Saturday, December 27, 2014

Tornado or Tipping Point?

Could your reading this column change the course of history?  It is my hope that this brief column will feel like the breeze of a butterfly blowing on your cheek.  In 1972, Edward Lorenz delivered in Washington, D.C., a paper to the American Association for the Advancement of Science entitled Predictability: Does the Flap of a Butterfly’s Wings in Brazil set off a Tornado in Texas?  What he suggested was “a small change in the initial condition of a system could cause a chain of events leading to large-scale phenomena.”  This is now popularly referred to as the "butterfly effect."   Had the butterfly not flapped its wings in Brazil, you might not be reading this right now. 

We used to have a maxim – “How many Rangers can you fit in the back of a truck?” The answer: “All of them.”  Said another way, there is always room for one more Ranger.  At some level, that seems right – you can always squeeze in, or pile on, one more.  At another level, we know that is wrong.  This concept is expressed in the old saw “the straw that broke the camel’s back.”  Some may remember the old plastic camel kids’ game.  The players would take turns putting a piece of “straw” into one of the two baskets on its back.  Eventually, one last, little piece of straw would break the beast of burden’s back.  The one who put that last straw in would be the loser.

One might define the point where the camel’s back breaks as the “tipping point.” That exact point where the camel goes from being a useful conveyer of cargo to a broken beast is the tipping point.  Malcolm Gladwell wrote a business book titled just that – The Tipping Point.  In it, Gladwell defines a tipping point as "the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point". The book attempts to explain the "mysterious" sociological changes that mark everyday life.  In it, Gladwell states, "Ideas and products and messages and behaviors spread like viruses do".   Examples some of us might be able to relate to could include the previously popular “pet rock” or perhaps the omnipresent “smart phone”.    From “relatively rare” to “everyone has one.”  Somewhere between those two poles was the “tipping point.”

President Barack Obama plainly said he wanted to “fundamentally transform” the United States of America.  For many Americans, that sounds more like a virus than a vision.  In the latest Gallup survey, only four in ten Americans approve of the job Obama is doing. The latest Rasmussen poll indicates two out of three American voters think our country is headed in the wrong direction.  Only one in four thinks that we’re going in the right direction.   

The trouble with tinkering with a complex system is that you can’t always predict the outcome of your tinkering.  If you’re arrogant enough to think that you can fundamentally (and radically) transform a complex system, you are just plain reckless.  One sixth of our economy, our very health care system, is being fundamentally transformed by a bill that was built on lies.  The unanticipated and unintended consequences of a bill that not one Republican would vote for, nor one Democrat even read, are still being exposed. What we do know is that Dr. Gruber and President Obama lied to the American people in the process.  As a matter of fact, the fact-checking website Politifact named President Obama's claim that people could keep their health insurance plans if they liked them its "Lie of the Year" for 2013.

The danger with Barrack Obama is that he’s producing a “Tornado in Texas.”  Barrack Obama has put more guns into the hands of ordinary Americans than the US had under arms in all of World War II. In the US last year, there were over 21 million background checks for gun purchases.  The total number of Americans that served during all of World War II, in the Pacific and European theaters combined, was 16.1 million. In the last year alone, there were five million more checks for gun purchases than all of the Americans that served during all of World War II.  Manufacturers mockingly made Obama “Gun Salesman of the Century.”  You’ll recall ammo sales also exploded – to the point of shortages.

Is Barrack Obama more like a tornado or the tipping point?  Is he more like the transformer-in-chief, or the straw that breaks the nation’s back?  We may not have healthcare for our well-being, but America will be well-armed.   

This column originally appeared in the 24 DEC  2014 Upson Beacon.

1 comment:

Tom said...

A belated welcome, and it seems you are off to a good start.