I had occasion recently to revisit Robert Conquest’s Three Laws of Politics, which are:
- Everyone is conservative about what he knows best.
- Any organization not explicitly right-wing sooner or later becomes left-wing. (This was actually first formulated by John O’Sullivan, and should so be better known as O’Sullivan’s Law.)
- The simplest way to explain the behavior of any bureaucratic organization is to assume that it is controlled by a cabal of its enemies.
And of course I like Jane Galt’s Law, coined by Megan McArdle: “The devotees of the party in power are smug and arrogant. The devotees of the party out of power are insane.”
In that vein, I have been coining some laws of my own for some time. The first I already posted about here.
The probability of getting any policy in place varies directly with the product of its profitability to lobbyists by the degree to which it’s too boring for the public to care about it.
Porcupine’s Second Law:
Wealth is not only a matter of what you have, but of what the people around you don’t have.
That is, the cost of living is proportional to the general level of wealth of the people around you, and the lower the cost of living, the more of other people’s work you can afford.
Porcupine’s Third Law:
The responsiveness of government to voters is inversely proportional to the number of political parties in play, while its incompetence is directly proportional.
Porcupine’s Fourth Law (the Law of Conservation of Scandal):
The demand for fascists, racists, et cetera is always far greater than the supply. Combine it with addictions to righteousness, and you get pressure to redefine these things to create more supply.
Corollary to the Fourth Law:
Political linguistic drift is usually an example of this phenomenon: Whenever the demand for scandal and cheap moralizing gets sufficiently ahead of the supply, activists put pressure on language downward to create new villains.
This is an example of the creation of the “endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary” that Mencken observed was “the whole aim of practical politics”.
Porcupine’s Fifth Law:
Taboo criticisms become truer over time.
This seems almost a corollary of the law of natural selection. When the natural predators of ideas are eliminated, they grow until stopped by some other force.