Sunday, January 20


I've been thinking about systems alot lately. It seems to me that in so many parts of our lives we ignore the fact that things are interrelated, often to our peril. Favoring the bad right knee soon creates a sore left hip. A nice morning walk starts the day well, leading to a better reaction when something goes wrong later in the day. Things are connected, creating spirals which are positive or negative. Ripples and waves.

Systems seem to me to be if anything even more important in things political and economic, and more commonly ignored. We subsidize ethanol made from corn, and then are shocked when the increased demand for corn has the effect of raising food prices. We start a war to "liberate" Iraq while giving scant attention to the collateral effects this action is likely to have around the world. Or, once started, politicians advocate immediate unilateral withdrawal from Iraq without much regard for the effects on the system. I've been constantly aggravated during this election season by politicians of all stripes positing simple answers to complex questions.

But, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, the politicians probably aren't the stupid ones. They know that most voters really want to hear the "simple" solutions. Simple causes.

On one level, the events of 9/11 were caused by al-Qaeda. That's the simple statement. But globalization had a role. And American policies. And probably bin Laden's parents. And Islamic fundamentalism. Do we solve the problem by capturing and punising al-Qaeda or by trying our best to get at the root causes of the problem?

The answer probably should be that we do our best to do both. It's relatively simple to pass legislation like the Patriot Act. We give the government more power to fight terrorism, but erode the very rights that make the U.S. unique.

A politician who tries to tell a complex story is probably doomed to failure. And this rant is probably not as logical and buttoned up as I would like. It's complicated stuff. I simply can't simplify it.