Re: ECONOMY: The Absurdity of Merchant Account Requirements

den Otter (
Sun, 6 Sep 1998 17:46:14 +0200

> From: Damien Broderick <>

> At 09:50 PM 9/5/98 +0200, the Otter wrote:
> >How I love those train/bus ticket machines, for example;
> >always ready to serve you without a murmur. If only everything were so
> >efficient...
> The electric trams in Melbourne, which were once served by friendly
> fare-collecting conductors who helped little old ladies and mothers with
> prams and somehow caused thugs and noisy children to control themselves
> just by their presence,

Nothing that onboard video surveillance combined and a swift & sure justice system wouldn't fix. A more liberal policy with regard to keeping and bearing arms would probably also help.

> The
> neatest detail is that the ticket machines have been placed along the side
> of the tram (so that users must stand side-on to the forward motion of the
> often-jolting tram) and right next to the well of the central egress,
> causing off-balance old patrons and baby-clutching mothers to tumble to
> their doom as they try to key in their choice of ticket and feed in their
> coins with one hand. Technology cannot defeat stupidity.

But it can reduce its negative effects. The good thing with technology is that a well-designed system is much more reliable than humans, which have never been designed for monotonous, robot-like tasks. People have mood swings, personal agendas, they can get sick, feel frustrated with their job (and take it out on the customers), can't work 24h a day, 7 days a week (without quickly breaking down), they can go on strike, come late to work etc. A machine simply does what it's programmed to do. Its lack of flexibility (a flaw that can be largely compensated by smart design) is only a relatively minor problem compared to its many advantages.

> (And of course,
> without the human conductors roaming up and down the tram and catching
> their eye, most travellers simply avoid buying or validating their tickets;
> tragedy of the commons, again. There is a squad of inspectors, but as a
> kid told me the other day, `There's heaps of strategies'...)

Smarter machine design, ubiquitous surveillance and a firm justice system would ensure that only a handful of "supercriminals" could get away with it. The rest would either start to behave or go to jail ....which would mean that the cops could soon focus all their attention on the few remaining bad guys, and deal with them. This effect would be further enhanced by the legalization of victimless crime, which means there would be a lot less criminals to begin with. It may sound "statist" or "cynical" to some, but at least it would actually work. And, last but not least, it would honor the rational principles of maximal personal freedom and responsibility for one's actions.