Human Beings Suck at Civilization
Civilization is hard and we're not good at it. (This is long and rambling, but it does get to the point eventually.)
I game. I started out back in the 70's with D&D, and these days I play RPGs and MMOs on computers. In both cases, there is a social aspect. And in both cases, there is a class of players who are very annoying. In D&D, we called these people the "rule lawyers". These people bought all the rule books, even the ones meant for the referee (Dungeon Master). The rule lawyer would try to find every case where they could bend the written rules to their own advantage and often spoiled the actual game play for everyone else.
MMOs have something similar, but not quite the same -- I've heard them called "minmaxers". The minmaxer will attempt to find the perfect set of skills or tools to optimize their character for a chosen task (healer, tank, dps -- damage per second, and others). The basic problem with this is that you end up with a party that has no flexibility. Your healer can't defend themselves, your tank does little damage, and so on. If you've planned a more "realistic" character whose skills are varied, you end up backing everyone up, but not being as good as any of them in their special area. If the game is a battle arena, this may not be a problem. If it's a more lengthy game where parties are occasional happenings, the mimaxers' have crippled themselves, even though they are really good at that one thing.
This is something I've struggled with in games. Minmaxing may make you better at doing one thing, but it leaves you with a character that's not very fun in a general situation. (As a result, I don't bother with minmaxing.)
Okay, so far it looks like we suck at games -- but I said "civilization" at the top. How's this fit together?
When I was in school, I was taught that pure communism didn't work well if you got beyond 10 people. Someone is always attempting to slack and still reap the benefits. Soviet Russia demonstrated this quite nicely. I was also taught a bit of heresy, and that is that pure democracy doesn't work any better. Get enough people together and someone will always try to rig the system. I was also taught that capitalism isn't stable, because one goal could be seen as monopolising the system, which actually destroys the mechanics of capitalism and is one of the reasons that we tinker with it and set limits on things like monopolies -- to keep it health. Right.
The end result is we have all sorts of assholes trying to game the system. We have Putin in Russia who seems to be trying to bring back the old Russian oligarchy (with him at the top). We have the family running Walmart, who pay their employees so little that they have to apply for government assistance (effectively putting taxpayer money in the pockets of the Waltons). And we have the current mess that is the US elections of 2016 -- bad candidates with bad records and no other choices.
And the things that cause this sort of civil failure are the instincts that create the mimaxers and rule lawyers. There are individuals who will always try to distort the system for their own advantage. You can't get them to stop in games. And if they can't stop in a game, how are they going to stop in real life?
This set of behaviors is so widespread and cross cultural that I have to believe it's an inherent part of the human condition. As a result, we're bad at civilization. The sad thing? We're not going to be able to do better. We have a track record of these failures that are millenia long.