April 24, 2014

"It would be physically impossible for the queen [bee] to direct every worker's decision about which task to perform and when." -- Reprise: Steven Johnson, Emergence, p.32
"The [Chinese] government is still using a command and control system first established some 2000 years ago. "I manage a population of 84 million. The issues that worry me every day are all about my peoples' jobs and lives." The masses regard food as paramount, so I have to assure people have enough to eat. I am responsible for everything in Sichuan. I also control everything." --XIE SHIJIE, [Communist] Party Secretary, Sichuan Province [China: The Dragon's Ascent, HINT, Feb. 2005]
"It's one straight line from the top right down to the bottom. One order from the top of the party is passed down through every level right to the bottom. This is our country's major advantage. In the party system all commands and orders are carried out. People below obey their superiors. When the British Government makes policy, the Mayor of London doesn't necessarily follow that order. In China that's absolutely impossible. In China, we can't have a situation where people do or say what they like." --Sungdow Rey, Chinese Official, Sichuan Province [China: The Dragon's Ascent, HINT, Feb. 2005]
"What led the greatly advanced civilisation of China to fall behind Europe was its governments' clamping down so tightly as to leave no room for new developments, while, as remarked in the last chapter, Europe probably owes its extraordinary expansion in the Middle Ages to its political anarchy (Baechler, 1975:77)" --F. A. Hayek, THE FATAL CONCEIT The Errors of Socialism, (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press 1988), p. 44 & 45
Reprise: It would be physically impossible for the queen [bee] to direct every worker's decision about which task to perform and when. -- Reprise: Steven Johnson, Emergence, p.32
"History deals mainly with captains and kings, gods and prophets, exploiters and despoilers, not with useful men." --H. L. Mencken

What's Wrong With Hierarchy: Part II

If you remember in Chapter 7, What's Wrong With Hierarchy? we pointed out some of the problems we humans might have with hierarchy. We pointed out that, since our modern societies have almost invariably evolved to be organized under "centralized political authority" and are thus hierarchical, they are maintained by coercion deployed as the modern version of "competitive dominance displays" exhibited largely -- but certainly not exclusively -- by L.E.O.s, and that such dominance displays are designed to "intimidate," "browbeat," "coerce," "extort," "alarm," "dismay," "scare," "frighten," and "terrify," etc. In other words, hierarchies -- and modern states with their "centralized political authority" -- are, ultimately, maintained by force and threats to use force.

We further noted in Chapter 7 that persistent hierarchical leaders -- along with their cliques and cronies -- who make their living at the expense of their group as free-riders on a daily basis -- could easily become the most resource-draining free-riders, much more draining than those who take advantage by merely being lazy, feigning injury, selfishly wolfing down meat, etc. But while modern hierarchical societies are maintained by coercion and tend to support persistent free-riding hierarchical leaders at the expense of the rest of us, these aren't the only problems with hierarchies.

Through subsequent chapters, we discovered that with their "persistent leaders" and attendant "pecking orders," in addition to the above problems, hierarchies inhibit the useful transfer of information -- which we humans need to make the best use of our unique distributed information by using it to make distributed decisions, remember. In fact, as we now know, many of our "instincts for freedom" almost certainly evolved to preclude this information inhibition effect of hierarchy from handicapping our small-group ancestors' survival. Our anti-hierarchical, anti-Authoritarian instincts for freedom, then, had very practical reasons for evolving.

So, at this point, we know that the individuals in small ancestral groups, despite our "urban literate" conceptual aberrations (such as "the fallacy of the chief"), avoided hierarchy except in a watered-down, temporary form during "emergencies" and situations such as droughts which stress larger groups into needing unusual discipline. And, while we know they used hierarchy's "alpha-complex" for "alpha-confidence signalling," we also know that, particularly at the group level, our ancestors normally and adamantly avoided most other aspects of hierarchy and did so for quite practical reasons.

Since our small group ancestors wouldn't put up with it, hierarchy rarely got full-blown expression in their groups -- let alone had a chance to become permanent -- at least not until after "The Great Transitions" beginning 10,000 to 13,000 years ago. But in the modern post-Great-Transitions world where we have persistent hierarchy, it has had plenty of time to become robust, fully developed -- and ubiquitous.

In fact, as observed in Chapter 15, How They Got Things Done, what we had in ancestral groups when hierarchy was employed, was temporary hierarchy in a co-Operative context. What has developed since The Great Transitions on the other hand -- and what we have in today's modern hi-jacked cultures -- is the exact opposite: Temporary and/or watered down co-Operation in a persistent hierarchical context.

And that persistent hierarchical context makes a big difference. In really small pre-tribal groups especially, hierarchy was only noticeable at all in the micro-processes our ancestors used to keep their groups egalitarian despite the presence of those with hierarchical genetic tendencies ^^w-- and within families. And there weren't enough folks to develop obvious persistent pecking orders either. In other words, in our ancestral groups, as we pretty much know, hierarchy was kept so subliminal as to be almost unnoticeable. Remember those ethnologists trying to figure out who "the" leader was?

By comparison, today we can even draw diagrams of modern hierarchies -- and, for example, regularly do so of military organizations, business organizations, etc. And we can certainly suggest that permanent hierarchies were solidly established in close association with the founding of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. Using the Church hierarchies as references, we can very safely assert that some hierarchies were formal, well developed -- and more or less permanent -- by 500 A.D.

Our cat-rubbing-like emotional machinery hasn't had time to evolve much since "The Great Transitions." As a result, from our own reactions to examples of how American L.E.O.s operate -- and to the military's "Shock & Awe," etc. -- we can probably still feel and rather easily understand the emotions that caused our small-group ancestors to avoid hierarchy. But what about today's huge and extremely formalized hierarchies which, as we know, are ubiquitous in the modern world?

Have they overcome the destructive potentialand practical limitations of hierarchy which caused our ancestors to evolve those anti-hierarchy, anti-Authoritarian "instincts for freedom?" For example, as we've recalled just above, in small groups, "hierarchies inhibit the useful transfer of information." One question we will want to address in this chapter is does this "information inhibition effect" carry over to today's extremely formalized hierarchies-- or have modern hierarchies overcome that problem? It is this and other questions about the practicality -- rather than the emotional palatability -- of large, formalized, persistent hierarchies we will examine in this chapter.

In the following discussions, it's important to remember that the roots of hierarchy lie in genetics -- in the "pecking order," "dominance displays," and the out-right coercive characteristics we can see exhibited by our "cladistic" relatives. But in us humans, they are most strongly exhibited only by that small minority of the population genetically predisposed towards hierarchy, towards "libido domanandi" -- that is, towards "the lust to dominate." And we humans understand this at a very basic level. In fact, especially we males all know instinctively how to do dominance displays -- and particularly what they mean when we see one. For example -- boxing stare-downs, professional wrestling confrontations, etc. And remember, our small-group ancestors did have five uses for various parts of hierarchy.

