Sunday, July 4, 2010
© 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.
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