Gaming the system

Each of us are born into The System, a social organization of rules and conventions developed and deployed by our fore bearers. Having been progressively adopted in the past, The System is always obsolete and in need of tinkering; the assumptions upon which The System was developed never quite match currently existing conditions, and impel society relentlessly forward in an attempt to catch up.

Because human organizations always reflect political imperatives, the rules and conventions of The System tend to favor particular groups or interests over others. And in our particular American system of social organization, the influence of moneyed interests historically has dominated all others. Lobbying of lawmakers, both locally and nationally, combined with campaign finance assistance, manipulates legislative will to its intended goal.

To counter such manipulation, competing groups and interests seek to “Game The System.” In order to overcome disadvantages they suffer or fear to suffer, they hire experts and consultants, lawyers and technical experts, who ferret out hidden opportunities in the language of laws allowing them to circumvent and avoid the rules of The System. This is the strategy of the business world, the public at large and even government itself. In other words, The System is about gaming The System.

In simplest terms, we create laws and then spend our time figuring out how to get around them. This is true of tax laws, where an army of finance professionals is poised to take advantage of every tax loophole, ambiguity, and opportunity. This is also true of land-use laws, as an equally impressive army of environmental consultants, traffic and soil engineers, architects and attorneys are regularly arrayed to find ways not to comply with the rules as written. At its extreme, gaming The System relies on courts and judges to sort out disputes and to clarify to what extent The System may or may not be gamed.

We expect government to assert the welfare of the citizens, not its own self interest as an institution, but are often disappointed; money has corrupted the decision-making of government. The continuous growth of the cost of government inclines it towards decisions favorable to the production of revenue – taxes, fees, and assessments – often associated with increased business activity. In this way, the citizen’s interests are frequently subordinated by government to the interests of business. The controversy surrounding federal rules governing the local deployment of 5G high-wave-frequency technology is a good example.

The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) was created to protect the public from foreseeable harm to the environment. Accordingly, a process exists to identify projects that should be evaluated through CEQA to determine any and all significant negative impacts. Courts have held that even a possibility of significant impacts should trigger environmental review, yet too often, government sides with project applicants in ways intended to avoid CEQA. Improper granting of exemptions, inadequate environmental studies, and poor selection of consultants are just some of the means government uses to game its own rules, to game The System. Such behavior makes even the cynical blush.

An additional element of gaming The System includes attempted intimidation of lawmakers through rumor, innuendo, hit pieces and social media, but that’s politics in the 21st century. Yet, good old-fashioned cronyism, naked appeals to sentimentality and nostalgia still own their place

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