Thursday, June 26, 2014

Regression Towards The Mean

As a pronounced fuddy-duddy, I wish things were the way they used to be. Not ever having experienced the way things used to be in the distant past, it's an admittedly ignorant opinion, but there it is.

Traditional things, whether they be marriage, saving and investing or military strength, were not crazy ideas dreamed up by some power-mad, racist patriarchy struggling to maintain power. The people of the past were no more able to organize and manage conspiracies than we are. Such traditional things were the creatures of society interacting with the reality of Man and nature.

For a time, one can deviate from these things. You can sneer at marriage, borrow and spend and emasculate your military and coast along on the momentum of previous generations, but in the end, society will regress back towards the mean.
Regression to the mean (RTM) is a statistical phenomenon that can make natural variation in repeated data look like real change. It happens when unusually large or small measurements tend to be followed by measurements that are closer to the mean.
In the cases given above, the small samples would refer to American society of the last few years versus American society since, say, 1776.

One can see RTM occurring right now in the collapse of Iraq and the ever-greater use of violence and force in the Middle East. Pax Americana, a more-or-less stable and peaceful world, was maintained by the overarching threat of American military might. As it has now become clear that American military might is no longer worthy of consideration, the world is regressing towards the mean - nations and organizations using force and violence to exert power over each other without regard to such phantasms as "world opinion."

Pax Americana allowed people to convince themselves that a new world had come about, one based on peace, love and understanding. The Age of Aquarius had arrived and all that 19th Century militarist jazz was in the past. Now, all across the world, in China vs. Vietnam, Russia vs. Ukraine, ISIS vs. Iraq and Israel vs. Everyone, it's falling apart.

Traditional things are never gone for too long.

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