Re: Anarchy and spontaneous order in business and education

James Rogers (
Wed, 16 Jul 1997 16:21:02 -0700

At 10:30 AM 7/16/97 -0700, Andrea wrote:
> YaxWax wrote:
>>I see this as a possibility, companies could be considered a group of
>>ranked individuals all serving the same goal. This would be easily
>>implemented within creative environments, which will probably dominate in
>>near future due to automation.

I would have to disagree. Decision by consensus makes poor business sense
and becomes increasingly unusable as the number of individuals increases.
Although it produces arguably more intelligent results, the process is
simply too slow and tedious to be responsive to the market. A team of
people does not have the focus and direction that a single over-riding
individual (manager) can give, and cannot make decisions as quickly.

A model that works better is a consensual heirarchy i.e. a group of
otherwise equally ranked individuals imposes a heirarchy upon themselves by
selecting managers and agreeing to abide by the decisions of the selected
managers. I've seen this work well for transient virtual teams of
independant contractors.

>Mind you, it might be my management hat talking, but I don't think it will
>move in the direction you describe. There may not be bosses and workers,
>but there will still be customers and vendors. Think of the independant
>consultant model again. When I consult for Company B, the designer or
>producer isn't my boss, but they decide what they want me to produce for
>them (though likely with advice from me), and if I agree then I am
>contractually obligated to produce that. And I want to, because it will
>lead to repeat business and a good reputation. On the other hand, if I
>have lots of clients and I am not happy with how Comany B worked, then I
>can turn them down the next time they have a project.
>The idea isn't to eliminate forces and incentives. Right now we have
>hierarchical structures that opperate within a market environment. They
>say: "we pay you a yearly salary, so you have to do whatever I say or quit
>and find another job". (Mind you, here in Silicon Valley, competition for
>software professionals is so fierce that the answer to this is often "OK, I
>quit".) You could replace the hierarchical structure with a market
>structure, where they say "I'll pay you $X for x work, $Y if you do y, and
>nothing if you do z, and you get a cut of the profits from A if we finish
>it". What you need are systems that allow us to define x, y, and z clearly
>enough that disputes can be resolved.

This model assumes that everyone operates as an independent contractor. My
favorite aspects of this model is that it would make the work environment
very market driven. It would allow rapid and accurate adjustments in wages
as the market changed and as job requirements changed. However, the
current structure of business is too rigid to adapt to such a fluid and
equilibrium sensitive job model. I do know of (and have worked for) a
couple small companies that actually operate this way. You don't have to
do anything you don't want to (no work, no pay of course), and the pay for
work is adjusted according to type and market values. In my experience
this actually seems to produce a more efficient work environment, with few
administrative hassles and a lot more satisfied employees. It is a lot
more relaxing when you are not "required" to do anything.

-James Rogers