The world is moving quickly. Europe is crumbling, Ron Paul is leading in Iowa. The SOPA fight for the future of the internet is being fought on Capitol Hill. The National Defense Authorization Act (which authorizes the indefinite detention of US citizens without due process or a lawyer) has been passed by Congress but has yet to be signed by the President.* There is a whole lot of change going on.
Last night I was thinking about these developments and other ones I haven’t listed and it struck me that that all of the developments have a key thing in common. They all in one way or another represent an effort at consolidation in a world in which consolidation and increased centralization makes less and less sense.
For years increased centralization worked (for some anyway.) This is why the federal government has grown taking ever more power from the states and localities, and why many companies have grown and grown into huge corporate conglomerates. Why not have a central node from which policies can be handed down to the citizenry (in the case of government) or to consumers (in the case of corporations.) Economies of scale made this the most “efficient” model.
Such a disposition toward centralization only works however in a slow moving market, a pre-Internet market. And by market I mean not just the market in which we buy and sell goods but also the market where we buy and sell ideas. Really they are one and the same, but just to make the point.
The ability to leverage economies of scale has been drastically reduced in the last 5 years. Large, slow, top heavy governments don’t work as well (and they never worked “well”) when the citizenry is increasingly informed via the internet and so can make far better decisions on most things than a bureaucrat back in Rome, err, I mean Washington DC.
Likewise many businesses are finding the giant corporate model to be a burden in an increasingly volatile market. Decisions can’t be made by the quarter any more for many businesses, they must now be made by the month, week, and even day. The rapid speed of the modern market feedback cycle gives old industry fits. How can a company plan in such an environment?
Many leaders in both government and business are confronted by the new market for ideas and goods and react in fear. The world they knew is slipping away. How is a music company supposed to make money if no one wants to buy cds anymore? How are governments to keep everyone in line if individual citizens can communicate with each other at almost no cost? What to do. What to do.
I know! Lets use the government to compel the market (both the market for goods and ideas) back. Let’s restrict file sharing, and institute draconian copyright laws written so broadly they apply to practically anyone on Facebook. That’ll teach the market to change on us.
And why stop there? I mean, if the people really start to figure things out, and then God forbid, demand an end to the system of crony capitalism we have erected over the past 70 years Washington is screwed, I mean screwed. We can’t let this happen. Let’s get busy passing some laws that it will take an act of God to repeal, that restrict the power of a citizenry. Time to show those serfs who’s in charge.
Recent developments reflect an Old Guard, most of Congress, much of industry especially entertainment, that is panicking and doing the only thing they know how to do, consolidate power further. It worked for them for decades.
Times have however changed.
Instead of acknowledging this change the establishment has instead decided to throw a fit. The Federal Government will not recognize that political power must be decentralized and moved increasingly back to the individual. Hollywood will not accept that technology has rendered the entertainment industry impotent and that their highly unionized, highly centralized, business model is dead. Instead the establishment would rather firebomb the Republic and large parts of the Bill of Rights to protect their positions of power.
The Old Guard is incredulous that the market and the serfs that make up the market for goods and ideas could overwhelm them. It knows also that at this point it still has the reins of power. But it doesn’t know for how long.
The powers-that-be must know they must act now. There is no time to waste. The sun is setting on them and there are torches glowing on the horizon.
*The NDAA has been signed by Obama.
Nick Sorrentino 12-27-2011