Thursday, February 05, 2009

The Body Politic

I have a fair number of blogs on my feed, and a lot of them are armchair activists on the side, political idealists of the least dangerous sort. My own views on politics tend to wander a bit more because I pride myself on at least TRYING to get my opinions to reflect the facts, rather than visa-versa.

The thing about CHANGE! is that people think of the government as some kind of... assortment of disconnected pieces. Like we can swap out our banking system for another as if plucking a lego off a stack and putting another one on.

The truth is that the government is more like a complex, living organism. Like, say, a human.

A patient walks into the emergency room complaining of dizziness and fatigue. Examinations reveal he has a weak heart. Perhaps not THE problem, but certainly a factor. What do you do?

Well, our armchair idealists chime in with "we should just replace the heart with a turbine. Increased, smoother bloodflow. It's way better."

Of course, this idea is just dumb. Even if increased, smoother bloodflow was actually a) what we wanted and b) could be created with the turbine, it doesn't take into account the fact that this is a very complicated system.

Where does the turbine get its energy? Where does the heat dissipate to? How long before it breaks, especially in the wet and nasty environment inside the body, and how do you fix it when it does? Will the body's immune system reject it? Is the turbine going to give off any toxins from its casing? Is the vibration going to cause detachments?

If it was as easy as simply popping in a machine, then we would all be cyborgs by now. The reason medical research takes so long is because the body works in very complex ways.

Well, a government is roughly the same. If our economy comes in complaining of dizziness and fatigue, we can't simply pop in a new heart. There's a lot of long-term, highly balanced, highly evolved systems that will suffer on every level, and that's assuming that the new heart actually works well for a long period of time without tying us to a wall socket.

That isn't to say you should ignore the weak heart. But it is to say that you need to be careful. You can run around willy-nilly, especially when the system is weakened. You need to consider the kinds of treatments that will help, and consider the factors that might affect both short and long term outcomes.

To do this well, it's important to understand how both the government and the economy function, which isn't something ANYONE can claim at the moment. But a decent substitute would be to study the various systems that have evolved over the lifetime of the government, why they evolved, and what they do. Something that none of the politically radical folks I've ever talked to have bothered to do.

See, the thing is that replacing the heart with a turbine pump could be good in many situations. If, for example, our economy already had a turbine pump heart, and we're just switching out for a better model. In order to know that sort of thing, you need to have, actually, you know, STUDIED THE ECONOMY.

Every government is somewhat unique, too. What works for England (or whoever) may not work for us. There are certain common trends: if arsenic is fatal to most creatures, we can rule out arsenic as an option pretty quick. But there are a lot of things that seem to work, or almost work, in other governments. Our government evolved differently. It has a different layout, a different immune system, a different everything. We need to take that into consideration.

Of course, this is just as pointless and idealistic as these silly idealists, because NOBODY EVER CHANGED A GOVERNMENT TO FIT THEORY OR FACT. Governments are always assembled and destroyed following the fads of the population and the drift of political sentiment. Ugh.



Greg Tannahill said...

Been several wholesale attempts to change governments to fit the theories of socialism and communism. Possibly flawed attempts, but doesn't mean it wasn't tried.

Actually I'd argue a lot more political change is ideological than it is populist, for better or for worse. But I realise that wasn't the key point of your post. :-)

Craig Perko said...

I'd argue that full communism and socialism aren't real theories, but are instead ideologies. They're definitely not theories in a scientific sense, as they don't fit any available data.

perkos said...

Well thought out. Let's hope all the government has is a cold and not heart failure....