Quora – Is elite rule inevitable from societies? Why does decision making rest in the hands of a few people?

Is elite rule inevitable from societies? Why does decision making rest in the hands of a few people?

[ 31/7/20 ]

What is meant by the question?

At what level are you asking?

We all make decisions in our lives.
Where will we live?
What will we do?
Who will we talk to?
What will we focus our attention on?

In every decision, we have some level of choice, and some levels of influence that are external, some genetic with influence from the deep time of our ancestral past, some cultural from the last few thousand years, some from our contacts, some from cosmology, some from our ideas, some from the implicit assumptions of the language constructs we use, some from logic and mathematics and systems etc …..

What do we mean by the rule of societies?

Do you always obey the rules of your society in every context?

If you think the answer to that is yes, then I ask you to look more closely at your actions, and at the laws that actually exist (very few people have read all the statutes that are current in their societies, and looked at all the judicial decisions that establish the precedents of interpretation that are currently dominant).

There is always uncertainty in what the law actually means in any particular context, and all judicial decisions have a declarative aspect to them that contains some degree of choice or creativity.

All complex societies demand a division of tasks. It is very inefficient to have everyone be a generalist, and to have everyone switching tasks constantly. A degree of generality is required by all, and it is always more efficient to have far more specialists than generalists in any population (though both are required).

It is always most efficient to devolve the decision making to the level that is most appropriate.

It is only in times of extreme stress that it makes sense to have a level of single command and control.

In most contexts, most of the time, it is most efficient to have all people having control of the tasks they are doing, because they are the ones with the best information about the specifics of that role and that context.

When it comes to evolving and emerging technologies and ways of organising that enable new modes of coordination that are different from the traditional methods, then there can be considerable uncertainty and uneasiness for those who have traditionally relied upon methods that worked for centuries that are now failing in ways that there is no historical precedent for.

So to the degree that one needs specialist knowledge even to be able to distinguish and conceive of the levels of systems and influence present, then there is a level of eliteness that is simply a matter of the levels of specialisation and interest necessary to be able to “see” the issues and use the tools present.

And that does not mean that such elites have any sort of universal knowledge. A good plumber will always know more about what is actually the most appropriate set of tools and technologies to use to solve any specific plumbing issue than any set of legislators or bureaucrats or rules.

So the idea that laws are always useful or appropriate is a nonsense.

And every level of structure requires some level and degree of boundary to enable that structure in reality.

And there is a need at every level of system for sets of constraints that limit cheating on the cooperative that is human society; and there is always the danger of cheats invading such systems and using them to exploit others. Such dangers are eternal, and vigilance is eternally required, of all of us, all levels.

So there can be real and efficient competency hierarchies that do genuinely benefit all, and all such things are vulnerable to takeover and transition to exploitative dominance hierarchies.

There can be real demand for central control when there is genuine danger that must be averted, and all such systems are vulnerable to exploitation to the use of artificially generated danger to produce some benefit for some minority (exploitation and cheating at some level).

So we need central control to be present, for when it is actually needed, and we need to be very conscious and alert to the many levels of danger and the many ways in which it can be subverted and become a threat.

There is a very real sense in which we all necessarily have the responsibility to make such assessments to the best of our limited and fallible abilities.

The ancient adage must be eternally true for each and every one of us, at whatever level we happen to be – “The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.”

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) - see www.tedhowardnz.com/money
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