2011-12-31 Response to A Proposal on Governance

Image Ms Marsh wrote this proposal on the 24th of December, regarding her thoughts on the organisation of political and economic systems "post-NDAA", or National Defence Authorisation Act. As a brief aside, the NDAA is the US military's appropriations bill, but with benefits. It allows for indefinite military detainment, and the converting of the United States proper into a 'front' in the 'Global War on Terror'.

In my opinion, the core of Ms Marsh's proposal is a reaction to the problem of centralisation. This problem takes many forms, but for my purposes I believe Ms Marsh was focused on just two facets: Economy and political centralisation. An example of each facet, respectively, is global corporate Capitalism and the nation-state.

Reading Ms Marsh propose with this in mind, I think, lends greater weight to her critique and solutions. The adage of 'live local, think global' comes to mind. In essence, the predominance of economic and political organisation will occur within only about two or three degrees of separation, in context of affinity groups of such a size which are capable of providing self-oversight.

Here we run head-long into the nation-state and its wealth of problems. A small piece of semantics, however, as this is a term which needs to be brought back to its true definition: A State composed of one Nation, as in a group of people who share a common identity. Hence the concept of 'national identity', as part of the defining characteristic of a nation-state.

The 'nation' and 'national identity are both quite artificial, and are constructed around notions or ideas which likewise are typically constructed. All is done in the interests of the proverbial 'nation-building', which Otto von Bismarck exemplified when he and the Prussian government created the notion of a Germanic people, and the nation-state of Germany. Out of a plethora of distinct local cultures - consider how complex the 'Germanic' region was until its unitisation - both a single people and a single State was forcibly amalgamated.

This centralisation of local cultures into a 'national' culture is part and parcel of the centralisation of political power which occurs in the creation of the nation-state. It is the same set of ethics which justify nation-states that were bandied about as justification for invading Iraq: By top-down forcible reshaping (or re-engineering) of people, better results can be created. More honestly, "might makes right, and since we're right more people should be like us". This holds true from Bismarck to Barack Obama.

And so we simply toss out the nation-state as the latest in a long line of failed Liberal and Neo-Liberal human experimentation programmes. Indeed, an entirely separate and convincing argument can be made that war crimes like ethnocide and genocide are intrinsic to the creation and maintenance of the nation-state model. Genocide, for example, is a species of centralisation, and one can easily see how this is so in the behaviour of Israel toward Palestine. Genocide is an exercise of raw power by the central authority of a nation-state, in pursuit of a purer 'national' identity.

In abandoning the nation-state, a huge amount of centralising forces are likewise abandoned. No 'national' identity with which to oppress those who do not conform; no centralised government consolidating political power in itself to ensure enforcement of said 'national' identity; no 'national' economy to incentivise conformity and punish independence. The list goes on.

In essence, abandon the extant global economic and political settlement.

A problem of sorts here arises: With the abandonment of the present settlement, which does facilitate a modicum of what Ms Marsh seeks, how will restructured settlements of the future better realise 'living local and thinking global'?

To answer this question, I propose to pick apart the phrase in order to examine its implications. 'Think global' obviously suggests a highly and smoothly interconnected world, where an individual can gather information and interact with people on a global scale. At present, the Internet is the premier tool for facilitating this level of interconnection, and this why free, quality access thereto must be imminently available to all who desire such access. In this way access to the Internet can and should be legally considered an inviolable global human right. This is a position which cannot be compromised; Access to the Internet is a non-negociable point of law in these future settlements.

It must be said, however, that the concept of 'law' has been giving a rather bad presentation of late, what with all the bank fraud and genocide running rampant whilst peaceable protesters are beaten and arrested. Even so, I have to disagree with people who call

for the abandonment of 'law' and governance: The concept of law as a body of rules and standards is not going away. Law is a sine qua non of complex sedentary societies. Without law, complex systems like the Internet simply cannot and will not exist.

By extension out of the necessity of law is also the necessity of the State, as the institution which contains the body of law, precedence, and traditions. There is no written history which predates the State. Indeed, writing was seemingly developed for two major purposes: Commerce and law.

