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As Long as We Remember...

December 20, 2010

Ideas Whose Time Has Come

Shawn Burns

Sometimes ideas seem to appear out of thin air. Other times ideas are nurtured and developed over long periods of time. Regardless of how ideas come about, they are essential to our existence. Of course, with those ideas, we are also faced with their positive and negative consequences.


H.G. Wells once said that our history is a history of ideas. I suppose we would be still living in caves, or maybe we would be extinct if it wasn’t for our capacity to develop ideas.


Ideas we now consider simple were revolutionary when they were first put into action. Ideas such as developing the capacity to start fires at will, domesticating livestock, and harnessing the power of electricity, doctors washing their hands before performing surgery, and many, many more, were all history changing ideas.


During World War II, while we were busy at Los Alamos trying to beat the Nazis with the crazy idea of atomic weapons, some of our brilliant scientists had another crazy idea. Before the first test of the atomic bomb in the desert, these men had an idea that once the bomb was detonated that it could possibly ignite the atmosphere and incinerate the entire planet. Talk about a crazy idea.


Now, as we all know, they did test the atomic bomb, and that the atmosphere didn’t catch on fire and destroy the entire planet. But what an idea. I’m glad I wasn’t a part of those debates. That idea would have scared me right out of the room. “An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all,” said Oscar Wilde. Okay, Oscar, I get your point, but do ideas have to be as dangerous as this one?


Last week I heard an idea I’d like to see put into action. I read an editorial in The Washington Post about the millions upon millions of laws that have been passed by Congress through the years. The idea is that we should put a shelf life on every law passed in Congress so that at some point in the future the law will expire.


The idea is that we literally have millions of laws on the books and that many of them are outdated, ineffective or just plain stupid; and, by having an expiration date, our lawmakers would be forced to review and justify the continuation of each law.


Just because it’s a law doesn’t mean it’s a good idea today. Our lawmakers act as if our laws are set in stone like the Ten Commandments. Well, they aren’t. Or at least they shouldn’t be.


An expiration date and review process for laws is an idea that should be put into action. Talk about a great way to get rid of and reduce federal bureaucracy. I bet the elimination of some of our old laws would even help reduce the size of the federal government. And who isn’t for that?


Dee Hock said, “The problem is never how to get new, innovative thoughts into your mind, but how to get old ones out.” Let’s clear out the old ones. Out with the old, in with the new.


As a bonus of having laws expire, we, they taxpayers, would force our federal lawmakers to actually earn more of their $177,000 annual salaries.


“Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people,” Eleanor Roosevelt said. I guess I’d better stop talking about those lawmakers.


One last idea.


“An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:9-12


Regardless of what we each believe, or don’t believe, regardless of which religious path we follow, how about we all nurture the idea of the great joy, peace, love and happiness that Christmas represents?


Merry Christmas to all, and to all a goodnight.


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