A literature professor of mine used to suggest that everybody (a group including at least the sorts of people taking college literature courses) should make one book their own — that is, study it in every particular, to the point that one can be confident about what the author brought into the work and hoped readers would take out of it and how he or she went about constructing it for that purpose. Back then, I gave Moby Dick that level of attention, and as I’m sure my professor expected, I’ve found that the effort has made it easier to repeat the process with other novels.
I recalled that literary advice while reading Josh Gelernter’s rumination on “How the Left Ruined Air Travel,” in which he concludes:
Air travel is bad because there’s no competition, because there are too few airlines, because there are too few airports, because the feds and city governments make big construction projects nigh-on impossible. So how do we fix air travel? We have either got to start building airports far enough outside of metro areas that labor-environmentalism is a non-issue, or conservatives have to start winning mayorships.
Until then, every commercial flight is going to be a little worse than the last. Buckle up.
As I wade through every bill submitted to the General Assembly so far this session, it occurs to me that every person who intends to engage in public policy in some way, even if only by voting, should make a point of picking some issue and making it their own. As with novels, it doesn’t count to come to a superficial conclusion and then stop digging when it appears to be affirmed. I suspect honest sleuths will tend to find that big government has played a substantial role in just about every modern problem… before that problem falls into the universal category of imperfect nature (and human nature).
Ultimately a pretty simple two-step error wreaks a great deal of havoc:
- The conclusion that complicated natural problems are solvable at a broad level leads people to grant power to a central authority empowered to do what is necessary to resolve challenges and balance interests.
- The existence of that authority acts as a magnet to parties that are especially interested in the subject at hand for reasons of personal interest, and they proceed to leverage it to improve their own circumstances.