Blog 4. Governing by reality

Reality or ideology?

Why is it that laws, regulations, and governmental policies are rarely formed according to the reality of the situation?  Rather, a person, interest group, or party creates political pressure and financial rewards for a particular action.  Is that why each action creates another problem?  Certainly, each new law, regulation or policy creates new interactions among the actors in a complex system—and that’s more complexity. (See Blog 3.)  I’m not a Libertarian; I don’t advocate erasure of most laws solely as a matter of principle.  However, I do advocate looking before leaping, assessing real causes before applying ideal solutions.  Let’s consider three diverse examples.

1) Iraq.  The neoconservative administration of George W. Bush (aka Bush II) used the attacks of 9/11 as an excuse for invading Iraq. The belief—the ideology—of the administration was that Iraqis would welcome the invaders, form an American-style democracy, and thereby initiate the downfall of other repressive regimes throughout the middle east.  (See the essay on conservative and liberal.)

The administration overlooked why Iraqi society could function only under a tyrannical dictator, ignoring the facts that a) the region had never experienced citizen governance;  b) loyalties were directed to family and religious identity, not to nation;  and c) invaders are usually despised more than internal oppressors.

2) Banking.  The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 removed the requirement that deposit banks, securities firms, insurance companies, and investment banks perform separate services.  Could it be that the de-regulators did not examine the reasons underlying the regulations adopted after the great depression of the 1930’s, a depression triggered by excesses in the money-and-investment markets?  The deregulation of 1999 allowed creation of dominant financial institutions, entities regarded as “too big to fail,” organizations that were free to develop financial instruments and sub-prime mortgages, instruments that critics claim led to the housing bubble and financial collapse ten years later.

3) Guns and violence.  In response to several spectacular killings, vociferous arguments now (2013)  promote or oppose, various forms of  “gun control,” including a ban on assault-style weapons. I don’t see a need for these weapons.  Would such a ban help?  Perhaps such a ban would not make much difference, except to the arms trade. You could still do a mass murder with a repeating shotgun.  What’s NOT examined is the violence inherent in the American culture. 

Many people, including leaders of the National Rifle Association,* fear that the government is inherently bad.  Fear motivates action. To keep the government from oppressing them, the fearful promote weapons for armed resistance.  Maybe there is something to fear.  The  Bush II administration authored the Patriot Act, allowing the government to legally search your home without telling you.

Unfortunately, the gun arguments ignore this real threat to privacy and liberty.  Instead, our society acts as though we are still fighting King George and his redcoats.  We rebel against government, enacting a myth of the self-sufficient, independent, gun-slinging cowboy riding on a frontier of justice.  TV and video games imprint our children with violence rather than negotiation, with hatred rather than love, with power rather than literature or mathematics or social responsibility.  In the gun debate, we disregard the social attitudes, customs, and stories underlying the violence.

Applying new rules to the causes.

Conclusion. Unless we look at the situations and causes underlying  painful social symptoms, we will continue to apply sometimes fruitless, sometimes foolish, and often expensive fixes to serious problems.  Unfortunately, the politician who openly addresses the real situations will not be elected.  We’ll deal with why that’s true in another blog, but here’s a hint: fear stimulates public attention while reformers are to be feared, not embraced.

* I confess to being a life member of the NRA since 1958.  However, I also confess to being among the minority of lifetime members who openly oppose its paranoid policies.  Among that minority was former president George H.W. Bush, senior (Bush I), who publicly protested those policies by resigning his NRA membership in 1995.

3 thoughts on “Blog 4. Governing by reality

  1. Keith ·

    Guns and Violence – Yet another example of people voting against their own best interest. Gun owners want to protect themselves from BIG GOVERNMENT and buy the latest military style weapons they can find. The desire to be the cowboy fighting against BIG GOVERNMENT results in every city rising to the threat of the occasional rebel (mentally ill, patriot, religious zelot, or ??? – you choose) by hiring, training and equipping a SWAT team to counter the threat.

    The result: According to one expert the cost of America’s gun culture is $100 billion/year, or over $300 for every man, woman and child, and a BIG GOVERNMENT that grows even bigger.

    The Winners: The 2nd Amendment advocates continue to buy more guns, and the nanny state continues to expand to cover the cost of police, lawyers, judges, jails, medical costs, etc.

    The Losers: The innocent victims of the violence, and the anti-gun taxpayer who has no choice but to pay their share of the bill.

  2. Bob Austin ·

    The SWAT team came about because of Watt’s Riots in 1967. The uses in Los Angeles were in first in 1969 involving search warrants for illegal weapons at the Black Panther Headquarters in Los Angeles. The Panthers resisted, and a four-hour battle ensued. The next was against the six members of the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) barricaded in a Los Angeles home. and fired over 3,000 rounds of semi-automatic and automatic rounds. The use of SWAT teams have expanded from there, with real cause.

    I interact with our local SWAT team (county of about 375,000)–and they have never had an incident with an “assault” type of weapon (a very bad term used by the press and politicians). The primary use of SWAT is in serving warrants on known criminals, gang violence, suicides, multiple shootings and hostage situations etc.

    Homeland security has fostered some pretty impressive battle field like vehicles and weapons which seem to have little use in our society.

    The threat or fear of a threat to the ability to own or buy certain types of guns has increased the sale of those weapons to the point of a major shortage and rapid inflation of cost of all weapons and ammunition occurring currently (May 2013).

    Unfortunately much of the proposed legislation will do nothing to decrease gun violence (which is mostly societal/drug/gang/poverty related), and eliminate those random horrific mass shootings by people who are mentally deranged.

    Insurrection agains a modern government is very remote in the United States. However, there is the issue of protection against riots (as had happened in the past, and will happen again in the future in America), as well as against personal attack and home invasions. Both of these happen all too often in many of our cities, and have the root causes as noted by Don and as above. In some areas after large natural disaster a weapon is necessary to prevent looting.

  3. Even before the recent mass killings, the perceived (or deliberately engineered) fear that the government would prohibit the public’s guns increased the trade in military-style weapons, concealed-carry guns, and ammunition. There may be other causes of the expanded civilian weapons trade. Complex systems are difficult to diagnose! Don

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