Most people are well-intentioned, most of the time. It's easy to overlook the exceptions (I plead guilty!) during day-to-day life and make the tacit assumption that everybody is rational, peaceful, and productive. But that benign postulate becomes suddenly dangerous when one starts to design social systems.

A nation, a corporation, or a community has to be able to handle "broken components" — people who are somewhat crazy, dysfunctional, maybe even malign. Such disruptive forces need to be absorbed and dissipated so that they don't destroy the larger good that the organization is striving to achieve. And it has to be done gently, since often the problem is only a temporary one. The individual who is causing trouble now will soon return to being a positive contributor, maybe even a saviour of the whole outfit.

But how to achieve that delicate balance? There aren't any cookbook formulæ. Social reformers who propose simple answers usually aren't looking at both sides of the equation. Some point (correctly) to the gross inefficiencies and injustices of a system, and overlook the fact that those may be an insurance policy against rare but dangerous behavior. And on the opposite shore are those who focus on immediate punishment to the exclusion of mercy and charity. They miss the chance to move in the longer term toward a fairer and more productive society.

Sometimes a group evolves naturally toward a healthy configuration, with reasonable checks and balances among its members so that good people can do good and naughty people can't do (much) harm. Other times the natural evolutionary process breaks down — and we get a police state, or tribal war, or large-scale corruption. How can one encourage the growth of a sound, robust system?

Wednesday, May 17, 2000 at 06:04:10 (EDT) = 2000-05-17

TopicSociety - TopicOrganizations

(see also AikidoSpirit (9 Dec 2003), ... )

(correlates: Rule 6, Career Choice, AfterlifeGrosses, ...)