One size fits all

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One size fits all is a category that was commonly assigned to garments issued as uniforms.  It has migrated from uniforms to an effort at a blanket of uniformity.  It is perhaps a natural state of the human condition to seek one universal solution to our problems. If there is one simple solution to an issue that will work for everyone in every circumstance then it of course makes sense to employ it. Wherever such a panacea may exist it has surely been placed into common use. I may be trying too hard and thus not able to come up with a good example. I suppose we could apply this to something so elementary as say avoiding burns.  If one wants to prevent suffering burns to one’s flesh there is a universal measure of protection against this. Do not stick your hands or other parts of your body into open flames, upon griddles or in the path of blowtorches. Avoid physical contact with sources of thermal energy. Simple enough. There is, however, the unfortunate fact that many of our concerns are not so simple as this. In those instances the universal approach is practically speaking unattainable. Given that fact one must accept that the quest is futile.  And yet we persevere….
If you suffer from some ailment that is the result of your own behavior or life choices do not despair. There is no need to change your habits. There is now a pill or other form of medication to fix the problem.  If schools seem to be failing to deliver a sufficient level of education fear not! A universal testing standard for all will insure that no child is left behind. If there is a scourge of drug abuse in your society then surely the enactment of universal and mandatory sentencing of offenders will stem that tide. And should you fall prey to some catastrophic attack as a result of a lack of security procedures in commercial air travel well rest easy, friend.  A system, administered by your wise and benign federal government, will be implemented whereby each and every individual boarding an aircraft will be subjected to the most stringent scrutiny of their belongings and persons. There! Problem solved!
All of these examples are pretty complex and serious, life impacting issues for most if not all of us. The one size fits all strategy plainly does not fully or effectively address the concerns. Not all problems are simple thus nor are the answers to said problems.  For some reason this seems to elude our understanding, or at least the understanding of those empowered or entrusted to find and apply the solutions. To be fair a good deal of the responsibility for this may rest upon our own shoulders.  Many of us seem to gravitate to those who will promise us the one size fits all solution.  It absolves us of the need to give these issues any further thought. What’s the point of a serious and careful review of these proposals to determine their real efficacy? If it sounds good and can be explained in a 10 second sound byte then that’s good enough. We all have more important matters with which to concern ourselves.
If one relies upon the major media outlets another burning issue these days is income inequality. There could be a lengthy debate as to the degree and the reasons for this, but examining some statistics it can be concluded that there are many more Americans in poverty these days. There are record numbers of people receiving some form of public assistance. Median income and net worth per capita has been in a downward trajectory for nearly a decade.  The workforce participation rate has dipped to it’s lowest point in our nation’s history. These are not issues of income inequality: there will always be income inequality.  They are disturbing statistics nonetheless. The underlying tenet of the income inequality argument assumes that a dynamic economy is a zero sum game. That is to say that it assumes that there are only finite pieces to the economic pie. If there are those who have less it can only be because others have taken more than their rightful share of that pie. I’m not accepting the premise, merely explaining the argument. It is yet another example of the divisive politics of envy, or class warfare as it is often tagged.
This leads me to an example where we find two tactics employed in one proposal.  In an uncharacteristic concern for fiscal controls there are provisions either proposed or already enacted in various jurisdictions to compel welfare recipients to be subject to drug testing. There is the concern, valid in many instances to be sure, that there may be those on the public dole who are engaging in drug abuse at the taxpayer’s expense. The mandatory submission to drug testing for all recipients is the one size fits all solution to the problem, while it is also a further effort to fan the flames of class warfare. I have a friend who responded to this idea in a manner that illustrates the latter. “I have to be tested where I work. Why shouldn’t they?” That is a predictable reaction, no doubt taken into account as a political calculation by those behind such legislation. Not to argue the point, mind you.  It is surely a legitimate question, but I believe the wrong question.  The question should be “ Why should you have to submit to drug testing at your job?”
There is a definite distinction between drug use and drug abuse, one that is often missed.  In the attempt to craft a one size fits all solution this is certainly true.  Drug abuse in the workplace is a valid concern. It increases the risk to safety in the workplace, for employees and patrons alike. It also further exposes the employer to liability.  Private companies can make the valid legal argument that as private companies they are within their rights to make such conditions. Most of us can readily agree, however, that legality does not necessarily equate to that which is wise or right. One of those bothersome grey areas that does not lend itself to the universal answer, I’m afraid. The same problem exists in this approach for both workplace testing and for the welfare recipient.
The concern in the workplace test is to insure that an employee is not impaired and creating a safety hazard while they are at work. What that person does on their own time is their own business. The testing metric for THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, only identifies whether or not the subject has the chemical in their system.  It can not be an accurate measure of whether or not the subject is impaired while at work. In weighing this each case needs to be judged upon it’s own unique merits. This is no less true for the welfare recipient.
