It’s Complicated

Look, I’m no expert. I’m not. I barely feel competent in my own professional field. I don’t pretend to grand knowledge. I think it is hubris for anyone to pretend to grand knowledge. The world is simply too big and too complex to get any kind of real handle on. When you add up all of the individual lives, even in a little town like Farmington, the resulting 24 hours of activity is immensely complex and very little of it can be predicted or understood at a macro level.

Certainly there can be a certain amount of predictable behavior. You can say with some certainty that (I’m making these figures up, so don’t think I know anything) 18% of the population will wake up Monday morning and go to work before 9AM. Things like that you can generalize, but you really can’t predict with any real certainty the majority of actions taking place in even a small city. So predicting or interpreting or understanding the population of a state or a nation is just silly sauce. Econometric and social models are bunk. Even traffic models, which have pretty decent samples and historical data to work from, on a single street, can’t accurately give you any knowledge about traffic patterns in the next week, month or year. Over and over city and traffic managers get it wrong, things don’t work they way they predict, and traffic bunches up or thins out, and we keep assuming the experts know what they’re talking about, even though their historical average for being correct is not great.

My profession isn’t much different. If your profession has any element of chance to it, or any kind of complexity, yours isn’t different either.

Reality is messy. Life is complicated. It struggles to be reduced to 144 character slogans. The messiness of life breaks the boundaries of a Facebook post or a Tweet. It resists prediction and eschews conformity.

I realize that I just wrote a 300 word introduction to the real meat of what I want to write about: predicting outcomes and the pretense of knowledge.

I’ve been reading what a lot of my very diverse friends are saying, and I’m surprised at the amount of hubris expressed on both sides of any of the current issues. The pretense of knowledge is astounding. We know a little about very little in the real sense of knowledge, yet we expertly predict the social outcomes of Obamacare, gay marriage, war with Iran, war with ISIS, restrictive water laws, etc. I, myself, have been guilty of the same kind of hubris on occasion, and in the last couple of years I’ve made a conscious attempt to dampen my pretense of knowledge as much as possible. I love a good debate, though, and in the heat of the moment, it’s so very easy to get cocky and pretend to have THE answer to whatever question, when most of the time there are so many colors and flavors of answer, many of which deserve real attention.

So with that introduction, I’d like to lay out my feelings about recent social events, with no pretense that I know anything, but just being honest about my concerns. Do with them what you will.

Obamacare

I see a lot of my friends who would prefer that anyone who doesn’t like Obamacare get with the program, get on board, and stop trying to change the law. I feel like any call for any people to accept something they don’t want to accept for any reason is a call for tyranny. If you are someone that has said that, it’s time to change your mind. You’re asking your friends, neighbors, relatives, etc., to abandon their own sense, judgment, rational thought, give up the right to take action, and comply with the law simply because it is the law? When did we become a nation of people that obey simply because it is the law? Even stupid laws? Would you have said the same thing to civil rights protestors? To gay rights advocates? No. I don’t think so. So stop saying it to the people that don’t agree with Obamacare, or any of the other laws you love that they don’t. Disagree with them all you want, but celebrate their right to dissent.

The ACA forces people to accept two choices: a) buy insurance or b) pay a “penalty” to the IRS for not buying insurance. There’s no other way to say it.

I abhor the use of force in a civilized world. I used to feel differently. Now, one of my fondest wishes is to see no creature forced to do anything (except my kids, because darn it they will learn math!)

If you revel in the use of force against people that don’t want to participate in nationalized healthcare, be careful. That force will be turned back on you at some point. It’s the nature of force. It changes hands and then those who once wielded it to their advantage will be taken advantage of by the same force they used to get their way.

Our own experience so far with ACA style insurance is that it is expensive and severely narrows the choices of what we can receive through our insurer. I’d still rather just pay cash, and will probably do that so I can continue to get the care I want instead of the care I’m allowed to get from my insurer. I get better prices, better care, and don’t have to fill out miles of paperwork. I’m disgusted with the amount of time it takes to get health insurance. It’s a nuisance, an unnecessary nuisance.

