Competitive Government World
I suspect that one of the secrets to doing something big is not to attempt to move the levers of history by yourself. Instead, jump onto an existing trend, where powerful historical forces are pushing somewhat in the direction you want, and help shape them. This is the case for competitive government, where the coming bankruptcy (literally) of 20th century government, the trends towards more experimentation (try lots, fail fast for tech startups, self-experimentation on health & happiness for individuals), the commoditization of sovereignty, and our increasingly mobile & interconnected world, each help push the government industry towards being more competitive.
For example, at last week’s Economist event “The Ideas Economy: Innovation for a Disruptive World”, I spoke about seasteading to an audience of entrepreneurs, non-profit leaders, government representatives, and academics all interested in innovation. Afterwards, by a show of hands, the audience voted about two to one in favor of “That sounds cool, we should try it”, over “This guy is just crazy.” The previous day, Intuit CEO Scott Cook spoke about the importance of experimenting inside Intuit, and touched on some very competitive-government like themes, contrasting the old style of management where “the boss votes with his opinion” to the new style of running experiments where “customers vote with their feet”. He also characterized these as ideas winning by “politics & powerpoint” vs. “enabling ideas to prove themselves”.
But he didn’t stop there – at his presentation’s close, he described the Special Economic Zone of Shenzhen as China running an experiment, just like a company would – and learning that capitalism works. If only there was a way to create many such experiments around the world…or as I said in my talk, to have the galvanizing competitive effect of a “Sputnik Moment” happen every day, instead of once a generation.
And this week’s issue of The Economist, the one-page article Taming Leviathan says:
In the 1990s much was made of the idea that capitalism had got so footloose that states were bound to get slimmer to compete for corporate favours. In fact companies proved more loyal than expected – and the state went on one last splurge. But talent and capital are getting more mobile; and the demographic pressure of those ageing populations is mounting. The ever larger state cannot go on for ever. It will stop.
And finally, this weekend was the first Agora I/O Agorist UnConference, a cool idea to have a virtual conference where all talks are by videoconference. Lowers the barrier to entry to participating for sure. Below is my talk, based on my Mises Brazil Structural Libertarianism talk from last year, with some additional thoughts on frontierism vs. agorism.