Cardiovascular Justice – 2

How does the body’s cardiovascular system determine blood flow in a way that transcends the limitations of unfettered individualism, which places value on the organ at the expense of the organism, on the one hand; and suffocating collectivism, which confuses justice with equality and ignores the diversity and hierarchy inherent in natural order, on the other hand? It is by assuming the perspective and vision of the whole body; it is through considering the welfare of the organism in its entirety – this, obviously, being the most effective way to ensure the vitality of each and all of the members and parts; it is through justice.

To examine human cardiovascular physiology is to behold a system of beauty, of harmony, of artistry, developed carefully over countless ages of physical evolution. It is characterized by cooperation, reciprocity, and interconnectedness, and governed by the principles of oneness and justice. It is a system of dynamic balance. Because the organism is in flux, constantly changing, and with myriad functions, powers, and activities, justice demands that blood is distributed with dynamism according to need. Consider two common states of the body – “fight or flight”. These are states of sympathetic or parasympathetic nervous system dominance. Depending on the state, the distribution of blood needs to be adjusted. There are also certain organs that require a constant flow of blood regardless of the physiological state of the body. The organism achieves this dynamic equilibrium through numerous factors, both central and local.

Central factors are more obvious. The central nervous system, through the release of vasoactive chemicals as well as through direct neuronal innervation, can actively dilate and constrict certain large blood vessels, shunting blood towards or away from organ systems in anticipation of exercise or digestion, for instance. The local level schemes are more subtle. One method is termed active hyperemia, when blood vessels locally dilate in response to the build-up of metabolic byproducts. Additionally, reactive hyperemia – increased blood flow to places that have experienced an occlusion – demonstrate that some degree of need-based distribution occurs on the local level, and that local factors are given latitude in decision-making in order to be responsive. To establish a constant blood flow is called auto-regulation. At a local level, in some organs such as the kidneys and brain, the cells lining the walls of arteries detect the pressure being exerting, and constrict and dilate accordingly. And at a central level, the heart can alter its volume and pressure to respond to the needs of these organs. Some organs benefit more by local determinants, and some by central. And, likewise, certain states demand the use of certain types of factors over others.

Without going into too much detail, this analogy provides us with a number of understandings. An economic system governed by justice will entail a high degree of complexity and intricacy. It cannot be created through finding some balance between two deleterious extremes, but rather by transcending the dichotomy through adopting new assumptions, new principles, and new approaches. It is a dynamic equilibrium that must always consider the whole of humanity, and understand unity in diversity.

What are other insights gained from this analogy?