Networks Vs. Hierarchies: Which Will Win?

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Mike Krieger of Liberty Blitzkrieg blog,

Networks are not planned by a single authority; they are the main source of innovation but are relatively fragile. Hierarchies exist primarily because of economies of scale and scope, beginning with the imperative of self-defense. To that end, but for other reasons too, hierarchies seek to exploit the positive externalities of networks. States need networks, for no political hierarchy, no matter how powerful, can plan all the clever things that networks spontaneously generate. But if the hierarchy comes to control the networks so much as to compromise their benign self-organizing capacities, then innovation is bound to wane.


- From Niall Furguson’s recent article Networks and Hierarchies

I’m not always a huge fan of Niall Furguson, but his latest article in The American Interest, simply titled Networks and Hierarchies is worth reading. Readers of Liberty Blitzkrieg will be well aware that I believe the most significant battle of our era is between the forces of Decentralization vs. Centralization. Mr. Furguson takes that battle and looks at it from a historical perspective, describing it as Networks vs. Hierarchies, and posits that indeed much of our collective history has been characterized by the struggle between these two forces. In fact, he starts out the article with the following question:

“Has political hierarchy in the form of the state met its match in today’s networked world?”

Where Mr. Furguson and I agree is in the realization that modern technology has provided networks with the most powerful tool yet in their endless struggle against centralization and hierarchy. Where we disagree is the conclusion. Furguson takes a very unbiased view and essentially comes to the conclusion that he doesn’t know which of these forces will ultimately come out on top. He highlights the fact that many of our modern technological networks are owned by a very small group of people (Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc) and that the CEOs of these companies have proven themselves very willing to be complicit with NSA spying (the manifestation of pyramidical hierarchy).

While I acknowledge this truth and appreciate the threat, the fact Edward Snowden has revealed this to us has sparked a movement by some of the smartest technology minds on the planet to develop encrypted and secure systems. While we may not see all of the fruits of their labors for many years, see them we will, and I think they will help us transform human civilization in a monumental and extremely positive way.

What follows are some of my favorite excerpts from Niall’s piece. He starts off by comparing the U.S. and China:

Yet both states are republics, with roughly comparable vertical structures of administration and not wholly dissimilar concentrations of power in the hands of the central government. Economically, the two systems are certainly converging, with China looking ever more to market signals and incentives, while the United States keeps increasing the statutory and regulatory power of government over producers and consumers. And, to an extent that disturbs civil libertarians on both Left and Right, the U.S. government exerts control and practices surveillance over its citizens in ways that are functionally closer to contemporary China than to the America of the Founding Fathers.

He goes on to discuss the threats new technologies pose to centralized hierarchies:

It was not immediately obvious how big a challenge all this posed to the established state. There was a great deal of cheerful talk about the ways in which the information technology revolution would promote “smart” or “joined-up” government, enhancing the state’s ability to interact with citizens. However, the efforts of Anonymous, Wikileaks and Edward Snowden to disrupt the system of official secrecy, directed mainly against the U.S. government, have changed everything. In particular, Snowden’s revelations have exposed the extent to which Washington was seeking to establish a parasitical relationship with the key firms that operate the various electronic networks, acquiring not only metadata but sometimes also the actual content of vast numbers of phone calls and messages. Techniques of big-data mining, developed initially for commercial purposes, have been adapted to the needs of the National Security Agency.

He rightly recognizes how important Bitcoin is in this monumental struggle:

The most recent, and perhaps most important, network challenge to hierarchy comes with the advent of virtual currencies and payment systems like Bitcoin. Since ancient times, states have reaped considerable benefits from monopolizing or at least regulating the money created within their borders. It remains to be seen how big a challenge Bitcoin poses to the system of national fiat currencies that has evolved since the 1970s and, in particular, how big a challenge it poses to the “exorbitant privilege” enjoyed by the United States as the issuer of the world’s dominant reserve (and transaction) currency. But it would be unwise to assume, as some do, that it poses no challenge at all.


Networks are the spontaneously self-organizing, horizontal structures we form, beginning with knowledge and the various “memes” and representations we use to communicate it. These include the patterns of migration and miscegenation that have distributed our species and its DNA across the world’s surface; the markets through which we exchange goods and services; the clubs we form, as well as the myriad cults, movements, and crazes we periodically produce with minimal premeditation and leadership. And the fourth is hierarchies, vertical organizations characterized by centralized and top-down command, control, and communication. These begin with family-based clans and tribes, out of which or against which more complex hierarchical institutions evolved. They include, too, tightly regulated urban polities reliant on commerce or bigger, mostly monarchical, states based on agriculture; the centrally run cults often referred to as churches; the armies and bureaucracies within states; the autonomous corporations that, from the early modern period, sought to exploit economies of scope and scale by internalizing certain market transactions; academic corporations like universities; political parties; and the supersized transnational states that used to be called empires.