Hierarchies and Emergencies

Given hierarchy's genetic basis then, we would expect some sort of genetic group-wide trigger -- some cat-rubbing-like drive(s) -- which would stimulate hierarchical behavior, hopefully only in appropriate circumstances. One clue that such a group-wide trigger indeed exists is, as noted in Chapter 14, Emergency!, "A leader cannot force a personally chosen strategy on the entire group, yet the rank and file can be quite responsive to leadership in certain contexts." Another clue remember: While Crazy Horse was "noticeably reserved and modest," ... "in the moment of danger he at once rose above them all -- a natural leader!"

It is most normally in such a "moment of danger" that "the rank and file can be quite responsive." One of those key triggers for hierarchical behavior, we may assume then, is a "moment of danger," a circumstance, in other words, that we would normally perceive as an "emergency." It should be no surprise, then, that "hierarchy" is attached to "emergency" like a lamprey on a lake trout.

Why? What are the practical reason(s) "emergencies" would trigger hierarchical behavior -- and acceptance of it? As per our working definition, in an "emergency," "one or only a few people know what's going on, immediate coordinated action is necessary and there's no time for discussion, and thus temporary '(centralized) control' by those 'in the know' may be implied." In an emergency, then, you want those "in the know" directing behavior -- "Duck left!" your friend warns as that baseball is about to hit you in the head. And you want your best available tracker to lead the hunt - - -

At first, of course, you want the person who actually sees what's going on to be in charge and calling the shots. But if the "emergency" wears on, just as in regular day-to-day activity -- remember the backhoe situation -- you want control to pass back and forth to whoever present can "play" that particular part of the "game" the best.

In small groups, that's automatically sorted out with "alpha confidence signalling" -- and members' knowledge as to whom is best suited to the particular circumstances, remember. As usual you want the person with the best knowledge calling the shots. The question is, also as usual, who is that person -- and do you want to put that person in charge -- permanently?

And what makes us preceive a situation as an "emergency?" A perceived need for concerted immediate action -- and a feeling of "uncertainty." That feeling of "uncertainty" is a key to the orderly switching of control from one person to another. It's the "receptor" that opens the door to accepting someone else's alpha confidence signals. "Uncertainty" says, "Listen to someone who is more certain than you are -- someone who signals alpha confidence." It's well worth noting that the next emotional step beyond "uncertainty" is "fear." But "fear" is too primitive and hard-wired to be "used" for other than very simple and primitive control. It precludes the fearful from thinking -- and inhibits them from usefully sharing their information.

The key point here is that with us humans, hierarchy is evoked and temporarily respected most normally in connection with situations perceived as "emergencies" which normally evoke feelings of "uncertainty" which in turn opens the door to taking direction from others -- which is the essential precursor to hierarchy. This will prove to be a very important point indeed. Perhaps you're already making connections with the previously mentioned "States of Emergency" declared -- and often renewed -- and even created -- by United States preside-nts? Etc.

Hierarchies as Memetic Machines



Hierarchy and Communication

We know from Chapters 14 and 15, in human groups, efficiency -- and thus sometimes survival -- is closely related to how information is transferred and used and thus how communication is done. "Duck!" you warn in an authoritative voice. Etc.

But persistent, formalized hierarchies -- with their "pecking orders" -- are, of necessity, different: By their essential nature, they require a particular pattern of communication. Who talks to whom? When? How? Even for huge, modern hierarchies, the answer is appropriately simplistic. The ultimate example is in the military. You talk one way to your "superiors" -- if you talk at all: "Permission to speak, sir?" And another to your "subordinates" -- that is, those "below" you on the totem. They ask you for permission to speak.

Your "superior" may tell you what to do (command you), but you may never command him. And you command your subordinates - - - but they may never command you. And they certainly wouldn't "go over your head" to talk about an issue with your "superior." They would, instead, follow the "chain of command," [1] as would you. Or else.

So larger formalized hierarchies are characterized by "chains of command" to one degree or another. Do you talk the same way to the boss as you talk to the guy who's the designated gofer?

For comparison, in egalitarian groups, there is no "chain of command," there are no "superiors" or "subordinates," and anyone may talk to anyone else without fear of reprisal. So in egalitarian groups, the transfer of information isn't normally {formally }limited, while in hierarchies, because of the very nature of the "chain of command," communication -- and thus the transfer of information -- is nearly always significantly limited. And, just as in small groups, there are significant survival implications - - -

Here's the situation: During the so-called "Cuban Missile Crisis," United States President John F. Kennedy had ordered the blockade of Cuba and given the "leaders" of the Soviet Union an ultimatum to remove Soviet missiles from that country. There had been two responses from the Russians: One "hard line," the other, much softer. Kennedy was trying to decide which message to respond to. Obviously he would respond in kind.

former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara VClip 1

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clip from "The Fog of War"

Suppose Tommy Thompson hadn't had "a lot of guts" and hadn't told Kennedy -- clearly his "superior" -- he was wrong to respond to the "hard" communique? Whether or not to take the "soft" approach with Kruchshev and the Soviet Union was a key decision which held the potential for nuclear war in the balance. Ultimately Kennedy, following Thompson's advice, responded to the "soft" communique.

Should it take "a lot of guts" to tell someone you think they're wrong? Particularly when the result of not doing so might well be nuclear war? Like me, I'll bet you think just the opposite. None the less, restricted communication is the inherent communicational ambiance of a hierarchy -- and without Tommy Thompson's "guts," that ambiance could easily have been responsible {shared responsibility }for starting World War III.

By the way, did you notice that, since Thompson and his wife "had literally lived with Kruchshev and his wife on occasion" Tommy Thompson and his wife knew the Kruchshevs "face-to-face?" Why would that matter? And we might surmise that the "hard" communique was based on, probably subliminal, hierarchical "dominance display" thinking, bluff, and coercion, while the "soft" message was probably more co-Operative and egalitarian in nature.

Centralized hierarchical control (A.K.A. "centralized political authority"), then, counts heavily on centralized communication, that is, a dominant communicator, and ultimately, a "chain of command." Theoretically only the "commander (in chief)" coordinates things by telling everyone what to do louder and in a more authoritative manner than anyone else. Sungdow Rey's description of China's "centralized political authority" and its inflexible "chain of command" (in the opening clips of this chapter) is an excellent and extreme example of the results.


We already know that having such centralized control creates handicaps for small groups -- mainly it rules out or marginalizes much of the information, knowledge, and enthusiasm widely distributed throughout the group. But what about the larger more formalized hierarchies in today's modern pseudo-group world? Haven't they had time to iron-out these problems?

