Thursday, 23 February 2012

They grow - we shrink

As I’ve posted before, many aspects of life are a matter of scale. We live our lives and do what we do while the world around is just keeps on getting bigger. By that I mean big government and big business just keep on growing. As they get bigger, in relative terms we get smaller and therefore less important to them.

It’s been going on for centuries of course, but does it matter? Well maybe it does matter if we little folk are the cogs in the machine. Maybe there is a limit beyond which big business and big government cannot go without losing contact with the cogs. Unfortunately we never seem to find out that contact has been lost until it actually has been lost.

Because how else would we know?

The scale-insensitive elite don’t hold with such ideas of course. They have their endless stream of laws and regulations, their micro-management with which they think cogs can be kept whirring. But maybe it isn’t so.

If there is an optimum limit to the scale of human organisations, then it may of course be influenced by technology, particularly communication. The Romans held together an empire, not just by the sword, but with good roads, bureaucracy and an inclusive policy with respect to non-Roman citizens. Even so Rome eventually fell.

I know the problem of scale is a vague and rather nebulous idea, but there may be merit in it. Scale may well be important in the sense that organisations of whatever type can grow too big, too difficult to manage. In the public sector it is certainly true. The UK National Health Service has probably been too big to manage for decades. Its perennial problems may be that simple.

I suspect the EU is too big too. In which case, current instabilities will not be resolved by greater central control of economic policy. Matters may be patched up by central control, but political instabilities will soon take over from the economic issues. The cracks and fissures don’t seem ready to heal themselves and why should they?

It may be a case of forget peak oil – that’s not the worst of our worries. Peak scale could be worse. Globalization could be a step too far.


James Higham said...

That is vile, AKH.

A K Haart said...

JH - it certainly is.