compulsory reading, oddly enough, Political Theory, US Politics, USA

Desperately Seeking Simplicity

Somehow, I hate to restate something as obvious as this – the world we are living in is an extremely complex system. A system far too complicated for any individual to understand. That’s why we tend to categorize and model the world in order to reduce complexity and gain a little insight into the “underlying causes” of the reality constructed by our sensory system.

But somehow, I guess it is necessary. Fellow German Blogger “Lilimarleen” wonders how people living in a world featuring violent anti-globalisation demonstrations and politicians desperate to cater to the needs of multinational corporations with the ability to go “regime shopping” can actually believe that there is something like a “national” product that can be boycotted without harming anyone but a clearly (nationally) identifiable producer (and oneself, because of the choice not to engange in a otherwise utility enhancing transaction).

The answer is evident, in my opinion – they are looking for simplicity – and ways to regain control of a global system that is seemingly beyond anyone’s control. Knowing that their individual *political*, ie “non-market”, influence on the relevant international players’ actions is not even negligible, they are turning to a different institution of imaginary popular control – consumer “democracy”. As one of Lilimarleen’s reader’s remarked –

“Boycotting is the only way that I can make a difference.”

Well, should the problem of collective action indeed be overcome by a specific momentum like the current wave of “Freedom”-branding, they could indeed have *some* influence. But in an extremely complex system like the world economy, there is no way to predict the indirect ramifications of their actions apart from the fact that everyone will suffer from reduced economic exchange.

In order to uphold this illusion of influence those boycotting “French” products need to adopt a simplistic view of the transactional structure through which the good in question has been created.

I suppose it’s a bit like driving fast in a car – a mechanism of mental self protection. Rationally, I know that there are quite a lot of things that could lead to an accident that are entirely out of my realm of decision making. But I don’t think about that because holding the steering weel emotionally reassures me that I am in control of the machine I am sitting in. I am deluding myself, and I know it.

But otherwise, I would not be able to drive (fast) at all. And there is no way I would renounce to that.