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Cells and Cities: What Nature Teaches Us About Government

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Worth reading 😎

A short attempt to justify the legitimacy of a centralized command and control city government through an analogy with cell behavior.

Synopsis

What should government do? How big should government be? How can governments improve?
Humanity has labored to answer these questions. As it turns out, so has nature, during the evolution of the cells that make up our own bodies. We can get some deep insights into the governments we make by examining the workings of the very cells that we are made of.

[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Reedsy Discovery. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]


On the positive side, this book is a creative attempt by the author to justify big government and its legitimacy through an appeal to creation in the complexity and behavior of the eukaryotic cell as opposed to the simpler structure found in other single-celled organisms. What appears to have been the case here is that the author has long wished to defend his favored political program of a big government that siphons a large percentage of the productive labor of citizens while providing infrastructure and conditions that prevent the citizen from having to do unproductive tasks like working for basic survival (But someone must do that work since government bureaucrats are not in the habit of raising crops and taking care of animals) or looking for work. The author seems to take a lot for granted, namely that the behavior of the eukaryotic cell runs by command and control and that such methods can manage complex systems in a rejection of every historical example of attempts at command and control that have existed in the entirety of human history, all of which have ended in catastrophic failure.


The best thing that can be said about this book is that it is mercifully short and will not try the patience of the reader, and that it is part of a larger conversation that seeks to argue about what governments are natural or ideal. Even readers who disagree with the author's thesis will find the author's approach to seeking a connection between the way that mankind operates and the lessons we learn from creation to be a worthwhile and profitable area of study. Even the author's shortcomings in assuming that the eukaryotic cell somehow magically is made to mirror contemporary European or American cities with advanced infrastructure that eases the life of city dwellers in contradistinction to the rough life of urban populations in such cities as Rio de Janiero, Cairo, or Mumbai who may be unfamiliar with cities that provide the sort of benefits that the author rhapsodizes about are instructive in that they will ensure that the author's ideas and similar ones are subjected to rigorous analysis and critique. The author's inability to distinguish between what is and what is necessary should encourage readers to question the blithe assumptions that undergird our assumptions of just how much government is in fact necessary and proper for us to live good lives, and how it is that such varying opinions about the desirability and necessity of highly centralized paternalistic states exist in the first place and remain so tenaciously held.

Reviewed by

I read a wide variety of books, usually reviewing three a day, from diverse sources, including indie presses and self-publishing, and I enjoy talking about unfamiliar authors and introducing them to my blog audience.

Synopsis

What should government do? How big should government be? How can governments improve?
Humanity has labored to answer these questions. As it turns out, so has nature, during the evolution of the cells that make up our own bodies. We can get some deep insights into the governments we make by examining the workings of the very cells that we are made of.

Introduction

What should government do? How big should government be? How can governments improve?

Humanity has labored to answer these questions.

As it turns out, so has nature, during the evolution of the cells that make up our own bodies. We can get some deep insights into the governments we make by examining the workings of the very cells that we are made of.

How can this be? How can cells teach us about government?

The answer lies in parallels between the organization and activities of cells and those of governments. These parallels are close enough that we can study the solutions that cells have developed through billions of years of evolution to shed light on how we design and operate our own governments. Our governments and our cells face the same problems of management and we can learn much about government by seeing the solutions that our cells have arrived at.

We are talking about eukaryotic cells, which make up animals, plants, and all complex life on the planet. Prokaryotic cells, such as bacteria, are much simpler and don't use the ‘big government’ approach of eukaryotic cells.

At the simplest level, we are saying that the cell nucleus is like city hall, and the mitochondria, vital components of the cell, are like citizens of the city. The similarities go much deeper and we will expand on this as we go.

So we are drawing, in some detail, an analogy between eukaryotic cells and big government. Analogies are neither true nor false—instead, they are useful or not. This analogy is very useful, in that it can shed light on the questions about government we led off with. In particular, it can point to a clear set of goals that we can use when managing our government.

The first part of this book fleshes out the analogy by comparing the similarities and differences between big government and eukaryotic cell organization. We will focus on the similarities, and not dwell on the differences.

This isn’t a general treatise on government. We’re going to stick to discussing the analogy and leave other questions alone.

Then, demonstrating the usefulness of the analogy, we discuss the lessons to be learned from the comparisons. This isn't a mystery story—here are some key points right up front: First, if you want to do big things, you need big government. Second, it is possible, though not easy, for big governments to control large, complex organizations. Third, good government entails doing what is necessary and sufficient, in an effective and efficient way. Fourth, government and citizens are in a mutually dependent relationship, and must work in a mutually supportive way for both to succeed.

Notes

When I use the word ‘we’ I will be referring to myself and you, the reader.

City, state, and national governments are similar enough to each other and to cells that most of the points covered here apply to each of them. Our examples and discussion will usually refer to cities for convenience.. "Cells and Cities" is the title of the book simply because it sounds good. We’ll use the word ‘system’ to cover cells and governments together, and ‘individuals’ to cover mitochondria and citizens together.

We will use anthropomorphic phrasing from time to time, such as speaking of mitochondria ‘deciding’ what to do. This is just for purposes of getting the point across, and does not imply any kind of consciousness.

We are not concerned with low-level details of either cells or governments. We also will not worry about exceptions, special cases, etc.

Cities exists because citizens build them. We're not going to delve into why the first cities were built, which has nothing to do with how the first eukaryotic cells developed. We are only concerned with more-or-less modern, large cities.

About the author

Joseph B. Casey has been a mental health care provider, a home builder, and a software developer. He has Master’s degrees in Mathematics and Computer Science. To make an analogy, he is like a bear—rambling, omnivorous, and introverted. He lives in the Hudson Valley, New York. view profile

Published on August 13, 2019

Published by

50000 words

Genre: Political Science

Reviewed by

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