With that question in mind, let's take a look at nine problems associated with these larger formalized hierarchies. The first three we might call "structural problems" because they are inescapable effects of the very structure of hierarchies. The remaining six problems range from mostly structural (Problems 4, 5 and 6) to "indirect" and/or just "inevitably associated" (Problems 7, 8, and 9).

Problem 1: Hierarachies Waste Information

As we already sort of know, "chains of command" discard incredible amounts of potentially useful information and expertise that any group not employing hierarchy might otherwise put to good use. What nearly happened between President Kennedy and Tommy Thompson, for example. Or what would happen if slime mold had only elite pacemaker cells able to signal food. This wasting of information is unavoidable because it is inherent in the basic structure of hierarchies.

There are two reasons: A. Hierarchies are inseperable from their "chains of command" and, because of its inherent structure, a "chain of command" has no choice but to discard massive amounts of information, and B. Despite this inherent discarding of information, the central "communication nodes" (decision makers, "deciders," etc.) still regularly experience "information overload." Let's look at each of these two reasons in turn.

A. The Nature of "Chains of Command"

Hierarchies are like pyramids: One "commander" at the top, issuing orders passed down the chain of command to geometrically increasing numbers toward the bottom. On the way down the pyramid, one "commander" issues orders to many -- who have to listen and pass them on; on the way up, many talk to one. Or at least try to: "Permission to speak, sir?" And in both directions, up the chain and back down, you're always playing "whisper down the alley," hoping the message arrived -- and was understood -- at least somewhat as it was intended. But, sending commands down the pyramid isn't much of a problem: The problem is in getting important information and ideas up the pyramid, up the inevitably overloaded "chain of command" -- and getting them up there in tact, in context, and in a timely manner.

If nothing else, it's a matter of simple mathematics. Suppose every officer has five underlings who want to talk to him one minute a day and need to have the message passed up the pyramid. The officer at the first level up gets five minutes of information -- normally short messages lacking context -- and passes them up to the second level, where that guy gets five minutes from each of his five underlings -- that's twenty-five minutes total. The next level up (the third level), gets five times 25 or 125 minutes -- a little over two hours. The fourth level gets 625 minutes, just under ten and a half hours. Level five gets 52 hours and five minutes - - - a day. Whoops! And that's just the time to hear the information -- not the additional time necessary to integrate it, analyze it and formulate plans based on it -- and then pass implementing orders back down the chain of command.

And that's with only five subordinates at each level - - -

You can see how chains of command unavoidably create communication over-load. That's why access to higher-ups MUST BE limited -- why, in the service, folks must ask for permission to speak.

This sort of top down communication might make some sort of sense once in awhile. During true (short) emergencies for example. Ogg is the first to see the rogue elephant about to trample the camp and orders, "Quick, grab your weapons and climb a tree!" On the other hand Seargeant Hobart is only told there is an "emergency" and yells, "To the barricades, men!" Or in old style "second generation" warfare, a "general" officer with special expertise has a strategic view of the battlefield. But often, in modern "fourth generation" warfare, a strategic view is illusive or impossible. And, of course, very few emergencies can be solved by warfare anyway. In fact, "war" CREATES emergencies.

At any rate, once the emergency is over, why continue to waste all that useful information and other talent? And why continue to expend resources on "one-size-fits-all" "all eggs in one basket" activity? And since every emergency is different, why would you want the same person always in charge?

The problem is that governments -- and often other large organizations for that matter -- for various unconscious reasons, inevitably evolve into permanently hierarchical forms. And permanent hierarchies don't stop wasting that information and talent. You can see this inevitable and perpetual "discarding information effect" {most }clearly in the military - - -

Maj. Gen. Batiste: "He [Rumsfeld] certainly heard it from General Shinseki, and we all know what happened to him." [2] VClip 2

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Face The Nation, April 23, 2006

There is no one on the Joint Chiefs of Staff who has visited Iraq more often than Gen. Mike Hagee, whose term as Commandant of the United States Marine Corps ends Monday [Nov. 13, 2006]. ...He says he was deeply concerned about who would take charge of major Iraqi cities, like Najaf, as the Marines pushed through them on their way to Baghdad.
Hagee says he asked his boss again and again who would take charge of those cities. He wanted to know what the plan was for Phase IV -- military terminology for the phase that follows the end of major combat operations. Phase IV is, in other words, what comes after "mission accomplished." Hagee says that he sent his questions up the chain of command, as they say in the military -- and never heard back. --Top Marine: No Plan For Post-Saddam Iraq, cbsnews.com, WASHINGTON, Nov. 13, 2006

Nor is this inevitable and perpetual "discarding information effect" of hierarchies limited to the military. It's reflected in the rest of modern society by the fact that nearly all U.S. citizens lack meaningful access to the President, U.S. Congress -- and government officials in general - - -

Getting Through to the President VClip 3

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The Pres. is waiting: 202 456-1111

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Call it too much of a good thing. Members of Congress are inundated with so many e-mail messages from constituents and special interest groups -- 80 million last year alone -- that lawmakers routinely ignore most of them, according to a new study. ... "The growing number of citizens are increasingly frustrated by what they perceive to be Congress' lack of responsiveness to e-mail. At the same time, Congress is frustrated by what it perceives to be e-citizens' lack of understanding of how Congress works," it added. ... It also urges the public to lower expectations. --REUTERS, Study Finds U.S. Capitol Faces E-Mail Crisis, 03/18/2001 8:48 pm ET

It wouldn't be easy for the public to lower expectations: According to a May 29, 2006 Angus Reid poll, only three per cent of respondents express a high level of trust in Congress.

The process sort of dampens enthusiasm too, if you know what I mean. And it still won't relieve information overload.

B. Information Overload

Despite the fact that we have huge amounts of information discarded on the way up the "chain of command," still the upper nodes of hierarchies regularly get seriously overloaded with the information that does manage to fight its way up toward the top.

You may be thinking, "Right! I get it! When an organization is so big, those at the top can't process all that information.

Indeed! Exactly! Right on! Even when the information that reaches them has been severely reduced by the natural effects of the chain of command.

