Re: META: Improving the list

Harvey Newstrom (
Tue, 2 Mar 1999 02:56:43 -0500

"Peter C. McCluskey" <> wrote:
> The list maintainers
> were understandably reluctant to allow unlimited changes in legal systems
> to people using the resources that the list maintainers owned, and never
> made it clear what kind of competition they would allow.

Agreed. There were actually two problems.

  1. ExI claimed in the welcome message that the list would be run as a living example of Anarchy and PPL (Privately Produced Law). Everyone would be self-governed. Anyone could start or join any PPL they wished. Disputes would be handled by negotiation between the PPLs. In reality ExI was not prepared to forgo any ownership authority over the list. We therefore had the awkward experience of trying to have anarchy controlled by a central authority, and self-rule as individually granted by the list owner.
  2. ExI did not have any procedures in place to allow PPLs. When a trusted friend of ExI declared himself to be the first PPL, he was met with full ExI approval. When some unknown newcomers tried to declare themselves as PPLs, they were disallowed. When the unknown newcomers asked for the reasons they were denied and for procedures for getting approved, it turned out that the procedures hadn't been invented yet. Worse, when ExI tried to define the procedures, it became clear that self-rule would only be allowed with ExI approval, and that PPLs could only exist under ExI control. Although this is perfectly reasonable for the list owner to assert, it ruined the experiment of demonstrating anarchy and PPL without central control.

Since the developing rules for anarchy had the same appeal as Price-fixing the stock market to keep it stable, most people who wanted to see the experiment lost interest. Less interested people didn't care and just wanted a discussion list. Finally, I think there was unanimous consent that ExI should just run the list as they saw fit, and that anyone who wanted self-rule could start their own list.

Harvey Newstrom <>
Author, Consultant, Engineer, Hacker, Researcher, Scientist.