Networks are not planned by a single authority; they are the main source of innovation but are relatively fragile. Hierarchies exist primarily because of economies of scale and scope, beginning with the imperative of self-defense. To that end, but for other reasons too, hierarchies seek to exploit the positive externalities of networks. States need networks, for no political hierarchy, no matter how powerful, can plan all the clever things that networks spontaneously generate. But if the hierarchy comes to control the networks so much as to compromise their benign self-organizing capacities, then innovation is bound to wane.


European history in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries was characterized by a succession of network-driven waves of innovation: the Scientific Revolution, the Enlightenment, and the Industrial Revolution. In each case, the sharing of novel ideas within networks of scholars and tinkerers produced powerful and mainly positive externalities, culminating in the decisive improvements in economic efficiency and then life expectancy experienced in the British Isles, Western Europe, and North America from the late 18th century. The network effects of trade and migration were especially powerful, as European merchants and settlers exploited falling transportation costs to export their ideas, as well as their techniques and goods, to the rest of the world. Thanks to those ideas, this was also an era of political revolutions. Ideas about liberty, equality, and fraternity crossed the Atlantic as rapidly as pirated technology from the cotton mills of Lancashire. Kings were toppled, aristocracies abolished, and churches dissolved or made to compete without the support of a state.


Yet the 19th century saw the triumph of hierarchies over the new networks. This was partly because hierarchical corporations—which began, let us remember, as state-sponsored monopolies like the East India Company—were as important in the spread of industrial capitalism as horizontally structured markets. Firms could reduce the transaction costs of the market as well as exploit economies of scale and scope. The railways, steamships, and telegraph cables that made possible the first age of globalization had owners.


Not only did the period after 1918 witness the rise of the most centrally controlled states of all time (Stalin’s Soviet Union, Hitler’s Third Reich and Mao’s People’s Republic); it was also an era in which hierarchies flourished in the economic, social and cultural spheres. Central planners ruled, whether they worked for governments, armies or large corporations. In Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932), the Fordist World State controls everything from eugenics to narcotics and euthanasia; the fate of the non-conformist Bernard Marx is banishment. In Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four(1949) there is not the slightest chance that Winston Smith will be able to challenge Big Brother’s rule over Airstrip One; his fate is to be tortured and brainwashed. A remarkable number of the literary heroes of the high Cold War era were crushed by one system or the other: from Heller’s John Yossarian to le Carré’s Alec Leamas to Solzhenytsin’s Ivan Denisovich.


Kraus was right: The information technology of mid-century overwhelmingly favored the hierarchies. Though the telegraph and telephone created vast new networks, they were relatively easy to cut, tap, or control. Newsprint, radio, cinema, and television were not true network technologies because they generally involved one-way communication from the content provider to the reader or viewer. During the Cold War the superpowers were mostly able to control information flows by manufacturing or sponsoring propaganda and classifying or censoring anything deemed harmful. Sensation surrounded every spy scandal and defection; yet in most cases all that happened was that classified information was passed from one national security state to the other. Only highly trained personnel in governmental, academic, or corporate research centers used computers, and those were anything but personal computers.


Today, by contrast, the hierarchies seem to be in much more trouble. The most obvious challenge to established hierarchies is the flow of information unleashed by the advent of the personal computer, email, and the internet, which have allowed ordinary citizens to organize themselves into much larger and more dispersed networks than has ever been possible before. The PC has empowered the individual the way the book did after the 15th-century breakthrough in printing. Indeed, the trajectories for the production and price of PCs in the United States between 1977 and 2004 are remarkably similar to the trajectories for the production and price of printed books in England from 1490 to 1630. The differences are that our networking revolution is much faster and that it is global.


The challenge these new networks pose to established hierarchies is threefold. First, they vastly increase the volume of information to which citizens can have access, as well as the speed with

which they can have access to it. Second, they empower individual citizens to publicize things that might otherwise remain secret or known only to a few. Edward Snowden and Daniel Ellsberg did the same thing by making public classified documents, but Snowden has already revealed much more than Ellsberg and to vastly more people, while Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, has far out-scooped Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward (even if he has not yet helped to bring down an American President). Third, and perhaps most importantly, the networks expose by their very performance the inefficiency of hierarchical government.


The shortcomings of the website in many ways epitomized the fundamental problem: In the age of Amazon, consumers expect basic functionality from websites.Daily Show host Jon Stewart spoke for hundreds of thousands of frustrated users when he taunted former Health and Human Services head Kathleen Sebelius: “I’m going to try and download every movie ever made, and you’re going to try to sign up for Obamacare, and we’ll see which happens first.”


