[FOUNTAIN]Government stuck in a rutAll objects are predisposed to maintain their state of motion. Suspended objects want to remain suspended and moving objects want to travel in the same direction at their original speed. Galileo discovered and Newton formulated the first law of motion ―the “law of inertia.” Objects in the natural world cannot stop or change direction on their own. External forces govern inertia. A flying baseball drops to the ground because of the external forces of air resistance and gravity, not because it wants to.
Inertia in human life refers to a tendency to stick to old routines and shy away from change. Just as the inertia of an object increases with mass, human beings have a difficult time breaking free from inertness the more time passes, giving rise to sayings like, “A leopard cannot change its spots,” or, “What is learned in the cradle is carried to the tomb.” Inertia can be discovered in societal systems and organizations. If a certain system or organization is formed, it becomes very difficult to eliminate or change. When they grow in size and become historic, the method of management becomes habitual, and they even display a tendency to expand and reproduce themselves.
Social science refers to this as “Path Dependency,” a phenomenon where a series of events progresses in a specific direction from the onset; the system and organization become set in their ways to the point that they become unchangeable. Path traveled in the past decides the future. In the British Commonwealth of Nations, the location of the steering wheel and the traffic system conform to driving on the left side of the road, which makes it an unchangeable system. The QWERTY keyboard layout devised in 1868 by Christopher Sholes remains the standard for the simple reason that it was the first layout. The established keyboard layout, which has become systematized, remains immutable regardless of new proposals.
If Path Dependency becomes formidable, the organization or system will not change despite changes in the external environment. The course of the current government displays a pellucid case of Path Dependency. Despite suffering innumerable failures and chaos, it has not budged from the original framework it created. The “real estate policies that are more difficult to amend than the constitution” have transcended the bounds of Path Dependency to become rigid legislation. Despite external changes to the environment demonstrated by a dismal single-digit approval rating, the government shows no signs of policy change or change in thought. There is no alternative but to rely on external forces if they refuse to change on their own.
The writer is an editorial writer
of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Jong-soo