SPECIAL IDEAS REPORT

Ill Conceived Archive

24 June 2009 1:59 PM

Ill Conceived

"Worst Idea Ever"

AFTERNOON ROUNDUP EDITION

-- A Full House movie.

-- This is much worse than lifting weights without a spotter.

-- Dating via Craigslist.

-- Failing to credit Wikipedia for passages in a book bound to be read by Wikipedia enthusiasts.

-- Naming any tax a "Freedom Tax."

-- Dissing The Olive Garden in a world with James Lileks.

-- Continuing to pay hundreds of teachers to do nothing years after This American Life pointed out the problem.

Flickr user rhenriquez

22 June 2009 1:30 PM

Ill Conceived

"Worst Idea Ever"

James Joyner ably explains why it's an awful idea for the FTC to regulate monitor blogs. Yes, you read that right. If you think your RSS feed is overflowing...

18 June 2009 9:29 AM

Ill Conceived

"Worst Idea Ever"

A reader writes:

The Chinese government is creating a database of 8,000 characters and requiring all parents to name their newborns by limiting themselves to the characters in it. A population of 1.3 billion people limited to 8,000 characters? Mayhem. I work in an office where 3 out of 10 people are named Wong, and the database didn't even pertain to their names. 
The article I first read about this in explained that the database was being created to "rein in a trend of unusual names," which I'm sure is code for "government authorities are having a tough time recording all these strange names when writing people up for crimes, so we must create a name database to more easily keep tabs on the population." Proponents of the idea compare names to numbers and argue that in the name of social development, like automobiles and mobile phones, names must be standardized. No need for me to elaborate on how many things are wrong with that school of thought, although I did rather like the response of Xinmin Evening News journalist Tao Duanfang -- there are many different kinds of restaurants, but no one has ever suggested a ban on home cooking.
This -- like flying cars -- seems like a subject just waiting for a pearl of wisdom from James Fallows. Send your bad idea nominations to ThinkingBig@theatlantic.com

17 June 2009 11:26 AM

Ill Conceived

"Worst Idea Ever"

Via Megan McArdle, an excerpt from an old Paul Krugman column that must make the Nobel prize winning economist cringe:

The basic point is that the recession of 2001 wasn't a typical postwar slump, brought on when an inflation-fighting Fed raises interest rates and easily ended by a snapback in housing and consumer spending when the Fed brings rates back down again. This was a prewar-style recession, a morning after brought on by irrational exuberance. To fight this recession the Fed needs more than a snapback; it needs soaring household spending to offset moribund business investment. And to do that, as Paul McCulley of Pimco put it, Alan Greenspan needs to create a housing bubble to replace the Nasdaq bubble.
A worthy nominee for this competition! Send your own suggestions to Thinkingbig@theatlantic.com

Flickr user Duchamp

17 June 2009 9:32 AM

Business / Economics

"Worst Idea Ever"

Charles Homans of The Washington Monthly offers an inspired nomination: "the ketchup packet." As soon as I saw the words I concurred, but I followed up to make sure I knew exactly what he meant.

"Any non-obvious reasons for your pick?" I asked.

"The design flaws are pretty obvious," he wrote. "Difficulty of operation, wastefulness, insufficient quantities for any conceivable ketchup application. That's what makes its existence in present form--and the lack of design improvements over however many decades--so baffling. Mayonnaise packets were actually able to solve most of these problems. It suggests to me that there must be someone powerful with a vested interest in the ketchup packet as it stands."

Of course, there are powerful people behind ketchup, and dedicated men have tried and failed to challenge its status quo before.

(Send your own "Worst Idea Ever" nominations to Thinkingbig@theatlantic.com)

Flickr user Kevygee

16 June 2009 9:13 AM

Ill Conceived

"Worst Idea Ever"

A MORNING ROUNDUP:

Goats do not need towers -- though I can't say I didn't laugh at this one.

Rooting for lunatic leaders to retain power as a hedge against underestimating how evil other countries are? Bad idea.

Sure, trees fall over sometimes, but when they take out two Priuses on the way down they aren't much helping out the cause of their species.

Sen. Tom Coburn flags the worst ideas in stimulus spending.

Atul Gawande reports from "McAllen, Texas, the most expensive town in the most expensive country for health care in the world," explaining what it is that they're doing wrong.

Returning to the NFL at age 40 after surgery and a season wherein you threw as many interceptions as touchdowns? Say it ain't so, Brett.