By now, most college football fans will have heard about the penalties that the NCAA imposed on Penn State. A 4 year postseason ban, 4 years of reduced athletic scholarships, and a 60 million dollar fine intended to be donated to charities that support child abuse victims. At the exact same time, the NCAA revealed why the Federal government is so terrible at governing the country.
The reason why the NCAA instituted the sanctions is because of the child sexual abuse committed by Jerry Sandusky and the actions of a few Penn State officials to cover it up in an effort to protect the image of Penn State's football program. At the same time, people have to wonder why they felt the need to address the issue.
Joe Paterno is dead. And the other guilty parties singled out by the Freeh Report have all resigned in disgrace. Jerry Sandusky has been convicted of child sexual abuse and will now serve a life sentence in prison. Everybody close to the scandal has already been punished and tarnished by the scandal. Why did the NCAA feel like they needed to act?
The penalties that the NCAA levied punish only those who had no connection to Sandusky. Many of the football players at Penn State will have to transfer to another school to play under scholarship. The fanbase will suffer years of mediocre teams because of the NCAA restrictions. And the university has already suffered rounds of budget cuts over the years due to the bad economy. This is all because the NCAA felt like it had to send a message.
What was the message? That they would arbitrarily punish innocent parties in an attempt to scare other universities straight? As if a university president and football coach in another state could look at the situation before the NCAA sanctions and think "yep, if that happened here, we'd have to cover it up".
This brings me back to the Federal government. Whenever something bad happens, such as the Enron and Worldcom accounting scandals, the financial crisis of 2008, the Columbine, Aurora, and VT massacres, the government always feels compelled to create new laws to prevent another similar event from occurring.
After Enron and Worldcom, Sarbanes-Oxley was signed into law and it costs publicly traded companies billions of dollars in compliance costs. Even though Enron and Worldcom both ceased to exist as companies while their corporate officers were convicted of fraud, the Federal government felt the need to slap additional restrictions on companies who had nothing to do with the scandal.
After the financial crisis, Congress passed Dodd-Frank in an attempt to "rein in" the financial sector. Although the implementation is so terrible (it effectively delegates all authority to the executive agencies already overseeing the banks) and affects many companies that aren't even part of the financial sector (via the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau). But the Federal government still felt the need to do something.
After every shooting in which a lone gunman, who is clearly mentally unstable, kills a bunch of people, we have people pushing for gun control on people who aren't even tangentially related to the incident. As Rahm Emanuel would say, "never let a crisis go to waste".
Every time something bad happens, people feel the need to "do something" even when there are laws and protocol put in place that already deal with the issue. They feel the need to do things that give them the illusion of protection from and prevention of future tragedies, even when they do nothing but inconvenience normal, law abiding citizens.
We let the exceptions write the rules. And that gives us a dysfunctional government that can't figure out what to do when the times are good and wants to look like they're doing something when times are bad.
The reality is tragedies happen and no amount of preventive measures will ever eliminate the possibility of another tragedy occurring. The best thing we can do is not overreact instead of being pressured into "doing something" for the sake of doing something. Because doing something usually does something for the worse.