TL;DR: Contrary to their stated goals, centralized solutions and globalism are poised to increase disaster risk, undermine knowledge production, impede economic growth, and hinder scientific progress. They should also be rejected on ethical grounds.
The drawbacks of extensive centralization (globalism) have been discussed previously, including the fact that it empowers the wrong individuals. However, as proponents of global centralization continue to advance their positions - see e.g. the discussions around the WHO’s new pandemic treaty, it is high time to remind ourselves of more of the downsides associated with centralization.
In this text, I present three additional reasons why the idea of large-scale and centralized solutions should be rejected. They increase the risk of disasters, undermine knowledge production and economic development, and should also be dismissed on ethical grounds.
Risk of Catastrophes
A society constitutes a complex system. Complex systems exhibit properties that emerge due to dependencies and interactions among their parts. This makes it impossible to understand the whole by merely examining its parts. Butterfly effects are a consequence - a small event can have far-reaching and unpredictable consequences. Such a system can be likened to a tangle of blackberry bushes. Everything is intertwined with everything else, and the only certainty is that you will encounter unintended consequences when you try to reach the berries. These consequences are often painful. Given that today’s experts treat society as if it were a complicated system rather than a complex one, it’s not surprising that they are often taken aback by unintended consequences, such as the recent years’ inflation.
In complex systems, solutions cannot be calculated; instead, one must experiment on a small scale. Even if small-scale experiments yield positive results, it may not be prudent to expand them. It can also be argued that centralization is a necessary condition for catastrophes to occur.
The consequences of experimenting on a large scale are well illustrated by China’s Great Leap Forward, where an estimated 30 million people perished due to famine. Fewer would have died if China had engaged in small-scale experiments first. However, this is what centrally planned and large-scale “solutions” prevent. Rather than consolidating more power into organizations like the UN, EU, or WHO, it is wiser not to put all our eggs in one basket.
Undermined Knowledge Production and Economic Stagnation
Large-scale centralization “one size fits all”-solutions, has significant implications for knowledge production worldwide and in the business sector. After all, insights into the nature of things don’t originate in spreadsheets; they emerge when hypotheses are tested in reality, and one observes the results. The more hypotheses that can be tested, the more knowledge will be generated. Centralized large-scale systems test fewer hypotheses and, as a result, will experience stagnation in terms of knowledge compared to decentralized systems. Since economic development relies on human ingenuity, centralization will lead to lower sustainable growth, possibly outright stagnation. Biologists recognize that small groups in isolation undergo rapid evolution, and the same concept applies in this context.
Furthermore, when all individuals or groups are subjected to identical rules, the existence of control groups is eliminated. Without control groups, it becomes impossible to make scientifically valid claims about efficiency or causality. Consequently, centralization undermines the foundation of science.
“Socialism primarily means keeping track of everything,” said Lenin, and he is likely correct. However, it’s unfortunate for him and other central planning bureaucrats that it’s just not feasible. The information required for successful planning is dispersed and cannot be collected by either a planning committee or an AI. Believing otherwise indicates a lack of understanding of the local knowledge problem.
In the business world, decentralization is widely recognized as a potent force. Large corporations resist change and stagnate, making them less competitive than smaller counterparts when it comes to exploring new niches and markets through small-scale experiments. This observation applies to governmental, supranational, and global organizations as well.
The principle of subsidiarity is an ethical guideline originating from the Catholic Church, which suggests that decisions should be made at the most appropriate and lowest level of authority. The Church’s interest lies not in disaster risk, knowledge production, or economics but in the souls of individuals.
Rerum Novarum, issued in 1891 by Pope Leo XIII, addressed the social conflicts arising in the wake of the industrial revolution. The Catholic Church took a stand in favor of subsidiarity based on reasons related to community, dignity, justice, and self-governance. 40 years later, Pope Pius XI issued Quadragesimo Anno, in which he described the significant dangers to human freedom and dignity arising from unbridled capitalism, socialism, and communism. Pius spoke out against a few individuals controlling financial forces and advocated for the principle of subsidiarity. It would be intriguing to know what these popes would say about the ongoing globalist Fourth Industrial Revolution.
For the countries that formed the Coal and Steel Union, which later evolved into the EU, subsidiarity was of utmost importance. Today, this principle seems to have vanished. Instead of respecting the uniqueness of nations, higher-level entities instead engage in bullying.
Let’s Aim for a New Renaissance Instead
Rather than centralization, globalization, and large-scale control, we should strive for the exact opposite.
Complexity research indicates that when a system finds the “critical point” between order and chaos, it exhibits remarkable qualities of adaptability, innovation, and disturbance management. Isn’t it precisely such a balance we should seek as a society, as a world? A return to more decentralized systems would reduce disaster risks, promote stronger economic development, and, according to the Church, create a more decent and ethical society.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” Matthew 23:2-18.
As for heaven, my knowledge is limited, but I am starting to suspect that it’s the proponents of centralization and their many foot soldiers who are blocking our path towards a new renaissance.
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