from physicist & Obama supporter
Sean Carroll - Cosmic Variance:
I’m writing this post to get on the record my annoyance with Obama’s main theme, one beloved of politicians since back in Athens: “Change.” It was, of course, the same theme that Bill Clinton ran on in 1992. And for good reason: after eight years of George W. Bush, almost everyone outside the die-hard 27% wants change of some sort. Including me, that’s for sure.
Still, as a physicist it bugs me. I can’t hear the motto without thinking: change in what direction? The reason why this is such a great political slogan is because anyone can project onto it whatever kind of “change” they most prefer. But it’s highly unlikely that generic change would be a good thing. In the phase space of political configurations, one must imagine that the subspace of “good” configurations (however you want to define them) is one of fairly low-entropy— there are far more ways to have an ineffective or actively dangerous government than to have a good one.
If that’s true, and you just adopt “change” as your motto, you are far more likely to make things worse than to make them better. It’s just the Second Law of Political Dynamics, people.
Of course, reasoning along these lines is just what brings some people to become conservative (in the true and essentially-abandoned meaning of the term)— there are too many ways to make things worse, so let’s keep it as it is so as to not mess stuff up. And it would be a terrible way of thinking if that’s as far as you went, as it would shut off any opportunities for future progress.
The key is that you want to have directed change, not generic change. The way that you change things really does matter! And I think, electioneering slogans notwithstanding, that the kind of change Obama represents is a good one: toward a more sensible diplomacy, a less confrontational politics, and a more compassionate society here at home. It won’t be easy, of course— you can lower the entropy of an open system, but only by doing work.
All of which reminds us why politicians so rarely have physicists in their inner circle of advisors.
- which is a reminder that George W. Bush brought change to America, was transformational, and created a strong sense of unity (at least among the 73% of Americans who see George W. Bush as the worst president in American history). Now- about that word "potential..."