Loose ends, #1

–First it was rich families—later, the ruling classes—who governed the country; then the capitalists came into clearer view; and afterwards came the New Class, that better-off techno-managerial elite with the answers. Now they’re all bunched up into “you lot,” as in “that conga line of sick-fucks and numb-nuts running the place.” And yet we’re to believe that the only genuine political project today must begin with, what, setting tax rates on that lot?

–Ours is the radical work that comes with understanding that betterment requires capitalizing on the messy socio-technical systems (some are called infrastructures) without which most of us would not have chances for betterment. Radical can’t be dumbed down and still be radical.

–What feels like the turbo-speed of societal change seems less a function of the knowledge we have or are obtaining than the existence of the complexity which we do not (yet?) know—in parallel to dark energy “accounting” for why the expansion of the universe is accelerating rather than slowing down.

–Policy narratives have beginning, middles and ends, and those narratives capitalize on the functionality of having means and ends in view; the function of policy messes is to frustrate that storyline. At times that is a very good mess to be in.

–The story is told that Beau Brummell, when asked by a companion which of the lakes he preferred, asked his valet, “Which one of the northern lakes do I prefer?” “I believe it is Windermere, sir,” replied the valet. Whereupon Brummell turned to his questioner, “Apparently it is Windermere.” Quite droll—until you realize his “apparently” is indifferent even to drollness. Indifference—not caring one way or another—is a killer in public policy and management.

–According to Bertrand Russell via sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, economics is about how people make choices and sociology is about why they don’t have any choice to make. If so, then neuroscience is about why both views are true only as far as they go—and they most certainly do not go far enough.

–When the doctor tells me that I have 1 out of 5 chances of having a heart attack or stroke within the next ten years, he’s giving me a perspective on what might be ahead. But for the life of me I can’t explain why the “probably” perspective in the lines of poet, A.R. Ammons, is far more certain and truthful:

though I
have not been here long, I can
look up at the sky at night and tell
how things are likely to go for
the next hundred million years:
the universe will probably not find
a way to vanish nor I
in all that time reappear

–As for the last financial crisis, the only difference between the advocates of alchemical economism and Professor Sir Anthony Blunt, art historian and KGB agent seeking to undermine capitalism from within, is that Blunt didn’t have as good a roadmap to subversion as the Efficient Market Hypothesis, Value at Risk Model, and other such weaponry.

Soup de jour:           

  • Major premise: All politics are local.
  • Minor premise: A trillion-dollar war, a 100-dollar barrel of oil, $3.50 for a gallon of gas—and still there is no screaming in the streets?!
  • Conclusion: The minor premise is not about politics as we know them; or politics are premises in search of conclusions other than the one you are reading right now.

What would such a conclusion look like? Here soup concedes to stew. You might conclude the political world is much more cluttered than we even imagine, akin to those notoriously messy studios of artists, Edgar Degas and Francis Bacon.

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