Dueling Loops

The Dueling Loops is short for The Dueling Loops of the Political Powerplace simulation model. This model forms the core of Thwink.org's analysis of the sustainability problem. The basic model is shown below. It's called the Dueling Loops because the two main loops are locked in a duel over the same pool of Uncommitted Supporters. Whoever convinces the most Uncommitted Supporters to support them wins.

Why this is important

The Dueling Loops model is a fundamental structure that appears to lie at the very heart of why political systems resist change that would benefit the common good. It explains critically important behaviors like why there's so much change resistance to solving problems like sustainability and why political corruption is so endemic.

Once you understand the Dueling Loops your view of the sustainability problem will change radically. Its root causes will be obvious. That opens the door to solutions that will work because they resolve root causes instead of intermediate causes.

How the model works

Model of simplified Dueling LoopsOver time, political system evolution has whittled the top two strategies for gaining supporters into just two basic strategies. In the Race to the Top, politicians compete for supporters on the basis of the truth about what they can do to optimize the common good of all, which is the goal of democracy.

In the Race to the Bottom, politicians compete to see who can help special interests the most. Since this reduces the good of the majority, it will not produce a winning majority unless deception and favoritism is used to get people to vote against their own best interests. (Of the two, deception is used far more because it's cheaper.) For example, a degenerate politician will promise a special interest group something but once in office will do a lot less than promised. Or a degenerate politician will create a false enemy and rally his supporters against it, such as the fallacy that big government is bad, immigrants are stealing your jobs, or gays are taking over.

The key insight in the Dueling Loops model is that the Race to the Bottom has an inherent advantage over the Race to the Top, because people's ability to detect political deception is less than perfect. In fact, it's abysmally low. So low, that the right deception (false memes on the model) works like a charm most of the time. Thus when degenerate and rational politicians compete (duel) for the same pool of Uncommitted Supporters, the Race to the Bottom wins most of the time.

The ramifications of this are profound. The most powerful special interest group in most industrialized countries is the New Dominant Life Form, better known as large for-profit corporations. Their top goal is to maximize short term profits. Solving the sustainability problem conflicts with that goal, so Corporatis profitis is dead set against solving the problem. By exploiting the inherent advantage of The Race to the Bottom the corporate life form has been able to stall, water down, roll back, and in general successfully oppose all major attempts to solve the sustainability problem.

Isn't that what you would do if you were not a person, but instead were a member of the army of the New Dominant Life Form?

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More about the Dueling Loops

This glossary entry offers only a brief introduction to the Dueling Loops. For a little more see system dynamics, which introduces the model in more detail. For the full story, see The Dueling Loops paper. For how the Dueling Loops were used as the core model to analyze the sustainability problem, see the Common Property Rights book.

Critical Behavior the Dueling Loops Can Explain

Why is political corruption so impossibly hard to stamp out? Because it's the winning strategy most of the time. In theory politicians should tell the truth and strive to serve the people. But in practice if a politician did that, they would on the average lose out to other politicians who told lies and thereby gained more supporters. This causes even the most honest politician to bend to the will of the system, and to become a little corrupt, and then a little more so, until he is indistinguishable from the herd.

Why does campaign finance reform fail again and again? Because it reduces the ability of degenerate politicians to exploit The Race to the Bottom. Most politicians are dependent on donations from special interests, so those politicians will see to it that campaign finance reform is either so weak it's ineffective or block it altogether.

Why is income inequality on the rise in most industrialized nations? Because the chief ally of the New Dominant Life Form is its owners, the rich. Degenerate politicians see to it that both groups get big breaks, like thousands of tax loops holes, various favorable bills, and countless legislative earmarks. The cumulative result is the rules of the game are changed to favor the rich at the expense of everyone else. Except corporations.

Many more behaviors could be listed. The biggest is explained on the left. The Dueling Loops explain why there is such strong successful resistance to solving the sustainability problem.

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These average 9 minutes. They give a quick introduction to the Dueling Loops model and how it explains the tremendous change resistance to solving the sustainability problem.

The most eye-opening article on the site since it was written in December 2005. More people have contacted us about this easy to read paper and the related Dueling Loops videos than anything else on the site.

Why are large for-profit corporations so dominant? What are the side effects? What's the root cause of corporate dominance? What's a solution that would work?

The answers are all here.

Do you every wonder why the sustainability problem is so impossibly hard to solve? It's because of the phenomenon of change resistance. The system itself, and not just individual social agents, is strongly resisting change. Why this is so, its root causes, and several potential solutions are presented.

The most astonishing short read (7 pages) on the site, if you've never heard about it. The memo was written in 1971.