Blog 92. Saviors are in short supply

I sense that Americans are increasingly defined by fear.  Fear of what?  Big Government or insufficient government.  Fear of those who fear Big Government or fear of those who advocate more rules.  Fear of guns or fear that your guns will be outlawed.  Fear that corporate governance is obliterating democracy, or fear that regulation is ruining private enterprise.  Fear of poverty enforced by billionaires or fear of slinking socialism.  Fear of terrorism or fear of the secret security police.

Fear sells.  Politicians know fearful voters respond to a promise of security.  The fearful do not want reasoned proposals for coping with real problems.  Reasoned proposals would require that the citizen choose from among unwanted alternatives.  That’s the uncomfortable old rock and hard place.  Folks don’t want to go there.  They want a savior rather than an executive for president.  But saviors are in short supply.

A feeling of powerlessness comes from today’s uncertainties.  Citizens face invisible forces of change, skewed justice, an artificial economy that doesn’t produce its own hard goods, but that offers opportunity according to wealth.  We see little to vote for, a lot to vote against.

A majority of Americans think the American dream is broken and the country is headed in the wrong direction.  It might appear that the whole world us going to purgatory.  In an article on the recent international conference on climate change, the Wall Street Journal referred to China and India with the words: “If the choice is lifting millions out of poverty or reducing CO2, poverty reduction will prevail-as it should.”[1] (accent mine).

As it should?  Apparently, we’re not expected to notice the nonsense of that statement. If you lift millions out of poverty by the application of conventional energy, the consequent climatic effects will generate still more poverty.

The questions of opportunity, justice, poverty, economy, and climate are too polarizing and too complicated for sound-byte answers.  The people are angry, bewildered, and frustrated, looking for a proposal simple enough to mark with a yes or a no, a simple question with a simple solution promising a secure future.  Politicians avoid issues while deliberately creating polarity.  Both the right and the left offer us hogwash.

There is a way to deal with what’s happening.

The American society and the world society and even a society of honeybees are complex systems, subject to ups and downs, delivering both sweets and catastrophes.  That’s a science lesson.  Therefore, first avoid focusing on absolute security and work to limit the extremes of war, poverty, justice, and economy.

Second, know that the  way to stabilize a complex system is to provide dampers–rules that restrict the motions, just the right amount of friction here and there.  That’s traffic laws for a system of cars, banking and tax rules for an economy, environmental rules for an ecology, and building codes for a city.  We already do that, but the rules are often special-interest rules that add to the instability rather than to repress it.  Clean up the politicians.  Look for thoughtful methods, not fear-inducing rhetoric or golden promises.

We must alter the political dialog. Demand that leaders adopt statements of position supported by logic.  The current political method is to pretend being right by making others wrong.  Win/lose and right/wrong provide damaging models for running the country.  Life is not a football game.  A better approach to governance is to evaluate, then try, and try again.  Don’t go home and feel helpless.  Keep trying.


[1]   The Week magazine, Dec 25 2015  p. 24

3 thoughts on “Blog 92. Saviors are in short supply

  1. David H. Griggs ·

    FDR: “So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

  2. So true, regarding fear. Now the society is much more complex (in the technical sense of complex systems) than it was in FDR’s time. To make course changes in governance, economics, finance, environment and other shared realms of our existence, we must work to alter the rules underlying the ways we interact–or we can simply generate increasing repetitions of the things that underlie fear itself. Perhaps there is something to fear. With all of the current connectivity, the average citizen is–in effect– asked to take care of the world. That is not a simple call to duty, requiring only that the citizen march, salute, and obey.

  3. Lucia Mouat ·

    Excellent points, Don. I don’t know if you saw the special report on climate change – “Hot and Bothered” – in the Nov. 28, 2015 issue of The Economist but I’m saving it! Keep up the good work!

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