Reversion to the Mean

Mean-reversion is the idea that the status quo usually wins. We make a change, it sticks for a while, and then we snap suddenly or gradually back to the way things were.

It’s an extremely powerful force, and often under-appreciated. (We all know the statistics on new year’s resolutions, but we keep making — and breaking — them anyway.)

As we look forward to a presidential transition, then, it’s worth considering how mean-reversion is going to show up in the new administration.

On the one hand, part of the promise is that we can all get back to living our lives without so much doom-scrolling of Twitter and “news” feeds. A calmer, more professional, and more political politics is to be welcomed in many ways.

And yet it’s also clearer than ever that the old status quo was mean in every sense: not only averaged-out, but actively unjust, inequitable, and unsafe for far too many people. The promise of restoring normalcy shouldn’t be taken as license for inaction.