Real Complication

One of the strange long held ideas of the conservatives is that if you take money away from the federal government it will help restore old ways and simpler times.

The supposed connection is that “tax tax spend spend liberals” were inventing needless government activity to meddle with business and private lives. The solution? Give away the money and budget pressure will force reducing the needless expenditure. Giving away money is always popular anyway.

I’m an architect and loose money every day providing mandated services I can’t sell, so you’d think I’d be jumping up and down in support. What I think kills the design business these days is redesign. The requirements are so complex that the solutions are less and less flexible and small changes force rethinking complex issues. We can’t sell that.

Government has something to do with that in terms of new reg’s, but if you ask where modern complication comes from it’s pretty quickly apparent that it’s not from government really, but simply from economic growth. The complications of growth are not caused by the change in GNP, but by multiplying 1) the number and kinds of parts of our world, 2) the intricacy of their connections and 3) the power of their influence on each other. It’s called productivity.

Increasing productivity also gives us 4) increasing expectations, 5) increasing overlap between our (personal, business & interest group) spheres of influence, 6) confrontation with natural limits and unexpected environmental impacts, 7) information explosion and generational separation, 8) increasing opportunities for both new services and abuses, …etc.

It’s a lot to contend with! Growth is revolutionary, continually accelerating reorganization of everything we know, a change of the earth and the meaning and structure of everything in our lives. It’s not just an increase in cash flow.

Adapting to it is a huge challenge, and a lot of that falls on government. If government could complain about the complication of modern life for itself I think it would be the biggest complainer.

The real complication is that growth can only make things better (i.e. worse), and reining it in will require, as Einstein said, a whole new way of thinking. Arguably the conservatives offer a ‘whole new way ot thinking’.

They favor market forces over direct regulation, for example, and I think that’s part of the answer. It doesn’t work if the problem keeps exploding, or if you don’t have a way to inform the markets that doesn’t overwhelm them too. …yep, you guessed it, another complication.

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