Unstable Stabilities and Stable Instabilities in Government and Economy

The only stable political or economic systems are unstable ones. Conversely, the most unstable political and economic systems are those designed to be most stable. A paradox? Only if we accept a view of the world wherein order begets order, and disorder begets disorder -– a linear, rationalist, Newtonian world since disproved by complexity theory.

Complexity theory shows that growing systems are nonlinear systems that exist on the borderlands between order and disorder. Complete order –- and complete disorder –- are both definitions of being dead. A salt crystal is an example of complete order –- a gas in a closed container at a constant temperature and pressure is an example of complete disorder. Living things exist on the edge of order and disorder, the realm of chaos, wherein lies the principle of growth. Living things are systems, and systems have order and disorder –- the heart is a system (that makes up part of the circulatory system, which makes up part of the organismal system) that can have neither completely orderly beats, nor completely random beats, but must have beats that are mostly orderly, with some disorder, which means the beats are fractal. Cell membranes are orderly and disorderly -– they are liquid crystals, fluid yet solid, as the proteins and phospholipids slip past each other. All living things live on the principle of growth, live in the realm of order and disorder, live lives far from equilibrium.

If the principle of growth and stability for life is in the nonlinear, far-from-equilibrium realm between order and disorder, this would also be the principle of growth and stability for systems of living things as well, including superorganismal systems such as ecosystems, economies, and governments. Indeed, studies of ecosystems show they are not stable –- at some sort of equilibrium –- but are in fact always in flux, always changing, in time. And the way they change follow power laws – with many small changes, a few medium-sized changes, and very few large changes, as we see in avalanches of sand when we pile sand up one grain at a time. They are systems that are far-from-equilibrium, always growing, in a state of orderly disorder – disorderly order. If something were to happen to make any given ecosystem stop changing – which is to say, stop growing – that ecosystem would die off. Ecosystems are stable only so long as they are constantly in flux, constantly changing. Thus, they cease being the ecosystem they are within the next moment, forever changing –- deserts move in and recede, forests expand and recede, grasslands too expand and recede. Meandering rivers cut off oxbow lakes where new kinds of fish evolve -– to be introduced to the river when the meandering river merges again with the oxbow lake. There the new fish compete with the other fish in the river, pushing some to evolve, others to go extinct, others into other habitats. They change as the river changes, flowing into new species with the flow of time and the flow of the very river in which they live.

A stable government is thus an unstable government. Any government that constantly changes -– every two or four or six years, in towns, counties, states, and nations -– is a government that is stabilized by this instability. Who is in charge in such a government as that found in the United States?

The President, who is there four or eight years at most?

The Congress, made up of two Houses in conflict with each other, whose members could be there only two or six years, but who may be there any number of years from two years to two decades?

The Court system, which can overturn even what these two branches of government pass?

Or how about the states, which are given (according to the Constitution, even if this is not true in practice anymore) all the power not explicitly given to the federal government?

Or is it the people, who elect and defeat people who run for office at the town/city, county, state, and federal levels?

All of them, and none.

The system is kept destabilized by the very process of election -– stabilized by varying degrees of continuity (two and four and six or more years, as the case may be). There are power laws of continuity that prevent power from existing in one set of hands for long, if at all. The most stable political systems are indeed those based on the principles of power laws –- many people have most of the power and have the most cumulative effect, middle-sized entities have less power and less cumulative effect, and the federal government has the least power of all, and the least effect on us.

Do you not like what the President does? He is gone in four years (if he is too bad, in less, with impeachment). Do you like him too much? Too bad – we cannot reelect him more than once. We have prevented ourselves from electing our own dictators. And if the President tries to take on too much, to take too much power, the Congress will block him, refuse to pass what he wants. And if the Congress tries to take on too much, to take too much power, the President will veto them. And if they both agree to too much, the Supreme Court can refuse to let it remain law. We have them fight each other, trying to take power from each other, so they cannot harm the people, who prosper and grow. But the people only prosper and grow so long as the government is in a state of stable instability – as is found in republican (not democratic, where the power is placed in the hands of one group – and we get the tyranny of the majority) governments. Stable governments are based on power law distributions of power.

Stable governments create instability –- dictators create instability in their own countries, among their own people, let alone among the peoples in other countries. Often this is done precisely to create the stability inherently missing in dictatorial governments. Whether the dictator is ideological or nonideological, the results are the same –- they try to prevent change (change means a change from their rule, after all), which stagnates, creating equilibrium – which is to say, death. We have seen the cultures of death, the governments of death, in Hitler’s Nazi Germany, in the series of dictators in the Soviet Union, in Pol Pot’s Cambodia, in Pinochet’s Chile (though there is something to recommend in his economic policies), in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, in the dictatorship of minority rule in South Africa during Apartheid, and in and with the various kings and queens throughout history. They attempt to override and overcome natural power laws through the use of force -– many large avalanches are created through the use of a smashing fist. The democratic republics of the West and increasingly throughout the rest of the world have not always had the cleanest of hands –- but those hands were only spotted with blood compared to other times and other countries where dictatorships (no matter what the name) ruled, when rulers’ hands dripped with blood. While France, for example, has not had the best of reputations in the twentieth century in its former colonies, especially as they pulled out of them, at least the French people have been safe from the French government –- something that was not the case under their kings, the government of the Terror, or under Napoleon. Only as France has become more and more politically destabilized in their having now a representative government –- and are even more destabilized by becoming part of the European Union –- has France become safe for the French people. Thus has France become increasingly stable.

