Tag Archives: command and control

Which One Wins: Central Planning or Adaptive Networks? by Charles Hugh Smith

Charles Hugh Smith asks (and answers) one of SLL’s favorite questions. From Smith at oftwominds.com:

Those who are betting on Central Planning do not understand the essential role of adaptation.

The global economy is in the midst of a grand experiment pitting centralization (Central Planning) against the evolutionary model of adaptive, self-organizing networks. Centralization is the dominant dynamic of the Status Quo everywhere: the economies of China, Japan, Europe and the U.S. are all dominated by Central Planning: central banks, central state agencies, and Deep State / private sector nodes of wealth and power that pull the systemic strings.

Central Planning–the concentration of power and wealth in the hands of the few–is presented as the “solution”: in China, the “solution” is a Total Information Awareness Social Credit Score system of centralized control of the populace. In the U.S., Medicare for all— the PR term for centralized cartel-state profiteering on a vast scale–is just one of many Central Planning “solutions” being touted by the “Progressives.”

Geopolitically, American “Progressives” and neoconservatives alike are enamored of the centralized Imperial Project as the go-to “solution” to any and every challenge.

As I explain in my latest book (now out as an audiobook), Pathfinding our Destiny: Preventing the Final Fall of Our Democratic Republic, there’s one fatal flaw in Central Planning “solutions”: they run completely counter to the principles of evolution which guide all systems, natural and human.

That which is rigid and inflexible cannot adapt to rapid change, and thus it fails to adapt and vanishes from the Earth. That is the essence of evolutionary dynamics.

Central Planning is a monoculture that incentivizes self-serving corruption and propaganda. Central Planning is by its very nature opaque, as transparency is its mortal enemy. Propaganda is necessary to mask the true nature of the self-serving elites who benefit from central Planning, as their primary task is to convince the commoner sheep being sheared that being sheared is the best of all possible worlds–and that dissenting sheep will be led off to slaughter.

The essence of Central Planning is coercion: skepticism and dissent are dangerous and thus must be suppressed; everyone must consent to the control of elites and agree with the rigid ideology that provides cover for Central Planning’s blatant inequality, as the few insiders reap the benefits at the expense of the many–the classic definition of systemic corruption.

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Overload, by Robert Gore

When one too many applications are plugged into an overloaded power source, it’s not just that application that doesn’t work, the entire system crashes. Engineers design redundancies and back-up power sources to address such contingencies. The world’s governments find it impossible to control the expanding multitude of variables they assign themselves. There are no redundancies or back-ups, so overload and system crash loom. That outcome does not stem from a glitch in an otherwise serviceable system, but rather from an inherently unstable conceptual foundation and fatal design flaws.

Start with the notion that some individuals should exercise control over other individuals. It’s the basis of the command and control philosophy, accepted by most people for centuries. To illustrate the human engineering problems that make such arrangements problematic, consider the extreme case where one individual voluntarily surrenders to another person’s control. The controller must now process two sets of external informational inputs, ascertain two sets of internal thought processes and desires, guide two sets of actions, and assess two sets of feedback and consequences. The human being has not been designed who can do so. Most of us find dealing with our own variables challenging enough. The one case where many of us exercise a measure of control (not generally voluntarily surrendered to) over other individuals, as parents, is exhausting and error prone, notwithstanding its rewards.

Yet, in the nocturnal emissions that constitute command and control fantasies, a tiny percentage, an elite, will direct the lives of people who will outnumber them 100, 1000, or a million-to-one. Of course, the controllers will not be interested in their slaves’ “internal thought processes and desires,” all they will want is submission, but does that make their job any easier? That submission will be exacted by force and fraud, and force and fraud require resources and energy. It takes something like $50,000 per prisoner per year to house, feed, offer medical care, and subjugate convicts in the United States, offset only by whatever minimal economic value can be extracted from their labor (slave labor is never very productive). Keep in mind, convicts have already been subjugated; the costs go way up when resistance must first be overcome.

Sparks and smoke that portend system crash fill the air. If war is the health of states, many are suffering from long, wasting illnesses. Armed conflict since the Korean War has been expensive, lengthy, and inconclusive. (Officially, even the Korean War has not ended; there is no peace treaty between South and North Korea.) There is a dramatic cost and incentive disparity between offensive and defensive war, in favor of the defensive, and the longer a conflict drags on, the greater that disparity becomes.

So invasions and subsequent guerrilla conflicts go on and on, never seeing the clean resolutions of World Wars I and II: the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, the US and allies in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen. Although Vladimir Putin has been applauded in some quarters for a “decisive and game-changing masterstroke” in Syria, it’s a good bet that Russia and its allies will still be there, fighting, five or ten years from now, and the masterstroke will be long forgotten.

