One of modernity’s most prominent cultural landmarks is its uniformly quixotic approach to societal tasks. If there is a simple solution, it unerringly gives way to the fanciful. This isn’t entirely a surprise, as frivolity is a trapping of wealth. And the West has been spending its inheritance since Emanuel Celler crawled out of the crypt. Though what pleasures we’ve purchased. Primarilly the frisson that accompanies vain moral posturing. But if we can have that and a mocha latte…well, our children can figure their own way out of the cannibal’s pot. Such are the choices a society makes when unburdened by necessity.
Here’s an example: how do educators best produce the next generation of high-achievement pupils? One way is to import legions of unassimilable “minority” dullards to supplement our already robust native cohort. Then subsequently pray for divine providence in converting them into only mildly disruptive wards of the state. Another is to perform the trivial molding required by intelligent students that share a common heritage. One of these approaches is simple and proven, the other is the obvious choice.
The realm of politics isn’t appreciably different. Just as teacher performance inexplicably improves with better students, so does that of politicians. As a man of that profession, you can either cobble together an egg-shell coalition of perpetually aggrieved and warring factions, or simply provide a generally like-minded constituency their preferred policies and spend the other 95% of your time riding yachts and call girls. Like teachers, the key to being a great politician is all in what you have to work with.
This seemed the obvious response to a spate of recent articles (that I didn’t save and so won’t link) on America’s growing unhapiness and across-the-spectrum dissatisfaction with core institutions. Most of these pieces focused on increasing political acrimony and disgorged a dense word-paste in pondering just why it is that “Americans” are becoming more irascible by the day. What could it possibly be?
Maybe the concept of standard deviation conceals the culprit.
Standard deviation is a number used to tell how measurements for a group are spread out from the average (mean), or expected value. A low standard deviation means that most of the numbers are very close to the average. A high standard deviation means that the numbers are spread out.
I will suggest, with no proof beyond intuition, that homogeneity is correlated in strong inverse proportion to standard deviation. That is to say the disparate members of a highly diverse society are spread far from the mean, while members of a homogenous society cluster much tighter to it. This has very obvious implications on happiness metrics.
Consider the following image.
Which plot between red or blue is the simpler for a politician to satisfy? If he chooses to enact “mean” dotted line policies, how many constituents will find themselves at great distance from it for each color plot? And if distance from preferred policies equates to political discontent, how is it possible to achieve even vague consensus with any position in the blue? It isn’t.
High SD diversity drives structural rancor in politics. It is invariable. No matter where a politician maneuvers on the x-axis he alienates huge swaths of the populace. Each segment having competing interests and vocal demands for their own to be accomodated foremost. Those not fully appeased will be furious. And math demands they will be in the vast majority. That is until the inevitable cleansing produces a more tranquil low SD environment.
It is only a politician plying the red plot who has the luxury of cavalierly plucking a point from 80-110 and hearing only mild grumbles in response–these being easily drowned out by a pair of inboard motors and the soft plish of bikini tops hitting the deck.
But this is all just political string theory. It may very well be that Somali Muslim clansmen in Minnesota have notions of government that are copacetic with their Scandinavian socialist neighbors. In that case it will just be a graph that ultimately runs red.