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If Niall Ferguson Ruled the World…

April 29, 2011

In a somewhat cheeky article, he says he’d stamp out all the rulers:

But information technology has changed the game of both corporate and political governance completely…

The world, in other words, has left behind the old top-down command structure. In its place has arisen a host of interlocking and overlapping networks. The positive “externalities” created by the mere existence of these networks can hardly be overstated. It is not that I buy the theory of the wisdom of crowds: people in the aggregate can and do make horrendous mistakes. It’s more that networks allow information to flow to where it is needed, making all kinds of markets work better. They may be prone to violent mood swings. But so, in case you hadn’t noticed, are rulers. And while markets may occasionally throw millions of people out of work, they tend not to murder them and toss them into mass graves.

So my answer to the question of what I would do if I ruled the world is quite easy. I would use my power for a period of, at most, a week, to stamp out traditional systems of rule and to replace outdated hierarchies with networks.


  1. May 1, 2011 4:22 pm

    One can’t get rid of top-down hierarchical systems via a top-down hierarchical method. That’s why I think counter-economics makes better sense in terms of political strategy:

    Click to access ChapterSeven.pdf

  2. Matt permalink
    May 1, 2011 3:29 pm

    Trouble is, you couldn’t do it in a week. You couldn’t do it in a lifetime, except by methods that necessarily incorporate mass murder as at least a side effect. And even if you sincerely planned to abdicate in a week, you’d do well to have Lord Acton’s most famous quip tattooed on the inside of your eyelids.

    Even granting failure, though, I’d bet that the world would be a lot better off at the end of that week than the beginning. 🙂

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