Yet the trials and tribulations of “Obamacare” are merely a microcosm for a much more profound problem. The modern state, at least in its democratic variant, has evolved a familiar solution to the problem of increasing the provision of public goods without making proportionate increases to taxation, and that is to finance current government consumption through borrowing, while at the same time encouraging citizens to increase their own leverage by various fiscal incentives, such as the deductibility of mortgage interest payments. The vast increase of private debt that preceded the financial crisis of 2008 was succeeded by a comparably vast increase in public debt. At the same time, central banks took increasingly unorthodox steps to shore up tottering banks and plunging asset markets by purchases of securities in exchange for excess reserves. With short-term interest rates at zero, “quantitative easing” was designed to keep long-term interest rates low too. The financial world watches with bated breath to see how QE can be “tapered” and when short-term rates will be raised. Most economists nevertheless take for granted the U.S. government’s ability to print its own currency without limit. Many assume that this offers some relatively easy way out of trouble if rising interest rates threaten to make debt service intolerably burdensome. But this assumption may be wrong.


Since ancient times, states have exploited their ability to issue currency, whether coins stamped with the king’s likeness or electronic dollars on a screen. But if the new networks are in the process of creating an alternative form of money, such as Bitcoin purports to be, then perhaps the time-honored state privilege to debase the currency is at risk. Bitcoin offers many advantages over a fiat currency like the U.S. dollar. As a means of payment—especially for online transactions—it is faster, cheaper, and more secure than a credit card. As a store of value it has many of the key attributes of gold, notably finite supply. As a unit of account it is having teething troubles, but that is because it has become an attractive speculative object. It is too early to predict that Bitcoin will succeed as a parallel currency, but it is also too early to predict that it will fail. In any case, governments can fail, too.


Where governments fail most egregiously, new networks may well increase the probability of successful revolution. The revolutionary events that swept the Middle East and North Africa beginning in Tunisia in December 2010—the so-called Arab Spring—were certainly facilitated by various kinds of information technology, even if for most Arabs it was probably the television channel Al Jazeera more than Facebook or Twitter that spread the news of the revolution. Most recently, the revolutionaries in Kiev who overthrew Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych made effective use of social networks to organize their protests in the Maidan and to disseminate their critique of Yanukovych and his cronies.


The owners of the networks are also well aware that plotting jihad is not the principal use to which their technology is put, any more than plotting revolution is. They owe their security much more to network surfers’ apathy than to the NSA. Most people do not go online to participate in flash mobs. Most women seem to prefer shopping and gossiping; most men prefer sports and pornography. All those neural quirks produced by evolution make us complete suckers for the cascading stimuli of tweets, Instagrams, and Facebook pokes from members of our electronic kinship group. The networks cater to our solipsism (selfies), our short attention spans (140 characters), and our seemingly insatiable appetite for “news” about “celebrities.” In the networked world, the danger is not popular insurrection but indifference; the political challenge is not to withstand popular anger but to transmit any kind of signal through the noise. What can focus us, albeit briefly, on the tiresome business of how we are governed or, at least, by whom? When we speak of “populism” today, we mean simply a politics that is audible as well as intelligible to the man in the street. Not that the man in the street is actually in the street. Far more likely, he is the man slumped on his sofa, his attention skipping fitfully from television to laptop to tablet to smartphone and back to television. And what gets his attention? The end of history? The clash of civilizations? The answer turns out to be the narcissism of small differences.

The above is the key problem we face at the moment. People are using these amazing technologies for stupidity. However, I strongly believe this will change as the living situation on the ground becomes harder and harder for a greater and greater percentage of humanity.

Yet our own time is profoundly different from the mid-20th century. The near-autarkic, commanding and controlling states that emerged from the Depression, World War II, and the early Cold War exist only as pale shadows of their former selves. Today, the combination of technological innovation and international economic integration has created entirely new forms of organization—vast, privately owned networks—that were scarcely dreamt of by Keynes and Kennan. We must ask ourselves: Are these new networks really emancipating us from the tyranny of the hierarchical empire-states? Or will the hierarchies ultimately take over the networks as they did a century ago, in 1914, successfully subordinating them to the priorities of the national security state?

Huge issue, but that is exactly why Edward Snowden felt compelled to whistle-blow. He understood what was at stake: Everything.

