Tensions abound in many societies.

Reader alert: This has nothing to do with dogs!

Then as soon as I started to write today’s post (as of yesterday afternoon) I realised the error in my sub-title. For one might argue that this does have a connection with how our dogs behave as a cohesive group. But I’m going to be ‘an arse’ (‘ass’ in American speak) and ask you to hold out until the end of today’s post to read the ‘doggie’ connection. (Note that today’s post is Part One. Part Two continues tomorrow.)

american-gridlock_0I am in the middle of reading American Gridlock written by H. Woody Brock and published in 2012. Here’s an extract of what the book is about, courtesy of Amazon:

A sensible solution to getting our economy back on track

Pessimism is ubiquitous throughout the Western World as the pressing issues of massive debt, high unemployment, and anemic economic growth divide the populace into warring political camps. Right-and Left-wing ideologues talk past each other, with neither side admitting the other has any good ideas. In American Gridlock, leading economist and political theorist H. Woody Brock bridges the Left/Right divide, illuminating a clear path out of our economic quagmire.

Arguing from first principles and with rigorous logic, Brock demonstrates that the choice before us is not between free market capitalism and a government-driven economy. Rather, the solution to our problems will require enactment of constructive policies that allow “true” capitalism to flourish even as they incorporate social policies that help those who truly need it.

Brock demonstrates how deductive logic (as opposed to ideologically driven data analysis) can transform the way we think about these problems and lead us to new and different solutions that cross the ideological divide. Drawing on new theories such as game theory and the economics of uncertainty that are based upon deductive logic, Brock reveals fresh ideas for tackling issues central to the 2012 U.S, Presidential election and to the nation’s long-run future:

It greatly influenced me and I sat down and wrote an essay. Mainly to clarify my own thinking ahead of a meeting last Saturday of our local Freethinkers Group where the topic was “Ideas for Improving our Democratic Processes”. The “our” being the US democratic process but just as valid for many other countries.

I first set out to see if there was a clear, unambiguous definition of what a democratic society is. Surprise, surprise there isn’t one. Very quickly I came up with three:

The first:

A democracy by definition is government through elected representatives. It is a form of society which favours equal rights, freedom of speech and a fair trial and tolerates the views of minorities. Civics and Citizenship website

The second:

A DEMOCRACY IS a society in which all adults have easily accessible, meaningful, and effective ways:

(a) to participate in the decision-making processes of every organization that makes decisions or takes actions that affect them, and;

(b) to hold other individuals, and those in these organizations who are responsible for making decisions and taking actions, fully accountable if their decisions or actions violate fundamental human rights, or are dishonest, unethical, unfair, secretive, inefficient, unrepresentative, unresponsive or irresponsible;

(c) so that all organizations in the society are citizen-owned, citizen-controlled, and citizen-driven, and all individuals and organizations are held accountable for wrongdoing. Democracy Watch website

And the third:

Better democracy, everywhere.

The Democratic Society (Demsoc) works for more and better democracy, where people and institutions have the desire, opportunity and confidence to participate together.

We work to create opportunities for people to become involved in the decisions that affect their lives and for them to have the skills to do this effectively. We support governments, parliaments and any organisation that wants to involve citizens in decision making to be transparent, open and welcoming of participation. We actively support spaces, places and processes to make this happen. Democratic Society website.

I went on to say in my essay:

Yes, there is some harmony between all three definitions but there are also significant differences in tone and language.

I am sure many of you are familiar with the book by H. Woody Brock American Gridlock. I started reading it a few days ago and cannot now put it down.

For the core message of the book is that we, as in society, must distinguish between inductive and deductive reasoning. Let me use the definitions as found on the Live Science website.

Deductive reasoning

Deductive reasoning is a basic form of valid reasoning. Deductive reasoning, or deduction, starts out with a general statement, or hypothesis, and examines the possibilities to reach a specific, logical conclusion, according to the University of California. The scientific method uses deduction to test hypotheses and theories. “In deductive inference, we hold a theory and based on it we make a prediction of its consequences. That is, we predict what the observations should be if the theory were correct. We go from the general — the theory — to the specific — the observations,” said Dr. Sylvia Wassertheil-Smoller, a researcher and professor emerita at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

In deductive reasoning, if something is true of a class of things in general, it is also true for all members of that class. For example, “All men are mortal. Harold is a man. Therefore, Harold is mortal.” For deductive reasoning to be sound, the hypothesis must be correct. It is assumed that the premises, “All men are mortal” and “Harold is a man” are true. Therefore, the conclusion is logical and true.