War, and the inevitable domestic repression it brings, are the force aspects of command and control. The fraud aspect is the skyscraper of cards global financial system. Every government on the planet currently involved in wars (and their concomitant domestic repression) is spending money it does not have, going deeper in debt. Bankruptcy, rather than decisive victories or peace treaties, will end many of today’s conflicts and governments.

Under current monetary and political arrangements, governments issue fiat currencies and fiat debt, and buy off their people with promises of benefits. The value of pieces of paper, computer entries, and political promises goes to the marginal cost of production, zero. Debt has become a net negative for the global economy; its marginal burden outweighs its marginal benefit. Reducing debt is inherently contractive and deflationary. How can contracting economies and falling asset prices support the promises made implicitly against production and assets? They can’t, as numerous canaries in the coal mine are now chirping (see the Debtonomics Archive).

If there were a financial index for chaos, one would want to be long that index. It is not difficult to trace some manifestations of chaos to a source. For example, Europe’s refugee crisis stems from foreign intervention in the Middle East. It requires more perspicacity to trace the enveloping chaos to its ultimate source: the systemic overload and breakdown of command and control, or force and fraud. It requires an uncommon appreciation of paradox to realize that the only durable order is not that which is centralized and imposed, but that which is decentralized, dynamic, organic, and chosen.

Which is the order of markets. Consider trading in financial instruments and commodities. It is global and decentralized, spanning continents, languages, and millions of participants making billions of trades worth trillions of dollars a day. Prices change in milliseconds, and a huge industry reports and records prices and trades, analyzes market trends, delivers relevant news, and facilitates transactions. The interrelated factors and relationships are constantly changing, but nobody would argue that there is not an underlying order to it. If there were not, who would commit billions of dollars to a trade with just a phone call or a keystroke? This is an organic, ever evolving order, driven by the needs of its participants and adopted only to the extent it fills those needs.

If there is a “nature’s law,” markets are more consonant with it than governments. Who dictates evolution or ecosystems? Nobody, they just happen. The dynamic, organic adaptation that characterizes natural systems arise from their constituent elements and their interrelationships. Human intervention, even when seemingly benign or well-intended, often produces unintended and negative consequences. One of the great failures of the environmental movement, among many, is the refusal to embrace the organic adaptation for humans that they rightly regard as essential for microorganisms, plants, and animals other than humans. Environmental policy journals are bereft of market-based solutions to the problems they decry; command and control reign supreme.

The hallmark of chaos is unpredictability, and there is no predicting where the current overload and impending collapse of command and control will lead. There is a nontrivial possibility that one or more command and controllers panic, press buttons, and extinguish the human race. That outcome may satisfy both the generals: “In order to save humanity we had to destroy it,” and the environmentalists: “Nature unsullied by man!” but will leave the rest of us somewhat dissatisfied.

One thing is clear: if we survive the collapse, we cannot give command and control a mulligan. Repeating that which has repeatedly failed is not an option. If order is to be the alternative to chaos, it must be a chosen, not an imposed, order of individual autonomy, protected rights, liberty, innovation, evolution, adaptation, production, property, voluntary exchange, contracts, and markets. Nothing says that humanity even knows how to arrive at such an order. But we have to get it right next time, because the stakes will be so high: the survival of our species.







A Brief History of Government by Robert Gore

By Robert Gore

The history of government is a history of violence. The first caveman “leader” was the most skilled practitioner of violence; he provided security for his tribe and subjugated other tribes. His power meant that he was the dispenser of justice, resolving disputes and punishing those who broke the tribe’s taboos. His services were never free; tribute was exacted from those he led. Usually a theology was created that ascribed mystical powers to the leader—good PR.

As the millennia unrolled, tribes became city-states, nations, and empires; leaders became pharaohs, kings, czars, and emperors, and government remained a protection racket and dispenser of justice, often retaining the religious gloss. The only check on governments’ power was when they encountered overwhelming violence—invasion or revolution or some combination of the two. Every government failed eventually; the unfettered ability to employ violence against other people destroys human psyches, judgment, and morals. Governments compiled an unmatched record of war, genocide, and destruction of lives, property, commerce, and peaceful cooperation among people.

However, they are a necessary evil. For centuries political philosophers have grappled with how to preserve the necessary while eliminating the evil. The Founding Fathers tried to limit our government: designing a republic; delineating an agency role for government, to which the people delegated enumerated powers; separating those powers among three branches; creating checks and balances. Constitutional amendment, judicial interpretation, and executive, legislative, and bureaucratic accretions of power have destroyed that design. With only a few shrinking exceptions, our government can use its coercive power for any purpose it sees fit. That puts it in the illustrious company of every other government in the world, and all the failed governments since the cavemen. Continue reading