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Sunday, December 28, 2014  |   Madison, WI: 27.0° F  
MADLAND: A group blog about life in Madison, Wisconsin
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Madland: We're ignoring the lessons of the past at our own peril

Across the country, parents are seeking exemptions to vaccination requirements because of concerns based on fear and pseudoscience. Thanks to the decrease in herd immunity, measles and whooping cough have started to make a comeback in the United States.

Here in Wisconsin, officials in the Walker administration said they were looking at removing some of the civil service rules that were originally put in place to prevent cronyism in state government. That same week, it was revealed that long-time Walker aide Cindy Archer was getting a new job, one with a significant pay raise over her predecessor. Oh, and Archer never even interviewed for the position.

On an even more local level, the fight over ride-sharing "not a taxi but totally a taxi" services Lyft and Uber has made Madisonians question if the city should enforce its taxi laws at all.

Each of these examples illustrates an effort to do away with something painted as an inconvenience without the change's proponents asking why it was worth setting up that inconvenience to begin with.

It's not a bad idea to reexamine existing programs and regulations. The autism link is the highest form of B.S., but maybe we can make vaccines safer and work to eliminate those side effects that actually exist. There are probably some ways to streamline the civil service rules without opening the system up for cronyism. Existing taxi companies need to understand that Madisonians are not happy with the current system, and Lyft and Uber can play a part in the city's marketplace, that is, if the ride sharing companies were willing to have a seat at the table.

But any need for revision and refining our laws and regulations doesn't mean the original idea is obsolete.

In the '90s, the Glass-Steagall legislation was branded as outmoded regulation that was holding back our financial markets. However, once the law was effectively repealed with the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act in 1999, the new regulatory landscape helped spur on the stock market's current boom and bust cycle. Many economists consider this repeal to have played a large part in the 2008 financial crisis.

Successful government initiatives put a target on themselves. When you temporarily solve a problem well enough, people forget how bad things used to be.

In 40 years, someone might easily say, "Well, lung cancer rates are down dramatically, so we don't need a smoke-free workplace law anymore!"

We don't do a good enough job covering our own history. Citizen Dave Cieslewicz has argued that Wisconsin progressives should move past using Fighting Bob La Follette as a symbol. I think his point is partially true.

Fighting Bob is deified amongst progressives, akin to the conservative quest to name everything in America after Ronald Reagan. The La Follette name is tossed around without addressing Belle and Bob's actual accomplishments. Younger people don't actually know what progressives accomplished in this state outside of vague notions about organized labor. Fighting political corruption, fair taxation, public health -- all of those progressive achievements are still relevant, but we don't highlight the history of how they were put in place.

As a nation, we've forgotten that the will of the people can solve major problems. My generation has seen very little of this in our lifetimes, give or take the end-of-denial due to a preexisting medical condition thanks to Obamacare. We need to remember this history, that the past's solutions still have merit.

The alternative is waiting around and watching a bunch of inexperienced political cronies try to deal with an outbreak of whooping cough.

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