Social models need more than “common sense” and everyday intuition about people

Those under cover of authority do not need apologists among the public to make excuses for their actions. Yet every day, I read defenses that are more appropriate to sorting out arguments among friends when one is being picked on.

People argue that aggressive cops or soldiers or politicians were just defending themselves from an assault, for example, when someone becomes insulting to them. Such an attitude acts as though those individuals weren’t putting themselves forth in an official capacity, as though they were simply minding their own business when someone picked a fight with them.

Political and enforcement officials and bureaucrats are not friends and they don’t need fairness; they are parts of a massive hierarchical monopolistic system that protects its own with entirely unfair advantages, and which picks on people constantly for nothing more than minding their own business.

This is but one example of a classic problem: applying an inappropriate model to a context. Normal people are schooled by just their experience with personal interactions to adopt a certain set of assumptions which becomes their model for personal behavior and expectations. But it’s not appropriate for the state; it’s a casual worldview based on friendships, personal ties, everyday anecdotes, etc.

A typical folk model of social interactions leaves people completely unable to adequately comprehend what they face in other contexts which are largely alien to personal life. For example, on large scales, in unfamiliar time frames, observing aggregates of many personal actions, with depersonalized systems—or as often occurs within such systems, when dealing with individuals who completely set themselves above and apart from society, except insofar as they prey upon it from within.

The state, most certainly, is a system largely alien to personal life, except of course for impact and effects. To a casual observer who is ill-equipped to trace the origins and causes of these effects, systemic effects appear to come “from out of nowhere” or they are blamed on circumstantial agents, if they are remarked upon at all.

Just as people with a casual interest in evolution cannot hope to appreciate how stochastic (selective and randomized) mechanics operate over vast timescales if they only apply “common sense,” those who wish to understand phenomena associated with society, sociopolitical history, hierarchy, and the state must learn some special concepts and apply them if they wish to appreciate how these matters differ from their own personal experience. Models such as complex adaptive systems (CAS), spontaneous order, chaotic attractors, psychopathoid personalities, symbiotic and parasitic evolutionary strategies, psychological projection, psychological role-playing, economic principles, memetic selection, and many others become invaluable tools, even though them may at first seem counterintuitive and/or irrelevant with regard to everyday, personal experience.

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