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.
Okay; suppose civilization collapses. Positing the end of our current human paradigm — the sum of our economic, governmental and technological works subtracted — is a non-partisan exercise. Both ends the ideological spectrum are ever doomsday prophets, decrying an immanent collapse, undone either by means of our State or our Liberty.
‘Resources are held in Common!’ cries the socialist. ‘Property is product of my Life and Liberty’ cries the anarchist…both claim we are robbing ourselves blind. Let’s skip the part of the process where the libertarians and collectivists argue about roads and markets, and just imagine the ‘end’ is behind us all, and we (any two or more parties) survived, and are left to re-establish civilization. This proposition is essentially a ‘dropped on a deserted island’ scenario — an exercise in pure a priori, inductive inquiry.
We are left to our own devices; a natural state with no default preset values, no existing law or paper contracts, no social institution, normative or common tradition.
It’s just you, me, and the pile of radioactive rubble that previously was a long-defunct post office.
How to proceed? What rules shall we make for ourselves, and how should we best go about the process of survival?
Please, feel free to take your turn by leaving a comment — this is an open-ended invitation to engage in the process of civilization. In the interest of intellectual honesty, I would offer that it is entirely my intention to pursue a libertarian outcome, to our mutual benefit.