Sunday, July 4, 2010

Post No. 146b: Swaying the Undecided


© 2009 and 2010, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Contrary to most commentators, we are among the “undecided” in terms of our response to most news events. Call us the Hank Kimballs of the Blogosphere. “Mr. Kimball,” you may recall, was the County Agent on the Green Acres sit-com show.

This is not to suggest that we can not take a position, or balance competing considerations, when necessary. However, most times we need a little time to think things through.

We’re generally 10 seconds away from appreciating any position. We’re just not into drawing hard lines in the sand. Plus, we might be wrong.

We’ve been mulling over George Will’s statement, to the effect that the beauty of conservatism is its “purity”, and Jonathan Haidt’s conclusion that the “pursuit of moral clarity” is the magnet which draws Republicans together, for over a year now. The concepts are beginning to come into focus.

We recently heard Joshua Cooper Ramo say something which helped crystallize our thoughts on another issue – namely the role of government.

We are systems oriented in our approach to issues. For some time now, we have argued that the U.S. is not ready, at this point in its evolution, for a nationalized health care system, just like some nations are not yet ready to embrace democracy.

We raised three concerns. First, Americans are addicted to Kentucky Fried Chicken, donuts, and giant Slurpees; avoid exercise like the swine flu; and are thus insufficiently motivated to maintain good health on the front end. Why build a back end system around people who don’t care?

Second, trying to manage a health-care system involving 300 million subscribers would be like herding 300 million cats.

Third, we do not have any experience managing a dedicated bureaucracy involving 300 million beneficiaries. Our military is about as close as it gets, and the number pales in comparison.

Our new President’s detractors call him a Socialist. The rhetoric is full of allusions to the “pathetic state” of purportedly "has been" Western European powers to whose rescue the Americans came during WWII, and the “failure” of the Soviet Union.

Not being sufficiently versed in the history of socialism, and not having any appreciation of, or first hand knowledge about, the area, we historically viewed ourselves as part of the “undecided.”

Plus, we always try to identify some element of internal consistency in our positions, when they are applied to other areas. It seems to us that if one believes that socialism or central control is a bad thing in one area, then it’s probably a bad thing in another, and another ….

How does one justify the involvement of government in any aspect of our lives, other than perhaps the military? Isn’t it disingenuous to pick areas where you feel government should play a part, and then choose others where it should not?

We raised questions about whether government should be involved in education, in responding to natural disasters, and in other areas we take for granted.

We remained open to the notion that less government is better. However, no one ever convinced us of the merits of that position, since it always appeared to be ideologically and subjectively driven, and not systemically based.

Finally, to our rescue came Rambo. Well, not quite, just Ramo. He is the author of The Age of the Unthinkable. During his book presentation on C-Span2 Book TV recently, he claimed that the world is different today than in years past, and that old approaches to problems will not work.

But this was the bottom line: Things are more interconnected today. Our economic systems are more interconnected. The more interconnected they are, the more complex they are.

The more complex they are, the more potentially unstable they are. Like a house of cards.

If any significant aspect of the system fails, the whole system is at risk. Arguably, this is what brought down the Soviet Union, and not President Reagan’s threats. Sorta also sounds like that “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link” saying.

We’ve come to recognize the importance of the manner in which a concept is framed. (For example, we've long felt that the pro-choice faction chose a poor label for their cause since a woman arguably has choices available to her long before conception.)

Once we heard Ramo refer to the “instability of interconnected systems,” it struck a chord. The emotion laden arguments against socialism or central governance always struck us as arguments of those disinterested in sharing with others, because they had theirs.

This instability argument is one which has some logical appeal.

We’ll continue to think about it over the coming year, and get back to you.

This post was originally posted on May 12, 2009.

22 comments:

  1. Since this is a re-cycled post, shouldn't you have updated it to show changes in your thinking? Or are you saying that you still haven't taken a position? I guess that is a position in itself.

    ReplyDelete
  2. It sometimes takes years for a position to evolve. There's no necessity for us to take a position at this point in time. We have come upon at least 27 different factors/issues to take into consideration in formulating a position, and we are continually searching for more.

