(Note: Originally posted at CRI)
So this is a short one. Anyway it seems that I am one of the last guys to have read The Black Swan. I bought the book during a book shopping binge under the impression that it had something to do with sub-prime crisis. As it turns out, while the book does address financial shenanigans, its scope is much broader, more accurately described as epistemology, or study of knowledge, which, as a conservative, happens to interest me.
Now I will not claim that book exposed me to new information, however what it did was much more valuable. The Black Swam has helped me to begin seeing existing information in a new light, emphasizing what was previously underestimated.
I think that insight can be readily applied to politics. So here are some takeaways (in brief) from the book as applied to politics.
1. We can not predict
Properly speaking this applied more to punditry than to actual politics. The short term politics, which most of punditry is concerned with, is susceptible to too much uncertainty to enable any prediction.
In the near long term though, politics can be predicted. Here my definition of “near long” is rather tautological for I take it to be period between major realignment, such as Mandal or Ayodhya.
2. All ideologies are narratives (to some extent), and all politics is opportunistic (to considerable extent)
I find the conventional understanding of politics erroneous. It is assumed that there is a nice committee of philosopher/meta-physicians/policy wonks which come up with a nice set of dos and donts, which is called ideology and which is the starting point for politics.
In reality (or so I hold), politics is a *programming jargon alert* continuously iterative process with starting points, if there were any, lost in the mist of history. Which leaves us to rely on dynamics of politics, sure people have some ideas in the starting but what determines their actions is expediency, they have to compromise and align with others for power, which is ultimately what politics is about, if these alliances are stable over long period of time, their (initially) disparate ideas are merged to form an ideology. This happened both in case of American conservatism as well as American liberalism.
3. Narrative is important.
Why does the above happen? It’s because humans love narratives, thinking in terms of sequence of cause and effect is so natural to us that to actually do otherwise take real effort. This is hardly surprising, we instinctively turn to narrative as it makes world more predictable and hence more safe (to be more precise safety is an illusion), evolution-wise this is fantastic. An effect of this, to paraphrase Orwell, those ho control the narrative also control the levers of power. Which is why left still survives and thrives despite being a disaster.
4. Hindsight is 18/20.
Politics is actually messier than what appears in rear view mirror. The reason, as told in the previous points, we tend to narrate politics as a logical end result of intermediate step which were only determined by the clearly demarcated ideologies and (that mythical beast) voice of the public, whereas in reality where politics end up is significantly determined not by the ideologies but by political manoeuvring resulting in unexpected political events such as ascension of India Gandhi.
Turned out this wasn’t that short after all. Oh, well!