That is, we predict what the observations should be if the theory were correct.

Let that really work it’s way through your consciousness. It’s an idea that is rooted in the great scientists and philosophers of many thousands of years ago. Think of Euclid, the Greek Socratic philosopher who founded the Megarian school of philosophy. He was a pupil of Socrates in the late 5th century BCE, and was present at his death. (I cheated and looked it up.)

It was Euclid who through Euclidian geometry came to understand the principles of angles and straight lines; as in the shortest distance between two points.

Moving on:

Inductive reasoning

Inductive reasoning is the opposite of deductive reasoning. Inductive reasoning makes broad generalizations from specific observations. “In inductive inference, we go from the specific to the general. We make many observations, discern a pattern, make a generalization, and infer an explanation or a theory,” Wassertheil-Smoller told Live Science. “In science there is a constant interplay between inductive inference (based on observations) and deductive inference (based on theory), until we get closer and closer to the ‘truth,’ which we can only approach but not ascertain with complete certainty.”

Even if all of the premises are true in a statement, inductive reasoning allows for the conclusion to be false. Here’s an example: “Harold is a grandfather. Harold is bald. Therefore, all grandfathers are bald.” The conclusion does not follow logically from the statements.

Inductive reasoning has its place in the scientific method. Scientists use it to form hypotheses and theories. Deductive reasoning allows them to apply the theories to specific situations.

Now for some of you this side trip into reasoning may have seen more like a complete departure. But the point is that, as American Gridlock makes so powerfully: There are two main problems to be solved if this nation is to get back on track. First, win-win policy solutions must be identified for the five real-world problems addressed in Chapters 2 through 6. Second, the Dialogue of the Deaf must come to an end, policy gridlock with it, and these solutions must be implemented. (Pages 7-8)

I closed my essay by setting out the following proposition:

Until we have a clear, universally acknowledged definition of what a democratic society is then it is impossible and utterly futile to debate the various processes including what is the best process for American society.

Is this relevant to the world outside the USA? You bet it is. For better or for worse, what the USA does today the rest of the world does soon thereafter.

And as you will see in Part Two that comes tomorrow democratising the economy is key.

For when we look at the way that dogs, and wolves, operate as a pack in the wild there are only three animals with status:

  • The alpha female who has first choice of the male dogs for mating purposes and makes the decision, as and when necessary, to move her pack to a new territory,
  • The beta dog, always a male, whose role is to keep the pack running smoothly as a cohesive group and not letting squabbles get out of hand, and,
  • The omega dog, that can be of either gender, whose role is to keep the pack happy.

All the other animals in the pack of around fifty are of equal status and work for the benefit of the pack. Now that is something we should learn from dogs!

39 thoughts on “Tensions abound in many societies.

    1. I’m not sure how you could make such a blanket statement without some science to back it up. Surely dogs don’t reason on the same level as humans with their more complex brains but to dismiss the notion that does can’t reason at others levels seems more like conjecture on your part.

      Not trying to start a fight but am interested in started a dialogue where you explain your position based on evidence-based material

      1. Paul. It’s not Tony. It’s Larry. Think of the “L” in lbwoodgate when you think of my first name. Or if you forget, go to my About page on my blog and my full name is there.

        Don’t sweat though bud. I have double, even triple, brain farts routinely 🙂

    2. The fact that humanity has caused so many problems for itself and the biosphere generally, and indeed is faced with possible human extinction, doesn’t say much for its ability to “reason”.

    3. Epagbreton, are you able to back up your assertion with science? For our experience is that dogs do reason and we see examples of this almost daily. For example, the way that Pharaoh calculates the safest route for him to take to minimize him getting his rear legs tangled up. Both in negotiating going from one room to another via the carpet runners and, outside, going to the water tub and avoiding the most icy patches.

      Best wishes.

  1. Thanks for sharing the ideas by Woody Brock. I had the good fortune to have used him as a consultant some years ago when I was still in the working world. Really superb thinker.

      1. I worked for the MacArthur Foundation in the investment department. Woody shared his economic views with us. Great fun to hear him talk. He could do 30-40 minutes extemporaneous and spellbinding.

