Political complexity

The European Parliament. Photo Credit Wikimedia Commons
The European Parliament. Photo Credit Wikimedia Commons

Complexity management is a discipline that proceeds from complexity science. Then it is a discipline with a rational foundation without any political meaning. Management and Economics can be based on scientific principles but politics always has tried to use science to justify political actions. This is the position of the Greek minister Janis Varoufakis that has declared that economics is a way to justify some policy, in other words, economics is more politics than science. This is not a particular case related to economics. Politicians have always tried to put science at the service of its way of governance. Scientific postulates that support some ideal of political action are considered true and scientific postulates that go against some political action are tried to be hidden or directly they are denied and presented as false science.

This is not new. This is as ancient as the science itself. Very far from social sciences and economics, we know what happened with Galileo and his heliocentric model. Copernicus had anticipated a heliocentric model but he never had the same political problems. The reason is simple: Copernicus presented his model as a theory and he never defended it with experimental data. Political power that in Galileo’s and Copernicus’s age was very supported by religion (a king seems to be a king by a divine law instead of human interests) could accept different opinions about a fact and defend its own one as the truth, however, it cannot accept a truth based on proofs different to the own one.

Modern science would not defend any of those positions as an absolute truth. Einstein’s relativity is based in the assumption of there is no reference system with priority, and magnitudes that were considered absolute previously as space and time are relative to the reference system. We prefer the heliocentric model because the equations of the movement of the planets are much simpler than the equations required working with a geocentric model but a heliocentric reference system has no physical preference over a geocentric one.

If we want to move this concept to the economic and political ambit: Truth has not political color. As Varoufakis said science can be used as a way to justify some policy because we can build a mathematical model from our own viewpoint, however, he does not say that some explanations of reality can be simpler and provide more manageability than other ones. This can be usually seen at the press every day. The goodness of an economy depends on what variables we use to value it, for instance, economic growth or some indicator or equality. Right side parties usually prefer economic growth and left side ones prefer other ones. Although economy establishes relations of dependency among all the variables, these sets of variables are defining two different models and reference systems to analyze and to control the same reality.

The concept of manageability is very important. The value of science is not in knowledge. We can live happy alike thinking that Earth is the center of the universe or it is not. However, the value of technology that we can build with the knowledge that proceeds from science is huge. We can live in a more comfortable way due to science and engineering. In the same way, the value of economics is not to know how the world is working but to use it in order to design new economic actions and manage new economic organizations to improve people’s lives. The question that arises here is: if the goodness of an economy depends on the variables that we use to value it, does manageability depend on them too?

The answer is easy. Of course, it does. A system is defined by a set of variables that we name state variables. A certain value for all the variables is defining the state of the system. Governments cannot define the state of the system directly because they cannot act always on all these variables directly, the can act on certain magnitudes that are known as inputs, and they can see the result of their actions looking at the outputs.

In a very simple system, you can reach any possible state from the inputs and you can determine the whole state of the system from the outputs. It is fully controllable. In a complex system, you only can reach a subset of the possible states from the inputs and you cannot determine the whole state of the system from the outputs. Economy is very complex system where there are much more state variables than inputs and there are great uncertainty due to the number of outputs is much lower than the number of state variables. We can see global economic growth, employment, and so on but we can know all the economic transactions among all people in the system for instance. In a normal situation of an economy, governments can preserve a stable state of the economy looking at the outputs and acting of inputs following some control rules, but it would not be totally controllable.

Political options define themselves by their nouns. Conservative parties try to preserve. They change nothing drastically inside the system and they put their efforts on maintain the system under control. The only things that they usually change are the control rules and actions. On the other hand, progressive parties try to introduce modifications into the system to increase its functionality.

Both a change in the control rules and a change inside the system would modify the complexity and the manageability of the system. This is the reason why complexity management is not a matter of a certain political side.

Liberal parties think that the system works better with less control actions. If governments do not establish a lot of control rules the system would evolve to a natural equilibrium state where things would be better for the citizens. This equilibrium state would be preserved by Adam Smith’s “hidden hand” following the classic economic writings.

Classic liberals thought that to introduce more complexity through a control system is a bad action however they did not share a need to manage complexity because the “hidden hand” will provide any kind of required management to preserve the system in a stable state. However, they would think that most artificial structures added to the system by the progressive parties should be eliminated to improve the performance of the system because they are aware that this is changing the final equilibrium of the system far from Smith’s natural and desirable one. In other words, they think that there is some (or much) bad complexity that should be eliminated although this does not require any kind of special management because it is easy to identify for them. This can be naive because if the system needs to evolve from an undesired working point to a desired one, although a system could reach a stable state with liberal policies, it could find a local equilibrium point far from their natural and desired global equilibrium point along the path. Some kind of control or action on the system is always required.

But, what is happening in the XXI century? Left and right side parties seem to differ only in the outputs chosen to look at the state of the system. Progress is not to follow Keynes’ teachings. Progress is to put a man on the moon, for instance. Adam Smith’s hidden hand would never have put a man on the moon because it had not got direct economic benefit, but, on the other hand, Keynes’ teachings of increasing taxes and, later, public expenditure only can do it if that expenditure is dedicated to finance the space industry with that objective instead of increasing the salary of some public officials. To modify the tax rate and public expenditure can be only to act on the control system, instead of the system itself if there is not a defined target of changing the productive model. That is the reason why we can see conservative parties applying many social democrat policies nowadays. If healthcare is public, to increase or decrease the expenditure in public healthcare is not a great change of the system model although it will have an effect on the performance of the whole society. A real influential change in the system would be the introduction of the public healthcare where it does not exist previously.

Progress is not to have a more equal society. Progress is to have a society that can accomplish more difficult challenges. It can be true that it is easier to join people in order to accomplish a difficult challenge when there is more equality, but this would be only a mean instead of an aim. Progress is boosted by non-common people too, then, to reward merit, that seems to be an opposite measure, can be another good way to support progress.

The typical aim of progressive party is to change the socioeconomic system if necessary to provide better quality of life for their citizens (all the people who have the right to vote), but this general aim requires particular targets and some path defined to reach them. Conservative parties do not trust in large changes and prefer to preserve the current status and make it more effective and efficient. This is a reasonable viewpoint too, because any change has the risk of failing and producing a worse situation. Liberal parties are in between, they do not want a highly static society but they do not trust in planned changes that are usually driven for the benefit of a certain part of the society that has planned them.

As we can see current politics should be a matter of improvement projects and trust in them. It is a matter of having trust in the goodness of the new proposals or a preference for the current situation and little improvements, instead of a matter of increasing or decreasing taxes. These are only political actions to reach a political aim. Politics is not a matter of defending the public thing or the private one. The public thing turns into a private one when public money moves from the state to the salary of a public official. The public thing is the private thing of the public officials. I have had a public salary and I could spend my money in everything I wanted without any restriction different to private workers.

Complexity management at governmental level does not depend on the political project. It is a tool that can be used to value if the economy of a country continues in a manageable state after the execution of every political action with the inputs and outputs selected by a certain political party to manage the society and to analyze different political actions. Politicians define the management model and complexity science can tell them if they have more or less capability to manage the society after a political action and if the situation is more or less risky than previous one with the management model they have chosen.


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