There Is Something Wrong With Our Giant Institutions

People sometimes have the sense of living inside a story. There is the obvious one of their own personal lives, embedded within the wider tale of the surrounding community. So it goes with each bigger scene nesting within the larger context enfolding it. While there is little individuals can do to affect its outcome directly, many can’t help but ask themselves the question about the largest drama they can conceive: ‘What is the story of my time?’ Will my tribe, civilization, and religion perish, or is it yet to flourish to an unknown height?

Strange to say, people living through history had little sense of its shape. For example, Romans, like frogs being slowly boiled, failed to notice their empire was collapsing. “The fall of an empire—the end of a polity, a socioeconomic order, a dominant culture, or the intertwined whole—looks more like a cascading series of minor, individually unimportant failures than a dramatic ending that appears out of the blue … it was a slow process lasting many lifetimes—hardly the stuff of dramatic narratives.” They got used to decline.

If that sounds unbelievable, many readers will attest that not even professional Kremlinologists realized the Soviet Union was collapsing until it finally did. “In 1983, Princeton University professor Stephen Cohen described the Soviet system as remarkably stable … Former DCI Stansfield Turner in 1991 wrote in the US Journal Foreign Affairs, ‘We should not gloss over the enormity of this failure to forecast the magnitude of the Soviet crisis… Yet I never heard a suggestion from the CIA, or the intelligence arms of the departments of Defense or State, that numerous Soviets recognized a growing, systemic economic problem.’” – READ MORE