Concomitant with law and the State is the necessity of maintaining them, which gives rise to the defence of the common peace: Some sort of 'officers of the peace' for internal concerns, and some sort of militia for external concerns. Complexity, obviously, comes with complexity; Parts of a complex system cannot be chopped out when found inconvenient, as said system cannot exist without its components.

To summarise this, one cannot have the Internet without the institutions which facilitate, nourish, and defend its existence. These institutions, however, can and must be deeply restructured from what we know today: Insanely centralised and centralising institutions which seek to accumulate evermore power in fewer and fewer hands. An Internet-based society cannot coexist with a centralising economic and political settlement. One must and will give way to the other, and I fully believe the Internet-based society has the better prospects for the future.

The Internet is a system which favours broad distribution by its very nature. The more it is distributed, the stronger, faster, and more resilient and complex it becomes. It should only seem natural that any future settlements would reflect this structure to the utmost.

Hence we come to 'living local'. A rhetorical question: What is - and has been - the most basic unit of political and economic organisation? The answer is threefold, but simple: Villages, towns, and cities. In other words, those urban fields which human beings innately create, regardless of culture, and which see elaboration in geometric proportion to the number of people who call that same urban field 'home'. There is one thing, and one thing only, which predates the rise of the written word, and even agriculture, and that is the urban field.

Put bluntly, settlements forged by Internet-based societies will by their very nature favour strongest the urban field. But I needn't resort simply to appeals to history in order to make that case. The very nature of the Internet, and the information it distributes, buttresses my point. Allow me to elaborate further:

Information, quite simply, is power. Its concentration (ie centralisation) represents the concentration of power, axiomatically. One of the primary ways a city (eg Washington, D.C.) or country (eg the USA) can consolidate power is by consolidating information. This, as an aside, is a primary, though unspoken, reason why WikiLeak's Cablegate release was met by such an aggressive response from the US and others. Information (power) was being de-concentrated and transmitted into a nascent, global, information-distributing settlement - the Internet. As incompetent as the United States Government is, it can on at least some level recognise the proverbial 'existential threat' which the Internet represents to its very structure.

To expand upon this, the Internet represents a vast levelling of the information playing field; Information, and therefore power. Within the dynamics of an Internet society-forged settlement, any city - any individual - can be informationally self-sufficient.

Let us pause to consider what this means.

Why have the Bureau of Labour and Statistics (or Statistics Canada, et cetera) take months to aggregate economic data of highly dubious utility, when a city could crunch its own numbers every hour on the hour and then share that information globally? Why have the Federal Reserve System or the Bank of Canada basing monetary policy on aggregated economic data (also of dubious utility) when each city could have its own currency which competes for value in a globally-connected exchange? Why have fiscal policy set by ivory-tower Federal Governments - or highly remote State/Provincial Governments - when each city could shape its fiscal policy based upon the interactions between its own economic information and global factors?

I am obviously passionate about this topic, so I will cut myself off at this point and leave further elaborations to you, dear Reader. I also invite you to consider how valuable this information would be to the individual in the context of their small businesses or where they might seek to invent in a place to call home.

To reiterate, the Internet is a dynamic, growing, evolving, and global creature all its own. The only way it strengthens is by increasing its distribution across the entire planet. In this way it both becomes more resilient, and flies directly in the face of the extant political and economic settlement.

It is a historical truism that superior forms of transmitting information always win against opposition to their spread and adoption. Those societies or communities which embrace the superior form are deeply restructured by that embrace, but in the end they are the better for it. The losers are those who resist and seek to throttle - or even prevent - the spread of some new form of information conveyance. And in the end, these oppositions are themselves restructured, albeit against their will.

The global restructuring is irresistible, unstoppable, and ongoing; It will restructure the entire world, permanently. In this way, there is no choice in whether or not to 'permit' the changes which Ms Marsh described, and which I hope to have elaborated in my own way, as that would entail the effective intercession of gatekeepers or choke-points. The global revolution will not be televised, but it will be tweeted, blogged, and livestreamed.

A glass raised to the health and prosperity of you and yours in the coming year. Keep calm and carry on.