed an impending return to politics.

From the CWLP (City Water, Light and Power) website:

“Of the 628,359 MWH purchased by CWLP in 2011, 359,825 MWH was in the form of wind energy … CWLP paid $17,440,716 … for the wind energy and sold it for $5,409,741 … for a net cost to the utility of $12,030,975″

This resulted from the contracts our city leaders signed after caving into the Sierra Club’s greenmail, and will continue at least until these bogus contracts reach their expiration in the latter part of this decade.

Oddly enough, that twelve large a year probably would’ve prevented CWLP from going into technical default on their loans and we wouldn’t have been stampeded into the latest large rate increase by Mayor Houston.

That’s the thing about principles.  Unlike that electric socket, they don’t give you a sudden jolt at the moment you violate one.

Perhaps it’s too much to expect politicians to act on principle.  But maybe they could at least show some common sense, like “don’t pay someone else over twice your production cost for your core service when you’re already producing a surplus,  then sell it for a third of what you paid for it.”

I think this would be considered straightforward enough to the average citizen.  For elected officials, maybe they could make it a stretch goal.




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