Public reason liberalism includes an ideal of political stability where justified institutions reach a kind of self-enforcing equilibrium. Such an order must be stable for the right reasons — where persons comply with the rules of the order for moral reasons, rather than out of fear or self-interest. John Rawls called a society stable in this way well-ordered.
In this essay, I contend that a more sophisticated model of a well-ordered society, specifically an agent-based model, yields a richer and more attractive understanding of political stability. An agent-based model helps us to distinguish between three concepts of political stability — durability, balance, and immunity. A well-ordered society is one that possesses a high degree of social trust and cooperative behavior among its citizens (durability) with low short-run variability (balance). A well-ordered society also resists destabilization caused by noncompliant agents in or entering the system (immunity).
Distinguishing between these three concepts complicates the necessary reformulation of the idea of a well-ordered society. Going forward, public reason theorists must now distinguish between types of assurance, specify heretofore unknown aspects of reasonable behavior, and reconceive of the nonideal preconditions for forming a stable, ideal social order.