Zip Ties and Ear Plugs

A zip tie starts in an opened position. Then you connect the two ends. A zip tie can always tighten; it will never loosen.

If you want a zip tie to be loose, you will have to take special care to ensure that it never tightens. You can not fix the situation after it tightens.

Zip ties exist in politics.

The environment is a zip tie. When you do damage to the environment, it is very difficult to fix it. It is easier to make an endangered species extinct than to bring it back to life. It is much easier to fill the ocean with acid and plastic than clean the ocean. It is much easier to warm up the earth than to cool it again. It is much easier to turn a forest into a city than turn a city into a forest.

Similar to my zip tie analogy, in monetary policy there is the analogy of “pushing on a string”. It is much easier to stop people from spending money than to make them spend money. So monetary policy is example of a case with a zip tie.

Immigration is a squeeze on a zip tie. If you change the ethnic makeup of your country, there is usually no going back. In 2016, 43% of immigrants into the United States were from the Americas. We can assume that almost all of those were hispanic. Thus, the share of hispanics in the US is increasing. And even if you reduced all immigration to zero, it would not reduce the share of hispanic population in the US. There is only going one way.

I am not making a value judgement on whether a larger share of hispanics in the US is desirable. I am merely making a point about things that can only either stay the same or change in one direction.

The converse of hispanics: the share of people in the US of European ancestry is never going to increase. It is theoretically possible for Europeans to be the dominant form of immigrant again, however, that requires forces that cannot be controlled. You cannot force Europeans to immigrate. Again, I am not saying you would or would not want them to. I am merely making a point.

The opposite of a zip tie is an ear plug.

ear plug

You squeeze an ear plug to fit it in your ear, and then it gradually expands to take up space in your ear until it cannot expand any more or takes its final form.

Whereas a zip tie will never reverse to its original position when changed, an ear plug will always try to reverse to its original position when changed.

Suppose, for some reason, you want an ear plug to be in the squeezed position. To keep it squeezed between your fingers would require permanent effort.

Usually, a war on a common noun is an effort to squeeze an earplug. For instance:

“The war on drugs”

“The war on poverty”

“The war on terror”

There is no “win state” for these things. No matter how much money we spend to eliminate those things, they always crop back up.

For example, the current methods for waging the war on poverty is to give people money. With that method, there is never a point you can say, “poverty is eliminated now, so we can stop the war on poverty”. That method only works if it is ongoing. If poverty is ever eliminated permanently, it will not be through any so-called “war on poverty”.

Infrastructure is never example of an ear plug. If left alone, it will gradually crumble. To keep it working requires continual effort. It happens to be worth it, because we have decided that infrastructure is vital. But there must be the acknowledgement that it needs constant effort, and we cannot get lazy about it.

Really, this is just an expression of entropy. All things gradually crumble if left alone, just as an ear plug will gradually expand if left alone.

Consequently, a slight negativity bias is rational. To keep something in shape requires continual maintenance, because the natural order of things is to break down.

I am not here to say whether it is worth “squeezing” an earplug. I am simply saying that we should be mindful of them.

We would all be helped to be mindful of both ear plugs and zip ties in our lives.

Disappointingly, this article is not about BDSM.

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