A libertarian utopia of free and equal netizens—all networked together, sharing all available data with maximum transparency and minimal privacy settings—has a certain appeal, especially to the young. It is romantic to picture these netizens, like the workers in Lang’s Metropolis, spontaneously rising up against the world’s corrupt hierarchies. Yet the suspicion cannot be dismissed that, despite all the hype of the Information Age and all the brouhaha about Messrs. Snowden and Assange, the old hierarchies and new networks are in the process of reaching a quiet accommodation with one another, much as thrones and telephones did a century ago. We shall all know what it means when (as begins to be imaginable) Sheryl Sandberg leans all the way into the White House. It will mean that Metropolis lives on. It’s very interesting that he mentions Sheryl Sandberg at the very end.  She was the target of my harsh criticism earlier this year for starting a childish and idiotic campaign to ban the word “bossy.” Recall my post: The Chief Operating Officer of Facebook Wants to Ban the Word “Bossy.”As I mentioned at the beginning, I think this war will be decisively won by the forces of decentralization, but of course, it won’t be a walk in the park. I agree very much with the message in the following video which concludes that “Bitcoin will Save Capitalism.” Enjoy.



Full article here.

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Yen Cross's picture

 In the end, pitchforks always win!

CrazyCooter's picture

I still stand by the thesis that BitCoin is the ABG strategy (i.e. Anything But Gold) of the power elite. It is NOT private at all (assuming you can identify the prior holders) and leads the sheep right into the maw of the only thing worse than fiat; electronic fiat.

Always remember techophiles; technology has always been just a tool and it is its creator, man, decides if it shall be used for evil or good.

If you do not understand something, genuinely and thoroughly, don't invest (or believe) in it until you do. We have plenty of problems needing solved; don't create new ones through ignorance.



kchrisc's picture

You are so correct.

The proof is nothing more than that they allow it to exist unlike Liberty Coin,

CrazyCooter's picture

So that readers are not confused, I assume you mean "gold" coin.



Just to be clear. :-)



commander gruze?'s picture

They only "allow" it to exist because they can't shut it down. It's not about the "coin" in it. It's all about the underlying network. Networks are not easily shut down.

Top Gear's picture

Libertarianism and capitalism are all about hierarchy anyway!

"We libertarians do not oppose HIERARCHY or COMMAND or? AUTHORITY..." ~Stephan Kinsella

"I laid out my 'Thirty Day Plan' for...restoring the natural socioeconomic HIERARCHY..." ~Lew Rockwell

Fuckin' Hierarchy is in the house!

CH1's picture

Go the fuck away. You are polluting this place.

Billy O'Naire's picture

'Hierarchy' is being used in a different context in the article than in the examples you cite.

Entrepreneurship involves hierarchy - it organises factors of production, who necessarily must be subordinate.

But it is not the hierarchy of the article - that refers to a position of power whose roots lie in pointing a gun at others to make them subordinate.

The Most Interesting Frog in the World's picture

Wrong again... You are batting 1000%!

bbq on whitehouse lawn's picture

It is easier to just track everyone on the network in real time, and pick your fruit instead of closeing that network and your targets going dark.
Right now almost every personal computer is mainlined to the NSA in real time. Snowden had old information. Right now your computer is contacting the NSA in real time and you can see this for your self if you look at the processes in your Task manager.
The network is and asset not a threat.

commander gruze?'s picture

I don't have Task manager on my computer. It's a fairly safe Linux box with operating system wiped and reinstalled every 2 months. Running on encrypted partition, connected via tor network.

sessinpo's picture

commander gruze?     They only "allow" it to exist because they can't shut it down. It's not about the "coin" in it. It's all about the underlying network. Networks are not easily shut down.


Not true. It has already been exposed that the NSA has backdoors on computers and phones. Thus online and offline wallets are exposed. BTW, the original internet has had to continue to seek improvements because nodes can be disrupted.

commander gruze?'s picture

Totally agree that NSA can be a massive obstacle, but as the very case of Glen Greenwald show, it is possible to use a safe and secure computer system to remain stealth. Look up TAILS - a USB or CD bootable operating system with some cool security feature.

And for signing bitcoin transactions the best option is to use hardware devices specifically designed to hold keys and sign txns.

Nick Jihad's picture

Thinking like this tends to conceal as much as it reveals. Many technologies are inherently individualist or collectivist. Compare network television to the internet. Consider the automobile - an inherently individualistic, anarchic device. This is why the Soviets were so lothe to manufacture automobiles, preferring to churn out tractors and tanks instead. That is why lefties here have such a hard-on for light rail and gasoline taxes. They correctly percieve that automobiles allow the people to vote with their right foot.

kchrisc's picture

And guillotines clean up.

CrazyCooter's picture

May god spare the US of anything closely resembling the French Revolution(a.k.a. a ~20 year riot, a murderous dictat, and not much else).

