U.S. Capitol building


When people complain about ineffective government they often use the word “change”.  What they most often mean by this is that they want to “fix” the current system so that it works better than what they now see but still looks pretty much the same. But what do they think when the closer and more detailed they look they find that the current system is really only getting worse with little prospect of improvement in the future?

Currently we have a system of political representation which is mostly inhabited by those with a legal background. People attracted to politics and that are successful at holding political office are, because of the nature of politics, driven toward a certain type of behavior. Politicians are persons of the moment by that I mean that they are wired to respond to what is happening right at that time. And, for their future success, they had better say the right thing at the right time.  One of the great gifts of the human mind is the ability to look into the future and see the possibilities as well as the dangers. Politicians avoid this because, if they guess wrong, they will be labeled with the “failure”.  No politician wants his “legacy” to be a garbage can with his name stenciled on it.  However politicians will move forward if pushed by enough constituents. Likewise they don’t look into the past much either.  History contains a record of things that worked, as well as those that worked badly.  This is why when politicians speak they usually do so in broad generalities.  The usual thrust is to give the listeners a “soft” idea of how they think about things in general.

Politicians spend most of their time, basically, running for office.  This is not their choice.  It is the way the system works.  Much of their time is required for raising money.  It would be surprising if that didn’t often make them feel like bums on a street corner looking for loose change, although the clothes are better quality.  Lobbyists in Washington now largely outnumber representatives.  There was a time when there were fewer of these creatures.  Their numbers have grown dramatically in the last two decades or so.  The growth in their numbers can only indicate that what they are doing works.  One thing is for certain, few of them represent the interest of the poor or middle classes.  The wealthy and big corporations can pour out the money to hire the expensive lawyers that can get their message across.  This is just another tool to maintain control of the system so that it operates the way they want it done.  All that is necessary is to look back across many administrations and one can see how little real change has occurred.

Few examples can better illustrate the true usefulness of political thought than the vote by the U.S. Congress on May 3, 2015 that Climate Change is not caused by humans.  The vote was 50 to 49.  Possibly they might next vote the Atlantic Ocean out of existence so that people could drive back and forth to Europe.  Or, in order to make things simpler for map makers, they might just declare the Earth to be flat.  It is small wonder that this group has plans to strip large amounts of funding from scientific studies funded by the government.  If people are puzzled by the decline in voter interest they might take a look at such behavior.

Few politicians know a great deal about technical or scientific subjects.  If they do they are rather quiet about it.  The problem with this is that our world is one completely constructed of technology which is often the result of scientific inquiry.  Few people in the general population have an interest in scientific study of the mechanics of government or much of the physical world around them.  Their conclusions are often drawn from vague feelings or what someone whose opinion they respect has said.  In a technological society things can go very wrong very fast.  That tendency will only increase in the future.

On July 31, 2012 India had the largest electrical blackout in history.  The power outage affected 620,000 people for at least a day.  This covered 9% of the world’s population.  India is a nation where large numbers of people do not depend on electricity for everyday living.  Suppose such an outage occurred in the U.S. lasting for a longer time.  It could represent a disaster equal in magnitude to a major war.  We are highly dependent on a technology that functions all the time. Even during major earthquakes in populated areas major efforts go into restoring “vital” services as fast as possible.  Is it possible that a natural event could knock out major portions of the U.S. electrical grid?  The answer is yes.  Are we really prepared for such a possibility?  It doesn’t seem so.

Mechanical Engineering magazine reports that The International Federation of Robotics expects new installations of industrial robots to reach 200,000 units in 2014 and to grow 12 percent annually between 2015 and 2017.  Some newer robots are designed to work around people so that they stop quickly when they contact a person.  BMW and other automakers have begun installing these robots on assembly lines, where they can split such jobs as positioning and joining parts.

“The same human-friendly robots can also shuttle work pieces in and out of machines, pack products, run tests, and place pepperoni slices on pizza in assembly lines near people.”

Newer programs make standard reprogramming of robots unnecessary.  A robot can simply be instructed on the job it is to do.  Robots don’t need vacations, or time off, they will never complain, or demand a raise.  Jobs they do are done very precisely every time without error.

Although one cannot say that is the problem, as the U.S. slowly begins to recover from the recent recession the largest number of jobs being filled appear to be retail clerks and restaurant workers.

In your editorial of 25 April 2015 “A vote for change” you mentioned “Technocrats”.  I will assume that you meant this in only the most general sense.  The proposals put forward by the organization Technocracy Inc. included no mention of expecting any help from the media.  It appears that the organization was a bit ahead of its time with the proposals it did make.  They still remain valid.  The organization predicted that machines would take over much of the work being done by people in such a way that a price system would no longer function.

Rather than seeing such an event as a catastrophe the organization saw it as an opportunity to design a social order that would be capable of operating the technology that keeps us all alive and simply provides the necessary material goods that people need to live their lives.  A society that operates without money would be a far simpler society than currently exists.  There would be no need for tax collection, no need for banks or any of the financial apparatus that currently exists.  For the first time people would really be free!  The only question that needs to be answered is what do people need and want, where does it need to be supplied and when?

Really serious questions that are simply being ignored such as the problems with climate change could now be addressed because there no longer are corporate bodies trying to remove it from discussion or clouding the issue with nonsense.  An even more serious issue is population control.  The Earth is only so big and we are threatening to overwhelm it.  Many of the serious issues of the day would simply disappear when money disappears.

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