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June 26, 2006
December 29, 2009
It is human nature to make
gross generalizations about For example, utopian dreams of
human nature. collaborative, consensus-based
societies are often dismissed
as being "against human nature".
Here's my generalization:
The nature of humanity
depends on the kind of
humans you have.
The implications of this stunning
observation is that there're no
absolute principle you can cite
about the need for explicit rules,
and/or centralized authority.
Let me tell you a story about two
households, group living situations
with a half-dozen or more un-related
people living together.
In one house, they've felt In another house, they
the need to implement a haven't bothered with this.
regimented, rotating schedule People seem to automatically
of dishwashing, complete with wash their own dishes, and
penalties for skipping your occasionally volunteer to
turn. wash other people's dishes
without being prodded, and
without fear that they're
being taken advantage of by
The difference between these two
households may simply be that there
are different people living there, Though it could be
and one group works together more that there was a
smoothly than the other. difference in the
social process by
which the two were
The second household may have
It might be that the grown at a slower pace: new
first household is members could be gradually
living under unnecessary socialized into their
restrictions that were cooperative system without
designed to deal with making a big deal of the
some problem cases that indoctrination process.
are long gone.
It used to seem to me that there were
probable size limits, measurable
boundaries that depend on scale:
In small groups of people it's at least
possible to get "communal" arrangements
to work smoothly, but as the size grows
it becomes statistically likely that
these arrangements will break down.
I'm no longer sure that
this is precisely true.
It could be that the cutoff
for "communal breakdown" is
itself a parameter that
varies between different
If you expect it to happen,
it becomes more likely
it will happen.
And rules themselves have
their limits... a rule with
no enforcement mechanism
outside of the official
ones, a rule without moral
sanction, a rule whose
rightness no one implicitly
believes in... that becomes
a very weak rule.
When obeying the spirit of the law
becomes a joke, then the letter of
the law becomes irrelevant.
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