Society as a Failed Experiment
By David Swanson / washingtonsblog.com

There’s little dispute among social scientists that most of our major public programs are counter-productive on their own terms. There is also little analysis of this phenomenon as a pattern in need of an explanation and a solution.

Prisons are supposedly intended to reduce crime, but instead increase it. Young people who when they commit crimes are arrested and punished become much more likely to commit crimes as adults than are those young people who when they commit crimes are just left alone.

Fixing public schools by requiring endless test-preparation and testing is ruining public schools. Kids are emerging with less education than before the fix. Parents are sending their kids to private schools or charter schools or homeschooling them or even pulling them out of school for a few months during the worst of the test-preparation binging.

Free trade policies are supposed to enrich us. Trickle-down tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations are supposed to enrich us. We keep trying them and they keep impoverishing us.

War preparations are supposed to enrich us, but impoverish us instead. War is supposed to protect us, but generates enemies. Or war is supposed to benefit some far away place, but leaves it in ruins. Is more war the answer?

When a road gets crowded, we enlarge it or build another road. The traffic responds by enlarging to fill the new roads. So we cut funds for trains in order to build yet more roads.

We’re several times more likely to be killed by a police officer than by a terrorist. So, we give police officers weapons of war to make us safe.

We’re making the earth’s climate unlivable by consuming fossil fuels. So we ramp up the consumption of fossil fuels.

Guns are supposed to protect us, but the more we spread the guns around the more we get killed intentionally and accidentally with guns.

What causes us to pursue counterproductive programs and policies? And why does it seem that the bigger the program is the more we pursue its counterproductive agenda? Well, let’s look at the above list again and ask who benefits.

We’ve made prisons into a for-profit industry and an economic rescue program for depressed rural areas. Enormous profits are being made from children who abandon public schools; from the point of view of those profiteers there’s every reason to fix schools in a manner that actually makes them horrible. Corporate trade pacts and tax exemptions for billionaires don’t impoverish everyone, just us non-billionaires. Some people get rich from road construction. Weapons companies don’t mind when one war leads to three more (especially if they’re arming all sides), or when police pick up used weaponry that can then be replaced. Oil and coal profiteers aren’t focused on the inhabitability of the earth. Gun manufacturers aren’t worried about how many people die so much as how many guns are sold.

What keeps us from seeing this as a pattern is the myth that we live in a democracy in which decisions are made by majority opinion. In reality, majority opinion is badly distorted by anti-democratic news media and largely ignored by anti-democratic officials.

Major public pressure will be needed to change this situation, to strip corporations of power, ban bribery, provide free media and public financing of elections, and create a democratic communications system.

We should begin by dropping the pretense that we’re rationally testing policies and adjusting them as we go. No, the whole thing is broken. Experiments keep failing upward with no end in sight. Enough is enough. Let’s change direction.

4.2 ·
2
What's Next
Trending Today
Ten Ways We Misunderstand Children
Jan Hunt · 23,209 views today · 1. We expect children to be able to do things before they are ready. We ask an infant to keep quiet. We ask a 2-year-old to sit still. We ask a 3-year-old to clean his room...
18 Empowering Illustrations to Remind Everyone Who's Really in Charge of Women's Bodies
Julianne Ross · 7,947 views today · When Brazilian graphic designer Carol Rossetti began posting colorful illustrations of women and their stories to Facebook, she had no idea how popular they would...
Beyond Civilization: Humanity's Next Great Adventure
Daniel Quinn · 3,149 views today · PART ONE A fable to start with Once upon a time life evolved on a certain planet, bringing forth many different social organizations—packs, pods, flocks, troops, herds, and...
Lawns Are for Suckers. Plant a Garden - for the Climate!
Nathanael Johnson · 1,359 views today · Ripping out your lawn and planting kale and peppers won’t just lead to great stir-fry — a new study finds it could make major contributions to fighting climate change...
You Should Get Naked More Often. It's Good for You.
Joni Sweet · 1,208 views today · When Nelly encouraged overheated people worldwide to get naked in 2002, he was unknowingly advocating much more than just a sexy, sweaty dance party. Sunbathing, sleeping...
How Native Americans Managed "Wild" Land Long Before Settlers
Sami Grover · 982 views today · When European settlers first came to North America, they assumed they were looking at "untouched" nature. Sure, there were native peoples, but history tells us they didn't...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 966 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
Solidarity Is About What You Do - Not Who You Are.
R.L. Stephens · 749 views today · I am Black. I capitalize Black and leave white lowercased. Sure, it’s the accepted spelling, but really I do it because it feels good. My family lived in Missouri, but my...
The White Man in That Photo
Riccardo Gazzaniga · 668 views today · Sometimes photographs deceive. Take this one, for example. It represents John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s rebellious gesture the day they won medals for the 200 meters at the...
When You Kill Ten Million Africans You Aren't Called 'Hitler'
Liam O'Ceallaigh · 626 views today · Take a look at this picture. Do you know who it is? Most people haven’t heard of him. But you should have. When you see his face or hear his name you should get as sick in...
It Didn't Start With You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are
Mark Wolynn · 623 views today · The past is never dead. It’s not even past. — William Faulkner, Requiem for a Nun
Schooling the World (2010)
66 min · 572 views today · If you wanted to change an ancient culture in a generation, how would you do it? You would change the way it educates its children. The U.S. Government knew this in the 19th...
Gabor Maté: Why Our Culture Makes So Many Of Us Unhappy
3 min · 571 views today · Dr. Gabor Maté explains why it is that our culture makes so many of us unhappy, unkind to one another, miserable, alienated from ourselves, etc. Watch the full interview in Part 2.
Masculinity Is Killing Men: The Roots of Men and Trauma
Kali Holloway · 556 views today · We begin the damaging process of turning boys into men long before boyhood ends.
A New Story for Humanity (2016)
102 min · 552 views today · Inspired by the New Story Summit at the Findhorn Foundation: a sold-out multicultural, multigenerational inquiry into a new story for humanity, attended by change makers and...
Bioregional Quiz: How Well Do You Know the Place in Which You Live?
Rua Lupa · 548 views today · In the vast emptiness of space there are an unimaginable number of galaxies, each galaxy containing billions upon billions of stars. Looking at one galaxy we find an average...
Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)
David Cain · 511 views today · Well I’m in the working world again. I’ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like it’s returning to normal after my nine months...
Why You Should Take Your Kids Out of School
Ben Hewitt · 455 views today · We don't need no education. At least not of the traditional, compulsory, watch-the-clock-until-the-bell-rings kind. As a growing movement of unschoolers believe, a steady diet...
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 391 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
Why People's Opinions of You Aren't Real
4 min · 357 views today · "You are what you love and not what loves you." - From Charlie Kaufman's film "Adaptation"
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
Society as a Failed Experiment