Friday, 7 April 2017

Dynamism And Stability

"...a later civilization that might at last combine freedom and dynamism with order and stability." (See here.)

Are dynamism and stability contradictory? Yes, if dynamic means changing and stable meanings unchanging. However, nothing is unchanging. A socioeconomic system can be static (change-resisting), like feudalism, or dynamic (self-transforming), like capitalism. We need to combine maintenance of a material and cultural environment (stability) with free human development (dynamism). Economic crises destabilize society but must competitive economies have crises? Or must dynamic economies be competitive? My answers to these two questions are, respectively, yes and no - but there are different answers.

Poul Anderson addresses these fundamental questions here and in several other works.


  1. Paul:
    The first book of Eric Flint's *1632* series touched on this. "We believe stability is found in fluid motion. Which lasts longer—the mountains or the sea?" ("We" in this quote meaning Americans.) King Gustavus Adolphus, to whom that was spoken, as a Scandinavian had NO doubt of the answer.

    1. David,
      Lao Tzu: water is like the highest good in 3 ways - it brings life to all, it seeks the lowest place for itself and it removes obstacles by gentle pressure, not by brute force.

    2. Kaor, Paul!

      You asked two questions: "Economic crises destabilize society but must competitive economies have crises? Or must dynamic economies be competitive?" You answered yes to the first and no the second.

      I would ask HOW you can have a dynamic economy WITHOUT competition? To use a very simple example automobile manufacturers compete by offering automobiles they hope customers will prefer over those of their rivals. By and large people will favor manufacturers whose cars they believe are solid, reliable, well made, not too costly products. That seems to me both competitive and dynamic.

      What is an economic crisis, recession, slump, or depression? Far too briefly, over time bad decisions or misallocations of resources of all kinds, including labor, accumulate. Eventually, a slump or recession is when an economy liquidate failures and begins the process of reallocating resources more efficiently and usefully.

      Yes, these are often very painful and worrisome times. But I argue that attempts to prevent recessions or depressions ALWAYS eventually fails and the resulting crash is far worse and more painful than it needed to have been if the process had been left alone to run its course without interference by the state.

      I am NOT advocating that nothing should be done to help persons badly affected by such a crash. I do advocate that attempts at assistance should be made with an eye to helping an economy recover as "naturally" as possible.


    3. Sean,
      Re: auto maunfacture. I agree that is how the present economy works.
      I think that a slump is more than an accumulation of bad decisions and misallocations. Competitive reinvestment in inceasingly expensive technology causes the rate of profit to fall, leading to a period of disinvestment. This is inherent in economic competition but the details of when it will happen, how long it will last, how far the economy will fall etc are unpredictable.
      As you know, I think that technology will produce such abundant wealth that there will no longer be any need to compete for it. There will be dynamism in the sciences, the arts and cultural and leisure activities. This is where our different views of "human nature" become relevant.

    4. Kaor, Paul!

      And absent a "post scarcity" economy, I don't see any real alternative except a competitive economy.

      I'm not sure I am competent to comment adequately on your comments on how investment in costly new technology causes the rates of profit to decline. It seems to me that new technology, if it works, should INCREASE profits, not lessen them.

      Yes, we have discussed things like a "post scarcity" economy. You are more optimistic about that being possible than I am. I certainly don't object to such an economy, I simply wonder if it is POSSIBLE. Also, I think we would need to get off this planet and start exploiting the resources of the Solar system for that to be more likely.

      More fundamentally, I don't think a post scarcity economy will eliminate the drive to compete, because I argue competitiveness is NECESSARY for dynamism to be possible. People will compete in the arts, sciences, sports, cultural activities, etc. And, of course in politics, striving and seeking after power. Which is what Poul Anderson showed us in GENESIS and the HARVEST OF STARS books.

      We do differ in our views about human nature. You are more optimistic while I am more skeptical or pessimistic.


    5. sean,
      Expensive new equipment increases profits but decreases rates of profit. A £10 return on an investment of £100 is a lower rate than £10 return on £1000 investment. Competition in arts, sports etc does not cause the same kind of social dislocations as competition for profit or wealth. I think that, in a fully democratic system, those elected to serve the electorate will not be able to wield power over them and therefore will not seek public office from that motive. Human beings have become human by changing their environment, therefore are proactive, plastic, malleable, changeable and have no unchanging core or nature. (Trying to cover everything but also to be brief.)

    6. Kaor, Paul!

      I am more than willing to say you know more about economics than I do.

      I have my doubts if a WHOLLY democratic political system is either desirable or possible. Classical political philosophers have argued in favor of regimes combining elements of monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy. Which is what the US Constitution strove to do. These philosophers tended to be suspicious of mere human beings, finding them all too prone to corruption, demagoguery, lust for power, despotism. So, they favored political systems where they hoped no one would get too much power.

      While I agree humans are proactive, changeable, even malleable, etc., on some matters, I have no reason to believe they will change THAT much. So, I remain skeptical.