I will be dead by then and I really hope to see mankind move to the next phase of its potential.



kchrisc's picture

I respect and understand your sentiment, but I don't believe that it will happen.

The American people will wake up one day and realize how far they have fallen and will be pissed.

Since they won't know how they got into their predicament and who is responsible, beyond themselves, people like me will see to it that they are informed--I see it as my personal mission to keep them informed and on target.

Many of them have drank of the Kool-Aide of the elites and can't see the pols, crats and banksters for the homos, "illegals" and abortionists. People need to have the right priorities to enable the Restoration of their freedom and the American country, and chasing after homos, 17 million "illegals" and people performing and having abortions is not going to do it. Those questions can be decided AFTER the American country is Restored.

I also do not believe that "truth and reconciliation" is the answer. Sure, forgiveness by individuals, but the criminals need to pay for their crimes against the American people. And let's face it, what use could someone that only knows how to lie, cheat, steal and kill to a restored civil society?!


See you on the battlefield, as I'm not going "camping."

Raging Debate's picture

Kcris - Education is good, but a country is restored at the conceptual level of the pyramid. The wedge "issues" which are pushed down from above are indeed a distraction of concepts such as truth, freedom, justice and love.

At the bottom of the pyramid are myriads of details which a majority are now bogged down into. Consider transforming your guilotine into more pen.

"They gotta pay " just increases casualties, modern revolutions do not succeed, they are manipulated. Besides, what do you do with an employer that embezzles these days? You fire them and yes put them in jail but the latter part never seems to happen to senior political operatives so fire them must suffice.

Consider the collpase of the Soviet Union. 65% of the state Duma politicians remained after. THAT is reality. As there share began to shrink (the core is the last to face pain of no growth) then things change.

Unfortunately, pain is the majority catalyst of evolution and as the majority are feeling it now, they learn how to be to robbed less and centralization shrinks.

The mule of labor wanders off because if there is no opportunity to benefit and may as well take the path of Bhudda so to speak. Sure some war and forced labor keep the center around a tad longer but the outcome is always guaranteed.

One just needs to learn how to operate in an interfonnected world but get out of the way. That may mean literally moving to another state, living simpler near the woods (the calm is nice too getting back to nature) or refocusing on family and simple pleasures with friends.

I do like your warrior spirit. A quote I always loved:

"To all the warriors. The biggest battle one must face is the battle within onself."

Top Gear's picture

<<homos, "illegals" and abortionists>>

I think you forgot Freaky Fundamentalists. LOL!

P.S. Jesus on illegals: "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in." Matthew 25:35

You need to pull your Bible out of your rectum and actually read what's in it.

Raging Debate's picture

Top Gear - Ok lets talk bible. If I am to render Ceasar and give him his due (which less than 20% for me) then I can also welcome aliens from other cultures in reference to your Matthew scripture. However, they must also pay Ceasar his due, not add it to my tax bill for a vote.

"Amoung all things use reason" St. Paul
The context was that churches began arguing over doctrine when "love thy neighbor as thyself" pretty much suffices as a standard for everything.

That doesn't seem to jive with your "law of the jungle" type commentaries though.

While those two standards may seem paradoxical the answer is to strive to add value to all and it tends to manifest in another
concept of creativity and then into detail such as tools from there.

Raging Debate's picture

Cooter - I liked your comments and sentiment. Agree, we're monkeys with tools. Still just men but nearing an evolutionary end back to energy. Hard to fully envision what that will be like.

I like articles like this that recognize general cycles. Decentralization happens as does centralization but the cycles can be measured in decades rather than centuries nowadays.

I did like the the summation of centralization as self-defense. It is pissing against a growing evolutionary tidal wave because growth eventually ceases for all as we are now seeing and certainly since the 1950's no core tech has been developed. Modified sure.

We are soon to turn a corner and if we can avoid world war then I think by the mid 2020's we'll be feeling better and more optomistic. Dark ages are also measured in decades and the last couple we saw just that.

The center never holds but be gentle as doves but wise as serpents as that center flails about before shrinkage. That is what hedging is all about.

CPL's picture

No, too kind.  They should go stay in one of their many underfunded prisons in open population.


Twitcoin is a pyramid scheme that cannot save itself let alone defunct so-called 'capitalism'. This article is terrible and it is a shill piece of crap-O-la IMHO. It is obvious the writer has never picked up a book on information theory, ever.

Zoomorph's picture

This author always writes shitty articles. Not as bad as the Charles guy, though.

Reaper's picture

Hierarchy's flaw is its conceit that is omniscient in a natural system, where the unknown, unforeseen and unstoppable regularly occur. Where are the dinosaurs?

Zoomorph's picture

Where are the Glosselytrodea?

