Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Too much time spent on problems

Too much time spent on problems

(My CNJ column of July 1, 2011. As submitted, not as published.)

I enjoy solving problems. Not abstract puzzles as much as real-life situations, although the occasional puzzle can sometimes be fun, too. This does not mean I like having problems arise that need to be solved, or that I enjoy people who intentionally cause problems for me. Enough little things crop up spontaneously to provide ample entertainment without any help.

I recognized this personal quirk back in high school. I was at a friend's house when her mom put a package of hot dog buns in the microwave to warm. The metal twist-tie was still on the package and it burst into flame. OK, so the "flame" was like a tiny birthday candle flame, but from her reaction you would never have guessed that. While she ran in circles, wringing her hands and yelling about the fire, I simply opened the microwave and blew out the flame. Problem solved. It felt good.

This part of my nature fits well with my libertarianism. It is fun to see the liberty-respecting solution, which violates no one's rights, that others studiously ignore. It is also amusing the see the contortions that people go through trying to put objection after objection in the way of solving a problem.

Some people are very invested in, almost married to, their problems. They would prefer to complain, or at best, find a partial "solution" that creates more problems downstream than to strike at the root of the matter. They also refuse to admit that most real solutions are very simple compared to the alternatives of letting the problem grow larger, or of building a Rube Goldberg contraption, based upon more coercion and State control, that "solves" the problem in gloriously complicated and prone-to-fail ways. Different strokes for difficult folks. (note to editor: not a typo- I intended to write "difficult folks" there)

It isn't critical to me that people accept the solutions that I find either. Their problem; their life. I still get the benefit of the mental exercise that solving the problem provides. Only when the problem directly impacts me in a way I can't avoid does the solution become personal. Most of the time it is enough that I can see a way out that others haven't noticed.


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