    ReplyDelete
  3. The phrase "Don't Put All Your Eggs In One Basket" comes to mind.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Welcome back Larry. It has been a while.

    Read literally, you appear to argue that we should not place control over any aspect of our lives in one, centralized, governmental authority.

    Could the opposite argument be made that we should not place control over any aspects of our lives in the private sector alone. (We recognize that we are not talking about one corporate entity. However, there are some private corporations which are virtual monopolies and effectively control certain aspects of our lives. Take Microsoft for example.)

    One option might include placing control in multiple governmental agencies.

    Should we demand that all aspects of our lives be divided in some fashion between the public and private sectors?

    ReplyDelete
  5. I don't think government has any business in any aspect of our lives except as a buffer between individuals when interests or desires clash.

    A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned - this is the sum of good government.
    Thomas Jefferson

    ReplyDelete
  6. Douglas left a new comment: “I don't think government has any business in any aspect of our lives except as a buffer between individuals when interests or desires clash.”

    No polio vaccinations or inoculations of any sort, no interstate highway system, no Hoover Dam, no Tennessee Valley Authority, no involvement in education, no criminal justice system (although one might argue that the interests of the criminals and the victims/state clash here), no purification of drinking water, no fire departments, no military, no border patrol, no customs service, no air traffic controllers, etc.

    Now an argument could theoretically be made that we allowed the aforementioned things to be done by government, got accustomed to it performing these functions and services, and that we should not have, and that they would have been better handled by the private sector when it recognized the need.

    Interesting. How would you respond to an argument that there is a randomness and unpredictability associated with having the private sector perform these services, and that dependability and planning are more difficult?

    ReplyDelete
  7. How would you respond to an argument that there is a randomness and unpredictability associated with having the private sector perform these services, and that dependability and planning are more difficult?

    I would respond carefully. :-)

    Seriously, we had none of those things provided by the government at one time or another. And when they were provided by the government, it was at the local level (something you conveniently mixed in with the federal) first and only later came under the ever-growing control of the federal government.

    Would we have grown as robustly, or become a world power, without assigning these tasks (and much more) to the federal government? Perhaps not. That might have actually pleased some with whom I vehemently disagree politically.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Glad to be back Clouseau.

    You say, "Should we demand that all aspects of our lives be divided in some fashion between the public and private sectors?"

    In reply: The only demand we need make is that our Government abide by its Constitution (i.e. The Bill of Rights). Why tamper with "purity" and the "pursuit of moral clarity"?

    Tenth Amendment – Powers of States and people.

    The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I'd like to add another thought...

    We seem to view the federal government as two separate things: a provider of services (and support) and a benign (when your political party is in power) or dangerous (when the other party is) power over our lives.

    I do not think we view state and local governments in the same way.

    ReplyDelete
  10. You brought up an interesting point Douglas about which we had not thought much. Is there as much tension and concern about the division of power and responsibilities between neighborhoods and cities, cities and counties, counties and states, Congressional districts and other Congressional districts?

    We, of course, appreciate the fact that there is a written document, the Constitution, which outlines, somewhat, the relationship between the federal government and the states. But states also have constitutions, and in theory, shouldn't the same conflict dynamic exist on the local level? And if so, why do we not hear more clamor / noise?

    ReplyDelete
  11. We, of course, appreciate the fact that there is a written document, the Constitution, which outlines, somewhat, the relationship between the federal government and the states.

    I thought it defined the relationship clearly. But the number of cases that have gone to the Supreme Court does suggest there might be some ambiguity. Or that there are some imaginative legal minds out there.

    But states also have constitutions, and in theory, shouldn't the same conflict dynamic exist on the local level?

    For some reason, perhaps only psychological, we view state and local governments as more benign or more controllable. Besides, if we get fed up with how either of these treat us then we can move out of that jurisdiction relatively easily compared to moving out of the country. We do not, generally, have the level of loyalty to our local communities or states that we have for our nation. I speak, however, as someone who has moved several times in the past.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Inspector, we'd like to invite you to become one of our Authors in Alexandria. Email invitations were extended to your address of record as well, but I believe you might want to check into that.

