This is an essay on the monolith fallacy, a type of anti-concreteness. Key concepts are scope and resolution.

“The government is slow and can’t adapt to increasing technological change.”

“The government needs to do [x]”

“The government needs to attract better talent.”

This is the way many people discuss government: as a monolith. Although they don’t realize it, they are falling victim to a specific version of the anti-concreteness meme; they’re being so general as to erase details that are specific enough to act on, or be proven wrong.

But the government is not a monolith—it is composite.

If you say “the government,” my first question is: which government? A local government? A state government? The federal government? A special purpose inter-governmental entity? And which branch of that government? Legislative? Executive? Judicial? Administrative? The questions could go on.

Often, the concept of “the government” has too broad of a scope1, and too low of a resolution2, to be useful to anyone.

When most people discuss government, they need to reduce their scope, and increase their resolution, to find the actual components and causal chains that they care about. If you find yourself unable to turn those dials appropriately, reexamine how you regard the validity of your political evaluations.


  1. By scope, I mean: “the extent of government under consideration.” High scope would be “the federal government.” Low scope would be “the city council technology committee.” A more medium scope would be “the municipal government.” 

  2. By resolution, I mean: “the smallest component of government or law that can possibly be discerned.” High resolution means you can discern things down to the individual official, for example. The lowest possible resolution is “the government.” A middle kind of resolution is “the city council.”