Raging Debate's picture

Reaper - Yep. "I am a Queen and will never be a widower" always meets evolution and the latter wins out every time. As mentioned, one must be wise though to avoid that Queen trying to steal your raft as that tidal wave comes.

kchrisc's picture

For just over 100 years, until 1913, the American people were freer than any people in history have been--decentralized. No people have thrived and prospered as much or as quickly as the American people did in this era.

Between 1917 and 1991 the Soviet Union was the most centralized industrial country in the world. The Sviet people were riven with poverty, misery and death, and the Soviet Union collapsed.

North Korea is the most centralized of any country today. People can only surmise the poverty, misery and death of the North Korean people.

If centralization worked, it would by now be a shining beacon on the hill of human achievements. Instead, the crowning achievement of humanity, freedom, is continuously under attack and besieged by those that wish to re-enslave mankind for their benefit.

Centralization is enslavement. The implementers and owners of centralization are the banksters and their puppets of violence, government. There should not be any debate, as history has spoken, but only rejection and the seizing of freedom from the maws of centralization.


CrazyCooter's picture

As a young man, I never understood the axiom "love can move mountains".

As I got older, I realized that it meant that any person who awoke every day, with a burning desire to do something, could learn and accomplish much in a normal lifespan. This can be cooking, music, engineering, evangelizing, pimping, politicking, or damn near any other livelihood/pastime/hobby/crime/addiction that exists.

There will always exist, as long as man exists, a group of people who want nothing more than to conquer everyone else. They crave power and seek it in ever waking hour of their lives.

Most of the people of the world are simply ignorant that this drive exists at all in anyone. They want gun laws to save people. It will never in their lives occur to them what freedom really is and how it is held onto across generations of family. They just don't understand and never will.

And so goes the cycle, as it always will. We can't pick our place in the story, but we can chose our role in it.



Zoomorph's picture

Most people appear to be competitive. They want more money, more women, better cars and houses, more riches in heaven, etc, than each other. Perhaps because of their moral/cultural indoctrination and general ignorance and stupidity they don't understand it as a desire for power over others and even delude themselves into thinking that power is bad (only for sociopaths, etc), but that's basically what it is. One might go as far as to say that this is the fundamental drive to life - all animals and species in one giant competitive struggle. If humans even managed to rid ourselves of this competitive drive (say by lobotomizing ourselves or something), I expect the other species would eventually devour us.

UselessEater's picture

Therefore sitting in a comfort zone is not sensible, most everyone I know is in a comfort zone assured their "vote" means something 5 minutes after they turn on a tv show. I've watched and helped (sorry) workplace culture replace family culture, today I cringe when talking to friends who work for Bechtel -they cannot see their attitudes are aligned to Bechtel's interests.

25 years ago mining in Australia was quite different, we had a huge number of small privately owned sub-contractors with selfish goals of growth. Today we have mega-contractors with selfish goals of growth who can afford green tape, red tape and tax free dodges. Same thing in retail, etc.

Everywhere I turn protected duopolies/meg corp's... give me the greed of the small man/woman any day - the competitive spirit is at least alive, now we have competitive "careers" for the masters and competitive social welfare for the 'needy' many of whom were created from the hollowing out of the small local real businesses and lack much of everything including spirit but not legal and illegal drugs nor entitlements that reinforce victum thinking that makes a job with Bechtel, Walmart, Coke, Woolworths etc look grand. These are the corps devouring us and they only got there with cronyism backed by military and/or financial and/or institutional might ,so laws could be changed and social attitudes could be changed to grow them up into the top dogs smothering competition and the competative spirit.


Raging Debate's picture

Zoomorph - Mostly true but we're learning to channel it better. Like the World Cup. Love the heated rhetoric in media of who is goin to kick who's ass in soccer. We need more of that and less direct violent confrontation for conquest.

Zoomorph's picture

You want to "channel" it in a way that's most suitable to your fancies or skills. In particular, you want to channel it in a way that you have security without risk. You want to turn life into a little game with clearly defined rules, instead of a war without bounds. But that will never be accomplished without first or simultaneously ruining life. So let's hope that you never get your way. :-)

Raging Debate's picture

Zoomorph - what we all want is all play and no work. But what we want tends to be irrelevant in what has to BE which is a balance between the two.

Zoomorph's picture

the crowning achievement of humanity, freedom

What is freedom? And who decided that it's the crowning achievement of humanity? Why aren't the pyramids, skyscrapers, and space stations our crowning achievement?

Speaking of freedom, how about the freedom to conquer, to have slaves, to be a ruler - is that not also part of freedom?


