In my last post [Does Complexity Breed Volatility?], I briefly talked about how complexity makes it increasingly difficult for investors to evaluate the impacts of incoming news, especially “big” news, on their investments. The result is that everyone sells with everyone else, or buys when everyone else buys, resulting in increased market volatility.
The same concept can be applied to politics, call it “political volatility”: Faced with an increasingly complex political, economic and social environment – a system where the impact of everything is connected to everything else – citizens are having an increasingly difficult time evaluating what politicians mean, and what the true impact of a politician’s proposed initiative really will be. For instance, Perry believes, [What Does Rick Perry Believe? by Jonathan Chait] for example, that the national Social Security system, should be scrapped and that each state should be allowed to create, or not create, its own pension system. Is that a good idea? To answer that question, each citizen theoretically ought to answer the question: Would I be better off, or would my community be better off?, or would my children be better off? Perry says that Social Security is not sustainable, and the U.S. Congressional Budget Office agrees, but Social Security could be reformed, and its viability depends greatly on the future economy – many ifs and many linkages to other systems and other parts of our lives! OK, but many ifs and potential complexity in Perry’s ideas.
President Obama is facing a sea of Republicans driven to get him out of office no matter what the cost apparently. The strategy, it seems, is to create political volatility, and move the electorate by simplifying the issues and create mass appeal. Just as with the market, the electorate will move to one side of the boat, until someone screams for them to move to the other side. In the meantime, political volatility has created anxiety and fear, and has likely contributed to the economic sluggishness.
President Obama has few weapons. One is calm and reserve. His tepid response is likely to be the best medicine to counter the current volatile climate, and hopefully let rational thinking bring us to the center of the boat, if only for a little while…
See also my blog from last year: Complexity: Is the Presidency Doomed?