Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Governance vs. Government

Get yours at
A fundamental disagreement between the Statist and the Anarchist is whether or not a system can be self-organizing. Bear with me, this will take a moment to frame.

To get the definition out of the way up front, by "state" I am not talking about any particular political subdivision. The "state" is the institution with the monopoly on legitimate coercion. When a soldier kills, for example, it is not "murder" because he is acting as an agent of the state. What is robbery if I do it is "tax collection" when performed by an agent of the state. And so on. The act that is otherwise criminal is declared to be legitimate specifically because an agent of the state is doing it. They are "only following orders".

Updated 20121214

I've conversed with Staists who believe in total control, who believe that there is nothing people do that is outside of the authority of the state. They may believe that, today, it's ok that "religion" is generally unregulated (being very US centric here), but that if things got out-of-hand it would be just fine to use the power of the state to intervene in religious matters. Or healthcare, communications, insurance, anything.

A vote sold cheap.
The Statist argues, mostly, from emotion. They want X, so it's ok to use the power of the state to accomplish X. X may be righteous and noble, or utter hogwash, that's not at issue.

Then there's the Minarchist, who believes that there are things "best" done through self-organization, and other things that are "best" accomplished through state intervention. Being US centric again, the "Constitutionalist" is an excellent example here. There are specific powers enumerated in the "Constitution for the united States", and anything outside of those powers is what the US Federal Government cannot interfere in, no ifs, ands, or buts, because it says so right in the Constitution.

America used it first.
The Minarchist argues, mostly, from tradition. It was written on a piece of hemp paper 200 years ago, it must be right.

These are arguments that self-organization does not work, or at least does not always work.

Anarchists believe that self-organization works. From Biology to Cosmology, the second-hand store on the corner to the International Red Cross, the Hanseatic League to the globe-spanning functional anarchy that is the Internet, voluntary interaction works. Self-organized systems are faster to adapt to changes in conditions, allow for competition between different answers to the same problem, and benefit both individuals and society in general by providing the maximum possible room for experimentation.

You see, the Internet exists as a functioning Anarchy. Different firms compete between each other to offer the best service reaching other firm's customers. At the same time, they offer their own services. The cost of offering services is offset by the savings of not having to build such big bridges into other provider's networks.

But if, for example, my ISP cut off connections to YouTube, they would lose me as a customer. And they know it. That is how "fairness" works in an free market. A service provider is free to make changes, true. And a customer is free to change providers, at will, for any reason or no reason at all.

In an Anarchy, the consumer is sovereign.

Anarchy is not Chaos. Governance (remember governance? This is a post about governance) occurs because the actors in a free market govern their own actions in order to maximize their own self interests. The individual that loses control loses customers.

He wrote the book on it.
One more thing: Bureaucracies. A bureaucracy, no matter how formed, will soon be run by those for whom the welfare of the bureaucracy itself is paramount. This is why companies constantly go through reorganizations, divestitures, "in-sourcing", "out-sourcing", and so on endlessly, all efforts to combat the tendency of bureaucracies to exist merely to perpetuate themselves.

"Nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program." --- Milton Friedman

Right now, the International Telecommunications Union, a 147-year old bureaucracy now under the auspices of the United Nations which was formed originally to figure out how to enable effective billing for wired communications between nations, is trying (again) to take control of the Internet. The ITU is a bureaucracy desperate to perpetuate itself in a world where they are irrelevant.

But what does the ITU have that makes them special? They have the power of Government.

Usually, notably ungoverned.
"Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master." --- George Washington

The ITU justifies its existence by telling everyone that it guards against market "failure". In fact, all government intervention in market operations is justified by saying the interventions are to prevent market "failure".

But what is a market "failure"?

The Statist defines a market "failure" to exist when the Statist didn't get what he wanted voluntarily. If the taxi services in a particular place are not what he wants them to be, or if a train doesn't arrive on time, or if no one builds a nuclear weapon or an aircraft carrier, these are seen by the Statist as "bad" things that need to be "corrected", by threat of overwhelming violence. That is, through Government.

Ask any Statist you know, or ask yourself, what do you believe constitutes a market "failure"? If they, or you, are honest, the answer will consist of nothing more than that they, or you, didn't get what was desired at a price they, or you, liked. After all, if an aircraft carrier is so important, just build one. But of course, that would be too expensive. See how that works?

The market entrepreneur identifies such things, and rather than resort to government, the entrepreneur figures out how to achieve the greater "efficiency" and thereby make a profit. Isn't that what "efficiency" means, that there is room to take existing resources and allocate them in such a way as to better serve people's wants?

So the governance imposed by the Sovereign Consumer continually generates greater and greater efficiencies because any wasteful activities will be undercut by the competition.

At the same time, government becomes larger and larger, the innumerable bureaucracies always fighting not for better ways to serve their customers (that's you and me, in theory), but to perpetuate and grow their budget allocations. Actually serving the customer becomes secondary, at best, since the delivery of service is just a cost the bureaucracy really could better use on other things, like office equipment and bonuses.

By using government to correct what seems at first glance to be a market "failure", massive new costs, in lives, treasure, and civil rights, are imposed on the very people supposedly being "served". At gun point.

Governance gives you the Internet.

Government gives you the TSA.


Update: Network World has an article on the ITU meeting going on right now, 12/12/2012, which, if you pay attention, points out another difference between Government and Governance: Governance doesn't work in the shadows, playing voting games, making amendments that are secret. Government, however, is rife with such shenanigans.

Update: The meeting is over, and the treaty did not get signed. Fox News on the events, and the BBC pointing out that Britain refused to sign as well.

So the vast majority of the Internet operations remains consent between cooperating parties, rather than regulation by force. At least until they meet again.

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