Sunday, September 18, 2005

Crime and Punishment

I've been seeing a lot of laundry list about what went wrong in New Orleans during and after Hurrican Katrina. Some have even suggested that nothing went "wrong", that everything happened exactly as those who run FEMA wanted it to (yes, pretty tin-foil-hat, but read it anyway, a good conspiracy theory can be laughed at, but you ignore the ideas in it at your own peril). But while a list of errors is important in establishing what went wrong, it seems to me the problem is not establishing blame. Nearly everyone, even many partisans, know who is ultimately to blame for NOLA, so the problem is making that person or people pay for their mismanagement.
Somehow, the idea needs to be gotten across that to say (after much delay), "yep, it's my fault, mea culpa, so sorry" isnt enough. You wouldnt accept empty words of apology from your kids, why do we accept them from our leaders every day!
I think we need to start pushing the idea that if our leaders are going to get the Big Rewards for their oh-so-important management skills, then they need to be slapped with Big Punishment when that management goes awry. If an Executive can get 20X the salary of the average Good Worker, then shouldnt that same Executive suffer 20X the punishment of the average Bad Worker. Establish this is idea in the mind of the general public, make it into policy, and you might be amazed at how fast workers compensation rises, and executive compensation falls.
And maybe, just maybe, if our Leaders know that Failure means Punishment (rather than a golden parachute severence package), they might just start trying to do more than line the pockets of themselves and their friends while handing out Pretty Words to placate the masses.

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