P.S. - Centralization vs decentralization is a false dichotomy. In every instance it's a combination of the two. In fact, they are merely two different perspectives on the same thing (the body as a network of organs or as a single unit; the oligarchy as a network of powerful people or as a single unit). In the end, all that's changing is the distribution of power.

Otto Zitte's picture

Freedom is control over your own destiny. This includes punishing anyone who interferes with your freedom.

AnAnonymous's picture

That is an excellent 'american' post.

Indeed, 'american' freedom is all about power, it is all about conquering, it is all about submission.
So as a matter of fact, it is no big deal for 'americans' to affirm that people in 'america' were the freer in history even though they were slavers, as it is done by one 'american' above.

Marketing submission as freedom was the great 'american' invention.

'Americanism' is not about freedom, it is all about submission tagged as freedom.

Where it is turning wrong for 'americans' is where the 'american' covenant is shattering: 'americans' thought themselves and their children were destined to be on the right side of 'americanism' forever, to be part of the conquerors. It was their birth right.

But over a short period of time, 'americans' have conquered everyone else. Conquest must be maintained though for 'americanism' to endure.

And it marks 'americans' as the next to be conquered as there is nobody else left to be conquered.

Today, it can only be 'americans' vs 'americans' and 'americans' who feel they are going to fall on the wrong side, want it to be stopped.

Hence their disatisfaction with their government as the government does what it must do: keep the conquest process going.

Raging Debate's picture

AnAnonymous - Your wrong. Here is why. The only good thing about Central Banking is having each reserve currency host that becomes Rome willingly become Carthage, the simulation wastes less capital and lives than the real thing.

Now we'll pretend China conquers us while we do another round of ping-pong after a period of detente and sabre rattling. But the Chinese here buying up properties and opening more good chink food restaurants is cool.

They seem to like round-eye burgers and us buying up there cloned shit so it's all good. And i get to scream moral foul as they assume there new role as global policeman which is part of reserve currency host's job.

Cool way to externalize my problems and the mental masturbation will be funner with the Chinese as they are shiftier in trade. Plus the "me Chinese me play joke" thing will spread around again.

sessinpo's picture

AnAnonymous     'american' freedom is all about power, it is all about conquering, it is all about submission.


It has nothing to do with American. Conquering and submision and war has existed well before America. It is about tyrany and control. And it is not exclusive to humans. We see it in the animal kingdom in territorial disputes.  That is the way of nature. One species or group will expand (which often means conquering) into other areas.

Basic knowledge of science.

And the poblem with the post of Zoomorph 's comment: "Speaking of freedom, how about the freedom to conquer, to have slaves, to be a ruler - is that not also part of freedom?";

is that then Zoomorphis suggesting one has the freedom to enslave Zoomorph. But that infringes on the freedom of Zoomorph. A simple contradiction overlooked and makes the post silly.

Simply put, freedom is the right to live ones life as long as it doesn't hurt others. But even in my simple definition there is a problem because who will define what hurts another? For example: Does a drug user that doesn't steal hurt society as a whole?

There is no perfect answer or system because there are no perfect people and thus any system designed will be flawed. We may gather for good causes but inherently, we are self serving which is positive and negative.


Zoomorph's picture


Basic knowledge of science.

Exactly. :-)

Zoomorphis suggesting one has the freedom to enslave Zoomorph. But that infringes on the freedom of Zoomorph. A simple contradiction overlooked and makes the post silly.

Incorrect. This contradiction is inherent in "freedom", which makes freedom look silly, not me. I was intentionally pointing out this contradiction. :-)

Simply put, freedom is the right to live ones life as long as it doesn't hurt others.

Impossible. You cannot live for 3 seconds without hurting others. The insects you step on, the animals you displace when you build your house, the things you eat, the other humans you're in competition with, etc.

There is no perfect answer or system because there are no perfect people and thus any system designed will be flawed.

Why define reality as "flawed" instead of "perfect"? This is merely a bias in connotation; after all, the words are meaningless in this context (metaphysical).

I would prefer to call the existing world "perfect". We cannot wrap it up neatly within our anthropomorphic minds, systems and logic. We cannot find the "solution" that stops life from changing and grants us security (at the expense of risk). And that's the great thing about life: that we aren't fully in control of it so it will never become boring and routine. It will always remain a great game and challenge that the majority disapprove of (they wish they didn't have to play), perhaps until that majority eventually destroys humanity for the sake of ceasing their anguish. And then the game will presumably carry on with different species that aren't as weak and foolish as we are, perhaps a species that appreciates the greatest beauty of life as perfection, rather than considering it a flaw, one that values risk over security. :-)

TheFourthStooge-ing's picture

Greatest gift to humanity, 'americanism', must also be crowningest accomplishment of humanity. After all, it gave enthronement to the King class aka We The People aka the 'american' middle class.

