I think it's a perfect example of Murphy's Law in action. Things will go wrong, often at the worst possible time and in the worst possible way. It's one of the reasons that I am opposed to monopolies. The bigger they are, the bigger their screw-ups tend to be. Of course, the biggest monopoly is the government and all other monopolies have to be approved by the government.
One of the issues in the oil spill now is the building of sand berms to prevent the oil from entering the marshes. But, they're not being built. Why? Well, because the rules say that before they can be built there must be an environmental impact survey done to insure they won't do harm. By the time the survey is done, the oil will be in the marshes and it will be a moot point.
Real life example. We had a gas leak that exploded downtown and 1/4 of a city block disappeared. Poof. The fire department was on the scene, the police, the gas company, and every damned politician you can imagine. We had a plethora of private contractors with equipment to clear debris looking for people in the rubble and to shore up damaged buildings facing farther collapse.
A contractor came to me and said, "When the blast went off it created a vacuum that sucked the entire end wall off that building. At the top, there's a gap of over a foot and there's no way that can be repaired. But, we can't work there because that wall can collapse on us."
"What's the problem?"
"No one will say we can knock the wall down." I asked a couple of other contractors and they agreed the wall needed to come down in a controlled manner and not when gravity decided it was time.
"Okay, knock the wall down." They secured the area from all workers and knocked the wall down and work proceeded.
When dealing with a bureaucracy, no one wants to take the responsibility to say, "Knock the wall down." No one wants to accept responsibility.
What we're seeing now is massive buck-passing which means things that should be done don't get done.
Then there's cost-cutting. Not just with private business but with the governmental oversight, too. Above our city were three earthen dams. For years, they had sat there, quite safely. Then people noticed water running, some rapidly, under the dams. Questions were asked and we learned that to "save money" the regular inspections of the dams had been skipped, for years. The subsequent repairs were major. Had the inspections been done and repairs made as problems arose it would have been much less expenive and much less disruptive. And, no one decided to skip the inspections. No, money was moved, they couldn't do them, so they weren't done.
We had a problem where I worked and I asked the awkward question: "Who is respnsible for this happening?" The response: "Well, lot's of people were involved so no one is responsible." I'm not looking for scapegoats. I just want to know who needs to insure it won't happen again. Oh, well, nobody or everybody. Surely, there had to be someone who decided the inspections didn't need to be made. There just had to be. But, the answer will be, "No one made the decision. A lot of people made the decision so no one is responsible."
Lastly, nothing is difficult for the person who doesn't have to do it. Periodically people go nuts. They do amazingly horrible things. Climb a tower and shoot strangers. Recently a pilot who was depressed was stopped from flying because of a concern that he would commit suicide by crashing the plane with passengers on board.
But, what do we do, and what can we do, to insure the unthinkable doesn't happen? Frequently, when these horrible things happen we hear, "Oh, he was a really nice guy. Quiet but a hard worker. Everyone liked him. He was a good neighbor. No, I had no idea he might do something like this." We had a flood in a narrow canyon and after the flood the experts said that damage done by the flood wasn't possible. It had obviously happened but none of their studies or "models" had suggested that anything like what they were seeing was possible.
So, how do you prepare for the impossible or the unimaginable? In the U.S., I know this is hard to believe, but we do not have a comprehensive plan in place to deal with a possible invasion by the French. And, how much should be spent to prepare for things that the "experts" say is impossible or that is simply unimaginable?