After every election half the country sighs with relief while the other gnashes its teeth. What remain constant as Republicans and Democrats rotate through office are the intractable difficulties the nation now faces. From budget surpluses and confidence in perpetual prosperity at the end of the 20th century, America has arrived at trillion-dollar deficits and an economy razed by the Great Recession. The “indispensable nation” that emerged the indisputable victor in the Cold War 20 years ago is today a superpower still, but one mired in the longest war of its history—in Afghanistan, no less, graveyard of the Evil Empire—a superpower strategically adrift in a disordered new world of drone killings, terror, and rising regional powers.
I make sure to read The American Conservative. It is important to try and understand those who see the world differently. Too many people of all stripes escape into a bubble of epistemic closure creating a Cargo Cult World where reality only slightly impinges.
I have found the America Conservative to harbor writers who do not seem to have fallen into the pit of partisanship and purity, too often seen in other mass media outlets. They are usually thoughtful and provide strong reasoning based on facts and reality, not on gut feelings and instinct.
I may often disagree but I have to be ready to support my disagreement with facts and logic, not with emotion and rhetoric.
I find much to agree with from the editorial:
Confronted by systemic crisis, the parties prescribe a quick fix—quack remedies from invading Iraq to subsidizing Solyndra—while a people hard pressed by diminished opportunity and dwindling incomes stands ready to accept whatever is offered. This is a mistake: careful analysis and consideration, a competent diagnosis, must precede any cure.
Neither party is doing a good job dealing with the complex systemic crises facing us. I believe this is because they are still mired in an Industrial Age process for solving problems rather than taking true advantage of the Information Age and the tools of the exponential economy.
Now I would argue that when dealing with complex systems , it is actually impossible for ” careful analysis and consideration, a competent diagnosis” to proceed a cure. The reason they are complex is that understanding initial conditions does not help understand the outcome. Cause and effect become jumbled. There are multiple routes to success and to failure.
It is not a staircase where if we carefully take one step at a time we can eventually reach the correct floor. It is a monster wave we are riding where there is no defined path to success; rather there are multiple paths all requiring rapid responses to the system.
American politics and governance today does not deal well at all with complex systems, does not harbor the system thinking approaches needed to examine the problems we face and often does more harm than good. I am not even certain they could succeed. But I do know that as currently constructed they will fail.
It will not be as easy as ‘elect a Democrat or elect a Republican’ and then forget everything for a couple of years. The problems are too complex and will require much greater attention from the public than other problems.
The editorial follows the sentence quoted above with this paragraph, something I believe should be read by everyone who wishes to see the real world rather than inhabit a Cargo Cult one:
This is the task of the American conservative and The American Conservative. The watchword is realism—in foreign policy, in economic reasoning, and in life. “The philosophers have only interpreted the world; the point is to change it,” urged Karl Marx. But change—“regime change” as practiced by President Bush, for example, or the “change” Barack Obama promised in 2008—is never salutary reform unless one first understands the realities of the situation. For America today, that means taking a hard look at our strategy and diplomacy toward others, at our monetary system as well as our taxes and spending, at our social order and popular culture, and at religion and philosophy, examining all of these things not through the lens of partisan politics but with a keen critical eye.
Realism.We would be in much better shape if more of our politicians and more of our citizens felt this way. We will not solve these problems if only one critical eye is used. We need as diverse a set of critical eyes as possible, both liberal and conservatives ones.
I’d be much We need more attention not less.