Users Unite!

Back in the 1970’s, economists were very interested in understanding the behavior of “consumers”.  I know that because they tried to force me to study consumer behavior as well! Like any sane individual, I rebelled. But I suspect that they hey are still at it! Their hope is that if they can penetrate the decision-making process that causes people to make purchases, they can better understand how to add value through those transactions. They can make predictions that can guide policy.

There is a problem with this way of thinking. The problem is that looking at transactions focuses attention on ad hoc behavior. We do transactions because we are users of various systems. So it is much more effective to study how to make user experiences better than to improve any single transaction within those user experiences.

This is especially true for services and law is one such service. We are all users of the legal system in all sorts of ways. The problem is that the folks who make laws ASSUME BUT DO NOT KNOW what we, as users, need from the systems to make them work. So we get lots of crappy rules. We call these crazy rules, “red tape”.

A certain sub-group of humanity who call themselves conservatives,   have made it their life mission to get rid of red tape.  They prefer no rules to crazy rules. And they cling to the hope that by reducing the number of rules, humans will be compelled to act more rationally and proactively than be submissive dullards. Hmmm … there is some surface logic there.

But this could be done better. What if conservatives devoted themselves to making rules MORE USABLE.  In other words, find ways to make rules easier and simpler to use rather than just take a meat cleaver to all of them.

Impossible? Well, that might have been true before digital technology was invented. But using digital technology, we can get accurate feedback from rule testing.  In other words, we can make rules work. Not only that, we can continuously improve the effectiveness of rules as we test their effectiveness over time. Which, btw, would enable us to more effectively get rid of red tape — rules that have no real purpose.

I tall makes perfect sense. Which is why it is so difficult to make it happen.


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