Essays About

The Errant Power of Politicians

Our actions can change the world, but unfortunately we cannot anticipate how. Every intended change leads to a cascade of unintended changes. The world is a vast uncomprehended hydraulic system: push something in and something unexpectedly pops out on the other side.

Industrializing to lift ourselves from the poverty of agrarian life, we unintentionally opened the spigots of pollution now drowning us. Punishing the Germans for starting World War I, the Allies made them desperate enough to start World War II. Helping Afghanistan defeat the Soviets in the 1980s, the United States armed turbaned zealots with the weapons they now attack us with.

Neither the ancient pessimists who saw humans as pawns of destiny, nor modern picketers who think all problems are problems of willpower, are correct. We possess the power of gods but we administer it with the ignorance of mortals. Electing politicians is like electing which passenger should take the controls of a plummeting airplane. Everything depends on who is chosen and which buttons he pushes, but which buttons he pushes depends more on luck than skill.

The self-importance of politicians is therefore comical. For an accurate idea of political power, picture a peace summit where a world leader, grandly gesturing about his peace plan, knocks down his foreign counterpart and kills him, thereby starting a war.