    You may mirror your existing posts from here or elsewhere or produce original posts there, on anything you wish, as you desire. For your contributions and participation we will blogroll you with no reciprocation required. See our Guidelines for Authors for full details.

    Come contribute your perspectives and opinions to the ongoing conversations there or, even better, start new ones of your own. Contact us through the site for full invitations and instructions.

    ReplyDelete
  13. After I read your post for the first time; I was going to say something about the "beauty of conservatism" and the "pursuit of moral clarity" which stuck out right away. Reading the post for the second time I realized that there are quite a few other things that caught my attention ( "undecided, embracing democracy, Joshua Cooper Ramo, Healthcare, the role of government, Socialist" ). It's impossible for me to respond to all that at once. I may come back later on and let you know what I think.

    There are times where I'm undecided as well. It's hard to make a decision if you receive biased information. The media is controlled by a handful of corporate entities and they control the public perception or the lack of it. In order for me to feel that I'm getting some facts I have to do a whole lot of reading, which is why I also read foreign media. At times I even discovered reports about my own country in the foreign press, which I did not find over here. Even though I'm trying to be aware as much as possible, I do realize that I'm more opinionated rather than knowledgeable. On second thought, there is lots of information out there that I do not have access to, simply because I'm not an academic. Just because I do not have a Ph.D. does not have to mean that I am not interested or that I do not understand. I'm human, I have cognition, I can learn and I can change my preferences.

    Are we embracing democracy? What does it mean to be a democratic country? Those questions have been on my mind a lot lately. Here is how I se it:
    Democracy means: A political system for choosing and replacing the government through free and fair elections.
    Protection of human rights of all citizens.
    A rule of law, in which the laws apply equally to all citizens.
    The active participation of the people in politics and civic life.
    In my view democracy is still the best possible form of government, but I do see a big need for improvement. We may live in different democracies (either representative or direct, two-party or multi-party systems) but most of the problems are the same.
    As a voter I'm voting for the opinions of a particular politician or party, but not all opinions are shared by me. So the main focus is on the politician rather than the different issues. I yield my power at the time of voting and my politician is free to decide whatever he chooses. Even if I might disagree, I have no influence on his opinions. Quiet frankly I do get the impression that a lot of politicians do vote exclusively in their own self-interest, rather than in the best interest of the people. Politics has turned into a "business" of an elite of elected representatives. Participation of the people in politics is reduced to voting every few years.

    ReplyDelete
  14. We need to make democracy more democratic and we (the people, not just the elites) have to participate instead of just being spectators. If people are given more openness, honesty, and responsibility they will become more interested and participate.
    The recent debate in the US of extending unemployment benefits and the new austerity measures here in Germany lead me to believe that a lot of politicians (not limited to just one party) are out of touch with the reality. There is no interaction with ordinary citizens and government. I have not figured out if they do not care or just lack empathy. Maybe they just have lost or never developed the ability of thinking in somebody else's shoes.
    We like to preach democracy abroad, but we fail to notice that it's slowly slipping away from us in our countries.
    In 1948 our countries did sign the Universal Declaration Of Human Rights. Only if all those rights are in place do we have a true democracy. I can't help, but wonder if our politicians would be willing to sign the declaration again today? Aside from that, democracy itself is a human right, as stated in article 21 of the declaration. All those rights are equally important because if you do not have economic rights for example, you cannot make use of freedom and political rights. Which brings me to people living in poverty. People living in poverty have to struggle to survive, no money to buy the newspaper, no time to form an opinion, express it or go and vote. They feel ashamed!
    I would love to see our politicians volunteer for a week in a homeless shelter or a tent-city, maybe that would open their eyes.

