Malice or Stupidity?
In a conversation with my wife this weekend, I was complaining about some new acts of regulation that emerged from the sausage factory of government. I framed these as the unintended consequences of stupid politicians, and in this case, she took the opposing side of that age-old debate and suggested that they were the intentional consequences of malicious politicians.
I was suddenly reminded of a passage from Murray Rothbard's "Conceived in Liberty" (Volume 3, p. 272):
Suddenly America erupted again, and now the British saw that the colonial problems had never been really quieted. They also began to see something more: that generally only the "extreme" poles are logical or viable, and that in-between states are logically self-contradictory and unstable mixtures that impel persistently toward one pole or the other. And so the British began to realize that continued drift and repeated near conflicts with Americans were unworkable, and that Great Britain must finally choose—either to pursue appeasement and go back to the salutary neglect and colonial quasi-independence of the pre—Seven Years' War era, or to take the hard line and crush the colonists and impose absolute British rule. The choice was appeasement and peaceful co-existence on the one hand, or maximum force for total victory on the other. In keeping with its nature, of course, the Tory imperialist ruling clique opted unhesitatingly for coercion and the mailed fist.
It made me consider the following idea. There are two stable social systems--central authoritarian control, and distributed individual action. A mix of the two is inherently unstable. When a solution is sought for a problem, the system incrementally moves in one of the two directions--either towards central control or distributed individualism. Someone who believes in authoritarian control, when faced with an unstable situation, will suggest to impose greater control, and incrementally move a step closer toward totalitarian government. Someone who believes in distributed action will act individually, and reinforce the distributed system. As the system reaches one of the two equilibria points, it is more difficult to move toward the opposing point.
Social systems are difficult to isolate. Previously, there may have been many independent societies separated geographically, but they are becoming ever more interlinked. As they come into contact with one another, either similar systems coalesce, or opposing systems display turbulence until they resolve.
Personally, I think the jury is in. The Internet shifted power toward individual control. The central planners are trying to shore up their system, and reaching totalitarian conclusions that may sound workable within the DC Beltway, but would take a near infinite amount of resources to implement. As Kevin Carson suggests in this C4SS paper (albeit discussing a more specific social structure--the Alternative Economy), we have passed a singularity.