  2. Interesting post Paul. Yes, as you say – democratising the economy is key. Indeed, imo, the very first priority of any decent Government worth the name, democracy or not, is to ensure that all it’s people have access to clean drinking water, enough nutritious food and basic shelter – although access to these things must be provided as sustainably as possible, for the benefit of later generations ( and the biosphere). The second priority is self defence. The third – education ( including education on civic responsibility and individual accountability). The fourth – access to equitable health care. These are necessary prerequisites to the maintenance of civil cohesion and to other democratic rights.

    1. Marg, few would disagree with you. Picking up on Woody Brock’s theme, if those priorities could be defined deductively then they would be embraced over and beyond party political differences, with powerfully positive consequences. Government of the people for the people, etc., etc.

      1. That is so, so interesting. I would appreciate your thoughts to tomorrow’s post where I present what I hope is a deductive reason, an axiom in other words, between a country’s economic performance and the level of social equality within that country. In other words, the measure of that country as a democratic society.

  3. I am afraid Paul I haven’t got my doggy head on today for such a debate..

    However as a animal lover full stop.. The Ass is the one here being given the bad name.. LOL.. when I look at the troop of Chimps! running in Politics..

    Have a delightful day both of you.. And May we all wake for common sense to prevail..

      1. Yes… Sadly.. it seems no one wants to ‘Think’ anymore.. and when they do, its often misguided..
        I am now going to shut down this PC and get back to my painting..
        And lose myself as I paint one of our more sensible BEings.. One whose roots have stood firm through out time.. And where no matter what storms, pests or traumas befall them.. They keep going.. And giving us their very breath..

        My painting is of a Tree 🙂

        Have a wonderful Tuesday both of you. Hugs Sue xx

      2. I will be sure to Paul.. Its taking longer than I thought, as it is quiet detailed.. but lots of ideas are springing forth for the added post to accompany it are surging forth within ever brush stroke 🙂

  4. I’m not much of a psychologist but I do agree with what you have written I think politics and/or government are very much like a pack of wolves. It’s just about the best analogy that I can think of.

    For someone to say that it must be scientifically researched or have a basis of findings to make that comparison is baffling. All you need do is study nature and human nature. It is not so called rocket science to see that government runs pretty much like a wolf pack. Or maybe I should reverse that and write that government would do well to function as a wolf pack. Unfortunately, there are too many politicians that want to be “top dog or top wolf and they all want to howl at the same time. Too much yapping from the upcoming leader and all the little pups that want to be in good favor with the alpha dog and can’t use common sense to know what is good for the country (pack) The reigning party would do well to take notes from nature.

    I apologize if my ramblings are senseless.

    1. Your replies are never even close to a ramble! I’m going to hold off saying more until tomorrow’s post has been published. Because I would love your reply to that post with today’s post already ‘out there’.

      1. Athens’ highest officers during the Democracy were the ten “Strategoi”. So basically, one strategoi for 6,000 citizens… That number happened, probably not by accident, to be the minimum quora for passing laws in the Ecclesia (Parliament).

        So my solution? As much direct democracy as possible. By voting, as the Swiss do. France has introduced voting through Internet, so Swiss direct democracy can be joined with the Internet.

        As in Switzerland, the representative ssystem and the direct democracy can be reconciled.

        Even more important: remove the LAUNCH-ON-Warning ICBM systems in Russia and the USA (France dismantled its own; Britain never had any; idiotically, China wants to put its few ICBMs on a hair trigger, like Russia and the US). Launch on warning is certain to bring nuclear war.

  5. A detail, about a traditional confusion, from Encycclopeadia Britannica:
    Eukleides, Euclid
    BORN c. 300 BCE

    Euclid, Greek Eukleides (born c. 300 bce, Alexandria, Egypt), the most prominent (BUT NOT THE BEST!!!) mathematician of Greco-Roman antiquity, best known for his treatise on geometry, the Elements.
    Of Euclid’s life nothing is known except what the Greek philosopher Proclus (c. 410–485 ce) reports in his “summary” of famous Greek mathematicians. According to him, Euclid taught at Alexandria in the time of Ptolemy I Soter, who reigned over Egypt from 323 to 285 bce. Medieval translators and editors often confused him with the philosopher Eukleides of Megara, a contemporary of Plato about a century before, and therefore called him Megarensis. Proclus supported his date for Euclid by writing “Ptolemy once asked Euclid if there was not a shorter road to geometry than through the Elements, and Euclid replied that there was no royal road to geometry.” Today few historians challenge the consensus that Euclid was older than Archimedes (c. 290–212/211 bce).

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