A myth of a self governing state

Nicholas Carr has an interesting look at the changes being made to ebay shortly.

Rough Type: Nicholas Carr’s Blog: Crowd control at eBay

Personally I think this ideal that people have of romantic anarchism is, like some forms of socialism, something that looks good and paper and would work perfectly if you ignore the human element.

So, it doesn’t work.

People are selfish and self-interested, and any community of any kind that reaches a non-trivial size is going to have elements that will try and manipulate the system to gain an unfair advantage over the competition. As techs we have this fantasy that, with the internet, we’ve managed to discover some hitherto unknown way of governance, ie decentralised anarchy, that works perfectly, solves all outstanding problems in the current system, and will serve as a shining example everywhere.

We didn’t invented anarchy. Anarchy, like chaos, is the natural state of things.  What humans created was society, collectivism, community.  We band together for many reasons, as we are social animals, but the reason centralised authority develops isn’t because some charismatic leader with an army of thugs made us.  (Ok, sometimes that might have been how things started, but it takes more than that to keep a society together).  What draws us together are the benefits of working in concert. We can achieve things that we never could working alone.  The prime benefit of central authority is arbitration.

Some historians and sociologists tell us that people banded together for safety in numbers as it were, to help defend each other against outside predation.  We have central authority for the same reason, to protect us from inside predation.  Make no mistake, we will prey on each other as best we can.  Destroy all central authority and you wont have the cooperative anarchic utopia that some have dreamed of, but rather I suspect we would see form a series of small collective groups band together for protection.  Any group of a significant size would create some kind of leadership. Whether it be one man one vote on every issue, or a kingship, as soon as this happens we have abandoned anarchy for community.

We do this because it works.  I am a staunch libertarian, but even I do not yearn for anarchism. Just a government that arbitrates rather than mandates.

It’s not surprising ebay is to become such a community now.  In many ways, it always has been.  For a long time there has been a central place for appeals and requests for assistance, this idea of self governance was just a conceit, and obviously, not a very successful one.  It’s a pity, but it’s not a surprise.


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