Sledgehammer's Cycles

Sledgehammer's Cycles
Sledgehammer's Performance and Custom Cycles

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Philosophy and the State

Simon Grey has a very interesting post in which he muses on why both Anarchism and Collectivism fail:
Both, ideologies fail because the logic and assumptions that are applied to the state are not applied to the operants of the state: individuals. Basically, anarchists have to assume that humans are intrinsically good while the government is systemically evil, while collectivists have to assume that humans are inherently bad while the state is systemically remedial. To put it in programming jargon, anarchists assume good in, garbage out; collectivists assume garbage in, good out. The state, though, is merely a mechanism and is neither intrinsically corrupting nor intrinsically remedial. If the effects of the state are remedial or corrupting, it is only because the people within (and in administration of) the state are remedial or corrupting.
It seems that there's a third possibility - that it's possible to explain the State's frequent sub-optimum actions without looking at the people involved as evil: The Iron Law of Bureaucracy:
Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people":
 First, there will be those who are devoted to the goals of the organization. Examples are dedicated classroom teachers in an educational bureaucracy, many of the engineers and launch technicians and scientists at NASA, even some agricultural scientists and advisors in the former Soviet Union collective farming administration.

Secondly, there will be those dedicated to the organization itself. Examples are many of the administrators in the education system, many professors of education, many teachers union officials, much of the NASA headquarters staff, etc.
The Iron Law states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization. It will write the rules, and control promotions within the organization.
The second group isn't necessarily evil, in fact most aren't evil at all.  They are entirely satisfied to accept outcomes that increase the power of the organization at the expense of the citizenry.  This is probably a more useful view (in a diagnostic/predictive sense) that good/evil.


bluesun said...

As a bit of a Calvinist, the theological term for this is Total Depravity.

Dave H said...

The second group isn't necessarily evil, in fact most aren't evil at all.

I've been trying to make this point for a long time. Most people don't do things to be evil; the worst that can be said about them is they're either selfish or misguided. Like they teach aspiring writers, "Everybody is the hero of his own story, even the bad guy."

This fits perfectly with the Iron Law. Bureaucrats will defend and grow the organization either to protect their own jobs (selfish) or in the belief that the organization serves a useful purpose (misguided).

Old NFO said...

+1 on Dave's comment... and the more entrenched group2 gets, the more control they try to exert!

Dave H said...

Here's a thought: In the business world, if a company grows it's considered successful. When you apply that standard to government bureaucracy, you get our current state of affairs.

We need to create some incentive for bureaucrats to believe that it's to their advantage to solve the problem and get the heck out.

Angus McThag said...

" They are entirely satisfied to accept outcomes that increase the power of the organization at the expense of the citizenry."

Betraying the public trust is a form of evil.

Dante even reserved a ring of hell, the innermost, just for them.