Allela Girma is a senior, majoring in Politics and International Relations, as well as Economics


(This post is the next in Readings in Reconciliation.  Click to learn more about the segment and the series, From the Field.)

There are many flaws in the human systems we have created. Those flaws act as indicators of when we need to diverge from normality and be intentional about what kind of change we need. Although we may not always agree on the adjustments we would like in human systems such as congress or capitalism, I believe that discussing the imperfections of our human systems is the only act that will lead to growth. Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World contains many valuable lessons, but the main point is that “nothing is written” (369). Indeed, as long as we keep recognizing the flaws in our systems and keep discussing all possible solutions, change and growth are inevitable.

In recent years, we have started to move away from our binary biases and nurture the complexities in difficult political conversations. Because political parties have been taken over by activists who are more and more extreme in their views, it may seem as though Americans are unable to agree on anything, as elections scholar Morris Fiorina notes (18:24). However, an increasing number of individuals with completely different political viewpoints, have shown more interest in compromise rather than victory. I believe that the reason for this shift is that we are collectively recognizing the flaws in the human systems we have created. For example, more and more individuals from different sides of the political spectrum are now agreeing that neither of these extremes, capitalism or socialism, creates ideal societies. We are recognizing the flaws in capitalism and calling for more incorporation of socialist ideals.

The challenge with creating a blend of socialism and capitalism is making “it possible for citizens to face that environment of global competition […] with the tools, training, and safety nets that will allow them to flourish”(p.123). In other words, it is difficult to protect the satisfaction we get from competition while acknowledging the role of government in protecting the citizens who could not “get ahead”, those who because of issues such as structural inequalities, failed at winning the game of competition. I believe that the main dilemma of this book is between the need for change and the attachment we have to certain aspects of the current system. Recognizing that change is required is not hard, but determining how much change we need is complicated. Moreover, the key to reconstructing human systems is to understand the complexities around human behavior especially when it comes to trust.

Nations-states understand the need for cooperation but do not trust each other enough to do so. Most people believe that if they “cooperate, they will achieve better outcomes and more durable solutions than they could acting alone. ”(p.342). Although I agree with this statement, I also believe it does not get at the heart of the issue which is a lack of trust. To cooperate, you need to trust that others will deliver on their part of the deal. Game theory has shown us that while we can get a good outcome if we both corporate, I can get an even better outcome if I manage to “betray” the other while he chooses to comply. The world is a lot like game theory. Leaders are either trying to get ahead by finding a way to betray the other or looking out for the next betrayal. I understand that in international relations, “trust” is a relative concept that increases or declines based on the interactions nation-states have with each other. Although complete trust between any two nation-states is highly unlikely, some level of trust is possible with concrete trust-building measures.

Politics is a study of how we make decisions to coexist with one another. When we change, as individuals, we make different decisions on how we want to coexist in the same space. The systems we have set up are not set in stone. They will keep changing and evolving as we change our mindsets. This book made me appreciate the fact that “nothing is written.” Our ability to adapt our systems as we adapt ourselves is key to maintaining efficiency. Our adaptability is an essential component of the ever-changing field of politics.









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