Anarchy and spontaneous order in business and education
Thu, 17 Jul 1997 13:14:20 -0400 (EDT)

Andrea Gallagher wrote:

> >Can we have a spontaneous order in business? Could we destroy the
> >structure that plagues current business practise and have a looser, more
> >anarchic spontaneous order?
> There are many people who argue that this is already happening. Tom
> Malone, and his MIT Center for Coordination Science (,
> think that networked information technology (what we're all usin' here) is
> enabling more market-like business structures to replace hierarchical
> It's most obvious manifestation is more outsourcing and the rise in
> individual consulting, which is what I do. You also see more large
> businesses breaking into independant profit&loss units.

I agree, when I talk of anarchy in any situation I do not mean some wild
revolution to destroy hierarchy and free individuals. I'm talking of a
gradual evolution. We may not have to anything to get to an anarchic system,
the evolution has begun and it doesn't look like it's going to stop...

> >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.
> 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.

Now imagine everyone was an individual manufacturer (of a product or
service). You choose what to make or do, when someone else wants a service
or product they come to you. You choose the price and product, then you put
it on the market. If your product doesn't sell you're going to change it,
you're going to lower the price or manufacture something completely
different. The whole system works as it does now, except we have done away
with the hierarchical structure of business.

Let's say you choose to design and build aircraft. Obviously you alone
cannot do all the work, so you decide to find like-minded individuals. What
forms is not a company (as we know it), but a group of individuals working
towards goal. The agreements between each member of the group can be
different. You can work for money (a value you set), you can work in
exchange for other goods, you can work out of the kindness of your heart or
you can work because I have a gun pointed at your head (community service).

> (You also need systems that allow the customer to coordinate the schedules
> and products of many different vendors, and to choose between cost and
> quality of various potential vendors. That's what Tom talks about.)

The market of the future will be very different. As the market would be
constantly changing we would require computer agents to shop around for us;
it's likely that brand names and marketing will not have the importance they
have today.

> >To take this a step further: Could these ideas also be applied to
> >an anarchic schooling system?
> David Friedman has an essay in Machinery of Freedom on a
> education system. You should check that out, though it's mostly applied
> college.

So much to read...

> Personally, I would love to see a world where 18 year olds could
> get reasonable jobs without going to annother four years of school.

How about a world were school is a place you go to voluntarily? With the
marking scheme I've outlined below education could be done at home (or
anywhere else). Schools would become a place where you go to socialize and
use special equipment (the school and library systems could merge into a
community education center). You can leave at anytime, you can gain
qualifications at anytime and you can return for further education at

> [snip] There are many students who need a fair amount of
> structure to acheive, myself included. What I'd rather see is a variety
> types of learning environments, so parents and students could choose the
> approach that worked best for them.

Or have you learnt the need for structure?

The entire purpose of anarchy is to allow you to take your own approach to
what ever it is you want to do.

> So, in an anarchic (or market-like) school, what do you have to show the
> employers? You need something more consise that the entire portfolio of
> work, and you'd like something that helps them rank you in relation to
> other applicants. The option our federal government like is to create one
> Great Standard Tesk of All Knowledge, but that's likely to dictate how
> children are made to learn and doesn't help in specialized fields. I'd
> rather start thinking from the employer's perspective, of what they need
> know. Any ideas?

When a student decides to study, it would usually be done through an
interactive program running on a computer. Because the program isn't
passive, it can ask questions and test the student. Just by simply
interacting with the computer, the student is awarded certificates; the
students need never know they are being tested. This would also mean that
students can work at their own pace, a smart student could be a doctor by the
end of the day just by reading up on medicine and interacting with some
medical simulations. These certificate systems need not just be installed in
schools, imagine if all the information you read in books could go towards a
qualification, as you read!

I plan to send a more detailed post about how this will all work in the