What these one size fits all proposals suggest is that if a welfare recipient tests positive for marijuana use their benefits be suspended. Now if you are on public assistance you really shouldn’t be spending your limited resources on dope. There is no one paying for or subsidizing my habits. I don’t want my pockets picked to fund yours. The problem here is that the policy assumes too much based upon too little.  Someone on welfare might have friends who do work for a living and who have decided to share some of their stash. If the welfare recipient smokes up a little with some friends one evening it does not instantly qualify them as a drug abuser. Now if you want to examine the habits of welfare recipients individually, using some metric other than a urine or blood test I have no issue with that. If upon a fair and careful examination it can be learned that the beneficiary of public dollars has a serious drug addiction and is abusing both drugs and the public welfare system then sure! We all should not be paying for this. Let the individual suffer from the laws of natural consequences. What will happen with them is what happens with any drug abuser ultimately, whether on assistance or not. They will get treatment and beat the addiction or they will end up homeless and/or dead.
Instead of concerning ourselves with the recreational choices of welfare recipients we should really be asking why are these people in these circumstances to begin with. In some cases it may well be because of a drug problem, but one lab test alone does not assure that is the case.  I can craft my own arguments, but the realm of the arts is so rich with illustrations  I’m always pleased to include them in any debate.  I have for the past decade or so been a fan of the indie music scene.  One act that I have come to enjoy is a band who call themselves The Andrew Jackson Jihad and I will close by quoting a verse from one of their songs.
If I had a cigarette for every time a perfect stranger asked me for a cigarette
Then I’d have enough cigarettes to get me through the day
And if I had some spare change for every time a perfect stranger asked me for some spare change
Then I’d have enough spare change to take care of these bills I need to pay
And dude I know that times are tough
But that does not mean that you can have my stuff……
….. ‘cause I think you deserve much more than a smoke and fifty cents
You deserve to be self sufficient and buy your own cigarettes


opher goodwin Added Jul 11, 2017 - 2:58pm
As a Headteacher and Head of Pastoral Care (dealing with recalcitrant students and their parents) it was obvious that one size did not fit all. Every child had to be treated differently. The reasons for bad behaviour were many. They had to be teased out and addressed. A standard punishment system resulted in displacement behaviour and worse problems.
Leroy Added Jul 11, 2017 - 3:07pm
I've always hated random drug tests.  I am serious about my job.  I resent having to take half a day to deal with all the nonsense.  If they want to test me, fine; come to me and clip off a hair sample and be done with it.  But, no.  You have to sign forms absolving the company and the testing firm of all liability.  I refused.  Well, I didn't exactly refuse.  I've learned never to refuse.  I struck out parts I didn't agree with the first time.  No one noticed.  The next time, the way it was structured, I had to sign it, but I wrote by my signature that I was signing under threat of losing my job.  I got called on that one.  I made it clear that if there was a false positive, I was going to sue the crap out of someone.  Ultimately, I signed so it could go through.  I also signed another document with the company where it acknowledged that it was being signed under duress.  The next time around, the clause had been taken out and I didn't have a problem signing it.
If would seem the government has the upper hand if it requires a drug test.  There may be no recourse.  Or, it might be incumbent on the one tested to prove his innocence.  One has to have the money to have another test done and a lawyer to present the case.  Even though they are on welfare, we still should treat people with dignity.  If they get arrested in possession of drugs, that is a different story.
In an industrial setting, I have seen many times the attempt to design one size fits all solutions.  There was an attempt to standardize on the widths of conveyors.  That means that the widest conveyors are always used.  I was charged with putting a system in an old plant.  Narrow conveyors were used everywhere.  There was no possibility of ever manufacturing wider products.  We didn't have room for wider conveyors.   We had narrow conveyor above and below, so we couldn't mount above or hang below.   We had an international meeting with 20 people to work it out.  We all decided that we must use narrow conveyors.  I called the big bosses but none were available.  I made the command decision to go with narrow conveyors.  When the bosses found out, I was threatened with termination.  The head idiot wasn't my boss.  I just laughed at him, but that is how serious it was.  I'm all for standardization when it makes sense.
opher goodwin Added Jul 11, 2017 - 3:15pm
Sometimes it makes sense - I do get pissed with every car part being specific to a particular model in a particular year. Standardisation can be good in some things.
Dino Manalis Added Jul 11, 2017 - 5:08pm
Unfortunately, problems are complex; expensive; and not easily solved!
opher goodwin Added Jul 12, 2017 - 3:51am
Some are easier than others!
