FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Are Bombs Broken?

by ERIC PATTON

If a bomb goes off and kills a lot of people, does that mean the bomb is broken?  The question is ludicrous.  If the bomb were broken, it wouldn’t go off.

That is self-evident, but why is it self-evident?  It’s because, intuitively, we all understand that the purpose of a bomb is to kill people.  Successfully designed, manufactured, and detonated bombs do just that.

Now ask about a society:  If people in that society suffer and die, does that mean the society is broken?  The question can’t be answered without knowing the society’s purpose.

Actually, we first have to ask, “What is a society?”  A society is a group of people and a set of institutions that connect those people.  Societies always have institutions.  As a very bare example, a society’s economic institutions include (but are not limited to) workplaces.  A society’s governmental institutions include (but are not limited to) legislative bodies.  There are other types of institutions beyond the scope of this essay.

These institutions are not like laws of physics.  They are mutable, changeable, shapeable.  The acceleration of gravity and the laws of thermodynamics are the same today as they were 5,000 years ago, but human social institutions are very different.  I would argue that, fundamentally, people are basically the same, but a discussion of human nature is beyond the scope of this essay.

So when we ask about a society, we’re really asking about a society’s defining institutions.  Are they broken?  Can they ever be broken?  Well, how do when know when a bomb is broken?  When the bomb doesn’t accomplish what its designers, builders, and users want, that means the bomb is broken.

In the same manner, assessing society’s institutions means asking who designed them, who built them, and what is their purpose?

If people live in squalor, does that mean economic institutions are broken?  If rules-making bodies act dictatorially, does that mean they aren’t functioning properly?

In any society, there is objective power.  There are people who make decisions and shape the society.  They quite naturally see that social institutions serve their interests.  If people live in squalor or live under tyranny, it’s because the big people want it that way.

No (stable) society ever has “broken” institutions.  It’s impossible for institutions to be broken; they always function exactly as intended — just like people-killing bombs.  Outcomes do not equal purpose.  If a bomb kills people, that’s a feature, not a bug.

If people live in poverty, or have no say over their lives, again, that’s a feature, not a bug.

Realizing this brings up obvious questions, but they are beyond the scope of this essay.

Eric Patton lives in Cincinnati, Ohio.  He can be reached at ebpatton@yahoo.com.

More articles by:
July 27, 2016
Richard Moser
The Party’s Over
John Eskow
The Loneliness of the American Leftist
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Humiliation Games: Notes on the Democratic Convention
Arun Gupta
Bernie Sanders’ Political Revolution Splinters Apart
M. G. Piety
Smoke and Mirrors in Philadelphia
Guillermo R. Gil
A Metaphoric Short Circuit: On Michelle Obama’s Speech at the DNC
Norman Pollack
Sanders, Our Tony Blair: A Defamation of Socialism
Claire Rater, Carol Spiegel and Jim Goodman
Consumers Can Stop the Overuse of Antibiotics on Factory Farms
Guy D. Nave
Make America Great Again?
Sam Husseini
Why Sarah Silverman is a Comedienne
Dave Lindorff
No Crooked Sociopaths in the White House
Dan Bacher
The Hired Gun: Jerry Brown Snags Bruce Babbitt as New Point Man For Delta Tunnels
Peter Lee
Trumputin! And the DNC Leak(s)
David Macaray
Interns Are Exploited and Discriminated Against
Ann Garrison
Rwanda, the Clinton Dynasty, and the Case of Dr. Léopold Munyakazi
Brett Warnke
Storm Clouds Over Philly
Chris Zinda
Snakes of Deseret
July 26, 2016
Andrew Levine
Pillory Hillary Now
Kshama Sawant
A Call to Action: Walk Out from the Democratic National Convention!
Russell Mokhiber
The Rabble Rise Together Against Bernie, Barney, Elizabeth and Hillary
Jeffrey St. Clair
Don’t Cry For Me, DNC: Notes From the Democratic Convention
Angie Beeman
Why Doesn’t Middle America Trust Hillary? She Thinks She’s Better Than Us and We Know It
Paul Street
An Update on the Hate…
Fran Shor
Beyond Trump vs Clinton
Ellen Brown
Japan’s “Helicopter Money” Play: Road to Hyperinflation or Cure for Debt Deflation?
Richard W. Behan
The Banana Republic of America: Democracy Be Damned
Binoy Kampmark
Undermining Bernie Sanders: the DNC Campaign, WikiLeaks and Russia
Arun Gupta
Trickledown Revenge: the Racial Politics of Donald Trump
Sen. Bernard Sanders
What This Election is About: Speech to DNC Convention
David Swanson
DNC Now Less Popular Than Atheism
Linn Washington Jr.
‘Clintonville’ Reflects True Horror of Poverty in US
Deepak Tripathi
Britain in the Doldrums After the Brexit Vote
Louisa Willcox
Grizzly Threats: Arbitrary Lines on Political Maps
Robert J. Gould
Proactive Philanthropy: Don’t Wait, Reach Out!
Victor Grossman
Horror and Sorrow in Germany
Nyla Ali Khan
Regionalism, Ethnicity, and Trifurcation: All in the Name of National Integration
Andrew Feinberg
The Good TPP
400 US Academics
Letter to US Government Officials Concerning Recent Events in Turkey
July 25, 2016
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
As the Election Turns: Trump the Anti-Neocon, Hillary the New Darling of the Neocons
Ted Rall
Hillary’s Strategy: Snub Liberal Democrats, Move Right to Nab Anti-Trump Republicans
William K. Black
Doubling Down on Wall Street: Hillary and Tim Kaine
Russell Mokhiber
Bernie Delegates Take on Bernie Sanders
Quincy Saul
Resurgent Mexico
Andy Thayer
Letter to a Bernie Activist
Patrick Cockburn
Erdogan is Strengthened by the Failed Coup, But Turkey is the Loser
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail