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.)
I 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:
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
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 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.
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!