The Burghal Hidage Added Jul 12, 2017 - 9:49am
Opher -
The climate change crusader drives a car! I am shocked! A hybrid no doubt?
Not trying to yank your chain friend... I just had to share that initial impression. I actually do share your frustration in this, but I understand why it is so.
Since you've taken it that direction....
I have never been, like so many men, bitten by "the car bug". Just never had that much enthusiasm for it. Ive always viewed in a practical fashion; a neccessary evil and a source of ongoing expense. Nice lines or flash do nothing for me. With that said I have always been a Ford man. They have been reliable, I've had good luck with them.
Mr. Ford's original was a good example of a practical and useful standardization. For decades it was said if Ford cars " you can get one in any color as long as it's black". My first car was a 73 Ford Maverick. It was the car for the shade tree mechanic. It had a straight six engine and unless you got into the transmission I could perform any repairs needed on my own.
I just want a reliable vehicle to get around in. I dont want all the other stuff they put on them now. Its just more things to go wrong.
The Burghal Hidage Added Jul 12, 2017 - 9:51am
Truth be told I'd rather have a horse!
The Burghal Hidage Added Jul 12, 2017 - 9:58am
Leroy -
In my past life I had occasion to do a fair amount of business in the industrial setting. I remember in the late 90s early 2000s there was the ISO-9000 craze that took hold. One of my long time customers was wrestling with the implementation at his facility and he came up with the most apt description of ISO: " all it means is that all of your paperwork is in order and if you build shit you at least build shit consistently."
I think a lot of the one size fits all phenomenon is the direct result of groupthink.
Ian Thorpe Added Jul 12, 2017 - 2:03pm
Bughhal, had to smile at the ISO9000 (the total quality management standard wasn't it?) story. In IT we used to joke that if somebody had a bit of paper saying a job had been don properly, that was proof beyond question that the job had ben done properly.
The Burghal Hidage Added Jul 12, 2017 - 2:14pm
You are correct.  I suspect it was yet another case of reinvention in order to justify someone's existence within an organization. Calling a sow's ear a silk purse
Leroy Added Jul 12, 2017 - 4:33pm
Ian, in the early nineties, there was the concept of doing it right the first time.  Makes sense.  In the US, it meant you were responsible for it being done correctly before being passed to the next stage.  In France, it was interpreted as being done right the first time.  Whatever design came out of your head was done right.  You could not change correct a design mistake.  If you did correct a mistake, you were penalized for not doing it right the first time.  So, everyone kept a notebook with all the problems so the next time they installed the equipment, they knew what to correct.  You never, ever corrected the design.
Stone-Eater Added Jul 12, 2017 - 4:55pm
So simple beings making everything so complicated in order to appear special.
Like when I buy a gadget. The box is BIG and the content small. And the use of the content makes me even smaller because I don't understand the BIG which is within the small ;-)
Phil Greenough Added Jul 12, 2017 - 4:55pm
“What these one size fits all proposals suggest is that if a welfare recipient tests positive for marijuana use their benefits be suspended.”
What if the person is on welfare and has three kids to feed.  Will you suspend this person’s benefits?
The Burghal Hidage Added Jul 12, 2017 - 5:14pm
I would not, but by the same token I wouldn't allow the situation to go on indefinitely. Get a job. Get two jobs if you have to. Yes it will be difficult. That is part of the natural consequence for your own decisions. No one made you have three kids that you are unable to support. If it is a person who arrived in that condition through no fault of their own I strongly suspect they are not going to be content to remain on the dole.  I don't believe in making the kids suffer. If it is a condition that the person is unwilling or unable to correct then the best thing for the kids is foster care until that person can get themselves right. Not administered by the state. It's fine for state funding to go to help support these programs ( foster care ), but leave it to private parties to provide the care. The money is better spent supporting the foster care program than it is being perpetually shovelled on top of direct welfare benefits.
Again I say, though, a suspension based on a positive screen on a random test is not in itself sufficient grounds.  I'm not speaking in favor of the policy, but I'm not speaking in favor of prolonged benefits either.
Even A Broken Clock Added Jul 12, 2017 - 8:28pm
Burghal - your name made me look up the origins of your avatar's namesake. Good one.
I worked in a chemical plant for nearly 40 years. Beginning in the 1990's I became subject to drug testing. In the case where there is a risk of public safety, then yes, drug testing should be done. Your point about marijuana residue in the human fat tissue (and therefore in excreted wastes) is good - presence of a substance does not indicate intoxication from the same substance. Yet the one size fits all prescription finally got to me. The last year I was at the plant, I got called in yet again for a urinalysis and breath test. I had worked at the plant, but had corporate responsibilities, and my office was merely an office of convenience. I could not affect operations at my plant. But one size fits all. Since I was within the plant boundaries, I had to comply. I blew up at the person who called me to come in, and was duly visited later by a manager from the site for my indiscretion and potentially creating a hostile work environment. One of the factors that led me to take early retirement.
