Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Rethinking Organizational Patterns

How have organizational patterns become problematic, for present day institutions? Washington is a good example of the fact that all is not quite well, structurally speaking. If government activity were better aligned with a well functioning marketplace, today's political discussions certainly wouldn't be so polarized. Even though the twentieth century contained some notable exceptions (such as the interstate system), marketplace capacity no longer responds well, to "one size fits all" reforms or infrastructure.

Indeed, cynical commenters at some blogs are convinced the only "progress" in Washington is when no one gets their way! In a post at Econlog, Bryan Caplan reasoned that citizens are irrational to make excessive demands of government, because - collectively - doing so only tramples individual rights. However, this does not change the fact that some populations need to move forward on terms quite different from what others seek. How can governments respond?

Plus, resource capacity has changed to a far greater extent, than today's economic frameworks are able to take into account. Individual rights were simpler a century ago, when economic activity was more closely aligned with actual production. If citizens seek greater control now, it is because too many aspects of economic life have (temporarily) been lost to centralized processes.

Even so, this problem is not just about Washington, by any means. After all, states have followed similar patterns in centralization since mid twentieth century. Paradoxically, even though structural change is needed at local levels, the process still needs to be discussed, understood and validated at the level of national dialogue. In any event some reconfiguration is inevitable, as Tyler Cowen noted about government involvement in the evolving circumstance of driverless cars. Some of the points he raised made me think: wouldn't it be simpler, to just revert back to local transportation strategies? In the post, Cowen also mused, "Imagine if we had to write a new constitution today."

Writing constitutions is no walk in the park! Would knowledge use systems need some form of "mini" economic constitutions at local levels? Perhaps the careful consideration involved, would at least benefit coordination processes. After several interesting books re America's beginnings, I've just started reading "Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution." Even the first chapter highlights the difficulties the founders encountered, as they struggled to build consensus among competing visions for the future.

And such visions, are also competing versions as to control. It is remarkable that our government has held together as well as it has. Who really wants more broad based rules for entire populations, beyond what has already occurred? Fortunately it would be possible instead to experiment with new economic guidelines for small groups, and provide infrastructure which is more responsive to different income and lifestyle patterns.

Hence I was glad to stumble across some Market Urbanism posts which consider local possibilities for reorganization efforts. Both of these posts have additional links which I intend to follow up on. Among other ideas, they discuss ways in which city shares might be held among the public, which ties in with still evolving thoughts regarding local corporations on my part.

In particular, it would be useful to get beyond public and private dichotomies, as the second Market Urbanism link stressed. Regular readers know that I tend to separate organizational patterns along the lines of tradable sectors versus non tradable sectors, because of the different dynamics involved. Tradable sectors are helpful for thinking about the forms of centralization which still work. On the other hand, decentralization for non tradable sectors, would provide means to think beyond old definitions, for public and private enterprise.

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