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History In The Making

I’ve wanted to address a pet peeve of mine for a while now, and I’m just getting around to it now, though I wish I had done so sooner.

There are valid criticisms of the so called “butterfly effect” but there are also a great number of applications for the theory that are almost valid beyond question. The best known are with weather, but politics also fits elegantly into place, and that’s what I want to talk about.

We hear people commenting on how George W. Bush is the worst president ever, and we hear the same thing about Barack Obama. It’s important to understand that in both examples, we are not talking about whether or not they are actually the worst, we are talking about political opportunism in part, and personal preference in the majority of cases.

The mistake made is when people consider these claims and illustrations as historical fact instead of simply personal preferences. The question of which of these men truly turn out to be worse than the other, or even whether they are both a pair of the best leaders our country has ever had, will have to wait decades , if not longer. There are few real world processes that can be analyzed in the scientific manner we wish they could be.

If people are to accept the idea that George Bush is the worst president ever, it is no different than if a scientist were to stop in the middle of an experiment and declare the results are clear enough that there is no reason to continue with it. The wheels are still turning on Bush era policies, Osama Bin Laden’s demise is a prime example of this. Obama may have given the go ahead for the Navy to introduce him to Allah forthwith, but the majority of the deciding factors on that event coming to pass are wrapped up not only in Bush’s policies and decisions, but in Clinton’s and we could go back so far as to say Truman’s as well (and everyone in between).

Going further, what might have been different if India had not been a part of the British empire? India’s formation certainly had a great deal to do with modern political, military and social realities in Pakistan. How much credit, or blame, should British Monarchs get?

Lets skip some more and go even further back, all the way to the crusades. Bin Laden was certainly a product of Islamic thinking, and the Arabian secular influences over the last 1000 years also. How much credit and blame is there to spread around back than? Is there anything left to even spread by the year 2012?

If you haven’t figured it out, all this “best and worst” stuff, if taken as historical fact rather than politics, is an incredible fallacy of the sort that we don’t often see. the mistake, is that people want to view everything as if it exists in a vacuum, as if it is a linear system where one thing leads directly to another and another and another. That isn’t how it works though, and it never will be.

Hate on Bush as much as you want, I will certainly hate on Obama, but what I won’t do is trick myself into thinking that we can predict the outcome of policies a few years down the road, or even a few months into the future. We have to operate under certain assumptions and our own political preferences, but we don’t know anything for sure. If we could, we wouldn’t have “unexpected increases in unemployment”, every single month. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the only thing that would seem unexpected to me is if what is expected actually came to pass.

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