Social fractals and the corruption of America

Charles Hugh Smith writes: Social fractals and social control myths help explain the complete corruption of America.

Correspondent Kathy K. recently elucidated a powerful concept: social fractals. We typically think of fractals–structures that are scale-invariant–as features of Nature or finance. For example, a coastline has the same characteristically ragged appearance from 100 feet, 1,000 feet and 10,000 feet in altitude. It is scale-invariant, i.e. its characteristics remain constant whether it is viewed on a small, medium or large scale.

This is how Kathy described social fractals:

This dishonest, self-serving individual behavior is a fractal of what is happening in our society at large: dishonest and self-serving people are extending and pretending, and their complicity keeps the system going.

The concept of social fractals can be illustrated with a simple example. If the individuals in a family unit are all healthy, thrifty, honest, caring and responsible, then how could that family be dysfunctional, spendthrift, venal and dishonest? It is not possible to aggregate individuals into a family unit and not have that family manifest the self-same characteristics of the individuals. This is the essence of fractals.

If we aggregate healthy, thrifty, honest, caring and responsible families into a community, how can that community not share these same characteristics? And if we aggregate these communities into a nation, how can that nation not exhibit these same characteristics?

If this is so, then how do we explain the complete corruption of America’s financial and political Elites?
What else can you call a nation that passively accepts financial predation, looting, robosigning, etc. by protected cartels as the Status Quo but thoroughly corrupt?

There are three distinct but highly interactive dynamics in America’s social and financial fractals that have led to the nation’s corruption. We can think of these dynamics as feedback loops: positive feedback is self-reinforcing, negative feedback offers restraint and opposition. From Wikipedia:

Negative feedback is used to describe the act of reversing any discrepancy between desired and actual output. A simple and practical example is a thermostat. Biological examples include regulating body temperature and blood glucose levels.

Positive feedback is feedback in which the system responds so as to increase the magnitude of any particular perturbation, resulting in amplification of the original signal instead of stabilization. Any system where there is a net positive feedback will result in a runaway situation.

These dynamics also share certain characteristics of the dialectic method in philosophy, a system of reasoning through arguments and counter-arguments (thesis and antithesis) to reach a synthesis or new understanding. The Socratic method is to show that a given hypothesis leads to a contradiction that forces the withdrawal of the hypothesis as a candidate for truth.

The social fractal element is individual behavior: the actions we choose based on our internal values, emotions, worldview and goals, and our belief in social control myths. [Continue reading…]

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