A big part of our communication problem in the national conversation regarding our most pressing economic and political problems is obscurantism.
Obscurantism is a ten dollar word described by Dictionary.com as:
ob·scu·rant·ismdeliberate obscurity or evasion of clarity.2.
It's the second definition which is most important to this post, but the first can used to describe a concerted effort to avoid certain uncomfortable knowledge, therefore motivating obscurity and lack of clarity.
Obscurantism is mostly present among liberals who in spirit or completely in policy support the goals of progressivism, and moderates who are willing to compromise with progressivism, creating a much slower statist direction, but a statist direction nonetheless. It's intellectual fashion today to describe the current Tea Party right as simplistic, naive, uninformed, as a closed system of thought which operates in an echo chamber, shutting out the nuances of educated analysis which examines our problems from many different angles. The nuanced approach concludes that because of the complexity involved in our current political and economic problems, there are no easy solutions, therefore the Tea Party remedies of limiting government power, cutting spending and lowering taxes are insufficient -- evidence of this, they say, is the ironic Tea Party resistance to Medicare reform.
From this point, the conversation drills down to specifics, tit-for-tat accusations, Repubs did this/Dems did that, economic theory, technocratic guidance, social engineering strategy, partial recognition of partial benefits of partial free market principles, examples of prior statist achievements in research and social reform, the sociological complications of poverty, environmental contingencies, foreign policy implications, pragmatic gradualism, theories of social justice, cost/benefit analysis, monetary policy related to the modern interdependence of international finance, moral responsibility and human rights in a global community, technological disruption and educational needs, demographic transformation and immigration management, commercialization and cultural decay, infrastructure maintenance and global competition -- on and on until the simple issue of statism vs anti-statism is obscured to the point of absurdity.
On one hand, a case can be made that a simple call for reduced spending, a more limited governmet and a freer market is hopelessly naive as we're faced with the complexity of modern society's difficult challenges, and that the impracticality of implementation renders the Tea Party-type movement either irrelevant or hypocritical since their new representatives will have to accept complexity and continue in a statist direction. All the specifics which create the aura of compexity obscure the choice that is facing us and simply justifies the status quo or a more firm resolve to stick with the present direction, making adjustments to answer the debt problem, such as tax tweaking, infrastructure stimulation to create jobs, entitlement reform, military spending reduction, etc., but leaving the present system in place. Unless there is a clear delineation between a mixed economy and a free market, and between statism and a limited government, there can be no good understanding of our choices and pssible solutions.
Many statists believe that if only we can spur job growth, the Tea Party silliness will dissipate and the economy will return to normal. Every pundit you hear states, oh so pumped with realism, "Jobs, jobs, jobs!", as they answer the question of what's needed to end public unrest and dissatisfaction. So, the moderates(this includes Big Government Repubs, neocons, or anyone who thinks compromise and the two parties working together are the answers to making government work effectively) and liberals have concluded that complexity necessitates a statist direction, that statism is relative and there are varyng levels of statism, and, therefore, we must simply find the right statist answers to the balance we so desperately need to go forward and progress, and that job creation is the answer to getting the public back on track with government planning and problem resolution -- of course, all the concerns listed above still remain, but the multi-level statists believe that society working with government can find solutions as we head into the 21st century.
I venture to say that most people still believe the above narrative to one degree or another, but the narrative is beginning to fall apart under close scrutiny, as people are attempting in the Information Age to get past the obscurantism in order to achieve some measure of clarity. I think it has become somewhat clear that our representatives are the greatest obscurantists, as they double-talk, blame-shift, spin, lie and manipulate the public -- the midterm message is encouraging if the public really is beginning to demand integrity -- we'll see if the representatives are held accountable.
Even if we concede to the part of the narrative framing Tea Party-types as simplistic, naive and uninformed, it's equally simplistic and naive to dismiss the movement and think that lower unemployment will silence them and make the problem go away. Plus, obscurantism has no effect on reality, and the reality is we are facing potential collapse and some tough choices -- and while the choices aren't simple and easy, they're becoming clearer every day. The choice is between the direction of statism or whether we head in the direction of allowing the private sector to deal with the complexities. There's no magic in a limited government and a free market -- complexity will still be a reality. To be honest, though, the State hasn't handled complexity very well -- and we'll see this clearer when all the changes of the healthcare plan come into effect. I think we should stop with the sweeping legislation until we decide on direction and fully understand how we'll be affected by the major changes already made.