As an addendum to my last post, I want to provide an example of what I mean by our society becoming too complex for us to understand, comprehend and rationally act upon.
If the entire premise of “progress” is that it represents the rational direction of society, then individuals acting within that society should always be able to have enough understanding of their actions within it, in order to “act rationally”. Imperfect information is one thing, a flawed understanding of the system is a whole new ball game.
The example I’m talking about, and I have a future post coming on it, is the recent standoff in the US around raising the debt ceiling or defaulting on the US loans.
What is scary, and illustrated perfectly in the clip below from The West Wing, is that no one really has any clue what would actually happen, should the US have defaulted on its loans. Sure, there is speculation, and mountains of it, but at the end of the day no one had a clue. So complex is the world economy, that despite the most sophisticated projection models, and minds postulating on it, we were continually left with the same answer – we don’t really know what would happen if the US defaulted?
We expect that those powerful enough to influence the course of progress in society, do so based on political interest for the most part, but we hope that they act rationally within the margins of their collective technical knowledge. The problem is that society is so complex, we don’t have the capacity to provide technical expertise that can stand up to the increasingly vicious partisan game that politics has become in a world where everyone can find evidence to support their case.
The US tax code, and its multiplicity of loop-holes and breaks is a perfect example… which I touch I’ll be touching on in my next post.
Until politicians are able to step outside their partisan political shells (if that can ever happen) and really explain to the citizenry the evidence based rational for economic and social policy, it is the obligation of the electorate to wake up and pay attention, and demand rational explanations for how policy contributes to societal progress. If we don’t, we are far more likely to see the rising inequality, and declining growth that has occured through this economic downturn.