The mental gymnastics it took for the court to rule in favor of the ACA this last week are incredible. I don’t think it is the job of robed individuals to interpret language in a way that is so outside common understanding as happened this week with the ACA.

Gay Marriage

My feelings about gay marriage are complicated. I’m happy for individuals who can now receive the formal social rights of any other lawfully recognized couple like property preservation and visitation rights. I’m happy that they will be able to choose someone to solemnize their relationships in ceremony (though that has been happening for a long time anyway).

I think it is absolutely dumb to need the permission of the state to form these relationships. Why do you need a permission slip from the $12 per hour assistant county clerk to have a “legitimate” relationship? As a society, we need to take a step back and see marriage and other licenses as they truly are: discriminatory, tax-generating hoops free people should not be forced to jump through. If you are eager to get something sanctioned by the force behind the government, fine, go to a notary, sign a contract of your own making, and file it with the state. There doesn’t need to be anything else in the mix. If you are truly free to associate and form relationships with those you please, personal or otherwise, you don’t need permission.

Let me be clear: I’m for free association. That means if my friend Darcy wants to gather herself together four husbands and they make a “family” I say right on. If two men and three women decide they are now a “family”, if I believe in free association, then I need to believe in free association for all sentient and coherent beings of legal age. Period. To think otherwise would make me a hypocrite.

If you are for gay marriage but against polygamy or polyandry among free consenting adults, then you are a hypocrite. There is no other way to put it.

I do worry that those that hold state sanctioned power to solemnize marriage and don’t want to perform gay marriages will eventually be forced to do so. I received a short lesson in the idea of public accommodation from a friend who studies history, and it looks to me like history will end up writing that anyone who wishes to discriminate for any reason will be forced to comply by threats of violence or depravation of property by the state. That means that my brother who is a minster in the church of the internet and has performed a handful of marriage ceremonies to my knowledge, will be forced to participate in whatever ceremonies have become protected against discrimination. I can’t imagine him turning anyone down, but if for some reason he did want to turn someone down, and it could be construed that he did it for moral or religious reasons, he could face some legal problems. I think that is a problem.

I think the best solution would have been to take marriage out of the sphere of government and legislation and put it back on the free individuals who want to form relationships and do away with marriage licenses altogether.

Sheep ask permission. Free people don’t.

I wish we, as a group, would have gone the other way and instead of using force to make governments and people accept gay marriage under the threat of punishment, we had asked why we need a government sanction. The history of marriage licensing isn’t pretty and it is full of bigotry and problems. Why not toss out the bad deal in one fell swoop? Instead we have more regulation and legislation and rules… less freedom for the individual. I don’t like it.

The question no one can answer with certainty is what will happen to the future generations of humans brought up in this new reality. I don’t pretend to have an answer. I hope they turn out to be compassionate, loving, helpful people. I hope they stop turning to the government for answers. I hope they actively participate in their communities and neighborhoods, and give time, money, and labor to projects that better their situation and the situations of their friends, family, neighbors, and community, without asking government permission to do it. I hope they get to work building a better future without worrying about whether what they are doing is going to be state sanctioned or not.

Whatever happens going forward, I hope you aren’t forced by government to do anything you don’t want to do. I hope you have more freedom than you do now.

2 Comments

  1. Matt June 29, 2015 at 10:09 am #

    Great post! The government should not be in the business of saying who we can or can’t marry. Also, don’t allow your own moral bearing to be adjusted when government fabricates laws with moral substance. Don’t rely on government as your moral compass to teach you right vs wrong.

  2. Blair July 1, 2015 at 11:43 pm #

    I look to government for only a few things, namely: to provided for the common defense, to keep me safe from the criminal element, and to guarantee me the God given privileges I was born with. It should show favoritism to no group or individual by exacting laws or taxing anyone unfairly. And, as far as government setting the moral standard, I try not to laugh, because it ceased to do that many years ago. There are a microscopic number of individuals in government on any level that I can trust. Period.

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