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The Federalist Diaries


Is Everyone “LOCO”?, Part 2

Now that we have exceeded so many of our limits -- personal, emotional, relational, physical, financial -- we have no margin at all.  Yet because we don't even know what margin is, we don't realize it is gone. We know that something is not right, but we can't solve the puzzle beyond that.  Our pain is palpable, but our assailant remains unnamed."
-- Richard A. Swenson, M.D., American physician, author, educator

   In part 1 about “LOCO”, “Limits on Constructive Output”, it was said that our lives were too complex for us to make the right decisions all the time.  We left off with questions:  are we taking the wrong action?  Are we punishing and rewarding idealistically, as our Constitution and laws would have it, or, realistically, as LOCO would have it?  Is there a better way to deal with LOCO than what we have been doing?

   Perhaps a lesson from a different field would be illuminating.  I turn the clock back to Economics 101 at Cal State Fullerton, the spring of 1978.  Our professor stated that, as employee pay increased, employee productivity did not increase proportionately.  In other words, we should not think that an increase in pay would lead to an equal increase in productivity.

   The point?  If we look to professional training for teachers and police officers, we have to ask ourselves at which point such training would become unproductive, regardless of any pay bonus which might be attached to the completion of such training.  To assume that we humans have unlimited capacity to absorb, retain, and apply new information in order to successfully handle ever diverse situations is to assume too much, is to contradict science and human experience.  We let our idealism and optimism overwhelm reason and logic.

   If we agree that LOCO does exist, that there is a limit to human capacity, then a logical conclusion is that, when a police department be sued for over $100,000,000, as happened in the late Nineties during the Rampart division scandal of the Los Angeles Police Department, the city attorney should defend the department on the basis of LOCO and the judge and jury should accept such a defense as valid.  This is not to say that victims should not receive restitution in that and other cases.  They should.  However, LOCO says that punitive damages would be ineffectual and, also, would be diverting funds from municipal priorities.

   Occasionally, a teacher does something which we consider unacceptable, bizarre or even shocking.  More than once a teacher has been chastised for taping the mouth of an unruly pupil.  Many teachers go in the other direction, internalizing their frustration or detaching themselves from the pupils.  For us to think that, by increasing teacher pay or training, we would draw highly qualified individuals away from other industries is not just wishful thinking, but illogical, as LOCO would tell us that the diversity of pupils in the classroom would be forever challenging, such that a solution other than increased teacher pay or additional professional training should be considered if our intent is to better prepare youth academically for college, career, and community.

   The challenges of law enforcement and pedagogy are but the tip of the iceberg with regard to LOCO.  LOCO permeates and pervades civilization, which means that each of us is affected. As Dr. Swenson notes in the above quote, we have not been able to identify the culprit, that is, the causes of LOCO.  Without identification, we cannot find an effective solution.

   Who or what is the culprit?  When we learn that, what might the solution be? 

February 22, 2007






























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