There is an old saying that if all you have is a hammer, all problems look like nails; so, those who use only hammers can wind up in trouble if the problem in question is something on the order of a Tiffany lamp or Steuben crystal. This analogy gets used a lot, and is certainly not the unique invention of this blogger. In fact, the analogy is so common as to have achieved the status of a cliché, or at least a truism.

Analogies are easily understood by most of us, but often are imperfectly applied: many of us try to use our “hammer” of choice when it is not the right tool for the job at hand. A few examples from our current situation:

[1] Tax cuts: the hammer of Norquist (and many others, in America and elsewhere), and one that has become an almost deity-like figure to its adherents. Mr. Blunt and Cranky loves tax cuts, but has seen how they can trash a budget like a sledgehammer on a raw egg if applied indiscriminately.

[2] Deregulation: on the one hand, carefully applied deregulation helped to bring air travel to millions who could never have afforded it back in the days of government-enabled restrictions. On the other, indiscriminately applied deregulation helped to crash much of the world’s economy in the 20th and 21st centuries.

[3] Privatization: has made a lot of sense and saved the taxpayers some serious green and folding in some areas. In others (elections, for examples), it has resulted in the abdication of the government’s responsibilities and the quiet handover of power from the citizenry to private industry.

Nor are the opposites always the right tools: tax hikes, regulation, and government control can really toss a horse apple into the punch bowl if used without careful thought and balance. Once upon a time, a majority of politicians tempered their ideologies with practicalities to work towards that balance.

Nowadays, a large number of elected officials lean heavily on their ideology, using the single tool that it prescribes regardless of the observed consequences of said usage. A lot of stuff (and people) have been broken, and many messes have been made and not cleaned up because of this blinkeredness on the part of politicos and the public.

The “unregulated free market” hammer put one of this writer’s family members into a coma recently; other hammers have damaged many other people and places over the years. Let’s crack the lid on our tool boxes wide open, and use whatever tool best solves the problem; because using whatever single tool we think should work for everything clearly isn’t getting the job done.

Mr. B & C