Truth and Beauty – The Future We Deserve, Part 2

Or, Why won’t somebody act?

As before, italics indicate my own interpolations and editorial asides. Everything else is Vinay Gupta, though I’ve rephrased or summarized here & there.

Governance comes in three necessary & inevitable parts: ownership, management, and protection. Owners fund, maintain, & legitimize; managers do the work to keep it going; protectors remove threats. There are an arbitrarily large number of ways to implement all of those, and failure mechanisms for each of them. Owners can turn into rentiers, extracting fees for doing nothing; managers want to stay employed; and protectors want not to have to do anything.

There are a lot of definitions of “state”, and often a lot of overlapping or competing state-like entities, eg. revolutionary movements.

Weber’s classic definition is that the state has a monopoly on the use of legitimate force. Vinay prefers this one: a state is an entity that can grant retroactive immunity, ie. it can find you innocent. Put another way, it can extend protection, at least from its own justice and as far as possible from others’.

I still think that this definition includes a lot of entities not usually considered states, such as separatist/sustainable/hippy communities. Vinay disagrees with me on this, which leads me to think he has never experienced a group of hippies discussing who used the last of the soya milk, when, why, and how they can prevent it happening again. Or, to use a more serious example, sexual harassment/assault in countercultural groups with a TAZ-type or separatist ethos.

The most common state service is jurisdiction over sharing, including but not limited to contract law.

Evanescent micro-states exist – there’s always a fractal quality to states. Describable as a foam of states/jurisdictions – cf. Stross’s Accelerando.

There is no global jurisdiction, which means no global sharing.

The fact that people have chosen to group themselves by geographic areas rather than, say, shoe size could be considered an accident of history. Dubious, given the necessary localization of most resource nodes. But still a useful consideration.

Goat rodeo! This is a situation to which order cannot be brought, and it’s what happens when both goals & actors are different. If you have multiple actors of the same type (eg. all corporations or all charities) with the same goals, it’s a cartel; actors of different types with the same goals cooperate; actors of the same type with different goals compete; and actors of different types, with different goals, have no common ground on which to cooperate or to compete, so we call it a goat rodeo.

Gupta’s law of whole systems thinking: “You know it’s a whole system if the costs show up in one place and the benefits in another.”

“Can we do both rights and good governance?” Is there necessarily a tradeoff?

An example from the UN about free speech & blasphemy laws: the relevant interest groups have been captured by the people most interested in blasphemy laws, ie. the ones who want them.

(In response to a question from the floor) “The best analysis of transnational corporations is as arms of the United States. This is a very reasonable position to disagree with.”

Most people, including us, are fairly ignorant. Popular mandates are badly informed, therefore weak.

“Electoral democracy has failed.” Here we get into nuclear bureacracies (ie. the self-sustaining bureaucracies that have grown up around the control of nuclear weapons and their support infrastructure) and the black state. They have vast budgets and think on immense timelines, eg. the long wait for the Soviet Union to collapse due to its own internal contradictions.

The black state has access to Vast Amounts Of Firepower for a very long time and has successfully not used it, which can be a very hard problem.

States end up with a two-tier governance structure: democratic facing inwards, secret/black dealing with foreign & defence policy. For that reason, solutions to global problems will probably come out of the black state.

Large problems are far more complex than one head can hold; for that matter, the number of heads required to hold them exceeds the Dunbar number.


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