    ReplyDelete
  15. The recent debate in the US of extending unemployment benefits and the new austerity measures here in Germany lead me to believe that a lot of politicians (not limited to just one party) are out of touch with the reality. There is no interaction with ordinary citizens and government. I have not figured out if they do not care or just lack empathy. Maybe they just have lost or never developed the ability of thinking in somebody else's shoes.
    We like to preach democracy abroad, but we fail to notice that it's slowly slipping away from us in our countries.
    In 1948 our countries did sign the Universal Declaration Of Human Rights. Only if all those rights are in place do we have a true democracy. I can't help, but wonder if our politicians would be willing to sign the declaration again today? Aside from that, democracy itself is a human right, as stated in article 21 of the declaration. All those rights are equally important because if you do not have economic rights for example, you cannot make use of freedom and political rights. Which brings me to people living in poverty. People living in poverty have to struggle to survive, no money to buy the newspaper, no time to form an opinion, express it or go and vote. They feel ashamed!
    I would love to see our politicians volunteer for a week in a homeless shelter or a tent-city, maybe that would open their eyes.


    There is a lot to learn from other countries. The Swiss people do set a good example of how one can involve its citizens. Some Scandinavian countries set examples in healthcare.History can also teach us some valuable lessons, as there are other democracies that have failed around the globe.
    Business and governance as usual no longer work!

    ReplyDelete
  16. Corruption (illegal and legal) looks to me like the root cause of all the different problems. Corruption breeds inequality and inequality is the root cause of a variety of social problems. If we continue to ignore that, then we will need more prisons, more police and we will see higher rates of crime, mental illness and drug abuse.
    Unfortunately I did not read Joshua Cooper Ramos book, just some excerpts and a little about the man himself. I'm in agreement with him that the world is different today and that old approaches to problems will not work and about the instability of interconnected systems. Our countries are much different from 30 years ago, we have become multi- cultural. So it only makes sense to me to look at other countries, not just in terms of governance, but also in terms of business. Culture matters, as they do play a role in shaping our preferences. In some countries people may think that attractive looking foods (for example a big red apple's) are high quality. Over here that is not the case since we have been taught for many years that high-quality means bio fruits and vegetables. So, most of our apples look small and dented.:-)

    Speaking of food, think about who controls the food supply in our countries. I see another weak link in the chain after having read this:
    Food Security - Equally Important in Times of Peace
    "Those who want to guarantee food security by relying on alliances will have to surrender"
    by Hermann M. Dür, Switzerland

    http://www.currentconcerns.ch/index.php?id=1077

    ReplyDelete
  17. Thanks much WSteffie for your well thought out follow-up comments. We apologize for not getting to them earlier and giving them the attention they deserve.

    Unfortunately, we’ve had some staffing issues recently which have occupied our time. Please bear with us until we are able to devote the time which your comments, and those of others, deserve. Thanks for continuing to visit us.

    ReplyDelete
  18. A 21st Century Government should be socially just.There is a big difference between social justice and socialism. While I am for social justice, I would never support socialism. Socialism does not support human rights. Besides, I see nothing wrong with capitalism once income inequalities are reduced.

    ReplyDelete
  19. At 9:00 am EDST today (Sunday, May 8, 2011, C-Span2BookTV will air a book author presentation, "23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism."

    ReplyDelete
  20. I'd like to add another thought...

    We seem to view the federal government as two separate things: a provider of services (and support) and a benign (when your political party is in power) or dangerous (when the other party is) power over our lives.

    I do not think we view state and local governments in the same way.

    ReplyDelete
  21. As we type this, Turner Classic Movies is airing a 1950 science fiction movie, "Destination Moon," which pre-dated the real space race. However, it raises the issue of whether such venture should be financed by the government or the private sector.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Destination_Moon_%28film%29

    ReplyDelete

"There Are More Than 2 Or 3 Ways To View Any Issue; There Are At Least 27"™

"Experience Isn't Expensive; It's Priceless"™

"Common Sense should be a Way of Life"™

Opportunity to Serve as "Guest Author"

This forum was designed to be YOUR forum for the civil exchange of ideas by people with all points of views. We welcome the submission of articles by all of our readers, as long as they are in compliance with our Guidelines contained in Post No. 34. We look forward to receiving your submissions.