There are dynamically stable and unstable systems, sometimes called robust and fragile systems.

Dynamically stable systems have internal dampening mechanisms that return the system to equilibrium. Unstable systems lack a controlling force and cannot restore themselves to equilibrium.

This has a number of uses. Unstable systems can exceed performance levels of stable systems, but lose stability. This seems obvious when applied to machines. Stable systems are a useful concept in the political sciences as well.

A pendulum is a stable system. If disturbed, it will swing left and right until gravity returns it to its original position. Gravity dampens the force that caused the pendulum to move.

Dynamically Stable Systems are self-correcting even if there are imperfections or disruptions. There are forces that counteract independent forces.

Stable does not mean static. Some systems settle at an equilibrium until disturbed again like pendulums. Some oscillate in perpetuity without ever “stopping” at a fixed point, such as ecological and climate systems.

Environmental and local ecologies are extremely stable, as in the classic ecology example of the predator/prey population. The Deer/Wolf example shows how the population reaches an equilibrium. If the deer level rises, the wolf level rises to feed on them. If the wolf level rises too high, they kill off too many deer and the excess wolves die off. And so on. In fact, the two populations are never static.

Economics are a stable system. Buy-Low/Sell-High is a description of a society-wide balancing force that creates stable prices. It is not personal advice. Individuals are incapable of determining prices unilaterally. Price organizes information from billions of sources and rapidly self-corrects from the bottom-up. Markets are a remarkably stable system.

Dynamically unstable systems cannot self-correct and will catastrophically fail if disturbed. Imagine a pendulum, but with the ball balanced on top. Any disturbance at all will cause the ball to fall and it cannot restore itself to its starting position.

Unstable systems can have benefits because they temporarily exceed capabilities of a stable system, but they require a large external energy source to prevent catastrophic failure.

Utopian political ideologies and philosophical idealists create plans that are static and unstable. Socialist command-control economics will catastrophically fail as price/wage controls suppress free information and prevent a price equilibrium. Price controls require violent coercion and strict rationing to prolong their existence. Worse, many idealists deny that human societies are Dynamical Systems where people adapt and evolve. Instead, they imagine a static and unchanging perfect society.

Stable does not mean good. Democracies and brutal dictatorships are both stable – often, the real political choice is between the two. Communism is unstable, so it transforms into a stable brutal dictatorship. Nothing is perfectly stable either.

Wars are unstable and temporary phenomenon. They are outside the normal equilibrium and represent a disruption from normality. Imagine an individual holding the pendulum ball at a 90degree angle. It is in an unnatural position and maintains its position through external energy sources to counter the balancing forces of gravity. When the hand releases the ball, the pendulum returns to a state of equilibrium.

Good political and economic systems are stable and self-correcting. They do not need external controls and oversight. Ones that do require external forces tend to be unstable and perhaps are less desirable.

In the social sciences, particularly political science, systems theory and stability is not emphasized enough. Some political policies are inherently fragile. People dream of a perfect state of existence, but ignore that it is infeasible and vulnerable to failure. Engineers would reject the same idea when if it was applied to machinery.

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