Occam's Razor

by Richard Kovac

Always pick the simplest, easy solution. My wife is an expert at short-cuts around here (and a licensed back seat driver). She often chaffs when I take the main road instead of the "insider" path around here (she grew up here), but it keeps me out of trouble to stay on the main roads and rutted paths. It may not be exactly what she wants - she wants an "efficiency expert." "That's for Prussians like you. We Austro- Italians like to take siestas or naps in the woods."

(She's asleep in the bedroom while I type and I hope my typing on this electronic typewriter doesn't disturb her. Some of us get our days and nights mixed up.)

The Copernican theory was accurate, but although much simpler, not exactly as accurate as the more cumbersome superstitious Ptolemaic system. It wasn't until Johann Kepler that the idea of simple elliptical (not circular) orbits made the Copernican system more accurate. The Copernican theory was more pragmatically useful before and after Kepler's discovery. That is my argument here.

"Credo in unam Deo." (I believe in one God.) God is One. There is no other god. This is the essence of the religion of Judaism, Islam and Christianity - and it is clearly a case of Occam's razor. Instead of many divinities doing this and that, or standing for one thing or another, (as in polytheistic religions), is the simpler idea that there is one unifying principle behind all things: El, Allah, God or what ever you may choose as an appropriate name for him. This appears intrinsically sensible because of our very nature, although I cannot offer "scientific proof" of it.

What about politics and economics? Does Occam's Razor apply to those fields as well?? The goal of politics and economics is the common good. (St. Thomas Aquinas would give his approval.) Once the common good is defined, a1l else may be engineered to suit it.

It has probably been the goal of most if not all political and economic systems to achieve this goal, which so preoccupies our daily news (to the extent that news is credible.) But who is the "we" referred to by "common good"? Is it all citizens of the world? Is it all Americans? Is it all Lutherans, or Jehovah's Witnesses? Who is this "we" we refer to as "common"?

And how do you define "good"? Is population growth good or bad? If it is good, then the country should be poor. If is rich, than the population will go through "incipient population decline" and then decline itself. (As in Europe and Russia now.) It is like asking "how much will you sacrifice to have more children?"

The world is an economic laboratory, and there are many different economic systems. A tolerant economy allows diversity within itself - corporations, co-ops, employee owned businesses, etc. (Live and let live.) I'm a fan of credit unions (although in any bank I have trouble keeping my check book balanced).

In politics and the separation of church and state, how does Occam's razor apply? The simplest solution has been for an educated citizenry to elect representatives, so that war can be declared with their tacit consent.

I'll close by quoting Thomas Jefferson, "The government that governs best governs least." From which the co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement (a Frenchman) concluded, "The best government is no government." I wouldn't go that far. I still believe in the postal service and every day go to check my mail.

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