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The Sciences

Institutional scerlosis

Gene ExpressionBy Razib KhanSeptember 19, 2009 9:26 AM


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The Nightmare Of Regulatory Reform:

...the SEC and the CFTC, two agencies that have fought hard to stay apart while the products they regulate grow more and more intertwined. Both Republicans and Democrats agree the two should become one, but former House Financial Services Committee chairman Mike Oxley says the chances of that happening are about as good as him beating Tiger Woods.

This is obviously public choice theory at work. But more generally an inspection of history shows that institutions tend to go through phases, as if they have a life history like organisms. The Chinese dynastic cycle is a classic one, but consider the Roman Catholic church. Large corporate or bureaucratic entities have many advantages (e.g., economies of scale), but over time it seems that they develop cancerous growths which hijack the system and suck them for all they're worth until the organism collapses, or purges itself through some sort of chemo (consider the reorganization of the Papacy in the wake of the Protestant Reformation and the Wars of Religion).* Put another way, there is a shift from non-zero sum to zero sum dynamics. * Keepers of the Keys of Heaven: A History of the Papacy is a narrative which describes the several phases of that particular institution.

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