Gotthelf’s Law Number 1 (or, The Beginning of All Wisdom):
NEVER RUN FOR A BUS IN THE MORNING.
The rationale behind the law should be self-evident. But just in case it isn’t, remember that even if you catch it, you’re sweaty. And that’s no way to start the day.
The Tonnele Avenue Law:
This was the result of an incident several years ago. I was driving north-bound on Tonnele Avenue in Jersey City, NJ. I was in the right-hand lane when a car going at speed suddenly cut in front of me from a side street. I had to brake hard to avoid a collision. The driver of the other car went speeding off but after several hundred yards suddenly, with a clear lane in front of him, hit the brakes, which I again had to do to avoid calamity. The upshot of all this was the formulation of the Tonnele Avenue Law:
IF THEY DO ONE THING, THEY’RE BOUND TO DO ANOTHER.
I have always thought of this law as the Lifesaver Law. And if it doesn’t save your life, at least it can help guide you in business, personal relationships, and so on. Craziness doesn’t occur just once.
The third law doesn’t have a neat name. I formulated it years ago while contemplating the disastrous floods caused by the overflowing of the mighty rivers of the Middle West.
YOU PAY FOR THE CAUSES, OR YOU PAY FOR THE EFFECTS.
Money is going to have to be spent either building levees or dealing with the aftermath of the floods where there are no levees. The old adage has it that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Whether that ratio of expenditure is correct is irrelevant. What is relevant is that it is better to attempt to ward off disaster than to have to patch the world together again afterwards. I won’t go further with this myself, because in The New Yorker of December 3, 2012 (http://www.newyorker.com/talk/financial/2012/12/03/121203ta_talk_surowiecki) James Surowiecki discusses this issue with his usual intelligence and insight (and much better than I could). Just let me quote the closing lines of his essay:
In a time of austerity, there’s bound to be opposition to expensive infrastructure projects. But if the government—and, by extension, taxpayers—is already on the hook for all the damage caused when disasters strike, we owe it to ourselves to do something about how much those disasters cost.