Another inflection point in the year. Now we are diving into the predominance of cold and darkness. And I am talking about the political season not just the autumnal season.
I really don't have anything more to say about the state of politics in the US than I've already said. It is still a spectacle of the very worst form of decision making with respect to how we shall govern our society in the future. There is not one rational voice in the lot of candidates or the media pundits who comment on the races. Neoclassical economists still hold sway over the rhetoric and what passes as policy deliberations. The Republicans (and Libertarians) remain dumbfoundingly irrational in their beliefs that tax reductions (especially for the already rich) are the route to prosperity for all. We have collected so much evidence that this is not the case but they stubbornly cling to that mantra. Of course the party was taken over by the anti-science, anti-intellectual crowd a while back so I guess this isn't terribly surprising. Santorum's recent comment about how the “smart people will never support” US is so revealing and so terribly sad. But it seems to very much reflect the current state of the Republican party members' minds. They have become masters of rationalization in turning greed and selfishness into a virtue. All that brain power going to support what is probably the most destructive force on the planet.
Democrats don't get a pass either. Here we see someone like Energy Secretary Stephan Chu, a Nobel physicist, still playing as if technology (like clean coal) will win the day and we can get the economy going again. Economic growth is physically impossible and somewhere in that man's mind he has to grasp that. Real economic growth depends on increasingly turning physical resources into assets that humans use (and use up). It depends on increasingly available energy to do useful work. It is NOT increasingly printing money just to say we have liquidity! In my mind that fellow is guilty of criminal deceit in not declaring the physical truth.
I can somewhat understand Obama's lack of grasp of the situation. He is trained as a lawyer and lawyers think mostly in terms of winning positions (which is why so many politicians are lawyers). They pick and choose the evidence that will advance their cases. They are not scientists and they are not sensitive to counter evidence to their positions until such evidence becomes overwhelming and obvious to all observers. And that is exactly what is going to happen in the not-too-distant future when regional economies fall right and left as the global economy falters and eventually fails. But then, of course, it is too late to do anything meaningful about it.
Both parties, the ideologues in both camps, the neoclassical economists stubbornly asserting their model of how the world works, all hold to the idea that growth means a healthy economy. A healthy economy creates jobs and lets everyone consume to their hearts' contents. Consumption means demand. Demand drives the economy to grow. THIS HAS GOT TO BE THE ABSOLUTELY STUPIDEST MODEL THAT EVER EXISTED! There is no rational way on Earth that anyone can justify this notion of infinite growth.
So they don't. They just keep mouthing the rhetoric over and over. And the masses just soak it up mindlessly. Their biggest problem is deciding which candidate is more likely to “create more jobs”, the one who says he has a plan, or the one who says he has a plan!
Neither candidate can really claim to understand the real situation and thus have a workable plan. Romney can only bluster that he can do it because his business experience gives him the skills. Of course he doesn't say exactly how he would do it. Obama, has advanced a few of the typical (and completely wrong) Keynesian ideas of government spending (e.g. infrastructure repair) to prime the pump and get demand back up until the economy is then self sustaining. Not only is he talking about the absolutely worst investments in infrastructure (assets that will be stranded such as roads in the post-oil economy) but it is all contingent on there being energy to run such an economy. Ain't gonna happen.
Directing some government investment toward alternative energy research might have a small payoff but the more we learn about the efficacy of these energy sources (solar, wind) the more we realize that the total power that we can expect to get from an all electric system would be many orders of magnitude less than we currently use. We could not expect to have anything even remotely close to the standard of living we have now even after you squeeze all of the waste and inefficiencies out of the system. All Obama's plan does is attempt to kick the can down the road a bit with fingers crossed that a miracle will happen. Well I hope a miracle happens too, but I am not basing an action plan on it doing so.
In a very real sense the acceptance by the vast majority of people of the idea that a growing economy even if feasible, if not desirable, reflects on the abysmal state of knowledge and the education that we get in this country (though it isn't really any different in the rest of the world, is it?) I strongly suspect that this is a result of having reached the limits of the average human brain to grasp reality that is so complex as much as a failure of the education system. I think the system and the increasing insular attitudes toward complex knowledge in the vast majority of the population is the result of a coevolution, or rather a devolution. We don't develop an adequate education system because the students are really not generally capable of dealing with the complexities of knowledge the modern world has to offer. And those same students are the ones who eventually go out into the world, muddling through as best they can, and either complain about the state of education (when Johnny or Jane can't pass the standardized math tests that most of them couldn't pass either), or become teachers and administrators charged with reforming/modifying the system and educating the next generation. We're caught in a downward spiral, negative feedback loop just because our brains have reached their level of incompetence relative to the knowledge environment our own science and engineering efforts have created.
Fall is here. For both the physical season and for the human condition. We are headed for winter and those seeking to run things aren't even thinking of how to prepare for that cold, dark season. Instead they are promising spring and summer as if we could just skip winter. Of course spring will come for the physical season. I seriously doubt that the human condition will know anything other than a long and terrible winter. Fall should be the season of harvest and storing energy for the winter and spring. Instead our political leaders aren't even paying attention to reality.