Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Another Important Long Read Recomendation


Jonathan Rauch has done a very good job of describing, and considering the reasons for, the current insanity of American politics today. This is something everybody ought to take some time to read and ponder over.

He breaks this down into an introduction into the current chaos we are mired in now, and then five categories related to the physiology of disease towards our "body politic:"

1: Immunity (Why the Political Class is a Good Thing)
     The checks and balances of the Constitution were augmented by a necessary system of not only political parties, with local hierarchies controlling selections, but by a further Congressional system of seniority, committees, membership, and leadership based on seniority. With control these systems created middle men who had clout to impose some discipline. 

2: Vulnerability (How the War on Middlemen Made America Defenseless)
     The wave of reforms that started early in the 20th century, but accelerated greatly in the seventies, against backroom deals, rules against pork swapping, and changes in the way parties conducted primaries, as well as campaign finance reform limiting direct party donations, began to weaken not only the power of the middle men, but their very credibility to exist in the first place.

3: Pathogens (Donald Trump and Other Viruses)
     Because of #2 above, as well as because of changes in media technology allowing almost anyone to appeal to wide groups of people, true believers of whatever stripe, as well as the naive, and uninformed, idealists (what he refers to as "politophobes") who either hate partisan bickering, and/or think of it as quite unnecessary, the atomization of interest groups around a good number of undisciplined actors was inevitable. 

4: Symptoms (The Disorder that Exacerbates All Other Disorders)
     Because of #3 above any pretense at leadership, in order to effect a hard won compromise, becomes a joke. As a result, not only is Congress emasculated, but the further increase in gridlock serves only to increase the general disdain for the political sausage making process in general with the public; thus forming a quite non virtuous circle of self reinforcing decline in legitimacy, and respect, of the growing number of "politophobes" out there; who are then easy pickings for the likes of Trump or Cruz. 

5: Prognosis and Treatment (Chaos Disorder as a Psychiatric Disorder)

I have left the last part blank because Mr. Rauch is quite candid in admitting that he doesn't have all of the answers; who could with something so complex. There are a few general suggestions: as in bringing both money back in such a way that it make the parties relevant again, as well as bringing back the horse trading with pork so that there can be a carrot, as well as a stick. Pretty much anything that would make the middle men of yore viable once more.

For my part, I think there is a good deal of logic in what he has described here. Given that there will always be considerable diversity in what people think is important, and then how to address those priorities, coming to workable compromise will always be an emotionally charged, and competing ideas, grinding down process; hence the making of sausage metaphor. What you have to remember, though, is that this revolves around keeping the current system functional, and perhaps in that is a fundamental, unwarranted assumption.

He is, after all, quite right to question how we conduct reforms, pointing out that the cure can often cause more problems than the cause it was originally meant to fix in the first place. This is, in fact, an important aspect of complex systems; you can change them to a certain point, but beyond that you risk interactions that you can't possibly anticipate; something that I have been trying to emphasize for some time now as it relates to reforming Capitalism itself. Once past a certain point of technological change, which is so infused into it as this point, any further attempts of such make for more economic dislocations then they seek to ameliorate in the first place.

The main problem in making government less insane now, from my perspective, is that it has become so entwined within the related problems affecting Capitalism, and the fact that it is simply no longer relevant to the technological environment we now live in. Mr. Rauch admits that money will never be taken out of politics, but in that admission is also a tacit acceptance of the rest of the horrible contradictions that this cost based economic operating system has presented us with.

A part of the problem with representational government in the first place is that it now exists within an environment of unbelievable hyper marketing. Not only does this, and the entertainment that carries it, put us into ever greater states of fantasy, virtually everything in that context becomes something someone is trying to sell you on, so why wouldn't there be a substantial starting point of distrust for any messaging that anybody of note might be putting out; assuming you're paying attention at all of course. And this only begins to touch on the questionable messaging that corporate interests present us with, in addition to selling a product or service. They have, after all, their own set of priorities in terms of what's good for the nation as a whole. All of which is to say that, for there to be a workable system of representation, there must also be a truly informed electorate, but how can that be when information itself is gold, and nobody gives you anything unless they receive a net gain from it?

The other part of the problem here is the very nature of a factory oriented mode of social organization. Such a system inherently places us in separated specialities, and working cliques, which are far too disconnected from each other in terms of understanding what is important generally. This also creates an education system that itself is a separate little factory of knowledge assembly; one that's supposed to work despite the overwhelming distractions that these spaces are submerged in (just as Marshal McLuhan described). You need only add in the fact that we seem incapable of funding them to the degree they ought to require, whatever their inherent deficiencies are, and you provide yourself with a population that is guaranteed to be ignorant, and intolerant, far beyond what lapses in personal choices, as well as a lack of discipline, would suggest would be the case.

The bottom line for me here is that we are already being made insane because we live within an economic system gone berserk because of it's warping under the effects of electrification. How could we expect our political system to be made to do anything but follow in kind.



How American Politics Went Insane

It happened gradually—and until the U.S. figures out how to treat the problem, it will only get worse
By 

  •  JULY/AUGUST 2016 ISSUE