Anarchy (starts off topic)

[Martin Taylor 990210 17:00]

[From Mike Acree (990210.0920 PST)]

... The Founding
Fathers of this country were pretty radical for their time (and I'm sure
would be perceived as dangerously anarchistic today

This comment puzzles me. It was my understanding that the US Constitution
was pretty much a codification of the English unwritten constitution as
it was at the time (Gearge III) with the exception (insisted on by
Washington) that an elected President replaced the hereditary King. Is
that not correct?

Both English and US revolutionary systems seemed to rely on the notion that
the rich knew better than the poor what was good for all of them. In the
US, that's still true, rather more than it is in European countries, all
of which went through more recent revolutions (I include England in this
though the two revolutions in England since 1776 were both peaceful--a
third might be in progress at this moment).

Usually, the alternative to the notion that the rich know best is called
"socialism" when someone wants to dismiss it, but I've never before heard
"the rich know best" called "dangerously anarchistic."

ยทยทยท

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Back to the topic. The issue of the rule of law, and why government works
better than anarchy was implicitly covered in my description of the
growth of the hierarchy within a single organism. Most of the arguments
also work when you substitute individual organisms for simple elementary
control units.

The basic issue is that an anarchic group of control systems are almost
guaranteed to conflict and to be unable to control effectively,
whether they are elementary units or complete hierarchies. When there is
conflict, the stronger usually eliminates the ability of the weaker to
control. The stronger thereby often gains strength, making it easier to
win the next conflict (this is very clearly seen when the conflicted
environmental variable is money). What we have is a positive feedback
process, and they lead either to explosion or to a limiting condition. In
social structures, that means riot and civil war, or strong dictatorship.
(You noted this as a disappointing reason why some historical anarchic
societies succumbed, but did not note that it is a natural consequence
of the anarchy, which it is.)

The primary role of government is to change that dynamic, so that as a
minimum the limiting case of inequality of power occurs before the
explosion or total concentration of power in one individual.
Government represents the coordinated action of many people, and provided
that the many does not include too high a proportion of those powerful
in their own right, government can act in a deliberate control system
sense to reduce the ability of powerful people to win conflicts simply
because of their power. Governments usually (and most effectively) do
this by reducing somewhat the ability of the powerful to control their
own perceptions while enhancing the ability of the weaker to do so. There
are several mechanisms for doing this, including by income redistribution
through progressive income tax and effective social welfare programs,
by legislation and regulation that require neutral parties to determine
the merits of the parties in conflict (read law systems _not_ bought and
paid for by the wealthy), and by restricting specific mechanisms that
the powerful might otherwise use to enforce their own control (such as
private armies and Mafia hit squads).

There are two complementary ways to improve the ability of individuals
to control in the presence of a large number of other control systems.
One is to partition the environmental degrees of freedom to reduce the
likelihood that one control system's actions seriously disturb another's
control (Think "Drive on the right", versus "Drive where you feel like
at the moment"). The other is to coordinate the control systems at
one level by deriving their reference signals from control systems at
another level. The analogy is rule of law for the first case, and
government (multi-level government, to be sure) for the second. One often
controls one's own perceptions much better by doing what a leader asks
than by setting all one's goals in a social vacuum.

And it is important to note that the actions involved in the fulfilment
of a contract have side-effects just as do other actions. This is
especially true when two powerful people contract on something that
affects many other people, such as the CEOs of large companies deciding
to merge and then fire a lot of workers. And it is important to note that
there _cannot_ be a fair contract between individuals of unequal power.

If we accept the principle that reorganization within an individual is
more likely to change the hierarchy when there is substantial error than
when the error is low, we must then argue that people's hierarchies will
be more likely to change when their social environment makes it hard for
them to control than when the social environment makes it easy. I think
it is this that provides the limiting conditions that eventually cause
dictatorships to be overthrown (or to be softened to a tolerable degree)
and that causes anarchies to give way to systems based on government
and the rule of law. As with individual reorganization, there is a negative
feedback system that resists disturbances. Departures in either direction
from government and the rule of law tend to be resisted.

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In another message [Mike Acree (990209.1650 PST)] you commented:

To my mind the most interesting aspect of your argument, however, is
that it amounts to a secular version of the Argument from Design: If
there is organization, there must be an organizer--someone or some
agency in charge, constantly intervening to keep things in proper
running order, breaking up the monopolies of IBM and Microsoft,
enforcing the monopolies of the post office and the fire department, and
so on.

I'm not clear either how the two parts of this quote fit together (the part
before and the part after the colon). It doesn't strike me as related to
the Argument from Design. Neither can I see that what I wrote could
reasonably lead you to either part of the quote.

I have, above, argued that there must in fact be an organizer such as
you describe, but I can't see where it comes from what I wrote earlier.
But that's still not an Argument from Design. I'm arguing that we are
dealing with systems developed by random reorganization that maximize the
average ability of individuals to control.

Martin