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. (AP) - In a rare public appearance Wednesday, CIA Director Porter Goss said he is overwhelmed by the many duties of his job, including devoting five hours out of every day to prepare for and deliver intelligence briefings to President Bush. "The jobs I'm being asked to do, the five hats that I wear, are too much for this mortal," Goss said. "I'm a little amazed at the workload." --CIA Director Goss Amazed at His Workload, RYAN PEARSON, apnews.myway.com, Mar 2, 2005, 7:08 PM (ET)

The bureau [F.B.I.] responded to three hundred calls about suspicious packages between January 1st and September 10th of 2001. After September 11th, the official said, "we received fifty-four thousand calls and physically responded to fourteen thousand of them." -- MISSED MESSAGES, by SEYMOUR M. HERSH, Why the government didn't know what it knew., THE NEW YORKER, Issue of 2002-06-03, Posted 2002-05-27

WASHINGTON - U.S. intelligence overheard al-Qaeda operatives discussing a major pending terrorist attack in the weeks prior to Sept. 11 and had agents inside the terror group... Some of the clues lie buried in 350,000 pages of documents turned over by the CIA for the hearings ...
The intercepts of conversations are in 13,000 pages of material from the National Security Agency, the nation's eavesdropping service, U.S. officials say. Two U.S. intelligence officials said some were translated and analyzed before Sept. 11. Others went unread until later because of a shortage of translators. -- U.S. had agents inside al-Qaeda, By John Diamond, USA TODAY, 06/04/2002
"There aren't enough analysts on the face of the earth to analyze the amount of information we can collect." --Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), House Intelligence Cmte., June 8, 2002, 13:26:30
~"We have over 1 million pages of testimony and 33 million pages of documentation on this [tobacco company liability] case." --Hubert Humphrey III, Minnesota Atty. General, ABC This Week, 24 August, 1997
"It's like trying to take a sip of water from a fire hose." --U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld

Here's what the information overload situation looks like through the eyes of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter:

AMY GOODMAN: I was wondering, in your time as president, the period that Indonesia occupied Timor, if you regret the allowing of Indonesia to buy US weapons at a time when it was one of the worst times for the people of Timor?
JIMMY CARTER: Well, as you may know, I had a policy when I was president of not selling weapons if it would exacerbate a potential conflict in a region of the world, and some of our allies were very irate about this policy. And I have to say that I was not, you know, as thoroughly briefed about what was going on in East Timor as I should have been. ...
AMY GOODMAN: Along those lines, as a president, what do you think are the reasons why you can be so isolated, a president, for example, in the case of Timor, saying now you wish you had known more at the time what was going on?
JIMMY CARTER: Well, a president, almost by definition, is immersed literally in hundreds of issues every week. ...there are so many different things that the President has to do that are pressing and crisis that you can't really expect any president, including me or my predecessors or successors, to know the details of things like East Timor. I wish I had, but I didn't. --Democracy Now!, September 10, 2007

Perhaps this all reminds you of the slime mold cells and how, because they don't count on "pacemaker" cells, they make better use of the available information (and thus better use of available food) than they otherwise could. It probably should.

An example of the extreme value of using available though distributed information in war time occured during the U.S. Government attack on the people of Afghanistan in 2002. U.S. military spotters on the ground would "paint" targets with a laser and the information would automatically up-link to "smart bombs" in B-52s flying above. These smart bombs were automatically programmed to find and hit the "painted" target and then automatically launched.

The system was so efficient that they were even sometimes able to successfully target moving vehicles. This alarmed the U.S. Government CentCom (Central Command) planners in Florida because this approach left them "out of the loop." As a result, the system was modified. Clearly this modification -- waiting for CentCom authorization before launching the smart bombs -- would degrade performance, and it did. But how is a poor hierarchist to maintain "centralized political Authority" and remain in control if he's left out of the communications loop by more efficient networking co-Operators?

This kind of information that often doesn't find its way up the "chain of command" in time -- if at all -- is important enough that the military has a special term for it: "the ground truth." Who knows better what's happening on the ground? CENTCOM in Florida or the grunts near Kabul? When unwieldly hierarchies are fighting other unwieldly hierarchies (massing troops, etc. -- which takes time) possibly CENTCOM may have a useful strategic view. But when a hierarchy is fighting decentralized co-Operating opponents, clearly the grunts know better. But by the time "ground truth" information makes it up the hierarchy -- if it does -- it's often stale, to say the least. Which is the tip of the iceberg - - -

That's why hierarchies are often quite "stupid." They simply don't have the capacity or ability to use the "ground truth" which, if it could find it's way up the pyramid quickly enough, could help keep the "commander" from making stupid mistakes. As in many of the battles in the Galipoli campaign, for example. And, perhaps, Custer's last stand.

That's why Iraq "war" Sec. Defense Donald Rumsfeld was trying to re-form the hierarchical Pentagon and the U.S. military -- and perhaps turn it more decentralized. So, because of the inherent nature of a "chain of command" -- and chronic "information overload" that plagues hierarchical communication, especially large, formal hierarchies waste huge amounts of information -- and this can often have serious consequences - - - remember Tommy Thompson, President Kennedy, and nuclear war - - -

Problem 2: Hierarchies Waste Time

But even when the information is good and it manages to successfully make its way up the "chain of command," the time it takes to do so inevitably handicaps hierarchies further - - -

"Several years ago, a Marine friend went down to Bolivia as part of the U.S. counter-drug effort. He observed that the drug traffickers went through the Boyd cycle, or OODA Loop, six times in the time it took us to go through it once. When I relayed that to Colonel Boyd, he said, 'Then we're not even in the game.'" --William S. Lind, More on Gangs and Guerrillas vs. the State, April 29, 2005

You're probably wondering what the heck the "OODA Loop" is. OODA stands for "Observation," "Orientation," "Decision," and "Action." Any individual or organization that makes decisions -- if they're going to be good decisions -- has to make Observations of local conditions (which, as we know are constantly changing), put those Observations in the context of what is already known (including especially the organization's own capabilities) -- that's "Orientation," make Decisions about what to do (based on the "Orientation" phase), and finally take Action on those decisions.

You can have "centralized political control" "centralized political authority," remember. only to the extent the "central power" makes the decisions. That means "hierarchy," and in the case of a hierarchy, the OODA "Observations" have to be passed up the "chain of command" until they reach and hopefully "Orient" the central guy who makes those "Decisions" which must then be passed back down to the peons who put them in "Action." Clearly, the longer the chain of command, the longer it takes information to flow in both directions -- and the longer action is delayed. Imagine how long it would take in the Chinese hierarchy described in the clips above!

From the "drug war" clip just above, we can see that even the best refined use and essence of hierarchy -- namely the military "chain of command" -- is no match for decentralized, co-Operative opponents -- in this case, drug marketeers. Working on a much more individual, localized, level, small decentralized groups can be, as measured by the OODA cycle, about six times faster at adapting to changing circumstances than the best that hierarchy can deliver. Hierarchy and "chain of command" are, In Col. Boyd's words (above), "not even in the game."

Once you know what you're looking for, you can see this hierarchical OODA delay all over the place. Like in in the Government/ FEMA/HLS "emergency" response to the destruction of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina on August 25, 2005, etc. -- which, despite plenty of advance notice, took over ^^wtwo weeks to even get started.

