Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Totalitarianism is an entropic force in constant tension with Liberty, an anti-entropic force.

From The World Series, the election, the Oscars. What is going on? by Jonah Goldberg. Referring to this year's Oscars:
The first thing to say is that Sunday night’s bizarreness fits into a more general trend of universal weirdness. It’s as if at some point we took the wrong exit into a parallel universe, and the bungled Oscars are just the latest example that we’re strangers in a strange land (as John Podhoretz joked on Twitter, “The Man in the High Envelope”).

Maybe there’s some weird version of the Beetlejuice curse, where if you say “that’ll never happen” three times, it happens.

This certainly seems true in sports, where decades-long rules of the universe have been rescinded. The Chicago Cubs exorcised the spirit of the billy goat, the New England Patriots came back from a Super Bowl deficit everyone “knew” was insurmountable. And Cleveland, violating all biblical prophecy, is now a sports powerhouse.

In politics, the first obvious sign that the world was off its axis was the Florida recount in 2000. But the unraveling has been accelerating. A black guy named Barack Hussein Obama will defeat Hillary Clinton and be elected president? “Never happen.” Donald Trump, president of the United States? “Never happen.” How many times have the polls been wrong now? The pundits? The economists? Google “Brexit,” or “financial crisis” and you’ll see.

Maybe the experts aren’t clueless, they just don’t realize that for some reason we live on Earth 2, where these things are normal.
Goldberg then goes on to speculate on alternative answers, drawing on Steven Pinker's What Scientific Term or Concept Ought to Be More Widely Known? by Steven Pinker. Goldberg:
Steven Pinker recently wrote a wonderful little essay (for edge.org) on how people need to better appreciate the second law. Specifically, they need to understand that if we don’t actively work to keep chaos at bay, entropy wins. “Closed systems inexorably become less structured, less organized, less able to accomplish interesting and useful outcomes, until they slide into an equilibrium of gray, tepid, homogeneous monotony and stay there.”

“The Second Law of Thermodynamics” Pinker adds, “is acknowledged in everyday life” whenever we say things like “Ashes to ashes,” “Things fall apart” and “Rust never sleeps.”

Complicated things are… complicated. If you don’t work very hard at keeping them running, the natural order of the universe is for them to break down. Planes don’t “want” to fly, bikes don’t “want” to stay upright and people, markets and institutions don’t always want to behave the way experts in Washington want or expect them to.
The West was built on Freedom with critical components of Competition (free markets), Transparency (availability and access to timely, accurate information), Accountability (it is known who has authority to act), and Consequentiality (those who act bear the burden, and benefit, of the consequences of their acts), also known as the Rule of Law.

Rule of Law, Personal Liberty, Free Markets, Competition, Accountability drive towards local order in a system that is otherwise subject to the Second Law of Thermodynamics. These features are anti-entropic.

Sustained prosperity accompanied by totalitarianism as manifested by regulatory capture, rent seeking by established players, vested interests who are systemically protected, crony capitalism, regulated markets, market concentration via oligopolies, over-legislating, active suppression of free speech (media concentration, anti-free speech codes, etc.) are all aspects of entropy.

Freedom and Liberty and their associated attributes as articulated in the Age of Enlightenment are the anti-entropic forces working against the entropic force of totalitarianism. Freedom and Liberty drive local organization whereas totalitarianism drives disorder at the system level.

Or so it seems to me.

Perhaps Goldberg is correct. After a long run of rising systemic totalitarianism occurring because we seek to minimize risk and only systemic control can reduce tactical risk (at the expense of system-wide entropy) perhaps we are indeed at the height of the pendulum arc and getting ready now to reenergize freedom and liberty (at the expense of totalitarianism and stability).

Hence the crazy times. This line of thinking adds heft to the adage that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance. Indeed, entropy is always seeking to creep in from the totalitarian cold.

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