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It is the season for spooky stories from another time and place and truly, what is spookier than the truth of our own government? If I had life to do over again, I think I may have chosen to indoctrinate my kids much better and told them scary bedtime tales of massive government incompetence. Alas, somewhere between the smallpox blankets, thalidomide babies, and forced lobotomies, I would have totally traumatized them.

In Portland, Oregon there are some underground tunnels, the Shanghai tunnels, once used to lop men over the head and sell them off as sailors on ships to China. “A one way ticket to China” is not just a casual saying, it has roots in the truth of our history. My own town has a similar version of underground tunnels used to smuggle hapless people and illicit goods.

Seattle is also a city upon a city so many times over due to fires and earthquakes, we could probably credit Seattle with giving us the very notion of a, “criminal underground” in the first place. It was once so bad, so many murders, the political class could not find the manpower to collect all the bodies themselves. In their vastly superior wisdom, they decided to just offer anyone willing to retrieve bodies and bring them to the morgue, 25 dollars a pop.

I probably don’t need to tell you what happened next. Twenty five dollars was a lot of money in those days and rather than traipsing through the dangerous underground and retrieving someone unpleasant and potentially decayed, you could just bump off someone fresh, topside, and sell their remains to the morgue for a profit, no one the wiser.

In finance, in business, in insurance we would call this sort of thing a, “moral hazard.” Moral hazards are fascinating and complex, it’s a term that originated in the 1700’s. “Moral” in this context is more akin to “subjective,” as in cause and effect, the immorality of manipulating other people’s morals. Were it not for the Gov of Seattle offering that 25 dollar bounty on dead body collection, there would have been no incentive to murder people just to collect your morgue ticket. So in essence those polices issued by the Gov of the day were actually murderous. Innocent people died because of their bureaucratic “solutions.”

Bureaucratic solutions in the name of protecting public health, of course.

Not much has changed over the years. We are still governed by the law of unintended consequences, never quite able to discern if our leaders are just stupid or deliberately evil. I’m fairly certain if I had been on the Committee to Clean the Streets and Retrieve the Dead, I would have spotted the potential moral hazard lurking behind the idea of a morgue bounty and pointed it out. Also, I would have been promptly silenced, violently if necessary. You just can’t fight city hall.

I’m often fascinated by history and while hindsight certainly gives you 20/20 vision, I sometimes like to ponder the moral issues involved with assorted behaviors of the past. It’s a marvelous diversion from the moral issues of the present. So who is really accountable, who is responsible for this behavior? While we are all autonomous and the Lord is certainly not going to look at me and go, Well of course you bumped off that drug dealer who kept trampling your dahlias, there was a morgue lottery! Perfectly understandable. What choice did you even have? Just the same, I don’t think He would tell the politicians of the day, Hey, it totally wasn’t your fault, you had no idea what the outcome was going to be. You can’t be held accountable for what people chose to do!

Maybe it’s just me, but I happen to believe satan himself is probably sitting in a committee meeting somewhere right now, gleefully waiting to subject us all to some ridiculous bit of dehumanizing red tape sure to create a massive moral hazard. Or perhaps that’s just my Governor. Hard to tell the difference anymore.

Chuckling here, but God is so NOT the author of confusion, that would be the enemy. The Lord brings order to our chaos, light to our darkness, clarity to our confusion. Something that fascinates me about these historical tales is how virtuous everyone’s evil was thought to be at the time. Of course I have no way of truly knowing what people thought, but the fake news of the day simply reports on the sheer goodness of city leader’s “innovative solutions” and the “magnanimous humanitarian” efforts being shown by average joes all working together to clean up the streets, protect public health, and improve the environment, by murdering people to collect a 25 dollar bounty.

The only lesson one can glean from all this is that people by nature are totally depraved and that government ruins everything. Therefore one would be wise to never look to the government for solutions, and to keep it’s influence as small and non invasive as possible.