The role of government

Is there anything in this world which works well, which is not a series of time-consuming, useless steps inherited from the before-Internet era, of endless waits to speak to someone who behaves like a robot in none of the good ways and all the bad?

I hear linear algebra.

Yes, I think that’s as good as it gets.

If I had one penny for every time I said “V like Victor” over the phone… A game-changing innovation of the unfolding millennium will be a button which, upon pressure, instantly releases all your information to wh(o/at)ever needs to know it. Instead, they now do us the favor of “safeguarding our privacy” by forcing us to enter and re-enter and re-re-renter our information; us who don’t have someone who does it in our stead.

In yet another example of adding insult to injury, much of this is cloaked under “Consumer protection.” While in fact its effect is precisely the opposite: it is to cut the consumer off the market. For example, there’s a rule that you must wait three days to close on a loan. This is supposed to help you sleep over it and think if you really want to go for it and if you can afford it. How nice of them to help us avoid rushed decisions! Obviously, sellers don’t want to deal with people subject to such delays. If one really wanted to help, the rule should be that everybody has to wait three days to complete a transaction, regardless if it’s cash or financed, so that those for whom the transaction is more significant than drinking a tea can indeed sleep over it.

More absurdities. Person A currently has loan with interest rate X. Now interests have been set to Y < X. However, A cannot refinance their loan because A does not have enough cash reserves (or some other suspicious condition). So A will be forbidden from refinancing and will be forced to keep their loan at old, unfavorable interest rate X > Y.

Question: Under which interest rate is A more likely to default?

The only possible deduction is that the lender wants A to default. You can’t say that by refinancing the lender will take a greater risk. They are just using this loophole to make more money. Wasn’t this supposed to help citizens? This situation has another name as well.

Special torture awaits serial debtors. Another loan in effect can delay processing by… months. In the meanwhile, the documents for the new loan will expire, and re-expire, and re-re-expire yet again, while the hapless debtor will be forced to continuously work to keep them up to date — similar to what happens to Sisyphus or the Danaides, but the classics weren’t perverse enough to conceive the endless task of collecting documents from disconnected websites, each with its own distinctive and rapidly-mutating user interface, each requiring a new password or dual-factor authentication at each download, each in turn disappearing and being replaced by yet another system hosted by yet another party which will require yet another type of authentication, and so on forever — do you want this money or not?

There is a (probably well-known) quote which I read in The Instinct for Cooperation : A Graphic Novel Conversation with Noam Chomsky (not a terrible read — I fittingly found it in a free exchange library and returned it to another) which stuck with me. I don’t recall it exactly (see, I shouldn’t have returned it), and I can’t find it online precisely, but it basically says that “The role of the government is to protect property from those who don’t have it.” (An online search seems to reveal that something along these lines was expressed by James Madison.) Regardless of whether it was said or not, and regardless of whether you agree with it or not, it is quite useful to keep this quote in mind, because it explains much of the world we live in.

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