April 24, 2007

Far from the madding crowd.

This article in Guardian talks about the emerging "social crisis" in Buenos Aires where newly successful middle class increasingly live in idyllic, affluent neighborhoods far removed from the squalor of the city itself. Evidently this is a cause for concern: it promotes the chasm between classes and prepares the ground for potentially dangerous social unrest. That is not my point however. It just prompts me to comment a bit on a more general topic, which has only a passing relevance to the above.

Discussion on issues like the above tends to be maddeningly narrow. Criticism alone goes only so far. Incisive criticism is analytical criticism. In other words, it must include an analysis of the choices involved and their differing potential outcomes, and crucially, a prescription of a different choice from the one being criticized, together with a demonstration that the alternate choice would lead to a "better" outcome.

Society is a complex thing, with a variety of forces acting in a variety of ways to produce a variety of phenomena. On the face of it, analyzing any particular phenomenon is very challenging. Some simplifying assumptions will naturally be made, but the digging has to be deep enough to uncover the treasure of truth. Am I wrong if I observe that there are too-many false treasures uncovered after digging too close to the surface?


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