Good Idea, Bad Execution

One lesson you better learn fast if you want to have a shot at making it in show biz: it’s all about the execution! A bunch of people can walk around with the same idea in their heads but unless one of them executes the idea properly? It’s just another idea that couldn’t deliver on its promises. Good example: “Big” – the Tom Hanks movie about a kid who ends up stuck inside a grown up’s body. When Fox released “Big” in 1988, it had lots of competition. For some reason, swapped-body comedies were a “thing” that year: “Like Father, Like Son”, “Vice Versa” and “Freaky Friday” all put kids into adult bodies. But, only “Big” executed the idea to perfection. Most people remember “Big”. The others? Not so much…

Utah Takes Aim At Social Media

Yesterday, the state of Utah legislated an attempt to protect its children from social media apps like TikTok . Unless their parents specifically sign off on it, under 18’s in Utah can no longer legally access TikTok or any social media platform. In the abstract, Utah is has the right idea. Social media has compromised childhood. It’s compromised everything, really, but one reason Gen Z is unhappy with the world is because they see it through the lens of social media.

And almost all social media is driven by algorithms written by people wanting to get rich. The one exception is Mastodon. Algorithms don’t drive the fediverse. In a very real sense, everyone who enters the fediverse becomes their own algorithm determining themselves what they will see, hear and experience. Aside from that? We’re all the product that social media sells to its clients.

Utah, Connecticut and Ohio have all tried to mitigate this real problem via legislation. It’s a good idea to try and mitigate it. But not only won’t bad mitigation solve the problem, often, it’ll make things worse. What might be good policy toward a seven year old won’t be toward a seventeen year old who needs birth control information. It’s a broad brush solution to a fine art problem. The hammer that sees all problems as nails. Even the ones that aren’t.


Prohibition was similar that way. We all remember Prohibition’s restrictions, the way it criminalized virtually the entire adult population. But the original, driving force behind Prohibition was a genuine concern for alcohol abuse in America. From Ken Burns’ documentary “Prohibition“:

By 1830, the average American over 15 years old consumed nearly seven gallons of pure alcohol a year – three times as much as we drink today – and alcohol abuse (primarily by men) was wreaking havoc on the lives of many, particularly in an age when women had few legal rights and were utterly dependent on their husbands for sustenance and support.

Alcohol abuse is a very real problem demanding good ideas in order to solve it. But, as we all know, if you “solve” alcoholism the wrong way, you make it worse. It takes the good idea plus proper execution to be worth a damn.

Not only didn’t Prohibition solve America’s alcohol abuse problem, it empowered organized crime by giving it a money-making product it could sell to thirsty Americans. Prohibition made some pretty awful people awfully rich. Good idea, terrible execution.

But then, America itself is a shining example of a “good idea badly executed”. The principles underlying our foundation have compelled people to come here from all over the world. Unlike any nation that came before us, America is a nation made up of all the other nations of the world. That’s our secret sauce – it’s what makes America truly exceptional. Hell, we’re so proud of it, we put it on our Great Seal and made it our national motto: “E Pluribus Unum” – out of many, one.

Our problems all stem from crap execution. Our founders may have signed their names to “All men are created equal” but they didn’t really mean it (except for the “men” part). The proof: they cut a deal with slavery thus screwing the pooch at the get-go.

Let’s just hope “Good idea, poorly executed” doesn’t get carved into America’s headstone. Better still, let’s hope there’s no headstone in which to carve it.

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