Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Misguided Primacy of Social Stability

American political culture currently contains a strong bias in favor of political and social stability over other values -- implicitly, stability is promoted even more than the political values that we trumpet to the world, such as freedom, democracy, and justice. Social stability has its proper place, to be sure: no one wants social chaos; excessive change, dynamism, and tumult make for uncertain and miserable living; and a foundation of stability is needed not only for prosperity but for democracy too.* But the degree of stability that is needed is often overestimated, and the excessive emphasis on stability impedes badly needed social change -- and therefore perpetuates injustice, for justice delayed is justice denied. 

In current circumstances, America's stress on stability is preventing much-needed social, economic, and political change: the civil rights movement remains incomplete, oligarchy has infested the world, and we are committing slow environmental suicide. The history of political and social progress in the United States is a history of gradual reforms achieved only after generations of exasperating struggle. This historical pattern must now give way to a new era of open-minded experimentation and adaptation.