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Are Cook County residents Plato's cave dwellers?

July 12, 2017

A largely-unreported Chicago area financial development brings to life a useful metaphor from high school philosophy class.

Writing about Cook County’s recently-released annual report for 2016, Mark Glennon at Wirepoints Illinois underscored the County’s massive $800 million change (negative) in net position, the latest in a series of huge (and, in recent years, growing) losses.

Glennon noted how the results in the report contrasted with County President Toni Preckwinkle’s claim, when announcing the budget at the outset of the year just reported, that the budget was balanced.

Once again, a ‘balanced’ budget in Illinois was followed by huge losses.

Perhaps the most interesting thing is how little press the financial results have received.  Glennon also underscored how the media tends to have a splash around budget time, but just isn’t there when the results arrive.

The mess brings to mind how they taught us Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave,” back in high school.

Consider prisoners in a cave (us), chained so we can only look at the wall of the cave.  Puppeteers stand behind the prisoners, and behind them, a fire burns, allowing the puppeteers to choose when and how to throw images up on the wall.  The prisoners only get to see the images they are allowed to see, and are led to believe they are reality, when the “reality” is being created behind them, what they can’t see.

This is a useful but incomplete analogy, however.  For one thing, we the people aren’t in chains.  And the puppeteers aren’t the only messengers in the cave.

 
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