Thursday, April 18, 2013

Whats with these stupid memes about how simple it is to govern?

What is it with political conservatives that they seem to believe that all the big questions facing advanced 21st century economies can be reduced to simplistic homespun models with one or two variables, no assumptions, no ambiguities, no doubts etc.  In the 'real' world of national/state economies/societies there are real issues of competition, monopoly, scarcity, initial disadvantage, initial advantage, competing priorities, diverse views of positive outcomes, the role of debt to finance future growth, the role of society to protect its citizens (and thousands more).  Despite this impossibly complex environment consevatives believe all these intersecting and overlapping problems can be solved by ignoring them and instead applying a few primary school level logical situations.

For example, the task of determining the distribution of tax across people, trusts, companies, etc via direct and indirect means between people that earn essentially nothing and others that earn literally hundreds of millions of dollars a year is reduced to splitting up a beer tab.

Again, the task of figuring out how to best manage an economy of over 20 TRILLION dollars a year, involving half a billion 'players' (people/trusts/companies etc), that manages everything from the distribution of food stamps so that people can eat tomorrow through to conducting studies of what nuclear powered attack submarine will be ordered in 5 years time for delivery in 20 years is reduced to managing a household budget for a year.

Finally, the most recent one I've seen reduces the socio/political theory of 'socialism' which in its purist form requires hundreds of pages to explain and has been implemented in dozens (or even hundreds of different ways) to a single college lecturer refusing to give individual results and instead awarding everyone the class average.

I suspect there are three forces at work.

First is the basic conservative preference for the simple.  Note, I'm not saying conservatives ARE simple, I'm certainly not meaning to imply that they are in any way less intelligent, educated, aware etc than progressives.  However, as George Lakoff and others have often shown via studies, conservatives prefer a simple answer over a complex one, a yes/no over a maybe, a black/white over a bunch of grays.  So when confronted with reams of overlapping and often conflicting factors that cant be treated digitally but rather have to be balanced and nuanced they tend to simply discard them.

Secondly, I've found that for many conservatives the economy/society is personal and moral.  Its no coincidence that the richer people become the more selfish, this has been shown in any number of studies.  What also interesting are the pure numbers involved here, in the US for example the family that owns the WALMART chain (6 people) possess more wealth than the poorest 30% of amercians (100 million people).  When we are talking about the kind of conservatives with the money, time, energy and desire to devote resources to driving a media agenda (via the publishing of this pithy little economic parables for example) we are therefore generally discussing a relatively small group of people, conditioned by their wealth to be inward looking and in an economic/social position where the public and private, economic and moral become one and the same.

Finally, these stories are simply following a successful advertising/advertorial tradition.  Forget all the bullshit theorising, these methods of simplifyingto the point of silliness work as a form of advertising.  And make no mistake, that what these stories floating around the net are, advertising for a conservative point of view on whatever topic they are trying to win on.

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