Thursday, October 10, 2013


An essential characteristic of a stable system is the tendency to return to a state of equilibrium after being disturbed by some influence. This is true not only of physical systems but biological and political ones as well. The baseline or ground state is an inherent property of the system, and determines the response to perturbation.

Societies are highly complex and heterogeneous systems that, if they are to be stable, will have defined baselines in terms of institutions, economics, and social values. It is of course possible for these to evolve over time, but this evolution tends to be a response to environment and a constellation of circumstances rather than a discrete influence. When reformers and idealists seek to alter these fundamental characteristics of a society they often succeed in achieving only a transient and artificial change that cannot persist without the threat and use of force. Such enterprises, even if they initially have popular approval, eventually collapse under the strain of human nature.

It is difficult, almost to the point of impossibility, to "fundamentally change" a society through legislation or political machination. The natural tendency is for politics to eventually reflect the underlying values of the society, rather than to shape them. The fact is it is not possible for politicians of any type, whether they be tyrants, democratically elected legislators and executives, or appointed functionaries to prescribe what people want or what people value.

The forces necessary to fundamentally change a society, that is to change the baseline or ground state at which a society functions in the absence of force or duress, ultimately derive from people's experience and subjective interests. The instincts and subjective experiences that influence how people interact with each other are much more robust and enduring than political policies or ideological ambition.

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