[FoRK] Time Asymmetry of Government: Terminal Stage Approaching

Jeff Bone jbone at place.org
Thu May 27 07:29:18 PDT 2010

On May 27, 2010, at 9:03 AM, Russell Turpin wrote:

> On Thu, May 27, 2010 at 7:57 AM, Jeff Bone <jbone at place.org> wrote:
>> ..  Even the British monarchy, one of the longer-running existing governments
>> (in some sense) is no counterexample;  while the monarchy itself survives in
>> a form relatively unchanged in quite a while, it is certainly the case that the
>> British empire, while effective for a limited time at parasitizing most of the
>> world, did not continue indefinitely in that mode.  The thesis of the post,
>> which remains to be refuted or argued against, is that governments in general
>> evolve towards a lethal (i.e. unsustainable) level of parasitization of their hosts.
> The British empire is not an example of that. What happened there is
> that economic changes made running an empire an expensive proposition
> rather than a profitable venture.

I would claim this is a special case of the general dynamics implied in the post.

> Britain shucked herself of many of
> her colonies for the same reason that IBM no longer sells typewriters.
> Both the British government and IBM remain viable, ongoing concerns.
> I remain quite skeptical of the thesis, and that anyone can point to
> long-lived governments such as Britain, US, Switzerland, and Canada,

It takes a rather limited perspective to claim that either the US or Canada are particularly long-lived at this point.

There's a pseudo-probabilistic rule-of-thumb, believed by many, that says "the longer something lasts, the longer it's going to last."  It appears to me that this is an example of the observer self-selection problem;  it's a great rule-of-thumb that works right up until... it fails.  It's impossible to tell from merely local observation where in a probability distribution one might be.  You can assume non-specialness;  but this will always fail right at the moment when you find yourself on the fringes of the distribution.

But by employing that rule-of-thumb, and referencing the actual claims in the original post, it would seem that the EU is much more likely to "fail" in some way, and sooner, than the US.

To be clear:  I wasn't defending and don't claim to subscribe to the particular thesis advanced by that post.  OTOH, I find most of the attempts to refute it rather pollyanna and unconvincing.


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