Since my relatively brief post about the term “problems” triggered responses that were both extremely animated and I think revelatory of a misunderstanding of what I was trying to say, let me have another go at it in hopes of introducing some clarity into the disagreement.
A good deal of ordinary politics concerns the resolution of conflicting interests. Farmers have interests that differ with those of manufacturing workers. Small business owners have interests different from those of office workers. Parents of small children have interests different from those of senior citizens. Lenders, whose loans are paid back in nominal dollars, not in inflation adjusted dollars, have an interest in keeping the rate of inflation low. Borrowers, who pay their loans back in nominal dollars also, have an interest in a higher rate of inflation because it reduces the real cost of their debt. My favorite example of this last conflict is the late 19th century dispute between Eastern banks and Midwestern farmers over the gold standard, which found expression in that great old book The Wizard of Oz.
Ordinary conflicts of interest get dealt with politically through negotiations between elected representatives representing those with the conflicting interests, and a good deal of the legislative process, whether at the state or the national level, concerns the relative political strength of the competing legislators, with all the complexity that makes politics interesting, frustrating, and contentious.
Some political conflicts concern matters that one or both of the parties to the conflict believe to be essential, not merely ancillary, to their existence. The struggle over slavery was of such a sort. So were the religious wars in Europe in the early modern era. Ordinary politics is most often ineffective in arriving at a compromise of such conflicts.
The decision to send human beings to the moon was the outcome of a political conflict over the best use of scarce national resources, but once the decision had been made, those tasked with creating a successful moon landing faced a wide variety of what are properly described as problems. The same was true about the decision to design a successful nuclear weapon. The principal problem faced by the Manhattan Project was whether to try for a fission bomb or a fusion bomb. There was considerable disagreement about this and the German scientists working to create a nuclear weapon opted for the fusion bomb, fortunately for the Allies (because, whereas a fission bomb could be successfully designed using available resources, the fusion bomb actually requires a fission trigger.)
In America today, wealthy well-educated urban elites of the sort who characteristically are called upon to discuss political questions on television have an unacknowledged interest in treating political conflicts as problems. In so far as the political conflicts can be misconstrued as problems susceptible of technical solutions, it will seem natural to turn the resolution of those conflicts over to individuals who can be counted on not to challenge the core interests of the wealthy urban well-educated elites who dominate the public life of the nation.
It was this fact that I was trying to call attention to, apparently unsuccessfully, in my post.