politics, instability, open source, stability

by admin

Some other general political thoughts – and a reference to open source & computer networks at the end. There has been a general tendency recently in the developing world to elect what could be called “anti-US” governments: Hamas in Palestine, and, say the sweeping leftism in South America: Chavez in Venezuela, Evo Morales in Bolivia, Bachelet in Chile, Lulu in Brazil, Vázquez in Uruguay, and maybe Kirchner in Argentina. There are likely more, elsewhere.

All of these are considered “worrying” by the policy-makers in USA; yet most of these elections were considered fair. The question worth asking is, why do countries in the South keep electing governments that the US is opposed to (publicly and privately)?

And I suggest that the answer is this: the policies that the US exports, and the governments they support, have not done a very good job of providing for their populations. So the global status quo (as defined by US and its allies) is not a very stable system – or at least it won’t be unless the Northern policies are adapted to accomodate the shifts in the south.

Something similar happened during and after the 1929-39 Depression in North America. The late 1800s to late teens of the 20th C saw a radical shift in industrialization; huge production, technological advances, etc twinned with terrible conditions for workers. To avoid revolution, and total chaos in our governing and social systems, we built a social safety net, worker safety conditions, worker rights etc. Which in fact either brought on, or at least paralleled the most prosperous era in the history of humanity. Is that a coincidence?

Capitalism, unfettered, leans towards massive exploitation – of workers and consumers – monopolies, and destruction. Unattended capitalism will tend to be very lucrative for a few, and very destructive for the rest.

Socialism, unfettered, leans towards inefficiency and unnecessary government intervention.

Somewhere between the two is a balance that’s probably the optimum for the global system (though the variables are changing: oil prices, and climate change being the two biggies, I think, which are likely to throw everything out of whack in the near future). We’ve seen a massive shift to the right in the US; and much of the rest of the world is shifting in the other direction. And I suggest that if the US starts creeping towards the centre the balances on the other side will too; but the US – being the powerful beast – needs to examine why the rest of the world is reacting the way it is, and where they need to change their policies, not just their communication strategies.

All this makes me think about (much less complex) open source systems – like LibriVox, or more obviously wikipedia – that are self-stabilizing through open input; and also extremely efficient at producing “useful work” from idle hours. I’m not sure what the connection is exactly, but I keep thinking about politics from an open source perspective: how to bring the efficiencies and stability inherent in open source systems to our political structures?

Anyone know the answer?