PS - over my career, I worked with some really nasty chemicals. Things like hydrogen and sodium cyanide, 70% hydrogen peroxide, methacrylic acid, acetone cyanohydrin, liquid sulfur dioxide. So yes, you would not want drug impaired people to be in a position to screw things up.
Katharine Otto Added Jul 12, 2017 - 10:28pm
I believe drug testing is a major human rights violation, unless there is a reason to suspect.  That people are so complacent about it only allows the process to continue without challenge.  False positives are frequent enough, and they are nigh impossible to remove from records.
Our society is so screwed up about drugs anyway that I have to think the drug testing scam was instituted by laboratories looking for business.  Drugs that might make a person fail a drug test are frequently prescribed medications, like opoids, benzodiazepines, and amphetamines.  Does it make a difference if you have the correct diagnosis and a prescription?  You can be just as impaired (or not) with prescribed meds. 
The Burghal Hidage Added Jul 13, 2017 - 8:44am
Kat -
Hope you don't mind that abbreviation BTW...
I have written on this subject before in another forum. Our drug laws are hopelessly hypocritical and antiquated. Now tobacco and alcohol? Why they're fine! Big industry = Big money
Big money = Big lobby = Big campaign contributions
And thus are these, two of the most destructive substances, legitimized. Not to mention a huge source of revenue.
Despite it's repeal there was apparently no lesson learned from the prohibition.
Leroy Added Jul 13, 2017 - 8:57am
I agree with the Doc.  What bugs me is when they force you to sign a document absolving them of any liability if they screw your life up.
Robin the red breasted songster Added Jul 13, 2017 - 9:33am
I was interested to learn that, in Dubai, there is excellent health care available to all.   However in exchange, alcohol purchase is subject to a licence with all purchases being reported to your employer.  You are also required to go to a gym regularly and take part in at least two competitive sporting events per year.
Big brother and too heavy handed?   Or a sensible social contract?
The Burghal Hidage Added Jul 13, 2017 - 10:11am
I prefer to be left to make my own choices. If you offer me the carrot and stick approach I'll tell you where to stick both of them
Nancy E Head Added Jul 13, 2017 - 1:54pm
Warehouse schools try to make cookie cutter people, but they just seem to cause more wounds. 
Don't be so hard on the poor guy asking for fifty cents or a cigarette. You haven't walked a mile in his shoes. Not suggesting universal handouts. Just a hand up instead of us just walking away.
The Burghal Hidage Added Jul 13, 2017 - 3:00pm
Its funny you should say that. You might be interested to learn that the same song ends with the lines:
I wish I had a cigarette for every time a perfect stranger asks me for a cigarette
But I wonder what a cigarette will really do to help that person out?
And I wish to god I had some spare change every time a perfect stranger asks me for some spare change
But theres not enough spare change in the world to make such an empty gesture count
Eileen de Bruin Added Jul 15, 2017 - 7:28am
If a one size fits all approach would be a blanket approach, which it sometimes is, then it does mean that many fall outside of its bell curve. 
In industrial settings, the ISO9000 joke was, indeed, another reason for another organisation and certification of what could be useless practices.  But, in itself, it perhaps helped to form a recognised overview of what it is. It could have helped many people take out some superfluous practices and to thoroughly know their product and their processes.
Any kind of measure will always be imperfect, but it might help towards a general standardisation so that people have some idea of what it is and what we might expect from it.  So, in product manufacture and in quality and in guarantees and that sort of thing, it can be a very useful approach.
I am not sure where a spare cigarette fits into all of this. I do not see it as an empty gesture, however, and there is more than enough material and resource in the world for everyone!.
The Burghal Hidage Added Jul 15, 2017 - 8:56am
Thanks Ellen
The spare cigarette is just some further citation from the song I used as a concluding statement
Eileen de Bruin Added Jul 16, 2017 - 4:14am
That's ok Burghal!  I understood the cigarette thinggy and I was just being humourously obtuse! 
Of course, one size cannot fit all needs unless we all accept that the climate and ecology supports the entire human race, as an exception.
I suppose communism failed not only because of its implicit corruption but because it takes away the individual's expression.
Now they do say that it is the exception that MAKES the rule. Presumably, because the exception BREAKS the rule.
Actually, I do find institutionalism as in a school, totally destructive and a complete waste of time and many years. This one size fits all application is devastating to many of us. I was so bored at the high school that I spent most of my time looking out of the window at the clouds which were far more interesting.

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