Until 1776, July, 4th, freedom was not a mattering thing to humanity. It had no value. It took 'americans' to value freedom and refine it from ore bearing rock into the golden idol of Lady Liberty.

'Americans' have this knack of knowing what is best for humanity. Before 'americanism', people did not know that freedom to conquer and oppress is a human virtue. Not one knew that freedom to extort the weak and farm the poor is a unalienable human right and benefitial to humanity. The 'american' gift on humanity was to tell this enlightenment of truth.

No surprise that every year the entire world celebrates that blessed day of 1776, July, 4th, the day that 'americans' gave freedom to all the human race. Because 'americans' sacrificed so much to bring freedom to humanity, humanity has gladly sacrificed itself since 238 years to give eternal gratitude to 'americans'.

o2sd's picture

Oh dear, one of these.

Freedom and slavery are a false dichotomy. Centralisation has it's benefits. It has economies of scale, for one, something you take for granted when you buy your cheap clothes and food. What do you think a factory is? Or a 200 acre corn field planted, fed and picked with combine harvesters? Anarchy has none of those benefits.

Centralisation also satisfies our tribal nature, our desire to have friends, comrades and a community that will stand beside us against a common enemy. 

Freedom and prosperity are not the same thing. Prosperity gives you options. Options are freedom are similar, but they are not the same thing. Options are still constrained by the communities limits on behaviour, but when you have enough options to satisfy your desire for variety and change, you don't need total freedom.


Spastica Rex's picture

I vote for increasing entropy, the flavor is kind of beside the point. Greater centralization will mean greater chaos at the periphery. Greater decentralization will merely spread the chaos around.

But make no mistake, I'm all for equality of chaos.

besnook's picture

more utopian nonsense. the internet is a danger to the status quo. they have already demonstrated that the systems can be shut down at will. this means the "necessity" of the internet will be used against you as the easiest path to control it and you(facebook still astounds me). the status quo wins, even after the revolution, every time.

commander gruze?'s picture

Do you realize that to broadcast bitcoin transaction you don't need an internet? It's a very short message, around 350 bytes, you can write on a napkin, or whistle, or even tap in Morse code. I have lived in oppressive regime and I can assure you, human creativity is simply stunning when it comes to executing free trade in stealth mode. There's a lot of unused gear sitting around that can be put to work again when the time comes, much like the moment when Egypt shut down their internet pipelines: dust covered modems and PLIP lines got popular again. Same for HAM radio and DVB receivers. No way to stop this. Try to kill bitcoin and it will develop ways to be even harder to impair. It's the basic characteristic of any sufficiently decentralized network. Actually, no. Decentralized networks are not good enough, distributed networks are.

Raging Debate's picture

Besnook - A portion of the status quo remains then advancement. Ot isn't linear process but circular.

Hence, as an innovator why I build inclusive tools. Inclusion is eventually adopted by all as value. It takes time, acquiring knowledge and patience.

Exclusionary tools gets you the hammer from status quo that don't want there own growth to stagnate but eventually does with what they put out - exclusionary tools. But as that time is here if your ready with inclusionary tools you get to profit mightily. Sure the capital may want the credit but who cares? I'll take the mountain retreat with my own lake thank you very much.

Radical Marijuana's picture

Riddle me this, Batman:

How can decentralized networks operate the death controls?

Raging Debate's picture

RM - Ok Robin I'll be Batman and answer you. They can't. Decentralization is a process not a solution. Innovations arise from them as necessity is the mother of all invention.

It is a cycle with minor deviation (a pattern mirrored in quantum mechanics). As it recentralizes your missing the slight deviation RM and perhaps why I see you as a cynic.

The deviation are that the death controls have been softening over the centuries in percentage of death toll rate even as the weapons become "trillions of times more powerful" as you say. On that note you repetitiously stating that is bugging me (still love ya man).

Because you are not mentioning scale. Yes, a 20 Megaton plutonium bomb is trillions of times more powerful than a stick. But is that trillions times more powerful than an atomic weapon?

As for death controls how about a global attempt to channel our competitive nature and end death? That benefits everybody and ends a need for a group to manage the levers does it not? 'Operation Eternity' has nice political ring to it and then if that actually happens I'll happily pay more for healthcare toward that endeavor. Raise your hands here. Who wants to get old, shit your pants and die? So that is one goal of ending death that I am pretty sure we all can agree to.

I mean really, what difference does it make if you conquer the whole world when you die at 90? Conquer death and there is no reason to hurry to conquer another or be a basic nut gatherer as hedge to old age because you have indefinate amount of time to gather resources. Where it appears we're headed in evolution is back to energy no need for nuts at that point.