Thursday, May 01, 2008


All successful societies develop traditions, and in fact traditions are a marker of societal achievement. Tradition serves many purposes: it acts as a repository of experience; it serves as a reminder of past achievements and worthy enterprises; it provides a frame of reference for future endeavors; it provides recognition of virtues and other admirable qualities; and it supplies some measure of structure for more intricate and complex organization.

Tradition is necessary to futrure enterprises because, regardless of the form it assumes, or how it formally exists in society, it helps provide one element essential to progress: predictability.

Predicatability is an indispensible element of human progress. The reason why scientists and engineers can use scientific principles for technological advancement is that the principles of science are predictable. It would be impossible to have electric lights if a conductor moving in an electric field produced an electric potential some times, but not others; it would be impossible to travel by air if lift prodiced on a wing occurred randomly, instead of following well-behaved realtionships between air density, velocity and pressure. The same princle applies to social progress. If laws had no predictable application, there would be no point in having laws, and it should be noted that frequently in human history, tradition formed the basis of legal systems. The Anglo-American concept of stare decisis is simply a principle which promotes predictability in a system vulnerable to caprice in individual cases.

A society that eschews tradition, in the name of enlightenment, or fashion, or even progress does not simply discard its past. To a real extent, it corrupts its future as well.

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