The phrase Ontogeny Recapitulates Phylogeny isn’t strictly true, but it packs a lot of insight into a small number of words. It’s also fun to say.
Basically, it asserts that the stages an animal embryo undergoes during development are a chronological replay of past evolutionary forms for that species. For example, if there are fish in your evolutionary family tree, you’ll have gills at some point in your embryonic development.
I’d like to coin another phrase that I think does a similar thing, in a similar way: Topology Obviates Geography. Except the key insight to be derived from it is political, rather than biological.
Like Ontogeny Recapitulates Phylogeny, it’s only kind of true, but it’s true enough to spur thought and understanding.
Basically, it says that if you have enough of the right kinds of connections, it doesn’t matter where you are.
Until relatively recently in human history, when you wanted to interact with other people, you almost always did that with the people who were close to you geographically. But technology — in particular, network technology — has been changing that. And those changes have been brought front and center by the government’s spastic, lurching over-reaction to COVID-19.
There are important exceptions, but we’re learning that for the most part, students don’t need to be in a school building to take classes, workers don’t need to be in an office to get their work done, patients don’t need to be in a doctor’s office to get medical advice or prescriptions, shoppers don’t need to be in a store to buy what they need, customers don’t need to be in a bank to access their accounts, diners don’t need to be in restaurants to enjoy prepared meals, friends and family members don’t need to live near each other to see and talk to each other, and so on.
Of course, interaction-at-a-distance isn’t a complete substitute for the real thing. You can’t give your mom a hug over Zoom, or smell her amazing cooking. You can’t pick up nuances of tone and expression via email. You don’t get to catch up on the latest gossip when you’re using online banking.
Why write about this in Grok?
Because increasingly, we live in a country filled with people who feel that the best way to get what they want is to wrest political control over some geographical area — a town or city, a state, a country. And having gained control, to force everyone else to go along with their agenda.
More often than not, the agenda involves forcing some people to pay for things that other people can’t afford. For example, if one group of people wants to have single-payer health care, they think that can only happen if they get elected to enough offices to force it on everyone else.
But they don’t! It’s an oversimplification, but let’s say that the most recent presidential election shows that about 74 million people would like to have a single-payer health care system, while 72 million would rather have a free market for medical goods and services.
Is 74 million people enough to set up a single-payer health care system? Here are some countries that have fewer people (let alone registered voters) than that: France, the UK, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Greece, Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, Finland, and Norway.
If you believe that these countries would be able to set up single-payer health care systems, then there is no reason to doubt that the Democratic Party can set one up too… without requiring anyone else to participate.
After all, what is needed to make that work? You need to be able to visit a doctor; and then you need to be able to send your bill to the Party. The Party needs to be able to verify that you’re a registered member. It needs to have access to your tax returns, so it knows how much you can afford to chip in; and access to your bank accounts, so it can take that much from you.
So during a particular year, you and George Clooney might both need $15,000 in health care services. But you would contribute $3000 to the program, while he would contribute $100 million (or whatever ‘his fair share’ is determined to be). It’s the Democratic Party dream, right?
None of this would require anyone else living near you to participate in the program. It could all be accomplished using network-based technology that exists right now. Nor would it require anyone getting elected to any public office anywhere.
What’s true for single-payer health care is also true for single-payer schools, single-payer daycare, single-payer insurance, single-payer nutrition, single-payer clothing, single-payer entertainment, and anything else you can dream up where people pool their money so that those with plenty can help those in need. It’s just moving money around. It’s just individuals in a group running up bills, and the whole group paying them.
None of it needs to be based on where anyone is, or to be concerned with what people outside the group are doing, because topology obviates geography.
Right now, we have an apparent president-elect running around talking about the ‘mandate’ that he’s been given by the American people. He might actually be half-right, in that he might actually have a mandate from about half of the American people.
If he’s really serious about helping the country heal, he should be doing everything he can to encourage that half to set up their own wealth transfer programs, so they can get what they want right now, without the delays and dilutions and divisiveness that must inevitably follow from trying to drag everyone else along with them.