So… President Trump?
Well, if Trump thinks he’s going to micro-manage America to greatness, he’s in WAY over his head.
Because, truth is, a society of more than 300 million individuals is far too complex for a president and his cohort to lead. (A group of 300 individuals is too complex for one person, let alone 300 million!) And if Trump were smart, and if he wants to leave a TRUE legacy, he’d not only loosen up all of the unnecessary regulations crippling the economy (as he has promised to do), he’d also decentralize America in every way possible.
How does he do that, you ask? Simple. The most effective way would be for him to, in essence, fire himself immediately and let go of the reins.
Sound crazy? Well, not so fast.
Bleeding edge science is now confirming what the brilliant economists Mises and Hayek said many decades ago: Central planning in complex systems is not only impossible, it’s inevitably destructive.
According to an analysis by mathematicians at the New England Complex Systems Institute (NECSI), society has become far too complex for representative democracy to work. And it’s been that way for a while.
In fact, according to complexity theory, the United States would probably be better off without a president.
So, the best thing Trump could do, if what the NECSI data scientists are saying is true, is fire himself and take it easy for the next four years.
“There’s a natural process of increasing complexity in the world,” NECSI’s director Yaneer Bar-Yam told Vice magazine’s Jason Koebler. “And we can recognize that at some point, that increase in complexity is going to run into the complexity of the individual. And at that point, hierarchical organizations will fail.
“We were raised to believe that democracy, and even the democracy that we have, is a system that has somehow inherent good to it,” he went on.
But democracy as we know it — as a system of top-down control — is becoming less and less effective and more and more harmful to the individual: “Hierarchical organizations are failing in the response to decision-making challenges. And this is true whether we’re talking about dictatorships, or communism that had very centralized control processes, and for representative democracies today. Representative democracies still focus power in one or few individuals. And that concentration of control and decision-making makes those systems ineffective.”
It used to be that humans lived simple, local lives and, thus, were easily controlled. Today, though, that’s far from the case. Each individual has an infinitely complex life. Each block in each city consists of billions of complex interactions happening every single minute.
Something as mundane as a trip to the grocery store, for example, is only possible due to a synergy of mind-shatteringly complex global interactions, created by tens of thousands of individuals with lives just as unique and infinitely complex as your own.
Our systems of governance need to reflect the complexity of our daily lives and top-down control simply won’t cut it anymore.
“In summary,” Bar-Yam writes in his paper Complexity Rising, “hierarchical control structures are symptomatic of collective behavior that is no more complex than one individual. A group of individuals whose collective behavior is controlled by a single individual cannot behave in a more complex way than the individual who is exercising the control. Comparing an individual human being with the hierarchy as an entirety, the hierarchy amplifies the scale of the behavior of an individual, but does not increase its complexity.”
In other words, as Hayek has written, “The knowledge of the circumstances of which we must make use never exists in concentrated or integrated form, but solely as the dispersed bits of incomplete and frequently contradictory knowledge which all the separate individuals possess.”
And, of course, there’s no better explanation for the problem of central planning than Leonard Read’s incredible essay “I, Pencil.”
Again, as societies become more complex we need systems which reflect that complexity and leverage it for more peace and prosperity.
“We cannot expect one individual to know how to respond to the challenges of the world today,” Bar-Yam said. “So whether we talk about one candidate or another, the Democrats or Republicans, Clinton versus Trump. The real question ultimately is, will we be able to change the system?”
The answer is an emphatic yes. And it’ll happen either by permissionless innovation or the “leader” simply letting go and allowing society to organize itself in a decentralized manner.
If Trump allowed the latter to take place, the advantages of such decentralization will be immediate. One, centralized and corruptible power would have less of an impact. Two, State-sanctioned monopolies will crumble as a strong competitive environment forms. And three, transaction fees and barriers to entry would be pushed into the dirt and become essentially non-existent and negligible.
So, what’s the ultimate solution? And what will this future look like? Well, we’ll get to that in tomorrow’s episode.
Fear not, though. Either way, the future is bright and decentralized.
Which is why, if Trump’s smart, he would simply step out of the way and let the inevitable take place without friction.
That’s right. He should fire himself and allow America to make itself great.
Managing editor, Laissez Faire Today