When Progress Ruffles Traditional Feathers

5 years ago

I am not someone who spends a lot of time listening to the news or current events. Politics are definitely not my thing. Yet, this week when I was listening to the radio and news about the avoidance of the fiscal cliff,one comment really got me going...

The comment regarded the legality of Obama using the autopen to sign the bill. Is it unconstitutional that he didn't sign it in person? After all, it would be such a better use of taxpayer money to fly a pile of paper under security watch and courier 6,000 miles and back, right?

Image: Pen with Notebook via Shutterstock

According to NPR:

The case for using the device was made by the Bush administration in 2005, when the office of legal counsel said that Article I, Section 7 of the U.S. Constitution — which includes the phrase, "If he approves he shall sign it" — could allow the chief executive to direct "a subordinate to affix the President's signature to such a bill, for example by autopen."

The autopen is widely used by politicians and celebrities to duplicate signatures for letters and memorabilia.

The comparison of autopen to pen and paper is quite miraculous. It is identical for all intents and purposes. Provided proper measures are taken to ensure that the person whose digital signature is being used is actually authorizing its use, what's the risk? In this case, I highly doubt the President could ever sneak a signature by on something given the public scrutiny of every move he makes.

This got me thinking immediately of the myriad of ways that we get in the way of progress by choosing form over function. The reasoning that flies through the halls of business such as:

"We can't do it that way because we've always done it THIS way!"


"But that abacus/computer/Internet/mobile device/digital signature is NEW technology, how do we know it is safe?"

As someone who spent over 7 years as an auditor, I can tell you that my waking hours were spent pondering this stuff sometimes to the point of minutiae. In the 90's it was whether or not an electronic document was considered an "official record". The ponderings of digital signatures got bantered about but much like the paperless office it was considered a near-impossibility.

Flash forward and here we are today conducting business on smartphones smaller than a poker hand and authorizing transactions with the little gadget. iPads abound and the mostly paperless office may just become a reality.

What are your thoughts on the use of the autopen? A sign of progress and productivity? Or a blatant break with tradition and the intent of the Consitution?

Where have you or your business made things harder than they needed to be because you didn't want to make a break with the way things had always been done?


Paula Gregorowicz plucks women business owners off the hamster wheel of overwhelm, struggle, and self-doubt and guides them to a purposeful path of building authentic and successful businesses.
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