13 December 2011

Same Old Problems

Think about the political programs you read about in the news. Almost none of them achieve their desired effect; some do, “on paper,” meaning that they meet some arbitrary targets but don’t fix a problem.
Most of our worst problems are with us perpetually. Crime, poverty, war, incompetence, corruption, filth, and a seemingly endless stream of people willing to do anything for cash, to themselves, others or the world at large including our environment.

No utopic vision will ever come into existence.  Not one.

People are the reason for this.  Quite simply, there have always been and will always be human beings who persist in doing stupid, counterproductive, and/or evil things.  It’s who we are.  Every proposal to counter the problems of the world always ignores one fact:  most of the problems in this world stem from human nature.  Most of us are stupid, shortsighted, and incredibly ignorant.  We’re finite beings with irrational impulses that are difficult (though not impossible) to control.  And utopists can never seem to get it in their thick skulls that human finiteness will never go away.

This doesn’t mean that utopic visions are worthless, or should be ignored.  On the contrary, they should be embraced.  Having an ideal outcome provides one with, if nothing else, an objective measuring stick. 

However, utopists need to be cognizant of the limits of utopic visions.  While visions provide an objective goal to which one can compare current reality, one must temper one’s visions with pragmatism.  At what point does the attempt to attain one’s vision cease to be worth the cost?  Or, more pointedly, how good is good enough?  Perfection in this mortal coil is unattainable, so we will have to settle for that which is merely good.

As such, utopists need to understand the concept of marginal utility and apply it correspondingly, especially in light of the fact that perfection is unattainable.  Quite simply, utopists need to pursue their ideals but know when to quit.

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