Scaling

Scaling is an organizing principle of social and physical systems. Its principle consequence is that we can adopt perspectives that enable us to apply identical principles of analysis to structures of vastly different size. In essence, this means that the influence of smaller structures tends to cancel out (or dissipate into an impotent disorder), unless they appear at the interface between larger systems with competing tendencies.

In geology, scaling appears in the fractal structure of mountains and coastlines. In modeling of weather, in chaotic self-similarity of patterns of wind flow and cloud formation. In hydrodynamics, in the self-similarity of patterns of turbulence at liquid-air interfaces. It is also implicit in models of exponential growth, which are manifested in biological systems in structures based upon the Fibonacci numbers and the Golden Mean.

Scaling is rife in political systems. The tripartite government of the United States is reproduced on the local, county, state and national levels. It is based upon a principle of balance of powers that maximizes the potential of individual choice. Feudalism and communism were hierarchical systems that did not preserve such flexibility, and consequently have a diminishing influence.

Scaling is an important principle in human society. This is due to our need to cope with attrition at the top. Nature has its way of enforcing this fact, but many social systems have attrition built in, in the form of promotions, term limits or retirement plans. Replacing departing leaders is easiest when the experience of their replacements is based upon principles and practices that apply at their next level of responsibility. The closer the processes at the top are reproduced at other levels, the more likely that experience is to apply.