Part 4c: A note about the stability of institutional ideology

An institution is a network of organized relationships between people whose individual roles are defined by their kind of membership. These individuals will all die, and they may leave the institution even before passing away, but the institution survives because new people are always being recruited to the vacancies. An institution is potentially eternal. The Catholic Church, for example, is 2000 years old. Now, the question for us is this: if an institution is created around a strong ideology, then, as certain members die or leave, what happens to this ideology? Does it change or does it remain stable?

Many people, I have found, hold the following folk theory about institutions: the passage of time will alter their ideology. As members die or leave and are replaced with others, the institution will change because people have all kinds of different ideologies. Accordingly, the burden of proof is on whoever claims that after X number of years, the founding ideology of an institution will remain the same. I think this is backwards: the burden of proof, in my view, is on whoever affirms that the ideology of an institution has changed.

Imagine institution V, created to promote vegetarianism, and run, naturally, by vegetarians. There are 10 people in the executive board. One day, at time = t, one of the board members dies. What kind of a person will the remaining 9 members look for? Another vegetarian. A meat-eater might be recruited to fill relatively low positions that are strongly utilitarian: for example, an expert in marketing might be hired even if he eats meat, because he is a mercenary who will do his contract job. But it would be remarkable for this institution to hire meat eaters to the governing board, where policy decisions are made. Given that at time = tvacancies were filled, and especially in the upper echelons, with vegetarians, the vacancies at time t+1 will also be filled with vegetarians, because once again those doing the selecting are surviving vegetarians. And so forth. There is no reason to expect that the passage of time will turn this vegetarianism-promoting institution into an institution that celebrates meat because the ideology of the institution creates a selection pressure in the recruiting process that works to keep the ideology stable.

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