Making It Up As You Go Along

Two articles that could have come from different universes were actually written in the same week.  The first is a Washington Post article describing how president Obama, aware of Russian plans to influence the 2016 election "choked" by not responding forcefully, lulled by "the assumption that Clinton would win" anyway.  The second article by Emile Simpson at Foreign Policy warns that Trump may be stumbling into a war involving the very same Russia.

They are representative of stories that depict the administration either at Putin's throat or at his feet, in collusion or conflict with the Kremlin.  Although this is contradictory nobody seems to notice. In fact both can simultaneously be true if you assume the political system is inconsistent, as if driven by a random number generator.  That may in fact be the case.  The entire political system, not just Trump administration, is zig-zagging through public policy.

Ten years ago one could predict what the official (and unofficial) story would be in any situation. By contrast today's headlines are often absolutely contradictory, a situation that has made it hard for pundits to write anything intelligent about current events.  Some have given up or seemingly had a nervous breakdown.  This randomness is telling because it is indicative of  a narrative in disarray. Unpredictability is exactly what you'd expect during a paradigm shift and observing it may even proof you're inside of one.  We are lost.

What does one do when lost?  What should politicians stripped of a narrative do in a world in disarray?  For the most part they pretend not to notice the dangers gathering round them, like a frightened man whistling past the graveyard. Politicians are never lost.

The more honest and sagacious will try to determine some direction of improvement in order to find a way back to some new equilibrium.  There are a number of rules of thumb they might attempt. One can imagine a world restored to order and mentally retrace the steps from that idealized state backward to our current predicament.  Alternatively we can identify a common sense improvements and construct strategy extending these ad infinitum.  The more contemplative can create a theory of why we fell into the present condition and work out our salvation intellectually.

But in each case we need a direction of betterment.  That is not so easy to find.  Recently California tried -- and failed -- pass a single payer health care bill as an alternative to the Obamacare replacement. They just as quickly shelved it.  "California will not be instituting single-payer health care anytime soon."  It would have been wonderful if California had actually attempted it for there is no proof of the superiority or inferiority of single-payer so convincing as an actual experiment.  But it was mostly for show. The bill was "woefully incomplete ... never presented cost estimates or a detailed plan for how to finance it" probably because they didn't know where to find the $400 billion needed to make it work. Despite their show outward of confidence their compass was as baffled as anyone else's.