And here - - -

Terrorists can turn on a dime VClip 4

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U.S. Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld

So, the time it takes for information to pass both up and back down the "chain of command" unavoidably slows down a hierarchy's response to events. Thus hierarchies unavoidably waste critical time.

Problem 3: Hierarchies Have Inherent Communications Vulnerabilities

Next, formal modern human hierarchies with their "pecking orders" -- attempting to maintain "centralized political authority," remember -- absolutely require "chain of command" style communication -- with folks issuing orders to their "subordinates," and often asking permission to speak to their "superiors." Aside from this "subordinate/superior" notion being insulting, this pattern of communication has another inherent flaw. What happens when the "chain of command" gets broken? If they're in the habit of being told what to do, how can those lower down the hierarchy know what to do if their "superiors" don't tell them?

It's quite well known that on WWII's "D-Day," when the German military hierarchy "chain of command" was disrupted by the deaths of commanding officers, the whole German military organization broke down. The "allies" however, particularly the Americans, suffered worse casualties among their officers than did the Germans, but whoever was left -- corporal, PFC, etc. -- would unofficially take the lead without much regard for "rank." And we know which system worked better.

~The first casualty in a disaster is the command and control structures. WWII wasn't won by the generals, it was won by the sargeants in the trenches. What you need in a disaster is sargeants in the trenches who are empowered to make decisions. That's the most important thing we can do to deal with future emergencies. --Dr. Ben DeBoisblanc, Medical center of Louisiana at New Orleans -Intensive Care Dir., on being stranded in New Orleans hospital after Hurricane Katrina, U.S. News & World Report Panel at National Press Club, C-SPAN-2, April 18, 2006, 21:17:19

Tellingly, one of the first things a modern military force attempts to do is to disrupt the "command and control" structures of the enemy. And vice versa. In fact, it was this well-known defect in hierarchical "command and control" structures which led the Department of Defense to specify the basic design consideration for its "DARPA Net," which became the "internet" you may be using to read this: Ironically, since communication would be essential during a national emergency, DOD ruled out central hierarchical communications "command and control" structures because they could easily be disrupted by a nuclear attack. The inevitable alternative had to be a decentralized "network" which could pass messages even when large parts of it were disrupted or no longer existed. {So much for "the chain of command." }

So, the inherent organization necessary for hierarchies to function -- and for the "superiors" to maintain centralized control -- means they need "pecking orders" in the form of "chains of command," which make them seriously vulnerable to often fatal degradation by disruption of their hierarchical "command and control structures."

Problem 4: Hierarchies Magnify Pecking Order Disputes

Because of hierarchy's genetic origins, even folks involved in today's modern, persistent hierarchies easily get immersed in pecking order disputes. "Who's in charge?" "Who's my immediate superior?" "Should I go 'over his head' on this issue?" For those with hierarchical tendencies, these are issues of strong emotional comfort, almost of emotional necessity. For the rest of us, they're probably just irritating. And since true emergencies should be rare -- and the value of persistent hierarchies is questionable -- these disputes usually accomplish very little in modern persistent hierarchies -- except keep the hierarchy in place -- and aggrandize the egos (and prerogatives) of the hierarchically inclined.

If you insist on having a persistent hierarchy, however, one solution for these disputes is to spend time getting the hierarchy set up ahead of any emergency -- along with the order of succession in case someone gets killed, incapacitated or disconnected -- and then maintaining it. The military excels at this. They have "ranks" -- you know, sergeant, private, general. Like that. That way, there isn't any time wasted in resolving pecking order when an emergency strikes. [3]

Well, at least that's the theory.

The document [national pandemic influenza response plan] is the first attempt to spell out in some detail how the government would detect and respond to an outbreak, ... As [Hurricane] Katrina illustrated, a central issue would be "who is ultimately in charge and how the agencies will be coordinated," said former assistant surgeon general Susan Blumenthal. ... "How are those authorities going to come together?"
... Bush is expected to adopt post-Katrina recommendations that a new interagency task force coordinate the federal response and a high-level Disaster Response Group resolve disputes among agencies or states. Neither entity has been created. "Any community that fails to prepare -- with the expectation that the federal government can come to the rescue -- will be tragically wrong," HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said in a speech April 10. -- U.S. Plan For Flu Pandemic Revealed, Multi-Agency Proposal Awaits Bush's Approval, Ceci Connolly, Washington Post Staff Writer, Sunday, April 16, 2006; A01

Especially in large, complex situations involving thousands of people -- and regularly these days, bunches of hierarchical organizations -- and in constantly changing circumstances (the rule of the universe), the pecking orders are too complex to be completely resolved ahead of time, or for that matter, ever. So there are the inevitable clashes over control, even among the sub-branches within individual large hierarchies.

Ultimately this is because of that ironic quirk of human nature that we try to take care of the members of our own group or clique over others. "THE EQUATION," remember. For example, the $250,000 payouts to America's Sept. 11, 2001 victims vs. $1,000 only rarely paid for Afghan civilians mistakenly killed by U.S. soldiers. When these subliminal differences in loyalty divide domestic organizations too, as they inevitably do, we call the results "pecking order" or "jurisdictional" disputes, "turf wars," etc.

The underlying problem is that because of the [^^wLINK THIS HERE] "communicational discontinuity limit" (the Dunbar limit), the number of people who can know each other face-to-face is limited, and subliminally, face-to-face groups operate as defacto selfish cliques. Mostly, we can't help it. It's human nature, [^^wLINK THIS HERE]remember.

^^wNow it may seem that, despite the fact that you hear of these pecking order disputes regularly -- not only, let's say, between the FBI and CIA, but, remember, even within the organizations themselves -- [SIBEL PG_Sibel_fired_911Commission_060911.VOB] that these disputes are silly and can't possibly handicap hierarchies all that much.

But just the fact these pecking order disputes exist {at all }-- and thus chronically create questions about who is responsible for this or that -- has, ironically, slowed up persistent hierarchies perhaps even more than all the other factors combined. How and why? Because these disputes institutionalize foot-dragging and sloth in organizations that we suppose handle emergencies, which are, by definition remember, "demanding immediate action." The possibility someone else might be responsible (and you could get in trouble if you take or even infringe that responsibility) -- in cahoots with habitual "chain of command" thinking -- subliminally enables and encourages folks to be lazy, sandbag, and pass the buck, even during emergencies. So they do - - -

Pecking-orders foster foot dragging after Katrina VClip 5

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DemocracyNOW!, October 24, 2005

^^wSo, not surprisingly, we get stories like this one: Bureaucracy Hampers Terror War

Clearly, jurisdictional pecking order disputes slow-up hierarchies and degrade their performance to a remarkable degree.

