Not much to add here. There doesn’t seem to be any correlation of any kind (colonialism, economic development, etc.). Still, I thought it was cool…
- Are there “hidden taxes” on women in the US? | Do risk preferences account for some of the gender pay gap?
- The Military Origins of Urban Prosperity in Europe | Rules of warfare in pre-modern societies
- What is the War Powers Act of 1973, and why does it matter? | Thinking about libertarian foreign policy
- American and Russian soldiers are shooting at each other in Syria | Why care about Syrians?
- State decay and “patchwork” | Laws, Juridification, and the Administrative State
- Conservatives and their contempt for detail in governance | Fascism Explained
- No, fascism can’t happen here (in the US) | The Gradual, Eventual Triumph of Liberty
I’m reading Complexity: The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos which has the absolute best testimonial on the front cover: “If you liked Chaos, you’ll love Complexity.”
This book was written in 1993 so I’m pretty late to the show, but it’s worth raising the issue: complex systems require governance, but that need not mean government.
In the copy below the author is writing about how complex systems–systems with components that affect one another in simple ways resulting in emergent orders at the system-wide level–occupy an interesting space between chaos and order. Too much order and you end up with something fixed and unchanging. Too much chaos and you’ve got noise.
The second full paragraph misses an important point that should have been obvious to the author and the researchers who he’s paraphrasing. The government is an endogenous element in the wider economy. If we think of the economy as a network of people (individual nodes) who cluster into sub-networks (organizations), the government is just a collection of nodes and clusters that follow different rules than the rest. Granted, these clusters often serve important roles (e.g. courts). But the anarchist branches of economics have pretty clearly demonstrated that removing the state from these roles doesn’t always lead to chaos. Ripping the state out like a band-aid would be an awful idea, but gently scaling (scoping?) back the state need not be a disaster.
This band between chaos and order is wider than they’re giving it credit for. We can only examine this band from our own perspective… as human beings who are tiny components of this much larger network of networks. The range of configurations that could allow a peaceful, flourishing society is essentially infinite. Yes, governance is necessary, but strengthening any particular set of nodes cannot allow for governance of the system as a whole. It can only allow for governance of a sub-set of the wider network.
Emergent orders cannot be controlled from within.
I have been working on a project to measure the efficiency of Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs). MPOs are one of the levels of government often forgotten. When we think of government we usually think of federal, state and local government. MPOs lay between local and state government. My local MPO for example, the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) for example covers all of the southern Californian counties except for San Diego. Other MPOs, such as the Delaware Valley Region Planning Commission, cross over several states. Nominally MPOs are concerned with setting transportation policy, but in effect they have broad powers over many areas of regional economic development.
Most MPOs have no elected leadership and instead either appoint their own heads or draw from their constituent members. By no means am I a little ‘d’ democrat; I do not see much value in democracy to decide public policy. It is however concerning that these form of government have little oversight over them of any sort. My hope is that my work will provide much needed information on how well (or badly) these MPOs are doing their jobs.
I am attempt to rank MPOs on two basis: transportation services and air quality. Below is a ranking of the top 77 largest metro regions by their adjusted cost efficiency for providing transit services. I used metropolitan level data from 1991 to 2011 to construct these figures. By adjusted I mean that I attempted to take into account for factors that affect their cost efficiency, namely level of federal funding which is negatively associated with cost efficiency. I hope to be able to better calculate these figures in the future taking into account spatial factors that affect efficiency, but I have to start somewhere right?
2. Virginia Beach
4. El Paso
8. Baton Rogue
76. San Jose
The full ranking can be found here: Efficiency Residual.
(This text was written for the European Students for Liberty Regional Conference in Istanbul at Boğaziçi University. I did not deliver the paper, but used it to gather thoughts which I then presented in an improvised speech. As it was quite a long text, I am breaking it up for the purposes of blog presentation)
There is a tendency within liberty oriented though which sees the intrusions of the state in the modern world as something to do with republicanism and the democratic political spirit. The development of what has been called the administrative state, administered society, the iron cage of bureaucracy, disciplinarity (generalised power throughout society), biopower (sovereignty over life and health), and so on, has taken place in all state forms. It is deeply embedded in the emergence of modern industrial world, where traditional authority structures and customary laws are eroded by city life, national and international markets and technological innovation.
This process has one aspect the emergence of a modern state in which we see national debt financing an investor class, and the expanded central state enforcing uniform legal codes. There is a political economy of this which ties interest groups to the state, and tries to find ways in which everyone could be defined as belonging to a group that benefits from state action. At any time we see states in the double process of maintaining such a political economy and using state power to protect the associated institutions.
There are periods in which such developments of the state take place at a heightened pace, usually due to war of some kind and maybe a collapse of attempts at peaceful balance between groups in a society. Groups which seem marginal or even as the source of violent resistance are assimilated or subject to maximum state force. in practice has always gone along with these developments, in all forms of state.
A lot of this has come out of the pre-modern monarchical state reinforcing its traditional power. Resisting he administrative-bureaucratic state means engaging in politics, in citizen movements, in peaceful civil disobedience where necessary to defend basic rights. That is not looking back to pre-modern forms of law, authority and statehood, in which pluralism exists in rigid state enforced hierarchies, and tradition limits individual self-creation. In the modern world republicanism has sometimes acquired a ‘Jacobin’ form of intense and violent state creation, but as Tocqueville pointed out in The French Revolution and the Old Regime, it carries on the work of the old monarchy in doing so.
The republican political tradition has to some degree acquired a tainted reputation due to association with the most violent aspects of the French Revolution, and Machiavelli’s frankness about what can happen when regimes change. However, the violence attributed to the republican moment was always at work before in the strengthening of central political institutions and the unified ordering of the society concerned. There have been such moments throughout history, but the shift to the modern administrative state has made them much more thoroughgoing in their influence on social relations.
Republicanism is a way of coping with this that tries to bring in the restraints of law and accountability to the public in various forms. It has not been an escape from the modern administrative state, or the violence accompanying much of the historical emergence of that state, but no other way of doing politics has escaped either, and the republican way even in its worse moments has at least emphasised the principles of law above persons, the non-passive rights of citizens, and the importance of instruments of political accountability. The monarchist and depoliticised forms of thinking about liberty have also sometimes collapsed into state terror, without the message that a better way exists. The conservative empire and the traditionalist state have used, maintained, and intensified violence in reaction to real and perceived threats without being able to offer the prospect of better political forms and structures than the hierarchies of tradition. The differences are not absolute, as Tocqueville indicates, and at times republican city governments have existed within traditional hereditary states, and monarchist reformers have attempted to bring in ideas with republican origins. A republic can collapse into a permanent system of personalised authority, but it is the republican tradition which tells us what is wrong with that.
In any case, republicanism as it exists now in political thought is concerned with restraints on power not intensification of state power. Its engagement with historical situation and concrete politics, its appeal (at least in the form associated with Hannah Arendt) to individuality and contestation in politics is the best way of making a complete application of the principle of liberty to the political and historical world.