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Kevin Drum highlights a piece in an interview by Ezra Klein regarding “car czar” Steve Rattner. The quote is about Rattner’s experience dealing with Congress, which is predictably frustrating…most likely actively infuriating. However, I’m disappointed in Drum’s reaction:
I recommend we replace them all with a randomly selected bunch of sixth graders. They might not get any more done, but at least they’d be better behaved.
This kind of thing is not something that is unique to Congress. I gather from Drum’s comments (and cursory knowledge of his political inclinations) that he regards the bailout of the automakers as The Right Thing to DoTM. I, perhaps rather predictably, have a differing opinion regarding that issue, but that isn’t what I want to highlight — although it is inextricably linked to the issue. What is happening between Rattner and Congress is degrees of possibility conflicting with degrees of freedom…and the predictable result is that the actor with a high degree of freedom becomes incredibly frustrated with the walls created by network interconnectedness when confronting his or her actual degrees of possibility.
This is a timeless story that is at the heart of tribulations of entrepreneurship (and particularly visible in the entertainment industry). You don’t need to invoke the inadequacies of Congress to view this spectacle…just go down to the Human Resources department at your company (or really any other department), and listen to the complaints. I’m willing to bet that they will sound suspiciously similar to Rattner’s.
Such is the nature of the dynamics of network interaction. Replace Congress with whomever you deem fit, and ten-to-one odds says that within a rather short period, you will end up with the same sort of frustratingly difficult situation.
I want to raise awareness that even given strong will, and good ideas; large, densely-interconnected networks routinely fall into complexity catastrophe. It is a friction which is literally the basis of what Shumpeter famously termed creative destruction. While it is easy to score rhetorical points by highlighting the proximate cause, it’s really the network that is to blame.
P.S. Modeled Behavior just reached the 1,000th post mark! Congrats to both Karl and Adam for building such a great blog! I’m happy to be a (albeit small) part of the team!