system of down

Fig. 1

When I started this blog, I told myself I would avoid commenting on politics. I make an exception today as my comment on politics has a long range view.

I discussed leverage points in systems in my last post. Here's a real world explanation -albeit, a simplistic example. (see Fig. 1)

  • If we think of Congress as a reserve pool or buffer (i.e.-cache of politicians).
  • Input can be new politicians or scions of political families.
  • Output is retired politicians.
  • The positive feedback gain (and I use positive in a technical, amoral sense) is power and privilege which allows retiring politicians to favor their scions with resources to run for congress.
  • The positive feedback gain encourages more scions or proteges of politicians to run for congress - having their scions run for congress actually reinforces the feedback gain.
  • Because there is no positive feedback gain for new politicians who do not want to play patronage politics, there is a slower input flow of new (non-corrupt) politicians
  • (We might consider "public acclaim" as positive feedback for new pols but this potentially only encourages them to do better work - it does not arm more incoming new pols with resources to get into the buffer.
  • Term limits (not in illustration) were intended to break the cycle of patronage politics (negative feedback), but that only speeds up the replacement cycle but does not cut the positive feedback gain.
  • We can increase the number of new (hopefully ethical) politicians coming in (increasing one input) but if the size of the buffer stock (number of corrupt politicians in congress) does not change, then the state of the system (perceived and actual corruption) will not change

So, on to the proposals on the table:

  1. Replace the leader (resign or impeach). Replacing the leader by itself does not change the system if the buffer remains stable and feedback gain remains.
  2. Change the form of the buffer stock (bicameral to unicameral). Changing the form of the buffer stock does not change the system if the inputs remain the same and the actual stock ("a congressman by any other name...") is not changed.
  3. Put in a leader with powers over the buffer, input and output (a dictatorship, benevolent or otherwise) -can potentially clear the buffer stock but has been used to just redirect the cycle of the feedback gain (to oligarchs and cronies).
  4. Replace the whole stock (resign all or revolution). This will clear the buffer stock and potentially change the input sources but if the feedback gain remains (power and privilege leading to resources), then the system will find stability again (corruption will again take root).

Again, this is a simplified example -to illustrate that, in any system, lower number leverage points have amazing power over higher number leverage points (changing parameters vs. arresting feedback gains).

The challenge is (and I do not have the answers) : "How do we decouple or de-amplify the feedback gain?" Or, "How can we create a stronger feedback gain to get new, ethical politicians into the system?"

Ideas, anyone?

p.s. -I promise to get back to Livable Cities soon.


Batchmate said...

Long but interesting read...still not done. I was expecting atleast one comment from the usual readers, but I still managed to be the first poster. Just wanted to assure you that there is atleast one person who will read it all.

Ian said...

I'm stumped with the questions at hand.

1)Defrag the buffer stock by removing the ones with bad feedbacks and align good feedbacks with one another.
2)After defragment comes the new installation of new stock. Replacing the ones with bad feedbacks.
3)Decrease number of terms and remove re-election.
4)Relatives to the third second degree with the same surname of outgoing stock should not be approved to replace old stock.

Maybe switch to monarchy with Datus and Rajas ruling every region.

Urbano dela Cruz said...


1 and 2 on your list is tricky:

a) how do we defrag the buffer stock? elections? revolution?
b) how do you select the new stock?
c) what's the new feedback mechanism to make sure you get "good" stock?

4 & 5 - term limits (in the constitution) was designed to improve the replacement cycle - this was supposed to be beefed up by the anti-dynasty bill (has never passed congress)

check my next post.

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