COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | ROGER BROWN

Filner’s Law leads to spinning out of control

A recursive process is a series in which each computed result is subject to the same formula as the prior result. A simple example would be if (don’t ask why) you agreed to pay someone else's income tax, levied at rate q, arising from some event.

As your initial payment of the tax on the precipitating event would, itself, also be taxable, your obligation increases by the tax, again at q, on that payment, which when paid is again income, incurring more tax and increasing your obligation further. If tax rate q is less than 100 percent, this results in ever smaller values with each successive calculation, eventually approaching zero.

Fascinated as I am with futile attempts of the laws of man to repeal or oppose mathematical laws of nature, it occurs to me that California’s Assembly Bill 1825 (2004, Reyes) represents part of a recursive process. AB 1825 is Bob Filner latest defense.

Apparently we have a law in California that “…require[s] each employer to provide sexual harassment training and education to each supervisory employee once every two years…” The repeating part is my favorite. How does this knowledge wear off?

Filner the Feeler contends that the City of San Diego failed to provide training mandated by law, thus the City is liable for any monetary damages caused by his inserting various body parts into the clothing and elsewhere of his fellow employees. After picking myself up off the floor, I realized this is no laughing matter.

Economists are interested in wealth transfers. We want to know who is getting to whom. If wealth transfers occur voluntarily, via trading, we assume that each party acted rationally in his own best interest and society is improved as both are better off after the transaction. When wealth transfers are forced, the parties are not doing what they want to do, and after the transaction, society is worse off.

Return again to a recursive process. The tax example makes it easy to understand. But recursive processes can go the other way. Imagine that rate q is more than 1. Rather than approaching zero, the series explodes to infinity. This is the math behind the term “spinning out of control.”

Whether reducing to nothing or exploding, taken to the limit a recursive process involving multiplication does not lead to a happy outcome. Society does not enjoy such convulsions. Thus, Filner Failures and things like them bring us all down.

Regarding Bully Bob, I am not focused on his specific acts, which if true are bad enough. I am interested in the ramifications of many laws in the nature of AB 1825. Litigating Robert’s Law is a tax on people with good manners. We pay dearly to have two expensive lawyers discuss this with yet another taxpayer-supported lawyer who happened to know a governor and became a judge.

This waste is colossal when multiplied through the system by a number of other, similarly ridiculous laws. The aggregate constitutes a heavy burden imposed by the disease of Legislative Ignoramus affecting elected representatives.

If someone at the dinner table is eating peas with their knife the solution is not pass a law but to stop inviting troglodytes to dinner. Is it necessary to point out that electing cretins to public office is also a bad idea? Has the intelligence of the body politic dropped so low that they can no longer recognize knuckle draggers? More likely, the voting populace, hungry for pettifoggers willing to pick someone else’s pocket to fund their welfare checks, has run out of genteel alternatives.

Taking AB 1825 as a special case of a general disease, we easily imagine a number of interrelated bad outcomes. All of these types of laws involve fuzzy logic and equally fuzzy language creating grist for the litigation mill and a wealth transfer from taxpayers to lawyers.

Paying money to argue about absurd laws diverts resources from other needs. Silly disputes clog the courts and increase the length of the line outside the courthouse door. Some in that line have more pressing matters.

Electing puerile candidates like Raunchy Robert threatens all of society. Being a nation of laws is a good thing only if those laws are sound; the alternative is a mathematically certain death spiral with dumb laws at the vortex. Maybe we need a law requiring all politicians to go through extensive toilet training before they can file papers to enter a political race.

In a recursive process, the speed at which disaster approaches is determined by the size of q. Filner Filth raises the value of q for all of us.

Brown is an investor and freelance writer residing in Alpine.

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