Problem 5: Hierarchies Risk Gambler's Ruin

"Pain" signals a situation that requires immediate attention. If that puma is about to attack, or worse, is already chewing on your leg, you must deal with the puma first, even before you finish eating your plum -- or continue your romantic pursuit of Leyea.

Just as "pain" automatically causes your attention to focus on the particular situation causing it -- and to ignore everything else -- so "emergencies" cause groups to focus on the particular situation perceived to be causing that "emergency" and ignore everything else. Thus, just as pain reduction likely becomes the sole focus of someone in pain, perceived "emergency" reduction becomes the motivating factor that causes most group members to focus on whatever is defined as an "emergency" to the exclusion of everything else.

But this creates a classic "opportunity cost" problem -- and strongly enforces the chosen response over all others, in fact, over all other activity. So, as far as the particular "emergency" your group is attempting to handle, you run head-on into the "gambler's ruin," "all-eggs-in-one-basket" gamble -- and, remember, we discussed the extreme downside of that in Chapter 17, Diversity vs. Ruin in Small Groups and Elsewhere.

And, especially troublesome in the modern pseudogroup world, your whole group becomes committed to that chosen response, regardless of the accuracy, intellectual rigor -- and/or honesty -- of those at the top of the "chain of command" who are deciding whether or not there IS an emergency -- and what that chosen response -- if any -- will be - - -

Mr. McNamara, you must never have read a history book - - - VClip 6:

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Vietnam "War" Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara, Sony Classics, "The Fog of War"

So, the U.S. Government, in the person of Vietnam "War" Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, didn't even recognize the homework hadn't been done till 1995, 20 years after the Vietnam War -- which killed as many as 3.4 million men, women and children -- was officially over. Mr. McNamara also admitted that the "Gulf of Tonkin" incident, used as an excuse for beginning the Vietnam "War" "never happened." [4] I give Mr. McNamara credit for his honesty and integrity for admitting these difficult facts.

But such obvious mistakes as not reading available history books has been corrected since then. Hasn't it?

Gen. Batiste: "Anyone who has read a little bit of history of Iraq would have anticipated that." VClip 8

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Face The Nation, April 23, 2006

So, as General Batiste points out, once again the United States was committed -- this time to the debacle known as "Operation Iraqi Freedom" (at this writing, Dec.2006 A.D., killing over 3,000 U.S. soldiers and 165,000 Iraqis) -- all without adaquate attention to the appropriate "homework." Gives a whole new dimension to the lyric, "When will they ever learn" doesn't it?

Further, whether the course of action chosen by those at the top of the chain of command is right or wrong for the particular emergency, the time and resources expended on it are no longer available for any other activity at all. In a small group, let's say you use up your food surpluses and several group members are killed -- and others maimed -- in pursuit of a "war." You "win," but now you don't have enough food stores to make it through the winter, you're short-handed for the harvest, and you have to take care of several disabled comrades. And, on the other hand, if the decision from the top was wrong, of course, it was all for naught.

Even in huge modern pseudo-groups, the drain of a bad decision from the top can be incredible. $10 million 2006 dollars per hour on the Iraq "War" was seriously draining even to the U.S. Government -- and many critics pointed out all the domestic spending this expenditure precluded -- for example, partially as a result, the U.S. Government lacked resources to adaquately deal with Hurricane Katrina.

And in the case of established hierarchies, even when there aren't ongoing emergencies, you still tend to get inappropriately monolithic, "one size fits all" approaches to all sorts of things that aren't emergencies. Yet!

How will we take care of poor old folks: Social Security. What to do about terrorists: Turn the problem over to "Homeland Security." The problem is that if they fail, there are no viable fall-back positions. Gambler's ruin!

Problem 6: Hierarchies Can Be Hi-jacked

An extension of Problem 5 above suggests that those at the top of a hierarchy not only mislead it because of a lack of intellectual rigor, etc., they can also purposely hi-jack it for their own purposes. This makes sense: Since hierarchies concentrate resources, any individual or clique who can gain control of the hierarchy also gains control of at least some of those concentrated resources -- and their capabilities. Thus hierarchies are targets for hi-jacking. As we already discovered in Chapter gt, in a very fundamental sense, this is exactly what happens when, during a "Great Transition," hierarchical leaders take over first the surplus resources and then the political direction of their erstwhile egalitarian group mates.

The point is, once a hierarchy has been put in place, once people become conditioned to "follow the leader" -- any leader -- folks like Hitler, Pol Pot, Mao, Stalin, etc., in cahoots with a relatively small number of people, can sometimes take over the hierarchy from the top, essentially hi-jacking it away from what the other folks involved want -- not to mention what "we the people" want (or, as Hitler viewed us, remember, "the great mass of the anonymous, the serving collective, the eternally disenfranchised").

In the case of governmental groups, they sometimes call this hi-jacking a "coup" Such a hi-jacking happened in Thailand in September, 2006, as the military hierarchy took over the Thai Government hierarchy from the elected officials. And another, this time in Fiji, occured the first of December, 2006. Surprisingly, such coups are fairly common.

One of the most egregious examples was the Feb. 22, 2014 hijacking of the Ukrainian government by invasion, arson, kidnapping, threats, intimidation and personal assault. < |cm: WWWH: Crosstalk explains the Putch that took over Ukraine>

In fact, according to NYT reporter Seymour Hersh, the U.S. Government hierarchy itself was, in the early 21st Century, hijacked by the so-called "neocons."

...the amazing thing is we are been taken over basically by a cult, eight or nine neo-conservatives have somehow grabbed the government. Just how and why and how they did it so efficiently, will have to wait for much later historians and better documentation than we have now, but they managed to overcome the bureaucracy and the Congress, and the press, with the greatest of ease. ...You do have to wonder what a Democracy is when it comes down to a few men in the Pentagon and a few men in the White House having their way. --Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh: "We've Been Taken Over by a Cult", Wednesday, January 26th, 2005

But such hi-jacking isn't limited to those at the top of hierarchies. Others -- even outsiders -- regularly hi-jack sub-parts of hierarchies too. For example, when the U.S. "Homeland Security" hierarchy was hi-jacked by EXXON to punish reporter Greg Palast.

In fact, hi-jacking parts of government hierarchies is a cultural staple of large businesses, which are, as we now know, mercantalist by nature -- and like it or not, our silent partners. Thus as economist George J. Stigler proved to get the 1982 Nobel Prize for his proof of "Capture Theory," businesses regularly "capture" regulators and other parts of the government apparatus and use them for their own ends -- while we pay the bills. [5]

Problem 7: Hierarchies Are Expensive

Setting up hierarchies for whatever reason -- and praticularly maintaining them -- is very expensive. This starts in small groups with persistent hierarchical leaders and their cronies -- who make their living at the expense of their group as free-riders on a daily basis, remember. In the modern world, if the hierarchies are part of an econo-memetic machine, they are at least limited by the ability of the machine to support them and thus by the tolerance of markets and voluntary customers and investors.

