A matter of scale 

Inside that cloud of smoke is a full size semi truck loaded with FedEx packages. One of those must’ve caught on fire, and now the whole load will probably be lost to the fire itself and damage from water etc used to put it out. 

So there’s a fact… FedEx burns up whole truckloads of packages! I can imagine all the hassles and genuine trouble this incident has caused. Maybe somebody didn’t get into college because of a delayed document, or had their car repossessed, or got kicked off the transplant list… Maybe a birthday party was ruined: scarred for life.

But there is an alternative fact… Dr. Deming and his disciples have helped FedEx successfully deliver an astonishingly high percentage of packages, on time, to the correct address. Is it 99%, 99.9%, or 99.99%, or more? I don’t know, but it’s a lot, and it’s amazing. Seeing this truck on fire doesn’t change my willingness to use FedEx one whit… most of the time, more or less always, it works. 

In the current political climate, differences in our personal willingness to ignore or at least discount the burning truck — or not — seem to be at the heart of a lot of what divides us. A lot of the issues we want to freak out about are only visible on some spreadsheet description of “the big picture” or in the economist’s “long run.” And on the other side of the coin, a lot the issues we choose to freak out about may NOT be visible on that same spreadsheet, but can’t be ignored, like the burning truck.

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