This model is a good starting point for a broader understanding of political decay more generally. Institutions are “stable, valued, recurring patterns of behavior,” as Huntington put it, the most important function of which is to facilitate collective action. Without some set of clear and relatively stable rules, human beings would have to renegotiate their interactions at every turn. Such rules are often culturally determined and vary across different societies and eras, but the capacity to create and adhere to them is genetically hard-wired into the human brain. A natural tendency to conformism helps give institutions inertia and is what has allowed human societies to achieve levels of social cooperation unmatched by any other animal species.
The very stability of institutions, however, is also the source of political decay. Institutions are created to meet the demands of specific circumstances, but then circumstances change and institutions fail to adapt. One reason is cognitive: people develop mental models of how the world works and tend to stick to them, even in the face of contradictory evidence. Another reason is group interest: institutions create favored classes of insiders who develop a stake in the status quo and resist pressures to reform.
More than four years ago, we wrote about all the buzz that you were hearing about “cyberwar” was little more than an attempt to drum up FUD to get the government to throw billions of dollars at private contractors. We noted that Booz Allen Hamilton yes, the last employer of one Ed Snowden had hired former NSA director and also Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell as its Vice Chairman. He was the leading voice out there screaming about the threat of “cyberwar” getting on TV and having lots of opinion pieces in big name publications — all of which mentioned his former government jobs, but almost none of which mentioned that his current employer, Booz Allen Hamilton, stood to make billions selling “solutions” to the government. And, indeed, Booz Allen has been raking in the cash on “cybersecurity.”
Locals here eat a regional delicacy known as barbecue, made from the rib bones of pigs, and subsist on traditional crafts such as agriculture and aerospace engineering. The regional center of commerce is known locally as Saint Louis, named for a 13th century French king, a legacy of Missouri’s history as a remote and violent corner of the French Empire.
Though Ferguson’s streets remained quiet on Friday, a palpable sense of tension and uncertainty hung in the air. A Chinese Embassy official here declined to comment but urged all parties to exhibit restraint and respect for the rule of law. In Moscow, Kremlin planners were said to be preparing for a possible military intervention should political instability spread to the nearby oil-producing region of Texas.
Originally posted on tressiemc:
In his 1934 essay, “A Negro Nation Within a Nation”, WEB DuBois wrote:
The colored people of America are coming to face the fact quite calmly that most white Americans do not like them, and are planning neither for their survival, nor for their definite future if it involves free, self-assertive modern manhood. This does not mean all Americans. A saving few are worried about the Negro problem; a still larger group are not ill-disposed, but they fear prevailing public opinion. The great mass of Americans are, however, merely representatives of average humanity. They muddle along with their own affairs and scarcely can be expected to take seriously the affairs of strangers or people whom they partly fear and partly despise.
For many years it was the theory of most Negro leaders that this attitude was the insensibility of ignorance and inexperience, that white America did not know of or…
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