Individuals are relatively weak. We have somewhat fixed lifespans, cannot regenerate, and are limited in scope. Ecosystems on the other hand can constantly restart themselves and endure forever.
We made our civilization into a mass of equal individuals instead of an ecosystem since the latter requires hierarchy, specialization, and self-interest tamed by environmental selection, all of which make individuals nervous.
If you want, your civilization can last forever. Like any other ecosystem, it regenerates itself through balancing its parts, meaning that nothing has absolute power but everything has something which limits its power.
In antiquity, we had this. Kings were limited by the needs of making the nation succeed; proles were limited by the need for finding a manorial estate to take them in; the middle class was limited by reduced commerce brought on by sequestering wealth with the aristocrats.
When that went away, we turned toward the idea of laws and rules, meaning that instead of placing limits on things, we would tell them how to act and then punish those who deviate. Our society mirrors this model.
It demands conformity to approved methods and punishes or ostracizes anyone who deviates. You can be any kind of terrible person so long as you follow the rules and do not use unapproved methods.
That outlook even extended to politics, arriving in the form of political correctness, which essentially means removing anyone who states something not approved by the democratic, egalitarian narrative.
This means that laws start out as a way of prohibiting bad behavior and move steadily toward behind a series of required behaviors, in the time-honored fashion of bureaucracy: “do this or we consider you potentially guilty.”
To stay off the radar of the enforcers, we all make a big show of doing what the law requires and then work around it other ways.
Consider a law on disposing toxic waste. It says that all toxic waste must go into a certain type of expensive container. As a result, every business has these containers and stores their waste in them.
However, a business that wanted to save money by working around the law might keep around the same few containers while busily pumping the rest of its toxic waste into the sewer system or a nearby estuary full of endangered species.
Even better, they might look at the law and see that if they dilute the toxic waste, it no longer counts legally as toxic waste, so they can just flush it down the drains with a lot of extra wastewater.
Now consider the cost of laws. Supposing that Joe Biden puts out an executive order saying that businesses must hire minorities if possible by considering them before looking at White male candidates.
For starters, watch your taxes go up because government must now have an agency to enforce this law, lawyers to interpret it, publicists to discuss it, and a staff to promulgate instructions about it.
Each business now must hire a compliance officer to interpret this law, and have a lawyer on retainer or staff to advise about it, specifically someone with experience with the government who charges $1k/hour or so.
Costs will shoot up as well when the inevitable lawsuits roll in. Even to defend against one of these probably costs half a million dollars, and to win against one will involve much more.
Then there will be a whole range of business literature written on how to deal with this new law. Those books become mandatory, costs get passed on, and so forth and so on.
But what have we really done here? We have created a false target and proxy. Instead of asking whether the business is generally ethical, we look for compliance to the law. That signals a good business and we look no further.
Consequently, businesses fall all over themselves to signal hard compliance to this law while moving other stuff off the books or out of view. This new law is the “get out of jail free” card that lets them get away with other, worse stuff.
Big business delights in the new costs because while they can afford them, the up-and-coming company that might compete with them cannot. Their monopoly is more assured.
Local government loves it too, since they have an excuse to hire another few thousand bureaucrats, start lots of education and compliance programs, and hide more money that is getting shuffled from the taxpayer purse to the pocket of bureaucrats.
Perhaps the worst effect however is that this new law creates narcissism. The voters figure that the problem is sorted, so they go back to sleep, but add to that stupor the pretense of the assumption that society is “good.”
After all, it has laws against (some) bad things.
Drugged on rationalization, the voters create a fiction that their society is good because it has this law. Therefore, they are beyond criticism, they reason, and this means that anyone who does not support them is bad and can be canceled.
In the end, the law raises costs to everyone, ensures that no one is watching what is going on, makes people into hateful little ego-bigots, and never touches the original problem.
Over time the culture degenerates. Where it previously had people primed to watch out for this sort of thing, now that there is a law, people stop paying attention, and lose the ability to tell the difference.
As ages pass and these laws pile up, society goes from a group of mentally active people concerned about outcome to cerebral sluggards who in apathy just drug themselves on pretense as they wait for the end.