Guiding principles ‚€” Looking toward our future.

  • First, do no harm.
    ‚€œDeclare the past, diagnose the present, foretell the future; practice these acts. As to diseases, make a habit of two things ‚€” to help, or at least to do no harm.‚€? ‚€” from the ancient Greek physician, Hippocrates
    When facing a problem, it's all to easy to ‚€œtry things out‚€?. Government policy and law has serious consequences.

  • People ‚€”all of them‚€” are what's important.
    He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, ‚€œTruly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.‚€?

    And while some were speaking of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, he said, ‚€œAs for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.‚€? ‚€” Luke 21:1-6

    Shenandoah County has many people who are materially poor, but live full, wonderful lives; people who contribute immeasurably to our culture. Policy and law must be fair and humane to people of every income level.

  • Everything has unintended consequences;
  • and Anything that can go wrong, will.

    The Law of Unintended Consequences, in medicine called side effects, is always present in government policy. Combined with Murphy‚€™s Law it produces perverse incentives: policies having the opposite effect intended.

    Not all unintended consequences are negative. The positive unintended consequence of self-interest produces America's enormous material wealth: Capitalism

    ‚€œIt is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we can expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.‚€?

    ‚€œBy directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of greatest value, he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention.‚€? ‚€” Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations (1776)

    It's ironic that the free enterprise system, rooted in selfishness, is the most productive supplier of human needs and economic justice the world has ever seen.

    Negative examples abound: 1920s Prohibition drove small distillers out of business and gave control of alcohol to organized crime. Rent control reduces construction of new apartments. Reducing taxes can raise government revenue; and visa-versa.

    Unintended consequences never be totally avoided. the world's too complex to predict all possible effects of a policy, but they can be reduced. Reviewing ideas for possible inverse effects can avoid that trap. With ‚€˜hot-button‚€™ issues people are often ready to overlook negative side effects trying to get a one result.

  • Don't be afraid, we could always do worse.

    There's a solid string of failures in managing growth from Fairfax to Prince William, Loudoun, and Frederick. I joke that spreading Jello¬ģ on the ground would work better than copying their ordinances. Sounds sort of kooky, huh?

    One of the definitions of insanity is repeating the same action over and over; expecting to get different results. It makes no difference how serious you look when passing an ordinance; it‚€™s insane to repeat known failures.

    The next time a Supervisor comes up with a strange suggestion, think about how absurd it really is.

These aren't ironclad, black-or-white laws; they are guides that I've found. These, more than others, are the rules to make policy and ordinances by, and minimize the need for hindsight or cleanup.