If not constrained by an econo-memetic mechanism however, the expense of maintaining hierarchies can quickly spiral out of control. The wealth of kings, other "royalty" and the Roman Church is legendary. Who did that wealth come from?

The same applies in the "modern" (2014 A.D.) world. But the size of hierarchies now -- and the numbers of people included in them which must be supported -- is vastly larger. In the united States, governments, with their inherent hierarchies, directly cost "we the people" at least 50% of our earnings. And the projections indicate anyone born after 1991 will have to pay upwards of 80%. This tax money will be necessary to pay so-called "Social Security" to older citizens and fund Medicare for them -- because the FICA set-asides have already been spent by the U.S. Government hierarchies. This has led some very savvy folks to suggest "inter-generational warfare" could easily be the outcome. Think "Logan's Run."

And what is the purpose of all this expense? As suggested in Problem 4 (pecking order disputes), a very large part of it is to keep the hierarchy intact. So it can quickly and efficiently deal with the next emergency? What else are "kings" and other "royalty" good for?

Of course, government hierarchies do provide a few unique services: Roads, police, courts, and the military. Please feel free to add to the list -- if you can. Other services -- like schooling and mail delivery -- can be gotten elsewhere in competitive markets.

Is maintaining the hierarchy -- plus roads, police, courts, military -- and those unique services you added -- worth 50% of your income, intergenerational warfare -- and Logan's Run?

Problem 8: Hierarchies Tend to Become Habitual

Problem 8 isn't exactly a direct problem with hierarchy itself, it's a problem with cultures that get in the habit of using hierarchical forms in preference to more egalitarian co-Operative forms -- institutionalizing all the disadvantages already mentioned.

Further, once hierarchy is institutionalized, it gradually tends to become the habitual pattern for those individuals spending their time under the influence of the resultant conditions, and this significantly affects their behavior. For example, hierarchies, taking decisions and initiative out of the hands of the "rank and file" as they do, create habitually dependent individuals who become unused to making decisions for themselves and taking inititative -- and so they do not regularly initiate spontaneous co-Operative behavior, etc. That is, chronic hierarchy creates un-self-motivated people. Ultimately, we find some folks sitting on their roofs awaiting government rescue after Hurricane Katrina, etc.

Once hierarchy becomes established as the dominant mode of operation of a culture, the character and ambiance of that culture change drastically. This is quite apparent if you compare the ambiance of small-group egalitarians with the ambiance of modern hierarchical cultures - - -

"If there was anybody there, [during Operation Anaconda in Eastern Afghanistan] they were the enemy. We were told specifically that if there were women and children to kill them." ...
When he [U.S. Army Private Matt Guckenheimer] returned to the United States after spending a month either on missions or at the Bagram military base, Guckenheimer said he remembered how alienated Americans are from each other. After living in a Third World country, where people he didn't know would smile or say hello to him on the streets, it was jarring to return home, where contact among strangers is mostly shunned. "These people who lived through life, they seemed to be more grounded," he said. Coming home was like walking back into a "clueless" society where over-consumption is commonly regarded as the route to happiness, he said. --Fresh memories of war, By KANDEA MOSLEY, [The Ithaca] Journal Staff, Saturday, May 25, 2002

Chronic hierarchy converts people from independent, secure, and self-fulfilled to dependent, subservient, insecure, and un-fulfilled. ^^wThe over-all results by comparison? Remember Bob Waldrop's co-Operative political opponents, the habitual smiles on folks living in smaller groups -- and Thomas Jefferson:

I am convinced that those societies (as the Indians) which live without government enjoy in their general mass an infinitely greater degree of happiness than those who live under the European governments.

Problem 9: Large Hierarchies Are Inherently Dangerous

Because hierarchies concentrate resources -- and decisions -- the very existence of large hierarchies is a potential problem all by itself. As we already know from Problem 5, they risk "gambler's ruin" in the form of "opportunity costs" for the group they control because they may squander those concentrated resources on a "bad bet". At the worst -- in small groups, for example -- that could result in starvation for the entire group the hierarchy controls.

But particularly large modern hierarchies are also potential problems for people who aren't even part of the hierarchy but just happen to live in the same geographical area -- even, in the modern world, to people who live half a world away. That is, if a hierarchy is large enough, it's serious bad bet -- a Vietnam, Iraq, etc. lack-of-homework debacle -- can effect those not directly involved with that hierarchy. Those millions killed in Vietnam and Iraq for example.

Even large econo-memetic machines -- usually organized as hierarchies -- when they fail, may affect so many that the other people and resources in the whole area become strained to the breaking point. See what happened to Flint, Michigan, for example, as a result of a downsizing under GM CEO Roger Smith - - - Michael Moore's "Roger and Me," remember. [6]

Governments going to war are probably the best examples of dangers posed by hierarchies just because they're large. Unfortunately, the United States Government developed into the best example of this -- particulary being a danger to people half a world away -- beginning especially with its unconstitutional undeclared war on the people in Korea. This was followed up by the equally unconstitutional Vietnam "War," Granada, Somalia, "Operation Just Cause," (Panama), "Operation Desert Storm," (Iraq), and -- against the U.S. Constitution, U.N. Charter and NATO Charter -- the action in Bosnia, Kosovo and Serbia, not to mention "Operation Iraqi Freedom" (better known as "The Iraq War") and the so-called "Afghan War," the longest in U.S. history.

Further, because these organizations are so big, the information the hierarchy is forced to discard -- increasing proportionally with size -- even though discarded, tends to be more and more significant to larger and larger groups of people. This becomes apparent when the "deciders" are so overloaded, they miss or don't have time to evaluate such significant information. This missed information may have momentous implications. It was a close thing with Tommy Thompson and the Cuban Missile Crisis, remember. Suppose he and his wife hadn't known the Kruscheves face to face? Or Thompson hadn't had the guts to speak-up the second time? And remember how U.S. Preside-nt Jimmy Carter missed East Timor.


And here's another directly related example -- despite U.S. President Gerald R. Ford's reputation as an honest and kind man, he was also complicit in Indonesian Dictator, General Suharto's, 1975 invasion of East Timor which ended up in the killing of an estimated one-third of East Timor's population.

