Are Bombs Broken?


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.

November 26, 2015
Ashley Nicole McCray – Lawrence Ware
Decolonizing the History of Thanksgiving
Joseph Grosso
The Enduring Tragedy: Guatemala’s Bloody Farce
Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
Imperial Myths: the Enduring Lie of the US’s Origin
Ralph Nader
The Joys of Solitude: a Thanksgiving!

Joseph G. Ramsey
Something to be Thankful For: Struggles, Seeds…and Surprises
Dan Glazebrook
Turkey Shoot: the Rage of the Impotent in Syria
Andrew Stewart
The Odious President Wilson
Colin Todhunter
Corporate Parasites And Economic Plunder: We Need A Genuine Green Revolution
Rajesh Makwana
Ten Billion Reasons to Demand System Change
Joyce Nelson
Turkey Moved the Border!
Richard Baum
Hillary Clinton’s Meager Proposal to Help Holders of Student Debt
Sam Husseini
A Thanksgiving Day Prayer
November 25, 2015
Jeff Taylor
Bob Dylan and Christian Zionism
Dana E. Abizaid
Provoking Russia
Oliver Tickell
Syria’s Cauldron of Fire: a Downed Russian Jet and the Battle of Two Pipelines
Patrick Cockburn
Trigger Happy: Will Turkey’s Downing of Russian Jet Backfire on NATO?
Robert Fisk
The Soothsayers of Eternal War
Russell Mokhiber
The Coming Boycott of Nike
Ted Rall
Like Father Like Son: George W. Bush Was Bad, His Father May Have Been Worse
Matt Peppe
Bad Policy, Bad Ethics: U.S. Military Bases Abroad
Martha Rosenberg
Pfizer Too Big (and Slippery) to Fail
Yorgos Mitralias
Bernie Sanders, Mr. Voutsis and the Truth Commission on Greek Public Debt
Jorge Vilches
Too Big for Fed: Have Central Banks Lost Control?
Sam Husseini
Why Trump is Wrong About Waterboarding — It’s Probably Not What You Think
Binoy Kampmark
The Perils of Certainty: Obama and the Assad Regime
Roger Annis
State of Emergency in Crimea
Soud Sharabani
ISIS in Lebanon: An Interview with Andre Vltchek
Thomas Knapp
NATO: This Deal is a Turkey
November 24, 2015
Dave Lindorff
An Invisible US Hand Leading to War? Turkey’s Downing of a Russian Jet was an Act of Madness
Mike Whitney
Turkey Downs Russian Fighter to Draw NATO and US Deeper into Syrian Quagmire
Walter Clemens
Who Created This Monster?
Patrick Graham
Bombing ISIS Will Not Work
Lida Maxwell
Who Gets to Demand Safety?
Eric Draitser
Refugees as Weapons in a Propaganda War
David Rosen
Trump’s Enemies List: a Trial Balloon for More Repression?
Eric Mann
Playing Politics While the Planet Sizzles
Chris Gilbert
“Why Socialism?” Revisited: Reflections Inspired by Einstein’s Article
Charles Davis
NSA Spies on Venezuela’s Oil Company
Michael Barker
Democracy vs. Political Policing
Barry Lando
Shocked by Trump? Churchill Wanted to “Collar Them All”
Cal Winslow
When Workers Fight: the National Union of Healthcare Workers Wins Battle with Kaiser
Norman Pollack
Where Does It End?: Left Political Correctness
David Macaray
Companies Continue to Profit by Playing Dumb
Binoy Kampmark
Animals in Conflict: Diesel, Dobrynya and Sentimental Security
Dave Welsh
Defiant Haiti: “We Won’t Let You Steal These Elections!”