There's a Simple Solution to Every Complex Problem. Which is the Problem.
Churchill once remarked that it is sometimes necessary for truth to be protected by a bodyguard of lies. In the case of the left it's the other way around: their lies are protected and propagated by a bodyguard of self-styled "truth tellers," AKA the media.
Think about that: our culture has developed a systematic and pervasive megaphone for the propagation of liberal lies, under the guise of being the necessary institution for an informed citizenry. It pretends to be our cognitive immune system on a seek-and-destroy mission against falsehood, when it is really an autoimmune disorder that attacks truth.
There's another old adage about how every movement begins with an ideal but ends up a racket. But the media is not a racket, in the sense that its members are not generally motivated by venality -- at least consciously -- but by idealism. What happens when lies are animated by idealism? Pretty much every manmade catastrophe in history. Islamists are idealists, as were communists, national socialists, and the French revolutionaries.
Ideals don't exist in the world but in the head. The world can never match the ideal, but that doesn't stop idealists from trying to force the issue, with violence if necessary. Yesterday I heard Clinton say she was going to "rewrite the rules for the middle class." Can you imagine the presumption? She must believe the middle class only developed because of some set of government rules, instead of spontaneously emerging from the free activities of millions of independent actors. No one planned it, because such things are far too complex to ever be planned.
The left labors under an epistemology that is not only outmoded but delusional. I've only just started this refresher on Complexity, but that's my takeaway already. If you deny complexity and live in the old-fashioned, linear cosmos of the progressive, then lies become plausible and the impossible becomes possible. You can tweak some rule at the top and pretend to solve a complex societal problem. Magic is real!
Levin mentions the same thing in The Fractured Republic, and it is such an important point that I will proceed to belabor it.
There was a time when Americans actually had confidence in their government, but this was because virtually everyone was laboring under the pre-postmodern idea that there are linear solutions to complex societal problems. The whole war on poverty was based on this faulty premise, with catastrophic results. For it turns out that an input at one end doesn't result in a linear, predictable output at the other. Rather, in a complex system there is no way to predict -- not even in principle -- what will result from the new input.
Everyone who isn't a liberal understands that this is how the economy works. It is an infinitely complex information-processing system that no human being could ever comprehend. As with global warming, liberals superimpose some simplistic model over the irreducibly complex system and pretend they can get the output they want by tweaking this or that factor -- like the Community Reinvestment Act that nearly brought down the global economy in 2007-2008. The input -- forcing banks to give loans to unqualified borrowers -- was with the Best of Intentions. But look at the output: it didn't generate order, but complete chaos. And not the good kind.
"Indeed, this outdated model for solving problems is what now stands out most about the social-democratic vision that implicitly guides the American left: although it offers itself up as a vision of the future, it is an anachronism. It is how the past used to think about the future" (Levin).
Nevertheless, this sidesteps perhaps the most important aspect of politics, which is to say, its implicit promise that there are linear solutions to complex problems. Someone said that politics is the "organization of hatreds," which is surely true. However, hatred -- even if warranted -- isn't rational, but emotional. More generally, I find that politics is much more rooted in emotion, in atavistic tribalism, in magical wish fulfillment, in anxiety containment, than in anything rational.
Therefore, not only must we understand reality itself as a complex system, but the system we apply to the complex system -- politics -- is itself a complex system. That may not be entirely clear. Hopefully it will become more so as we proceed.
I suppose it goes to a comment I made yesterday, that "no plan survives contact with reality, and the future cannot be extrapolated from current trends." We bifurcate our politics into a simplistic left and right, but in reality, we have no idea what will result from conservative inputs or liberal ones. From our side, even if our policies are successful, you can be sure the media will make it appear they aren't, which will in turn generate unpredictable outcomes.
Yesterday I also mentioned Eliot's gag that there are no lost causes because there are no gained ones. Thus, even if we gain the White House, that will only be prelude to countless losses. As if the left will just roll over. Evil doesn't sleep. It doesn't even rest.
If Trump thinks he's being attacked now, just wait until next November 9th. Everything for which Obama and Clinton are responsible will be immediately blamed on him. 95 million out of the workforce! 20 trillion in debt! Wars all over the middle east! Racial division! Crime increasing! Unsustainable entitlement programs! Blacks regressing by every conceivable measure! Why haven't you solved these staggering problems!
Levin cites several reasons why the vision of the left is so fucking retarded. First, it -- ironically, given the fact that it is responsible for, and even proud of, our deep divisions -- "takes a degree of social cohesion for granted that is no longer realistic." Yes, you would never game the system to get free stuff from the government. Hell, you just want the government to leave you alone.
But that is not true of people with quite different cultural conditioning. The left loves immigrants, so long as they are immigrants who love the left, i.e., big government. Democrats were thrilled when Mr. Khan whipped out that constitution, because it is the very same constitution they so reverently ignore.
In the old days -- i.e., prior to the 1960s -- we could assume a level of cultural order, stability, and cohesion that no longer exists. And guess why it no longer exist? Many reasons, one of which is past efforts on the part of the left to pretend there are simple, top-down solutions to complex problems. "This means they [their policies] don't work to to create order, and in fact that they frequently undermine it -- especially by creating incentives against family formation and work" (ibid.).
It reminds me of how conservatives favor economic policies that generate wealth, whereas the left just assumes the wealth and goes about dividing it up between favored constituents. The end result is Venezuela, i.e., failure to generate wealth at all. But at least everyone is equal. Or rather, income equality reaches infinity, in that people in the bottom 90% have nothing.
Levin is of course correct that "we need alternatives that actively encourage the integration of needy and vulnerable Americans into the mediating institutions of family, community, and work." Well, yes. There is a little catch, however. People tend to marry people of a similar IQ. They then produce children with similar IQs to the parents. You know the rest. As I said, I'm all for marriage. But marriage itself, without a host of other values and virtues -- for example, absence of class envy -- won't suffice. I mean, Obama and Clinton are married. QED.
Levin again highlights the left's "fundamentally anachronistic epistemology, or theory of knowledge." In this quaint worldview, "the most effective way to regulate and manage a complex modern society was for the legitimately elected government to empower social scientists to employ their centralized expert knowledge." This has been the reigning paradigm ever since FDR (and really, Hoover before him), such that it seems impossible to dislodge it.
For the most part, Republicans simply promise to do a better job while using the same faulty paradigm. Very few are true conservatives, like Reagan, who knew that when it comes to complex systems such as the economy, less is more. That is, less regulation, taxation, and bureaucratic meddling results in much upside surprise.
In political and economic Realville, "the top-down theory has given way to a kind of bottom-up theory of distributed knowledge suggesting that the expertise needed to make complex decisions is not concentrated in the hands of a small band of experts, but dispersed among all, and best aggregated through the medium of individual choice in a diverse society" (ibid.).
The implications are almost staggering. For example, it could mean that you understand more about your healthcare needs than the most thoroughly indoctrinated leftist expert sitting behind a desk in DC.
Nah, can't be. How could we ever negotiate through life without our liberal masters?
Modern man comforts himself by thinking that everything has a solution. As if there were no sinister solutions!
None of the high points of history has been planned. --Don Colacho