Mark A. Pearson
I am yielding the floor for two weeks to my friend Mark A. Pearson. Now retired, for more than a quarter of a century Mark was an institutional psychologist working in 7 different institutions for the states of Alabama and Illinois. Working with a diverse set of forensic and mental health populations, he continues to search for solutions to individual and group problems. He is a reflective soul and here muses on the nature of government and its workings. He resides in Southern Illinois. First installment below.
Walter V. Wendler
Life works, ironically, because of death. Our bodies – all living bodies – live because our cells die. Living things — long before the U.S. Army noted the need — adapt, adjust and overcome the challenges of day-to-day existence because on a daily – even hourly — basis they die. Actually, cells die one by one and are reborn and replaced by new cells. A process called apoptosis. The new cells are born to update the tissue or system of our bodies, being somewhat better at the immediate and ongoing tasks at hand. In a process we are just beginning to understand called epigenetics (which kind of stands what we thought we knew about DNA on it’s head), life experiences not only change the activity of cells, but those changes are transferred to the next generation of cells. Every generation of “daughter” cells expresses the changes the “parent” cell learned – successive generations are not blank slates. Over generations of cells, through death and rebirth at the cellular level, living bodies become the most adapted to the demands of their immediate environment. We see this week-in and week-out in watching the various “crime scene” and “forensics” television shows as the scientists tell us what the deceased did in life and explain how those activities have marked their organs and bones.
The “body politic” does not have this natural process for improving it’s ability to respond to the demands of living/life. As Ronald Reagan noted,”a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth!” So, by definition a government bureau or program does not, in fact, cannot, effectively adapt to the current demands in an ongoing and planned manner. Observers of such programs consider that it quickly becomes the living function of any program not to adapt; not even to serve the need for which it was originally created, but rather to continue itself. Eventually, of course, such stuck-in-the-past thinking does catch up with any given entity and some type of crisis occurs to force what by then is long overdue change. As some politicians note (e.g. the mayor of Chicago), “You never let a serious crisis go to waste” clarifying a crisis is “an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.” A crisis is often a time to get things done that would never be considered in non-crisis times. An ugly example, is the confining of Americans of Japanese ascent during World War II, A more appealing example is the Emancipation Proclamation, an act abolitionists tried to execute since before the Revolutionary War that was only possible in 1863 because of the crisis of the Civil War.
It is arguable that if the body politic had an apoptosis process emancipation of 4 million Americans held “in the peculiar institution” might have found a way to have been done without the Civil War and the loss of 600,000 American lives. More typically “leaders” legislate new bureaus and new programs to address a problem that has evolved/morphed since the last opportunity to address it’s predecessor. In this way, governmental bodies quickly create agencies, departments and programs to address the same and related problems – each quickly becoming obsolete in their quest to improve some aspect of civil life. Thus, even official government reports routinely report that dozens if not hundreds or more programs may exist to address essentially the same problem – whether at the Federal, State or local level. Notably almost every election cycle is marked by politicians running on campaigns intent on rooting out and eliminating waste, fraud and duplication – yet somehow they fail to fulfill those promises. (On the point of duplication, recent official reports – likely several different reports, from several federal agencies — note that the number of redundant programs in any given area of interest range from tens of programs to multiple hundreds – all ostensibly doing the same thing!) Apoptosis of programs would limit the amount of Waste, Fraud and Duplication (it would be hyperbole to claim bureaucrats wouldn’t find some way to still be wasteful, fraudulent and duplicative).
The problems of inefficiency, ineffectiveness, Waste, Fraud and Duplication are hardly new when commenting on any government in any era. Often those of us not directly tasked with “governing” see answers that – having to actually balance budgets and bring home the bacon – look quite simple and straight forward. Next week a simple process for bringing the body politic in line with living bodies will be proposed and explained.
Mark A. Pearson