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A Clash of Three Decision Making Systems: Fascism, Communism, and Democracy

April 17, 2018 - 05:03 -- Admin

Last month's Global Guerrillas report used a combination of:

  • David Ronfeldt's TIMN (tribes, institutions, markets, and networks) framework 
  • Complex systems theory, and 
  • Boyd's OODA 

to figure out how we can adapt to the challenges we face without the radical simplification of societal collapse.  

After I wrote the report, I sent it out to my friend David for feedback.  He really liked one of my footnotes.  In that footnote, I used TIMN to do some fun analysis of the struggle between Fascism, Communism, and Democracy in the 20th Century.  

The analysis looked at each organizational form (the three that were active in the 20th Century were tribalism, institutions, and markets) as contributors to a societal decision making process (simplified by Boyd's OODA).  

  • In the 20th Century, tribes and tribalism made contributions to orientation via nationalism.  The narratives that create fictive kinship.  It defines us and them.  It orients decision making by answering the questions: who benefits?  who with?  by what means? by which limits? 
  • In the 20th Century, the institutional bureaucracy was responsible for conducting total war.  Bureaucracies contribute to observation (gathering information in a structured way, from the census to the secret police), the structured evaluation of options (cost benefit analysis, plans, ideological dictate, etc.) and action (implementation at scale).  
  • Markets provide decentralized information discovery (observation) and the means to derive a consensus (price, etc.) on which alternative is superior.   Markets also provide a means of assembling and allocating the resources required for implementation (action) and motivating participation (orientation).  

Through this lens, the 20th struggle between can be boiled down into a struggle between three different types of decision making systems:

  • Fascism.  Markets (commercial only) and bureaucracy are slaved to tribalism.  
  • Communism.  Tribalism slaved to bureaucracy.  No markets.
  • Democracy.  A fluid mix of tribalism, bureaucracy, and markets (commercial and political).

Who won? The system that allowed that used all three decision making systems, the US (UK,etc).  The US (and the brand of democratic capitalism it promoted) was a Swiss army knife of social decision making.  It used what works.  This flexibility provided it with more resilience than its competitors and the ability to exploit the opportunities made possible by complexity (from nuclear weapons to computers).  

Another interesting observation is that institutions (bureaucratic decision making) don't generate orientation.  They are reliant on tribalism for orientation.  As we saw under Communism and Fascism, bureaucracies are equally at home implementing genocide as they are at providing social safety nets to the poor/elderly.