Monday, August 04, 2008

Emergent Orders and Top-Down Structures

Welfare states like the U.S. are the opposite of spontaneous order -- a spontaneous order is a bottom-up process. The welfare state is a top-down imposed process. This is something which works well in creating incredibly simple objects from incredibly simple materials -- like cars and computers -- but it is a disaster when it is applied to complex, self-organizing emergent systems like humans and the spontaneous orders we create, like free market economies, science, cultures, and democratic governments.

We make mistakes when we apply one model to another without really thinking it through. Socialism was an attempt as "scientific economy" because the spontaneous order of science worked so well to create new knowledge. More recently, the Left have accepted the equality necessary for the spontaneous-order government of democracy to work as a good model for the economy as well. It's not. Votes and money do different things, convey different information, and have different outcomes. Votes work best in government; money works best in economies. Another mistake is thinking that complex systems are the same as emergent orders. As a result, you can get people thinking that what is applicable to a company is applicable to government. Again, it's not. Part of the problem too comes about from the fact that too often we do not understand how complexity comes about. For example, companies are not small planned economies. They are self-organizing systems. Over time they become more and more ordered, forming departments in order to keep information more local and contained, so that people can deal with them more easily. Complex systems all give the appearance of having been designed, but none of them truly are. Companies which are truly centrally planned and controlled collapse under the necessary weight of ignorance of the person at the top. I"m the President of The Emerson Institute for Freedom and Culture, Inc., and planning isn't something that is even possible. Which reminds me of an old saying, "When men make plans, God laughs." The more we learn about complex systems, emergence, bottom-up self-organization, and spontaneous orders, the more that saying makes sense.

A communist state definitely does not fit the definition of a bottom-up self-organizing system. It is top-down by any stretch of the imagination. But companies all start small and slowly self-organize into larger and larger companies. In communist countries, the bureaucracy is imposed form the top, but in a company, the company bureaucracy emerges over time. A company more closely resembles the evolution of animals from single-celled organisms to complex organisms with central nervous systems. Further, it may appear that a complex organism is controlled from the top, by the central nervous system, but that isn't true, either. No company was ever designed, but emerged out of a hodgepodge of good and bad decisions, good and bad fortune, good and bad people working for (and being fired from) the company over time. In the end a large corporation only appears in the most superficial way to a communist country -- but the way it is run, and the way it evolved and organized make all the difference in the world. Most people neither realize nor understand that, and so think that government can be run like a company. It can't. It's a different kind of entity altogether. A self-organized government wouldn't look at all like a company, as it has different goals and different forms of information creating it ( money for corporations, votes for democracy -- though each have partially infected the other, which creates problems). Believing a company is a top-down organization due to its structure and complexity is analogous to believing in creationism because you can't imagine or understand how complex organisms could have evolved.
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