Reflections on Water
November 7, 2019
Pastoral Uruguay
November 21, 2019

Compromise and Cooperation

Photo by Ivan Obolensky

Learning to compromise is one of the hardest lessons. Often compromise is viewed as weakness. The outbreak of the Civil War in the Unites States (1861) was a study of inability and unwillingness to find points of agreement and cooperation. Each side became entrenched in their beliefs until neither was willing to give an inch. The result was a war that claimed 620,000 lives. The parallels between then and now are becoming eerily apparent.

One of the emergent new tools to predict, quantify, and perhaps warn participants of potential conflict is called Cliodynamics. The word is formed from Clio, the muse of history, and dynamics, the action of forces. (See Ages of Discord, a Structural-demographic Analysis of American History by Peter Turchin.)

The model takes three sections of society such as “Government”, creating variables in the form of expenditures, debt, and revenues; “Population” in the form of size and age distribution; and “Elites”, primarily large employers, with their incomes and consumption as key components. The theory models large-scale social behavior based on historical data and then computes the inherent instability of the current time period and country.

The result is like a weather report in that it can tell the user how large a potential storm is and how widespread is its potential damage. History, like the weather, is not exactly predictable but can be modeled. With more information and processing power, it is becoming possible to predict when potential breakdowns, both economic and political, are likely. Weather and history trend in similar ways. No two historical or weather events are alike but often contain likenesses that allow useful analysis.

So where do we stand right now?

There is the potential for a large event in the US although not as great as that of 1861.

Can it be avoided?

Not likely, although the catalyst that often precedes such an event is unknown at this time.

Can the event be mitigated? Yes.


By talking and being willing to compromise rather than hanging onto and shouting points of view as if they were the last ones to be had on Earth. Cooperation starts by quieting the urge to contradict and listening before speaking. Sometimes it’s as simple as that.



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