The True Nature of Society


Image by Massimo Valiani via Flickr

The reason we cannot have a coherent, comprehensive plan to solve the political and economic difficulties of the federal government (and of the state governments) is that people do not have a coherent, comprehensive hierarchy of values beyond the basics of social order.

via Sowing and Reaping: The True Sickness of Society « ThinkMarkets.

I don’t know that this is society’s sickness so much as society’s true nature. I’m a big fan of the old Bentley view that all politics is about special interest. I’m willing to concede that there might be some high minded folks who are really concerned about “the common good“, but they must deal with some inherent conflicts and constraints – what I think of as political physics. We only have so much time and resource, so decisions about “the common good” must deal with two key issues:

  • How much to focus on security versus opportunity? More of one means less of the other.
  • How much to focus on the present versus the future(s)? Long term gains mean short term sacrifice and vice versa.

There are multitudes of choices embedded in these two key issues. Combined with “special interest” motivations, it’s a wonder we can ever agree on anything at all!

We would have less rancor and more civility in government if every issue was examined in three contexts:

  1. Implications to security vs opportunity
  2. Implications over time
  3. Who benefits and who loses

Sounds like a nice little project to me!


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