Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Technocracy Redefined

I have never actually disagreed with anything written by David Brooks in one of his editorials, but don’t worry; I’ve never agreed with anything he’s written either. That’s because I’ve never figured out what the hell he’s talking about. Frankly, I don’t think he knows either.

Today he’s babbling away about Obama the “technocrat” and I actually started reading it because I wanted to see what could possibly lead him to level that charge. I can imagine Obama as many things, but “technocrat” is not really one of them.

Early in the piece he pronounces that “The essential truth about poverty is that we will never fully understand what causes it,” which is a little strange because poverty is clearly caused by a lack of income. Even David Brooks should be able to figure that one out. I realize that conservatives have tons of theories about how welfare programs cause poverty, countering the liberal theory that such programs help to alleviate poverty.

Having told us that we can never understand the cause of poverty, he then waxes inanely eloquent at rather great length about the nature of the cause of poverty.

There are a million factors that contribute to poverty, and they interact in a zillion ways. The list of factors that contribute to poverty could go on and on, and the interactions between them are infinite. Therefore, there is no single magic lever to pull to significantly reduce poverty. The only thing to do is change the whole ecosystem.

This is what I meant about neither agreeing or disagreeing with anything that Brooks writes. What in the hell does any of that mean? He seems to be saying that creating jobs will not “significantly reduce poverty,” which rather beggars any contact with reality.

He then admonishes us that “If poverty is a complex system of negative feedback loops, then you have to create an equally complex and diverse set of positive feedback loops.”

Okay, we can “never fully understand” what causes poverty, he says, but then he describes it as a “list of factors” which creates a “complex system of negative feedback loops” which must be countered by… Whatever. Nowhere, of course, does he mention a lack of availability of decent jobs.

He also doesn’t seem to understand what a “feedback loop” is. By the theory he espoused there, the old saying about a chain and its weakest link would have to be changed to read, “To unchain anything, one must cut every single link in the freaking chain,” because a breaking a “feedback loop” is much like making a chain fail, all it takes is cutting one link. Just as a chain is dependent on each of its links, feedback is dependent on each part of its process, and a feedback loop ceases to exist the minute that any one element within that loop is removed.

If action A leads to B which leads to C which leads to D which leads to E which leads to F, then killing D eliminates the journey from A to F without doing anything about A, B, C, E or F. Feedback loops are extremely easy to disrupt.

And I’m still waiting for the “technocrat” thing, which he finally drops on us out of thin air. There is no buildup to it, no lead-in, just,

Members of the Obama administration aren’t forcing religious organizations to violate their creeds because they are secular fundamentalists who place no value on religious liberty. They are doing it because they operate in a technocracy. Technocrats are in the business of promulgating rules. They seek abstract principles that they can apply in all cases.

Emphasis mine. And here I thought that technocracy had to do with the application of science to the conduct of social order. I was waiting for Brooks to tell me the advanced scientific principles that Obama was cramming down our throats and about which Brooks was prepared to go all Luddite in his resistance to, and instead I’m getting that he is all pissed off that Obama is in search of “abstract principles” which can be universally applied, which actually sounds like an attempt at applying some sort of “fairness doctrine” to me.

He winds up with a little homily about how our society should be more like a rain forest than like a military battalion, and I can't even begin to explain that one. Go read it for yourself.

1 comment:

bruce said...

um... I think this guy has an internal feedback loop caused b smoking too much smog or hot air or ozone or shaving lotion. Can't explain it any other way.

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