Wednesday, March 29, 2017

"Single Payer" and the Implicate Order

Yesterday, in the airport at Fort Lauderdale, I overheard a Bernie Bro telling a couple of listeners that “next time” Bernie would win and bring on “single payer.”

This bearded young man had majored in drama and done a bit of theater.

I did not try to enter into a dialog with the young man, so I did not say:

“So, kid, you like guns.”

“Guns? What do you mean? Guns kill people and if it wasn’t for the NRA…”

“I get it. But government is force, and that means, at the end of the day, government men with guns enforcing the law. So you like the idea of government men with guns.”

“What do you mean? I just want a just and rational health-care system.”

“But you want a system, and system means force.”

It is a delicious irony of our modern age that everyone is competing to be Mr. Nice Guy. The lefties talk about bending the arc of history towards justice, but forget that the means appointed comes down to thuggist activists backed up by men with guns, their loyalty bought with handsome pensions. Mr. Nice Guy with a gun?

On the other hand, the amazing emerging order of what we call “capitalism” that has brought the west from the indigence of $1 per head per day to $100 per head per day, is an order of remarkable ruthlessness. It says that if you can’t sell your skill or product on the market for the amount you had in mind, well, too bad for you: get a clue.

It allows you to dabble in a bit of theater, even amateur theatricals, but it doesn’t say you have a right to do that and get health care too.

By the way, did you know that Chinese factory workers are now getting about $3.60 per hour, or nearly $30 per day? I don’t know how that works out for the population as a whole, but it sure looks better than the 30 million that died of starvation during the Great Leap Forward in the 1950s.

OK, let’s get to the point. Right now I am reading Ian McGilchrist’s The Master and the Emissary. It’s a review of human brain science, and the emerging idea that left and right brain are complementary. The right brain takes the whole world as a whole with judgment; the left brain develops a theory of the world. Moreover, according McGilchrist, the right hemisphere is “primary;” for it defines the whole that the left hemisphere reduces to a mechanical theory.

Then there is David Bohm and his idea of the “implicate order,” the notion from post-Newtonian science that the world is not a machine, but something far deeper and more mysterious. In the dumbed-down version in Unfolding Meaning: A Weekend of Dialog, Bohm explains that the world is not a whole built up of parts but something more complex, for while the whole and the parts are not exactly one and the same thing they are so interrelated that it is certainly wrong to think of the whole as constructed from the parts. Bohm uses the example of a hologram projected by laser light. If you project the light through a small part of the hologram you will get the whole picture, but it will be low resolution. The more of the hologram that is illuminated, the more resolution will appear in the resulting image.

Now the hologram is a direct demonstration of quantum mechanics, so the experiment is demonstrating that each part of the universe, at the quantum level, contains some encoded information about the whole.

I would argue that my airport friend’s “single-payer” health system is a Newtonian mechanical universe in which the whole is a bolted-together machine of parts. But the Newtonian universe is all about force: action and reaction are equal and opposite.

I would argue that the market “system” is not a system at all but an implicate order where the whole and the parts are intimately connected, where the whole is certainly more than the sum of the parts. Let’s quote Bohm at length:
[I]n each sub-whole there is a certain quality that does not come from the parts, but helps organize the parts. So the implicate order does not deny the significance of parts or sub-wholes, but rather it treats each in its own way as relatively stable, independent and autonomous. Wholeness is seen as primary while the parts are secondary in the sense that what they are and what they do can be understood only in the light of the whole.
In other words, to understand what the molecules in a human cell are doing, it helps to know they are part of a live human.

But the key thing to note, Bernie Bro, is that the cells and the parts of the cell are doing what they do without the clunking fist of the whole human creating a “single payer” to subsume the parts under the hegemony of the whole.

So the president of the nation does not "deny the significance of parts or sub-wholes" of the health care system but "treats each in its own way as relatively stable, independent and autonomous."

On the other hand it is also true that if enough individual parts do not contribute to the health of the whole then the whole will die.

By the way, in his commentary on Kant and Schopenhauer, Bryan Magee comments that Schopenhauer’s most important advance on Kant is to critique the Kantian idea that we can know sense impressions but not “things-in-themselves.” The mistake in Kant  is to talk about plural “things” instead of one “thing,” the whole. Because the whole is not the sum of the parts but completely interrelated with the parts and already encoded in the parts, and the parts are not really the parts but partaking of the whole.

Like I say, the more we know about life, the universe, and everything, the more amazing and mysterious it becomes.

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