When it comes to business, crime or health, prevention is better than cure
By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index
In all categories, from education to dentistry to business investment, a simple idiom prevails; Prevention is better than cure.
Any crisis, from homelessness to drug addiction to mass shootings and more, is much better addressed long before it happens – or at least in its very early stages – rather than in its early stages. advanced, even visible.
This basic principle is why we weed gardens early in the spring, brush our teeth when we’re young, and save money for retirement when we’re young. And why do we, if we’re smart, fix a plumbing problem when it’s just a tiny drip, long before the pipes burst and flood our homes. And that’s why we close our houses. And the cars.
A little work or care now saves us huge amounts of money and headaches later.
Virtually every problem is manageable in its early stages. From homelessness to obesity, every problem starts small – and with prompt attention can be taken care of – but if neglected over time, it can become overwhelming.
Prevention is rarely exciting
There’s nothing very motivating or inspiring about brushing your teeth or fixing those little potholes. It’s what happens when we don’t do those things that get our attention.
Rotten teeth or potholes deep enough and big enough to rip our tires off and destroy our car’s suspension catch our attention, but of course by then it’s far too late.
The trick, both on a personal and community level, is to invest early in those near-infinite, yet inexpensive, measures that facilitate, and sometimes even guarantee, minimal problems in the future.
Keeping your car tuned and changing the oil regularly will, without too much drama, keep your car running smoothly almost indefinitely.
The same principle applies to all areas of our economy and society.
How did we come here?
It would be easy to argue convincingly that almost all problems are preventable.
Every business failure, every national or even global recession, and the vast majority of automobile accidents are in fact preventable.
The slightest forethought and a small action at the right time could have made all the difference – and saved lives, livelihoods and even entire civilizations. Wars, even world wars, could have been avoided – or at least minimized by a few careful and timely decisions.
Have you ever watched a toddler do something and you know something – an injury or a broken toy will be inevitable? As adults, we can see it coming – but it’s a complete shock to the child.
Where is the adult observer when it comes to the crises that seem to surround us almost constantly?
When it comes to homeless camps, mass shootings, or economic crisis after crisis, I hear the same question – “how did we get here?”
We “got here” the same way we get anywhere; through a thousand individual and distinct steps and decisions.
We could have gone in a different direction, we could have avoided disaster – and some did. During the global recession of 2008-2009, for example, several countries with different banking laws avoided the impact of the Great Recession. Australia and Canada for example.
Another example is the plague of mass shootings across the United States.
No other nation has a similar problem.
Other nations, from Japan to Switzerland, have very different laws and policies – and very different expectations.
And these laws and policies have been in place for decades, if not longer.
For the most part, these values are rooted in those cultures – and violence and revenge seem to be rooted in ours.
Plan for tomorrow
Climate change and retirement savings work on the same principle; a few small changes or sacrifices early on could easily make a noticeable difference years or decades ago, and are far better than the major upheavals required if we do nothing.
Problems and crises, from wars to volcanic eruptions, hardly ever appear out of the blue – they usually come with plenty of warnings – over years or more.
For many reasons, we find ourselves overwhelmed by deferred maintenance in everything from road infrastructure to extreme weather conditions to dramatic increases in crime of all kinds.
Many of us saw this coming – years ago.
No political party today is known for its courage or strong vision for the future, and none of us are immune to the many repercussions of neglect that we see on the streets of our cities or in our economy in general.
Few are willing to do anything that is not an extension of what we have always done before.
And the status quo has become the first principle of too many of our leaders. The status quo, bleak as it is, from potholes to weekly school shootings, has become, for better or worse, our “normalcy”, with few or no people opposing it or dare to do anything.
But maybe some of us can make small decisions that will make the ground where the next generation will find themselves a little more welcoming,
After all, that’s what the generation that many call “the greatest generation” did; they built highways and universities, established the largest middle class the world has ever seen, and fought (literally) to preserve democracy.
This generation is also called “the builders” – they literally built most of the world we live and work in.
What will the next generation think of the world we have prepared for them?
A modest proposal
A popular advice from dentists is “Only floss the teeth you want to keep”.
Imagine a world where each of us worked to create a world, neighborhood, or political climate we would all like to live in, or politicians passed laws they lived under, like the rest of us, or corporations made products and sold at prices we all thought were fair.
It is not a radical notion. That’s what every good citizen did.
Each generation leaves its mark. How do you think the current generation will be remembered?
Like every generation, we live what we believe.
When you care and act like you care, it becomes contagious.
And when you don’t care, that too becomes contagious.
And brings us to something Plato warned us about centuries ago: “The price good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by bad men.
To paraphrase a dentist, only care about the family, neighborhood or nation you want to keep.