Social entropy paralyzes investment

By Norman A. Bailey*
Monday, November 18th, 2019 @ 12:45PM

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Left: France’s yellow vest demonstrators marking a year since the movement began, Nov. 17, 2019. Credit: Aljazeera TV

In physics, entropy is the tendency of all matter to disintegrate into its constituent particles, so that a counterforce is required to hold the universe and everything in it together. Social entropy is the societal equivalent. Its triumph is prevented by forces such as political/economic/social/ethnic/religious legitimacy, giving society form and function.

Currently, social entropy is triumphant everywhere, leading to French President Macron’s “cri de coeur”, in which he lamented the precipitous decline of social cohesion within and among states, going so far as to refer to NATO as “brain-dead”. Left- and right-wing populist movements; control of more and more of the world’s economic levers by criminal syndicates; endemic and universal corruption in all spheres of life; terrorist organizations (that never seem to be really defeated), cooperating with the criminal gangs and enabled by banks, corporations, NGOs, and professionals such as lawyers and accountants.

Add to all this the speed with which technology is advancing in socially dangerous areas such as robotization, artificial intelligence, genetic engineering, social communications networks, etc. etc., which are incomprehensible to the average individual, and you have a devil’s stew nourishing popular uprisings such as the yellow vests in France, seemingly springing spontaneously from the bowels of society and lashing out at they know not what by smashing up one of the most beautiful cities in the world–Paris.

This is NOT, and it must be emphasized over and over, NOT an uprising of the miserable of the earth–at the moment social chaos is raging in Hong Kong, the second-wealthiest territory in Asia, after Singapore, and in Chile, until a few weeks ago seen as the most stable and prosperous country in South America. Chaos reigns also in the streets of Bolivia, Iraq and Lebanon. Often these uprisings are triggered by such an insignificant event as the raising of bus fares, sometimes by more significant causes such as the threat to the autonomy of Hong Kong.

Whatever the pretext, the result is mindless, entropic, popular rage, directed at what one might call contemporary life itself. And in opposition to it an enfeebled leadership has no idea what to do beyond making the manufacturers of teargas wealthy.

Investors beware. Only a few weeks ago no-one would have thought of questioning a decision to invest in Chile or Hong Kong. There is no longer anywhere in the world that is reliably stable. No wonder more and more of the world’s wealth is sitting idly while its owners try to decide what to do with it. That situation is unlikely to change anytime soon.


Norman A. Bailey, Ph.D., is Professor of Economics and National Security, The National Security Studies Center, University of Haifa, and Adjunct Professor of Economic Statecraft, The Institute of World Politics, Washington DC. He was formerly with the US National Security Council and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. 

First published by Globes, Israel business news – on November 14, 2019


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