30 May 2013

Complex systems

I've lived in the Netherlands for a few years, and I appreciate their skills in managing complex systems (infrastructure, water, events, etc.) at a much higher level than their American equivalents. Why is this? Because the Dutch have been living within a small space for hundreds of years, and they need to "rearrange the legos" all the time to make the best use of their scarce resources. Americans, in contrast, have sloppier methods because there has always been more land, water, trees, buffalo, etc. to make up for waste.

The EU fails in the same way when it tries to lay down a single regulation or centralize management of many values and constraints within the Brussels vision of Europe. This method fails not just because it's at the wrong scale (in defiance of subsidiarity), but also because Eurocrats do not have Dutch skills and experience in multidisciplinary integration. Should the Dutch run the EU? Of course not. They know themselves much better than their neighbors in Ireland, Poland, Greece, etc.

Note the important implications of over-centralized, command and control. Orders are more likely to be inefficient (since they are one-sized fits all), more confusing (since the chain-of-command is longer), and harder to correct (since information flows will be slow and distorted). How did the Romans run a larger empire with more success than Brussels? Subsidiarity and simple rules on commerce, taxes, etc.