Economies too work on the same principle as ecosystems and government –- the connection between economy and ecosystem should be readily apparent in the common root of the two words. Economies that are designed to be stable –- the planned economies of socialist and communist governments, and even the over-regulated economies under interventionism and Keynesianism –- are themselves highly unstable.

Socialist countries around the world had and have high levels of unemployment.

Communist countries starved their citizens because they could not produce enough food, or properly distribute it –- during the 1980’s the Soviet Union had to spend 25% of its GDP on the military to keep up with the Unites States spending only 2% of its GDP on the military.

Welfare states slow economic growth in order to support the unemployed – those made unemployed by the slow growth created by the welfare state.

Subsidies keep unprofitable businesses around at the expense of the profitable businesses – Britain famously subsidized looms when the textile industry became automated, keeping unprofitable looms around at the expense of the textile industries, which could have caused the economy to boom even more than it did, absorbing all of those temporarily displaced by the economic changes (and those who are displaced by change are always only temporarily displaced, for the growing economy rapidly takes them in).

Every instance of a government anywhere trying to control the country’s economy has resulted in at best slow growth, at worst starvation and complete economic collapse. Any attempt to make an economy remain at equilibrium has had the same result: death.

The principles of a growing economy are the same as the principles of growth of ecosystems, organisms, and everything else in the universe –- the economy must be on the edge of order and disorder, in the far-from-equilibrium state where growth occurs. Growth must be based on power law distributions. The economy must be allowed to be unstable so that it may be stable –- stable enough to grow and adapt and change over time. It must have the rules of voluntary cooperation for it to have life (the imposition of force – which is what governments do –- brings entropy-as-equilibrium to the system, making it act no longer as a system), for it to grow and to produce and reproduce, to create, recreate, and procreate –- for these are the elements of growth.

Economies, like ecosystems and organisms, must be heterarchies –- both hierarchical and decentralized, full of nonlinear feedback loops. No one can control an economy any more than any one cell controls an organism (and, when one cell tries to take over an organism, it is called cancer – which results in the death of the organism). Even the brain dies without a working heart or liver. Yet, there is a hierarchy at work to create a living organism. The same is true too of economies –- which are constituted not only of individuals, but, in a power law distribution, of families making decisions together, and each church making decisions as a church, communities making decisions as communities, companies and corporations making decisions as companies and corporations, and even governments making decisions as governments (though it is best when their decisions are to remain out of the economy as much as possible, since they are more apt to try to control it than participate in it –- the only possible exceptions being doing things like building roads, which are more difficult to do privately, though one should note how, in a power law distribution, it is local governments that build and maintain more roads than do state governments, which build and maintain more roads than does the federal government, and which should all be done using only the “user fee” known as gasoline taxes, which I would argue should also only be used for roads).

In such an economy, it is not the individual, the family, or the various groups and entities that are in charge of the economy –- in fact, no one is in charge, or even for the most part has much of an effect on the economy as a whole, any more than does any individual member of Congress. Yet each individual and entity is necessary –- and an individual or entity can have a large influence on the economy, with the introduction of a new technology, etc. Two bicycle mechanics had a massive influence on the world’s economy when they invented the airplane –- yet think too of all the other bicycle mechanics who simply repaired bicycles, making tiny contributions to the economy that were, as part of the accumulation of economic activity, important, but only minimally important. But such innovations by bicycle mechanics could not be planned or directed by central command –- they arose because they were part of a system that, because it existed at a far-from-equilibrium state, could be influenced by butterfly effects. Only in such an economy could a pair of butterflies like the Wright brothers truly take flight.

If we want to truly have stable governments, societies, and economies, we have to have governments, societies, and economies that are inherently unstable, far-from-equilibrium, on the edge of order and disorder, wherein lies the principle of growth. For it is growth –- and growth itself is imbedded in time, and changes and evolves – that is the source of stability in the world. A growing organism is most stable, healthiest, most adaptable. The same is true of ecosystems, economies, and societies. When an organism, an ecosystem, an economy, or a society stops growing, it becomes unstable, unhealthy, and may even die. We know what the principle of growth now is – a growing system is a far-from-equilibrium system on the borderlands of order and disorder – meaning, we now know what we must do to have a growing economy and a stable government wherein the people are safe from that government, other governments, and even those citizens which wish to do others harm. Only to the extent than an economy and a government are both hierarchical and decentralized, and constantly changing in such a way that stability is created (by good rules, not by either ironclad laws or anarchy), can they lead to safe and prosperous societies and citizens.

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