Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Cause vs. A Factor that Plays Into

This part of War and Peace always stuck with me,
When an apple ripens and falls - what makes it fall? Is it that it is attracted to the ground, is it that the stem withers, is it that the sun has dried it up, that it has grown heavier, that the wind shakes it, that the boy standing underneath it wants to eat it? No one thing is the cause.
And yet people search for the cause within complex social systems - the cause of the financial crisis - the cause of the iraq war - the cause of gender wage gap - the cause of the falling crime rate. Really everyone should stop saying the cause and start saying, "one of the factors that play into."

On the same note, I hear about the reason we have such and such law, which usually means why such and such law makes sense. But laws are not passed because they make sense for society, but because they made sense for individuals in government found it to their personal benefit to pass such laws.

For example someone might say, "we have farm subsidies to make sure we have food."

Which is a dumb reason, but whatever, people say it.

My point is that that's not the reason at all. What they should say is, "we have farm subsidies because many individuals in government including Franklin D Roosevelt thought it would be in their own political interest to pass such laws." Why was it in their own political interests to pass farm subsidies? For lots of reasons that don't need to be the same for any two political actors. Maybe one thought it was a good idea for society, and another thought it was a good idea for their political contributions, and another because his cousin is a farmer who benefits, and another just went along with the party because he had his own legislation he wanted to pass so he went along with the others hoping his legislation would have a better chance if he didn't seem combative.