The Boiling Frog Syndrome

This was written in 2001. Still relevant today?

To paraphrase Goethe, no one is so completely enslaved as the person who thinks he is free…


The Boiling Frog Syndrome

by Steven Yates

Just recently my father drew my attention to Ric Edelman’s financial planning website, which has a wealth of information and strategies on the subject. While exploring the site I ran across what Edelman called the Boiling Frog Syndrome. He introduced the idea to explain how the American public has come to accept a certain amount of inflation as normal, despite the ease of producing sound arguments that inflation works against our best efforts to plan and build wealth over the long term. Here is Edelman’s account of the Boiling Frog Syndrome: “If you throw a frog into a pot of boiling water, he’ll jump out. But if you place a frog into a pot of lukewarm water and slowly turn up the heat, it will boil to death. And so it is with inflation. We’ve grown accustomed to inflation over the past 25 years, but that doesn’t mean we don’t continue to be hurt by its effect.”

In other words, if people become acclimated to some policy or state of affairs over a sufficient period of time, they come to accept the policy or state of affairs as normal. It struck me that we have on our hands a principle that can be generalized beyond explaining the acceptance of the slow devaluing of our currency. The Boiling Frog Syndrome explains how the American public has come to accept breaches of Constitutional government that would have provoked armed resistance a hundred years ago. The public has grown accustomed to these breaches, and to the federal government conducting myriad activities that are nowhere authorized by the Constitution and accepts them as normal.

The principle is one of gradualism, or what might be called piecemeal social engineering rather than calls for the kinds of revolutions that led to the Soviet Union and Red China. Most people will instinctively resist abrupt, revolutionary change. Nor can they really accommodate it. Large scale revolutions attempting to change all the institutions of society at once make it impossible for anyone – including the revolutionaries – to plan rationally. This is why, with very rare exceptions such as our own War for American Independence, they tend to leave everything worse off than it was before.  …..

Go to: Lew – Steve Yates for the rest of the article

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2 Responses to The Boiling Frog Syndrome

  1. Pingback: It’s Time to Fight Back « Bill Connor « The South Carolina Conservative

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