Monday, January 5, 2009

911, Weber and Utopia

I was just reading about the death of Matt Armstrong, an 18 year old who was found dead ten hours after placing a call to 911.

The Globe and Mail reports that last year there were four fatal or near fatal incidents where the callers had some trouble getting through to 911 on cell phone or internet phones. That number really isn't very high at all but it will likely only get worse unless the 911 systems are updated.

This gets me thinking about how we are governed. One of the first things a student of Public Administration would hear about is the idea that there are always demands in excess of resources regardless of how many resources are had. Can we, as a country afford to keep 911 technology up to date when technology is changing so quickly?

When the 911 emergency system was first brought in, cell-phones were rather rare. People used them in their cars and that was about it. I think we actually called them car phones in those days. One little aside, if I may: recently I was digging through some old boxes and found several roles of film. I don't know about you, dear Roger...umm reader but I haven't seen a roll of film in at least a few years. I certainly haven't though about how to develop one. Do they even develop film these days?

So, getting back to my original point, can we ever keep up with all of need that exists? Can we ever make a Utopian paradise? I think of mine own self when I ask that question. At times I feel completely at peace with everything and can picture everyone being able to get along. But, then I get angry and do something that causes another person harm (not physically usually, but some sort of harm) I think we harm each other all the time, even when we think we aren't. We all do something that is a little greedy for our own benefit that doesn't help those around us and often hurts those around us. To reach paradise wouldn't we need to evolve past these tendencies?

What interests me in the old Soviet Union was that it purported to be paradise. It tried to be paradise. Karl Marx predicted that the state itself would "whither away" in a truly Communist state. Rather than whither, it grew into nearly exactly what Max Weber (writing in 1922, I think) had predicted when he said that the bureaucracy of the Soviet Union would eventually expand to the point where it would remove all real humanity and leave only a legal-rational society that would trap people in an "iron cage" or rule based and rational control. Weber believed the Soviet Union would create a "Polar night of icy darkness". This is very far from what Marx and others thought would happen.

I often wonder if the Soviet Union could have worked if it occurred in the right stages, under Marx and Engel's theories. The rise of the Soviet Union did not happen in an advanced capitalist state, as Marx said it should, rather Russia was one of the least developed countries in Europe at the time. So, perhaps if Russia had have been further along in industrialization (perhaps where the U.S and friends are now) it might have worked. Also, perhaps there is the possibility that a state run economy can be efficient. I tend to think though that it would only be possible in very small states with little diversity of opinion.

Anyway, I have these thoughts because when I read stuff like the calls for improvements to the 911 system, I think about what could have been done to prevent it from getting out of date. What could have been done to prevent Canada's health care crisis? What could have been done to ensure that our military had never gotten so embarrassingly out of date? What can be done to get rid of murder and crime?

We can always have ideas. I think getting rid of poverty is do-able and doing so would remove a great deal of our social problems. I think we can get most of the homeless off the street, and that would prevent deaths (like that woman who accidental burned herself trying to stay warm). I also think more intelligent government could get these things done. I think, actually I know that the health care crisis was caused in the early Chretien years. The Canadian Medical Association tried to tell Chretien that if he cuts medical school funding now it will lead to a great shortage by the late 1990's. Chretien's response was simply that we shouldn't listen to the CMA because the CMA only looks after the CMA. Well, it turns out that the CMA was right and that cutting back on funding in the 93, 94 and maybe 95 budgets would exacerbate a problem that was already looming. At the time there was a small national surplus of nurses and the right amount of doctors. So, that is a clear case of just bad governing. Also, Chretien's decision to cancel Mulroney's helicopters was also a stupid election gimmick that has been costing us ever since.

Alright, so that's why I'm a political liberal. I do think that we can't imagine just how good a state can run yet, but we'll not reach perfection for a while. Well, what would be perfection anyway. Will there ever be a day when there is no crime? Will there ever be a day when there is no poverty? Well, looking throughout history, few societies have ever been as peaceful as what much of the developed world is today.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I still shoot with film with my 35mm. I also shoot with digital. And my first year in Thailand I did an entire photo series using a instamatic camera which dovetailed nicely with the subject matter, vintage vespas.

As for government, the less the better. I say that flippantly but it is pretty much what I think.

If I had a 100 times to chose between living in Switzerland or Thailand, I would chose the land of smiles every single time. That is said knowing all the tragic outcomes such as the club fire that can occur with a free wheeling system. (and I am not saying Thailand is any sort of ideal, just that it is freer than Switzerland) (not in all ways clearly,ie. books,films etc,..but in regards to the government staying out of your life in a real salient way)

Having real freedom from the state requires responsibility which most individuals such as the club owner fail to live up to. Again, like your questions about a just construct, perhaps an ethical, moral, libertarian society could evolve. I think the chances are just as good as any other system and I have more freedom in the process.

hey,..I can't be your only reader!!!