This was posted on “x.com” by someone whose handle I couldn’t read. The post is true to the extent that I concur with it. He wrote,
… I started the process of building 18 units for families in (desperate) need of housing. I ran into a bunch of red tape and the whole process became frustrating instead of fun. … I stopped at 3 and sat on the beach in Cancun instead.
Elon Musk commented on the post, “This is how civilizations decline. They quit taking risks… That’s why America could no longer build things like high-speed rail or rockets that go to the moon. When you’ve had success for too long, you lose the desire to take risks.’
Rules, regulations, permits, verification, taxes, guidelines, and so on, naturally impede innovation and destroy the desire to take risks and try something new. In the example above, the red tape interfered with the building of at least 15 affordable homes.
At the core of modern business models was a world of innovations based on observations, ideas, synthesis, and trials. A single observation could trigger a thought stream that could have led a person to a hypothesis. Before controls mandated that the idea needed approval from “someone above”, the person with the hypothesis would do what she could to try it out.
If the trial failed, the innovator understood that she would be responsible for the consequences. More importantly, when the idea succeeded, the innovator had increased probability that she would reap the rewards. The end result was progress. Progress itself can be the impetus for other ideas and more progress.
Past successes with oral doses of penicillin led to stronger, better antibacterial treatments with new antibiotics, injections, topical preparations, irrigations, and eye drops. There are hundreds – or even thousands – of more drugs on the market today than we had 50 years ago and we should expect that health and longevity would be better today. Oddly, all of the newness from the health industry hasn’t extended life. In fact, life expectancy in the United States is on the decline. People don’t live as long and yet they take far more medicine today than ever before. No real progress here. Just more drugs that aren’t making improvements in anything but the bank accounts of the drug making companies.
The US space program opened a myriad of doors that led to miracles that serve us in everyday life. We enjoy more music, better hearing aids, cleaner air, smarter computers, more convenient cell phones, and smart homes – just to mention a few.
Sadly, the newest version of the ubiquitous cell phone is different from its predecessor because it has a titanium case. The innards and functions are unchanged. Someone with an iPhone model 5 generations old has approximately the same abilities as the owner of the newest iPhone 15 Pro. Where has innovation at Apple gone? A new titanium case is hardly an example of progress.
Poland announced recently that they are building three new nuclear plants. How many are planned in the United States? Rules and regulations are so strict today that few – if anyone – would undertake the task of building safe nuclear power. That leaves growth in the energy sector up to the people who make the rules that impede advancement. We all see how that works.
Talking heads yammer about “new and improved”, yet the reality is just more of the same – but packaged in titanium.
What will happen to human civilization when Elon Musk throws his hands in the air and decides to “…[sit] on the beach in Cancun…” Will Tesla, Starlink, and visions of colonies on Mars persist without Musk, or just go the way of the 15 affordable houses that didn’t get built because of red tape or the iPhone 15 Pro?
Is it even possible to stop and take a step backward, to a time when our standard operating procedure resulted in progress, better living, and longer lives?