January 1, 2014
The Progressive Agenda Crashes into Complexity
By J. R. Dunn
There's some irony in the fact that ObamaCare is hitting the wall at the precise moment that the incandescent bulb is being yanked off the market by government fiat -- but not as much as you might think.
Their origins were quite distinct in time -- the bulb ban, buried within the "Energy Independence and Security Act," was passed in 2007, ObamaCare three years later. Both were subject to phased implementation, so as to not alarm the peasants. Bulbs have been phased out over a two-year period, 75 to 100 watt last year and the lesser wattages now. ObamaCare was delayed for three years to allow for... development, I guess they called it.
But it's no real coincidence that these should be interwoven. There are so many such efforts in progress that it was inevitable that they would begin to cross each other's tracks. Even as those two were ripening, the destruction of the American coal industry is moving right along, a product of Obama executive decrees and EPA regulations. And if we were to look deeper we'd find plenty of others. The attempted transformation of the economy that we are witnessing is by no means limited to a handful of isolated and unrelated programs.
What does this transformation look like overall? It involves drastically cut energy sources, seriously limited forms of transportation, 19th-century (or even more primitive) health care, less food, expensive light sources, seriously truncated job opportunities, and higher education too expensive for any but the elite. In other words, Americans are to become poor, cold, hungry, and stupid, while sitting in the dark. That's the progressive plan for the wealthiest nation in the long human record.
(By "progressive", we're not talking about parties. The bulb ban was engineered largely by Rep. Fred Upton (R, Mich.). Upton was frightened enough by the early public response to promise that the ban would be rescinded -- if he was reelected. Of course, nothing of the sort happened.)
Needless to say, none of this applies to the political class. Fred Upton and many others will never be without light, heat, or a meal.
The reasons behind this don't matter; they are myriad, contradictory, and unconvincing -- global warming, fairness, equality, sharing the wealth. They change from week to week at convenience. Because the only true reason is power. The elite does it because they can. Does Upton believe in global warming? I have no idea. Does he truly think that banning light bulbs can avert such a global change? Put that way, it appears unlikely, but that fact is, he does believe it. At least in the forefront of his mind, the political section where he makes decisions involving his career. If confronted logically, he would have to admit that such a thing is unlikely, but then would have turned around to promote the ban regardless. We know this because that's exactly what he did involving his reelection promise. The same is true of Obama and his health care revolution. Accusations of Obama lying constantly while pressing for passage of the ACA are beside the point. He believed it when he said it. Now that things have changed, he believes something else.
This kind of quantum thinking -- jumping erratically from one state to the next while not actually crossing the intervening space -- is endemic to liberal thought. It couldn't be any other way. A major flaw of the liberal mentality is that it views situations as static, frozen and unchangeable at a given point of time. This works from all angles and applies to everything. This is why we get Bismarckian late 19th-century social schemes such as ObamaCare to address the challenges of an early-21st century culture. Progressive understanding of social problems happened to freeze at the point that the Fabian Society peaked and has never advanced one inch after that. So we get the New Deal, the Great Society, and whatever this Obama thing is called, each a catastrophe without compare.
The same applies to practice as well as theory. When they put a solution in place, it remains in place forever, unchanging and monolithic, much the way the Soviet Union used to be viewed. Oh, there may be a little tweaking around the margins, a little expansion and contraction here and there, as we're seeing with ObamaCare, but the basic elements remain intact and the overall scheme remains frozen. This is why Social Security is "untouchable," and why we have jobs programs that failed completely in the late 60s that are still spending billions today. (The all-time winner in this class is farm subsidies, put in place in the 1930s to support prices during the Great Depression and still being paid out eighty years later.)
But here's the thing: a free society -- in fact, any society of any sort -- does not freeze. It keeps moving, over and under and through the frameworks set up by the progressives or anyone else. This is because the universe in which all activity occurs is not a solid, implacable, and deterministic monolith but an ever-changing organism, fractal in nature. That is, comprised of near-infinite gradations of near-infinitely complex elements, each interacting constantly with the others. From this, we derive the mathematical concept that used to be called "chaos", but is now referred to as "complexity", to avoid the more wild-eyed anarchic associations of the earlier term. Complexity revealed to us a major truth: that the universe is not deterministic, that it cannot be directed or predicted to any large extent, because most of what is occurring at any given moment is inaccessible to us. A process simply can't be learned about or analyzed until it's finished, and any attempt to do so will be so disruptive as to defeat the original purpose.
From this it follows that any given situation cannot be frozen, and that trying to do so will create consequences that cannot be adequately predicted, exactly as we are now seeing with ObamaCare.
Despite the fact that it's undeniable, complexity is loathed by many scientists due to the fact that it puts distinct limits on how much can be known. Like Einstein, many prefer the deterministic universe. The tenets of complexity have trickled down in a meaningful sense into economics (though it could be said that it is inherent in free-market economics, as can be seen in the work of Hayek and von Mises), but not yet into sociology or politics, for the very simple reason that when they do they will bury progressivism as deep as the dinosaurs. The hatred of scientists is mellow compared to what will emerge from the liberal-left.
Politically, complexity tells us that attempts to freeze a situation and determine its outcome will generate results that are beyond control and can't be predicted. If you succeed at muzzling the GOP, you get the tea parties. If you attempt to centralize and nationalize the energy industry, you get...
Well, you get fracking. Fracking was an oddball technique developed in the late 1940s by some Oklahoma roughnecks and dismissed by the oil industry as too expensive and too uncertain for serious application. But throw in advances in seismology and computer guidance and a crazed attempted by government to seize control of energy resources and it suddenly stopped being a joke.
There's a here-comes-the-cavalry air to fracking. Just as Obama's authoritarian liberalism makes its move, here it comes over the hills, guidons flapping and bugles blowing. But in fact, that's no coincidence either. It has been four decades and more since the world's energy resources became the tool of various authoritarianisms -- the Gulf sheiks, the Russians, the Department of Energy, the EPA. All that time, the actual producers have been searching for a way out of the rapidly shrinking trap they found themselves in. Fracking is the way out. It just so happened that today, in the second decade of the new millennium, circumstances came together and the timing was right.
The same is true of all the other statist efforts at the moment. If ObamaCare survives -- not certain at this point -- it will be overwhelmed by developments that we cannot yet foresee. Social questions are not immune either. Advocates of gay marriage see a clear path to victory by utilizing the monolith of the state to crush opposition. They are even now attempting to nail it down by expanding it to polygamy in the hopes of bringing in new supporters. (Jonathan Turley has been a leftwing activist for quite some time). These efforts too will bring on their own demise -- again in a way that no one can predict.
Such developments may not necessarily be beneficial. The first attempt at total gay liberation encountered a barely living viroid that no one knew existed, and that caused a global epidemiological catastrophe. Even now, liberal attempts to freeze the American racial situation at the point it stood in the late 60s, with blacks as eternal victims and whites eternally punished for their "guilt," is breaking down into what looks more and more like a low-grade racial war. The laws of the universe don't really care how things fall out.
But even as light bulbs vanish and our health-care system descends into catastrophe, understand these as proof that liberalism does not belong in the universe as it exists.
And with that we enter 2014, a year of complexity. The same as all those that came before it.