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Cathedral BazaarA few days back we published the article titled The Hierarchy And The Network which described the differences between one and the other while clarifying the true nature of the struggle between people and politicians. Today we are going to look at the operational differences between one and the other. This is important because although it is true that politicians control our lives through the "Principle of Authority" regardless of how are they organized structurally (Hierarchy, Network or Hierarchical Networks) this does not mean they do not have preferences. In the same manner, people also have preferences. This can be summarized in the image below.

As you can see, the "Principle of Authority" naturally prefers an authoritarian-like structure while people prefer a networked (or authority-less) structure. These preferences are also the reasons why very intelligent people got their analysis completely wrong. But there is something else here. Their modus-operandi are vastly different and for that we need to look elsewhere.

Organizational Preferences


There was a man called Eric Steven Raymond who wrote a book called "The Cathedral and the Bazaar". You can get a copy for free searching the Internet Archive. This book is directed towards software development and not politics, but some of his insights are applicable because the two systems he compared were also Hierarchical versus Networked. From his book we can obtain several hints that we can further develop and transform into useful political lessons. Let's do just that.

Personal issues

All effective politics begin by solving a personal need. Whether we are discussing politicians or regular people, this is true because if you are not interested in a subject you won't do anything about it. The difference relies in the fact that as a person you can try to satisfy your need all by yourself. Most of the time this will be sufficient. All you need is a series of providers that will make the necessary tools available to you. But these providers operate independently from each other and are only loosely linked to you and other customers and suppliers; in other words, a network.

Politicians on the other hand cannot solve a personal political need (i.e. to become elected) without an electorate. However, in order to become elected they must have a party; an organization that will work for the politician to be elected. For the highest probability of success, this party must follow strict orders and the best structure to accomplish this is a hierarchy. Very few politicians in history got elected by direct popular vote with no party support. In modern times the only president that ever came close to this was Fujimory in Peru but he later became a dictator. So much for popular wisdom in terms of politics.

New versus Reworked

Politicians base their marketing campaigns mostly on "new" issues (or at least on long forgotten ones that can be recycled as "new"). This is so because they need to capture the attention of their audience. No politician was ever elected by promising to do the same as the previous one did. And so, they think in terms of "new". This thinking is thus limited and the politician must necessarily push this limitation to all the troops in order to maintain "party discipline". A hierarchical structure is thus more suitable for this purpose.

People, on the other hand, do not need to worry about being elected. They worry about more important things such as their budget and how to survive in a constantly decreasing economic activity which produces less wealth. They cannot limit their thinking by "new" only. They must be creative and find ways (economic ways) around a problem. This means that in many cases people simply rework existing items or ideas to improve efficiency or to suit a new purpose. As such, they don't have to push this point of view onto anybody. What they need to do is to find like-minded individuals who will help them in their quest. This is best accomplished through a network.

Try many, succeed once

Politicians don't have too many occasions to get elected. Every occasion counts. As such, every election is a war that must be won. There is no such thing as a successful politician who lost most elections. Because of this they are focused on strategy and tactics which must be followed to the letter. This is best accomplished by a hierarchical structure.

People, on the other hand, are not limited by how many times they may try something or how much time it may take them to succeed. As such they don't mind throwing failures away. Actually, the most intelligent people fully understand that failures are just the stepping stones to success. As such creativity and flexibility are the key ingredient in order to keep trying. As they both depend on ideas, feedback from other people are absolutely necessary and this is best accomplished by a network providing a large number of inputs.

Seeking problems

Politicians are always looking for interesting problems (real or otherwise) that they can make into juicy "political issues". They develop a keen eye for them. However, the final decision as to which problem to take and which to accept is a personal one. Problems must be "just right" for a given political climate and only a politician can so determine. Once this decision is made, no more feedback is necessary. As a matter of fact, at this stage any feedback would be counterproductive. Elections are at stake. The best structure that would support this attitude is a hierarchical one.

People, on the other hand, are not looking for interesting problems in a professional manner. Life is already very complicated without the need to add more. However, people do look for hobbies or leisure activities or has certain interests. They do actively look for them and as such they do accept all kinds of feedback and they do make decisions. But these decisions are personal and not too much is at stake. If a hobby does not work out we simply move to the next one. People have no urge to "get it right now", people have the urge to simply "get it right…eventually" or if not, to abandon it. As such any and all sources of ideas that are more-or-less on target are welcome. A networked structure works best in this scenario.

Discarding problems

The opposite is also worth looking at. When a politician loses an election many "political issues" (aka juicy problems) are recognized as such by other competitors and taken on under the impression that the previous owner did not do a good job. And so problems are passed to the next contestant. But then again, the final decision rests with the politician who must then cascade down to the troops the final strategy. A hierarchical structure works best to accomplish this.

When people discard hobbies or ideas, they typically feel somewhat invested in them. As such they don't want to feel that they have wasted time and try to pass them on to other people who may wish to accept the challenge. People hate seeing their efforts destroyed. As such, people accept requests for donations and it is also looking all the time for potential followers. They don't mind who takes over the hobby or idea as long as it is taken over. The best structure to support this mindset is a network.

Peers as co-workers

Politicians accept all kinds of help with their marketing campaigns but given that so much is at stake, feedback is seldom welcomed because the strategy and tactics are fixed. They are looking for soldiers to take orders, not for fellow politicians to provide suggestions and solutions. A hierarchical network works best for this goal.

People are of the opposite mindset. When they have a challenge or a task, most of us gladly accept help, suggestions, fixes and work. We rely and hope to rely on other people's skills, experiences, know-how and even hard labour that may help us solve our problems. We accept all kinds of inputs and recommendations. We don't have a fixed strategy or a set number of tactics. As such, a network is ideal for this purpose.

Note: please see the Glossary if you are unfamiliar with certain words.

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