Why does it seem as though people try to overcomplicate things? Countless times, I have heard stories from people who are frustrated by a new boss or coworker, who show up with unwanted advice on how to solve a problem. These exuberant individuals almost always overlook the experience and suggestions of those around them, attempting to solve a relatively simple problem with a complex solution. Is this merely naive exuberance?
I am required to provide receipts after adding money to my Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (METRO) card, to ensure that I am reimbursed for work travel. A simple enough task, yet when I lost a receipt, I learned a valuable lesson. Per the process, I submit a form that METRO provides listing when I used the card and when I added money to it. Additionally, I am required to keep my receipts from adding funds, and scanning and submitting them with the form. Realizing I was missing one receipt, I notified the reimbursement department and was instructed to contact METRO to get a document stating I added funds, and submit this with a bank statement showing when I added the funds. No, Karen. That sounds ridiculous. Why would I do that if the form I turn in shows exactly the amount/time I added funds to my card? Do you fear some mysterious entity added the exact same amount to my card that I always do, on one occasion?
Whether these incidents make you cringe or chuckle, there is a serious underlying principle. Complex solutions to simple problems cause more harm than good. By wasting time, energy, or resources, this small issue can turn into a larger one. The same is true of complex problems.
Although some may claim certain problems fail to be addressed due to incompetence, arrogance, or deceit, some issues require complex solutions. For instance, reforming the prison system calls for examination of the purpose: reform or punishment. On one hand, laws are created to deter behavior, not simply punish, the hope being that consequences will resonate with individuals who may attempt to break the law. However, with a high rate of recidivism, it is obvious that we are not awesome at this; therefore, some effort should be spent on rehabilitation. Moreover, one can see that addressing this issue is not simple, and requires thorough examination and consensus.
Many other complex issues face our nation. Education, health care, immigration and gun control are a few that stand as glaring areas that require our attention, and these areas all have individuals/groups that claim a simple solution is all that is required. What these expounded measures often lack is the details requisite to address these problems in a meaningful, comprehensive manner. That does not mean that every problem requires a complex solution; but, if we wish to make progress it is vital to remember that when we discuss solutions to these issues, it is salient to remember that we must fit the solution to the problem.
ZACK KRIZEL is a U.S. Air Force veteran from Utica who studies national security policy and constitutional law in Washington, D.C. He can be contacted through Managing Editor Tammie Sloup at firstname.lastname@example.org.