Systems thinking teaches us that feedback loops are essential for any system to function well over time. Without feedback loops to provide corrections, systems gradually drift into dysfunction and collapse.

As we all know, the political system in Russia has lacked effective feedback loops for many years never had effective feedback loops. Power has become concentrated in the hands of a few, while civil society and media freedoms have been severely curtailed. This has allowed the system to operate without inputs (and, more importantly, critiques) from the broader population.

Over time, many among the young and educated urban class (the primary driver of positive changes in most societies throughout history) in Russia became complacent about this lack of political feedback loops. As long as their personal careers prospered and lifestyles improved, they focused on personal gains, leisure activities, and international travel rather than pushing back on creeping authoritarianism. I am not saying everyone should’ve aimed to become the next <insert the name of a jailed/killed political dissident>. I mean that they stopped even trying, at least to the extent that they could afford to without facing the catastrophic consequences.

This system without feedback loops worked well enough during times of notorious Putin’s stability. However, the flaws have now been exposed as the political leadership waged the unjustified and nonsensical war against Ukraine. The broader population had no ability to speak out or redirect this disastrous policy.

For those who have built their lives and careers within such a system, the results can be devastating. The entire sectors of the economy are now heavily sanctioned. International companies left the country. Travel and business opportunities have been squashed. And the broader population faces severe hardships from inflation, shortages, and global condemnation.

This serves as a warning that we must very carefully consider where to put down roots. We should avoid building families and careers in places where power goes unchecked. Lacking feedback loops and input from broader society, such political systems can eventually veer into dysfunction, damaging citizens’ lives and futures. Though comfortable in stable times, life without feedback loops leaves one vulnerable.

If political feedback loops where you live are under threat - protest furiously (as I am writing this, my eyes are on Israel). If they are non-existent - do everything you can to vote with your feet and leave to a place where they are present. Once there, don’t take them for granted.