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The saying goes: "If it worked for grandpa, it will work for me."

True enough--for most of the existence of our species--150 millennia or so. Some five to ten millennia ago, hunter gatherers began flocking together, as survival likely demanded. That adaptation was not so much natural as it was learned. And that adaptation led to an ever-quickening of discovery arising from natural curiosity combined with logical thinking that could imagine a better, more-secure world. Of necessity, security rested on defensive barriers and offensive arms. Technology was born. Invention begat inventions [plural] on an ever quickening pace in accord with what we now call an exponential law [of progress].

This is the most dangerous of perspectives, never mind that it has a silver lining.

To understand the power of the exponent, just in our times, now forty-five years after Gordon Moore published his famous law, the use of computers has multiplied some four billion times. This is the modern perspective arising from a single discovery by John Bardeen and Walter Brattain at Bell Labs in 1947, a bare 19 years before Moore's famous publication. Metallurgical and medical technologies follow similar trajectories, each with their own unique exponent.The exponent for metallurgy is much weaker than that for medicine. Moore's formulation is that computer capability doubles every 18 months. Use follows capability more or less linearly since each has now multiplied by billions.

It matters little that exponential laws are not forever. But their history does matter--a lot. The exponent has created a runaway situation that has left the slow march of mutation (also an exponent) in the dust-bin of history. Homo is so far ahead of mutation, that now has all the tools needed to alter evolution itself! Indeed it already has, beginning early on. Animal domestication surely came first. Selection of hardy crops to plant came next with follow-on innovations leading to the corn variety of maze, seedless oranges and grafting. And now we are witnessing exponential growth in bioscience, with the creation of life itself from inert substances due this century.

Armaments kept apace, to the point where no known fortress, not even the biosphere itself, can cope with a full-scale, all-participant bombardment exchange.

Political science also has an exponent that depends in complex ways on society, religion, economics and technology. Only technology has a strong exponential.

We are now part of that evolution. It has a number of intertwined components:

  • Historical:
    • Hunter-gatherers
    • Herders
    • Farmers
    • City-state formation
    • Formal nationalism
    • Empire
  • Geographical:
    • Population dispersal out of Africa
    • Population isolation by ocean, mountain, rivers
    • Local myths arise as disparate as their geography
    • Local myths become traditions
    • Traditions affect style of governance and belief systems
  • Technological: (Logos)
    • Animal husbandry
    • Agriculture
    • Arms and armaments
    • Transportation
    • Communications
    • Medicine
  • Belief System: (Mythos), Tribal and folk religions led to:
    • African: Diasporic (Afro-American)
    • East Asian: Taoism, Confucianism, Shinto
    • Indian: Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Jainism
    • Middle Ease: Abrahamic monotheism

So where is the silver lining? In the end it can only be political changes in the matter of governance. Social customs determine political format. Because migration, as slow as it was early on, ran way ahead of communication and the rise of civilization itself. A kaleidoscope of societal forms arose. Like competing genes, societies are now in deadly conflict for survival. Technology has strongly affected the outcomes of war and empire clashes for the last 15 decades.

One must concede the power of technology, especially bioscience, to affect society. It has its own exponent. Whether it will win or lose the day over the next century remains to be seen. We say century only because Moore's Law will certainly hold for seven decades, and bioscience should have a similar multiplier of information and doubling of capability. Who in 1940, could have conceived of where we are in 2010? This is the heart of the exponent.

Given this backdrop, where does it leave our head?

"If it worked for grandpa, it will work for me."

In politics, the "where" is out in left field, that's where.

To use an example from our times: In 1954, Congress passed a law to simplify the running of simple ventures. It contained a loophole that has become significant in that a particular manager in a business created by that law can have much or nearly all of his/her income taxed at capital-gains rates instead of the higher rate paid by others in identical positions in other enterprises not covered by the 1954 law. Clearly the law is out-of-date. It costs the taxpayers billions annually. Never mind that money is needed to counter terror, improve education and health.

In like manner, farm subsidies had their origin in the desire to keep small farmers afloat during the Great Depression. But the subsidies have morphed into huge giveaways to mammoth agribusinesses. Again this one exists at taxpayer expense, money that would be better spent elsewhere.

Immigration and torture laws are also out of balance when viewed from the perspective of our national good. There surely are other examples in the millions of pages in our statutes.

Finally, outmoded regulations led to the current financial crisis. As disheartening as it is amazing, all these laws and regulations not only exist, but are enforced.

Will the man elected to change things in Washington stir himself to address these ills arising from the natural conservatism in each of us and our government?

Time will tell; we see only a few little glimmers where a searchlight is needed.

What we have come to is a few suggestions:

  • Amend or create executive bonus laws to reward capital creation, not its corralling.
  • Eliminate special exemptions like those above.
  • Provide equal pay for equal work, regardless of the context within which that work is done or who does it.
  • If these do not reduce the gap between executive and the trenches, pass legislation that does.
  • Find ways to immunize those in government from special interests. Put enough teeth in them to limit corruption of the public interest.
  • Begin educational programs for all ages, but for K12 in particular. It must have the elements of:
    • Historical accuracy.
    • Knowledge of the individual self.
    • How to overcome hang-ups and apply simple logic to each situation.

In the best of all worlds, these things could happen. But this world we live in is so far from ideal as to be better classified as corrupt. As for the politics here, the Democrats own much of this problem as well. Yet they sit on their hands, or bow to special interests coming and going. Current health legislation suffers from just this flaw. But we can be guardedly optimistic, especially since Obama is taking a personal interest toward health care passage. That in itself is a hopeful sign. But it is barely a beginning. Corruption is still rampant. Yes, the president must work with the system, but the nation is now so polarized, it may well be on its downslide toward merely ordinary.

Nevertheless, if we do not amend laws and regulations in a timely enough fashion, we will suffer the fate as the many great empires before us. Eventually, empire will become obsolete, but that time is not yet imminent. And ours may not be the last one...


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