This idea of power simply emanating downward still animates apologetics for authoritarianism, but it also leads to excitement about top-down health-care programs that everyone knows will never be enacted by executive fiat. It inspires, too, the belief that there are “diseases” in the body politic, in need of a cure, rather than a multitude of interests and a plurality of means, always to be kept in balance. If we were jellyfish, blobs of water and nerves, we might realize that political units aren’t really like human bodies; they’re more like coral reefs, with lots of different kinds of life existing at once, competing and coöperating in complex, multilevel emergent systems. We might realize that we would often be better off worrying about what the appendages in legislatures and localities are doing than about what some ultimate head is thinking, or might be made to think.
Adam Gopnik, “Uncivil Wars”, The New Yorker (10 February 2020), 66.