What would an operational level governance look like?
Economy governance — Natural economies in living systems
When I started this post I imagined I would get all the contents into a single article. But after several hours of typing, I realized that it wouldn't work. As simplified as I've tried to make this subject, it is still huge. Therefore I have adopted a different strategy for this and probably subsequent postings. Here I will just roughly summarize the content but provide you with a link to my academic site where the whole article can be found.
So here is the outline.
- Economics is basically the concept of allocation of resources and decisions about what will be produced and consumed. The human economy is part of an overall governance system that assures that, in general, people are going to work in this economy to everyone's benefit. But real economies that have evolved over time don't seem to really work to this end. What I do in the article is claim and, I hope, show that the concept of economy is ubiquitous in the natural world, especially in the realm of biology. In fact, I would assert that our economies are really just extensions of this general model of complex, dynamic systems achieving stability and longevity in an otherwise uncertain environment.
- Market-based economies characterize what goes on in the various kinds of transactions that take place within a living system (cell, organism, population, community, ecosystem). I will say now, and show later, that the markets are not the only form of governance in operation. Later we'll see the coordination and strategic control levels and their roles in comprehensive governance. My point in this piece is just that markets form a major aspect of operational control.
- I show a generic economic system and then argue that it has correspondences in living systems.
- I delve into some low level details of operational control starting with basic feedback and homeostasis. I attempt to demonstrate that complex organizations of homeostatic processes trade products by virtue of signaling that helps mediate transfers, similar to our use of money to signal what work is to be done.
- I finish by mentioning some important differences between human economies and natural economies, pointing out that these need to be considered in any thoughts about designing a natural (sapient) economy for humanity. In some cases, for example the rights of individuals, the economy design needs to accommodate what is unique to humans as components in an economic system. In other cases we should take guidance from living system economies that have learned (through evolution) how to provide stable environments for their components. For example I raise the question of growth and point to the fact that the human economy, unlike natural economies, seems not to have recognized that nothing can grow forever!
This first article only looks at the operational level in a hierarchical control structure governance. And there is much to cover just at this level. Part A covers the outline above. Part B will examine how we apply the principles suggested from the study of natural economies to the design of a healthier human economy. That means, an economy that supports and fulfills human needs and aspirations without destroying the Earth.
Sapient Governance II will start to examine the nature of coordination in living systems. As it pertains to human society and economy, this is where we start looking at formal government and its logistical role in regulating those parts of an economy and those members of society that threaten instability. I will use the same tactic of explicating what we find in living systems as examples of the principles and then identifying those principles at work in the human economies, both current and what could be.
Finally, in Sapient Governance III I will delve into strategic control. I will follow the same basic plan of attack, but here there will be a major deviation in that for the biological world the strategic part of governance can be largely wrapped up in one word — evolution. The only relevant example from biology for strategic level control comes from the brains of mammals and birds where the cerebral cortex (specifically the neocortex) provides some primitive strategic control for the individual. For humans, the brain is capable of orders of magnitude more strategic control over life. Humans have transcended an important boundary of the biological world when they became recurrent symbol processing agents. If you have read any of my past postings on sapience then you will know why I call this series Sapient Governance. Not only are humans themselves capable of strategic thinking and planning, but so too is the society of humans (as well as all social organizations). From that standpoint, I then will be looking to launch into something I've hinted at before: what is the strategic plan for humanity and planet Earth?
I hope this format works for readers. I would apologize for the length, but sometimes you just can't say all that needs to be said in a few paragraphs. Even so, I only cover the territory roughly. You could write a whole book about this!