Op-Ed by Joe Jarvis
“Big government is the problem!”
“No, big business is the problem!”
What if their coexistence on such a large scale is the real problem? They each rely on the other for power. A corporation is a government creation, with legal definitions which protect it from market forces. And government laws and regulations are largely designed by corporate special interests.
It is a vicious cycle which arguably fits the definition of fascism. The government doesn’t own the means of production, but it regulates industry to the point that it might as well. A corporation can work through the government to make any law or regulation it wants which will give them an unfair advantage or kill a competitor. The government even directly hands corporations money in the form of bailouts, subsidies, and grants!
At this point, it is impossible to disentangle big business and big government. So when we talk decentralizing institutions, it is not just the government which needs to be split up.
Of course, many on the left seem to think the government is the institution needed to rein in big business. This is an absurd contradiction; government is what made big business the cronyistic monster it is today.
Likewise, we cannot expect the market to rein in government. Current market conditions prove the easiest way to turn a “profit” is by cozying up to the government, not by pitting your business against it.
But the left and right should agree that having a choice is better than being forced according to the whims of the majority. Or has the left learned nothing from the election of Donald Trump?
There is a dangerous meme on the left that government can solve all problems if the right people are in power. They claim the people control the government by voting, and that over the long run, the majority will do the right thing–as long as the left has control over public education, the media, and free speech.
But the right also believes a dangerous meme that business will always be properly regulated by market forces. But just like the voters, the consumers will not always steer industry in the proper direction. The main difference is that you can withdraw your support from business… in theory.
The marriage between government and industry makes voting at the ballot box or with your dollar a dubious solution. But the smaller and more decentralized institutions get–whether business or government structures–the easier they are to control.
Local business and local government will always be more responsive to voters and customers. The key is being able to withdraw support in favor of an actual alternative choice.
Unity Through Decentralization
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The Internet has centralized society more than ever before. Yet this unity did not occur by way of conquering armies and imperial empires. The Internet provided a platform for natural order to emerge out of chaos. It is a place for voluntary interactions.
The Internet–and technologies based on it such as the blockchain–provides the unity needed for modern communication, coordination, and economic transactions. The ease of forming voluntary groups allows decentralization of power to be a real possibility.
Kirkpatrick Sale is one leftist arguing for decentralization of government and industry. He recently released a book called Human Scale Revisited. This is an updated and slimmed down version of his 1980 book Human Scale.
The heart of Human Scale, then and now, is Sale’s judgment that “to save our planet and its civilizations…we must work toward a decentralization of institutions, the devolution of power, and the dismantling of all large scale systems that have created or perpetuated the current crisis. In their place, smaller more controllable, more efficient, more sensitive, people-sized units, rooted in local environments and guided by local citizens. That is the human-scale alternative.”
The more decentralized government gets, the more decentralized business will become. People have more control over smaller governments. People are less likely to support bailouts and subsidies for “special” companies when they can’t imagine that someone 14 states away is paying for it.
Already we have some degree of control over how large companies can get. I grow a solid percentage of the food I eat. I make my own soap, deodorant, and toothpaste. I gladly shop at thrift stores and flea markets. Local beer, and family owned restaurants are the highlights of my nights out.
The point of failure is that the government can still steal our money and hand it to failing car companies, crooked investment banks, and manipulative oil companies. They can still bar entry into the restaurant and beer industry. They can threaten me if I buy, sell, or trade goods such as raw milk with my neighbors.
Decentralize the seat of government, and the people can choose to not associate with governments which do such things.
If 50 countries stand where the United States once stood, we would have actual options and true competition. It is easy to move states to live under a better government–I already did it, from Massachusetts to Florida. But the benefits are still marginal with the overlords in DC.
For 800 years, “surviving ups and downs and feasts and famines, [Lucca] was one of the most prosperous places on the entire Italian peninsula, not to mention the entire European continent.” That came to an end with Napoleonic imperialism, but its experience produced “Lucca’s Law”: “Territories will be richer when small and self-sufficient than when large and dependent.”
Perhaps in the age of communication, where anyone can be a journalist with their phone and good timing, we can hold war lords and pillagers accountable for their actions. Could early exposure of their crimes stop the next Napoleon, Hitler, or Mao? Small territories could remain free if the ever more connected people of Earth have lost their appetite for bloodshed.
Or maybe I am naive, and this period of relative, yet unprecedented, peace on Earth is only the calm before the storm. Tell me what you think in the comments.