"A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it."- Kay
The above is almost a truism. With very few exceptions, it's hard to find a completely unlikable human, let alone a completely evil one. Jerks exists, yes - there would be no time-share condo salespeople nor megalomaniacal dictators nor talk radio hosts if they didn't. But even jerks will coo to a puppy in their "dog voice" or answer a toddler's ringing toy phone:
No, instead, something happens when we get together in groups. And it doesn't seem to matter the purpose of the group. A business. A political organization. A religion. A neighborhood association. A poker party. A family. Humans acting together causes normally nice folk, people who will say "Ah...Wookit da doggy!" and compliment you on your pictures of your kid or grandkid, to act like dishonest, mean, calculating, cruel, uncaring, inhuman jerks.
Lots of reasons have been given as to why. Depending on your philosophical outlook, it can range anywhere from original sin to class struggles caused by dialectical materialism. Regardless, there seem to be a few common factors:
- There is no way to stop it from happening.
- The bigger the group, the worse it gets.
- Some people are "amplifiers" who can make an entire group worse.
Let's take as a given that no person is 100% "good" - honest, likable, straight-dealing - however you want to measure "good." If everyone is just 98% "good," that's all the explanation we need for why groups go to hell in a handbasket, and quickly.
You would think that if you had fifty people who were 98% good, then the "goodness" of the group would also be 98%, that is, the average of everyone's goodness. But I don't think a group's goodness is an average. I think it's multiplicative - every person in the group, interacting with the others in the group, magnifies each other's non-goodness. In other words, a group of fifty people, each of whom is 98% "good," is not a 98% "good" group. Instead, it is:
x = 0.9850 = 0.36417 = 36% goodYou'll note that fifty's not that large of a group, and the above is counting on everyone being so nice you couldn't actually stand to be around any of them. In reality, the spread of "goodness" within the group population will be wider, and the negative effects much more pronounced. For example, a single jerk, someone who is 50% "good," can make the above group of fifty people worse - fast:
x = 0.9849 * 0.5 = 0.3716 * 0.5 = 0.1858 = 19% goodNow, obviously this weights every person in the group and their influence on all other people equally, when in reality some will have more impact, especially those in higher (management or leadership) positions. But that just proves the point more. Because as people rise in a group, the type of people who tend to rise (broad generalization, I know) are going to be the ones who leave their goodness at the door. Yes, I am sure honest executives and politicians exist - but I am more likely of ruining the grill on my truck by hitting a unicorn on the way home from work than of personally knowing one. And the bigger the group, the less likely the people at the upper reaches are "good," even as their impact on the group grows.
Now, let's get back to the sizing of groups. Even if we give everyone the benefit of the doubt and count every person worthy of veneration, the above still implies there is a limit to the size of a group before its "goodness" crosses below the 50th percentile and moves into evilness. A bit of back-of-the-envelope fiddling leads to the following:
x = 0.9834 = 0.50314 = 50% goodSo, this would lead you to think that up to 34 people, you're OK - your group is "good." But remember, that's with every single person in that group being at 98% "goodness," and especially with no one less than that in a position of power. That ain't gonna happen. So in all likelihood I am betting the number is lower...much lower. Ten? Five? Somewhere in there, most likely.
Anyway, the next time you wonder, "How could x get to be so cruel/dishonest/fucked-up?" (where x is a club, committee, church, company or country), all you have to remember is that if x is larger than 34 people, it's all in the numbers. They're screwed simply because they're too big to be otherwise.