The Animals In The Barnyard Are Nervous

Posted Feb 23, 2016 at 17:53. Revised Jul 8, 2019 at 07:13.

For many years, farmers in Central and South America noticed that occasionally their animals would become restless, and would sometimes attempt to smash their way out of their pens or corrals. Many farmers believed this behavior was because the animals knew a major earthquake was imminent.

Knowledgeable people thought this was just ignorance and superstition on the part of the farmers, but over time, there was a growing realization that the animals knew something. No one was able to explain with certainty how they were detecting impending earthquakes, but there is much evidence that they knew when an earthquake was coming.

The 2016 political situation in America is similar. Huge numbers of people (the animals) know that something is wrong and that trouble lies ahead, but they’re not sure what to do about it or whom to blame. The people in the Establishment, like the farmers in Central and South America, have a hard time believing that many in the ordinary rank and file (the animals) may know something that the elite do not know.

Politics has manifested itself in two extreme groups of people, a group of conservatives who want to throw the rascals out and replace them with people who respect traditional values, and a group of extreme progressives who want to throw the rascals out and then massively redistribute wealth.

Even though these factions regard each other as enemies, they have a great deal in common. Both want to tear up the current order and replace it with something much more to their liking. In each case the people involved in this advocacy are often ignorant and simple, having simple-minded solutions that would probably create more problems than they would solve.

Because of this, the Establishment has difficulty listening to inarticulate outsiders. Ironically, the Establishment itself is also ignorant and uninformed about what is going on in the world beneath its feet.

Much of what is happening is a result of the ever-growing complexity of society, technology, and current life. This complexity guarantees that people will be less and less informed about the things going on around them simply because there is too much for any one person to absorb. It also results in ever-increasing specialization because each ever-narrowing specialty becomes ever more complex.

The people who are the best able to master the world of complexity and keep it running become increasingly more valuable and the pay they can demand reflects this. Those who are less able to stay on top of keeping this complex system running become less valuable economically than those in the know. Neither a return to the traditional values of earlier years nor wealth redistribution can reverse this force.

The primary cause for extreme wealth inequality is ever-growing complexity and its associated need for specialization. Tax law changes rarely reduce tax law complexity. Since 1981, there have been many conservative and liberal income-tax reforms that promised to produce tax fairness and less extreme wealth distribution. The result of the reforms is that inequalities increase as complexity makes the insiders more valuable because they have the knowledge for dealing with the tax system. This increasing tax complexity promotes the self-interest of tax accountants and tax attorneys.

Tax law complexity and tax law revisions guarantee an ever-growing need for tax advice from tax accountants and tax attorneys. Any change to tax law, even simplifying it, generates new work for tax practitioners. More complexity allows tax practitioners to become ever bigger leeches on the economically productive segments of society. It is simple: more tax law complexity (and change) generates more wealth for tax specialists. The beauty in this scam is the people will demand tax revisions forever, thereby giving the legislators the perfect excuse: “We are only complying with what our electorate has requested – which is what our job requires!” (And we are laughing all the way to the bank in the process!).

If pro is the opposite of con,
then what is the opposite of progress?

As complexity grows, it places an increasing drag on people’s lives. They then seek simplicity by seeking ever simpler explanations for things and oversimplifying the things they do. Ever-increasing complexity ultimately generates a complexity trap that ends each complexity sub-cycle. The result is the situation devolves into the chaos of a new simplicity, which can be far more perverse than the original simplicity was.

The biggest complexity cycle, consisting of the sum of all the smaller ones, similarly has an ultimate complexity trap. What the limits to complexity are, when they might happen, and how our complexity will simplify will correct itself is not known. We do know that nothing can grow exponentially forever.

All this is unfolding before our very eyes, and we don’t believe what we are seeing.

Now you can honestly say Nobody told me.

Copyright © 2016-2019 Charles E. Dial. All rights reserved.
Posted Feb 23, 2016 at 17:53. Revised Jul 8, 2019 at 07:13. –> Retrieved Aug 25, 2019 at 00:31.
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Author: J.D. Nobody

The Complexity Traps Editor and content creator, J.D. Nobody, OC '61, posts to Complexity Traps based on military, financial, and software development experience. He explains the ways complexity devolves into simplicity and collapses under its own weight. The post The Importance of Being Nobody explains J.D. Nobody's role in complexity.