PROFESSOR BRAD SIMPSON, University of Maryland, College Park: Gerald Ford actually met twice with Suharto, first in July of 1975 when Suharto came to the United States. And later in December of 1975, of course, on the eve of his invasion of East Timor. ...In July of 1975, the National Security Council first informed Henry Kissinger and Gerald Ford of Indonesia's plans to take over East Timor by force. ...the only thing delaying the invasion was the fear that US disapproval might lead to a cut-off of weapons and military supplies to the regime. ...
...thousands of Indonesian paratroopers, trained by the United States, using US supplied weapons, indeed jumping from United States supplied airplanes, were descending upon the capital city of Dili and massacring literally thousands of people in the hours and days after December 7, 1975.
Independent Journalist and Filmmaker ALLAN NAIRN: : Well, I interviewed Ford by phone, and beforehand had told his assistant that I wanted to discuss his meeting with General Suharto, the Indonesian Dictator, on December 5th. So coming into the interview Ford knew the topic. And when I asked Ford whether he did in fact authorize the invasion of East Timor, he said, "Frankly, I don't recall." He didn't remember. And I believed him.

What Ford said was that there were many topics on the agenda that day with Suharto. Timor was not very high on the agenda. It was one of the lesser topics, and he just couldn't remember whether he had authorized this invasion, which ended up killing 1/3 of the Timorese population. And it's kind of an illustration of the fact that when, like the United States, you're a global power with regimes everywhere dependant on your weapons, you can start wars, authorize wars, take actions that result in mass deaths in a fairly casual way. --Democracy NOW!, December 27, 2006

So, just the fact they're large, makes hierarchies, in direct proportion to their size, dangerous to those around them -- and in some unfortunate cases, even to those quite distant from them.

To sum up the problems with hierarchies, they 1. waste information, 2. waste time, 3. have inherent communications vulnerabiities, 4. magnify pecking order disputes, 5. risk gambler's ruin, 6. can be hi-jacked, 7. are very expensive to setup and maintain, 8. tend to become habitual, and 9. are inherently dangerous in direct proportion to their size.

Hierarchy vs. Speed, Efficiency, and Efficacy

Because they are thought to be effective and quick to react, modern hierarchies and their "chains of command" are commonly assumed to be especially useful during "emergencies," which are, by definition, "a sudden, generally unexpected occurrence or set of circumstances demanding immediate action," remember. [7] This assumption of effectiveness and quickness of response during emergencies has become central to the value we ascribe to hierarchy -- and thus, often, to its main practitioner, government. As we can now easily see, this assumption of speed and efficiency is patently false.

Particularly problems 2, 3, 4, and 8 above slow hierarchies down, and in addition, wasting information (Problem 1.) -- and the fact that hierarchies -- and/or parts of them -- are often hi-jacked (Problem 6.) -- tends to make them inefficient and ineffective -- because, even once they finally swing into action, these factors often cause them to do less than the optimum thing. Even the wrong thing.

All this is why, for example, as is now well known - - -

In the first 48 to 72 hours, under the best scenario, you're on your own. -William Atkinson, WakeMed Health & Hospitals, April 18, 2006, ~~~22:33:41

This "modern" delayed reaction is in sharp contrast to the "old days" when your neighbors -- even ones from neighboring towns, etc. -- didn't count on governments taking care of things while making it illegal for others to do the same. Everyone just naturally helped almost immediately. Even folks from foreign countries.

But now, as U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt warned above, "Any community that fails to prepare -- with the expectation that the federal government can come to the rescue -- will be tragically wrong." What he's telling you is that the hierarchies won't be there and you're on your own. You and your neighbors are still your own "first responders." Like it or not, during an emergency, sitting on your roof waiting for government help is fruitless at best. And, as long as you're counting on hierarchies, always will be. They can't help it. As you now know, it's in their nature to be slow and clunky.

The idea is that in a true emergency, there simply isn't enough time for thoughtfully considered alternatives to be thoroughly discussed by everyone over a nice relaxing cup of tea. In fact, in a true emergency, coordination is desirable, usually only a few people know what's going on, and it behooves all those involved to listen to those folks -- and only those folks -- but only until the emergency is over. At least that's the way it's supposed to work. Ogg sees the elephant about to trample the camp and orders, "Quick, grab your weapons and climb a tree!" After the elephant leaves or is killed, everyone climbs down and goes about their previous business.

As we already know, though, especially in large formal persistent hierarchies, the question arises as to who it is that really knows what's going on. Seargeant Hobart, told only that there's an "emergency" -- and with only a few pre-programmed "orders" available to him -- yells, "To the barricades, men!" And Seargeant Hobart is close to the scene of action. But what about General Hobart who isn't close? So what actually goes on during emergencies, especially in large pseudo-group hierarchies, is that they may give up behavior directly coordinated with here-now "ground truth" in return for massive, usually pre-programmed behavior that may be inappropriate because it was designed for a general situation -- and has little or no direct connection to what's actually happening right HERE and NOW.

The range over which action by modern, formalized hierarchies can be faster and more effective -- even though not necessarily coordinated with the "ground truth" (and at best, pre-programmed -- we hope appropriately) -- is severely limited by at least the problems we have pointed out in this chapter. So once hierarchy and "chain of command" are extended beyond a certain small size or over time, decentralized "emergent" alternatives quickly gain the advantage, particularly in the quickness, adaptability and appropriateness of response.

What hierarchy lacks in this department can only be compensated for by massive concentration -- and expenditure -- of resources. And, if it's hierarchy vs. hierarchy, often that kind of contest is indeed decided by the relative amount of resources each hierarchy can bring to bear. If it's hierarchy vs. a decentralized structure, on the other hand, it may take a disproportionate amount of resources from the hierarchy in order to prevail. IF they can prevail. That's one reason some people call such a conflict "asymmetric warfare." And of course, both before and after any contest, the hierarchy must be maintained, which, as we now know, is very expensive.

So, despite the expectation they're fast and efficient, large modern formalized hierarchies don't react rapidly. And because they waste huge amounts of time, resources and information they're not efficient or very effective either -- even after they get to the emergency. Further, hierarchies -- governmental or otherwise -- also require inordinate amounts of time and resources to maintain before and after an emergency as well.

So hierarchies are clunky at best. And they can't help it. The people in governments seem to be becoming aware of this too -- and they're now promoting NGOs, literally "Non Governmental Organizations," -- to take care of the things governments are expected to, claim to, but have begun to realize, that, for some strange reason, they can't.

What Katrina, Hezbollah, and Switzerland Prove

We have, of course, been pointing out the practical problems of modern, organized, formal hierarchies. But what are the alternatives? And how do they stack-up against formal hierarchies?

Whatever those alternatives may be (you may know by this time -- and we'll take a close look later), clearly they don't have to be very good. For proof of how well hierarchies don't handle "emergencies," -- or anything else much -- we'll take a final look at how the U.S. Government and its sub-hierarchies handled reconstruction in the year following Hurricane Katrina. Then we'll see how well the military hierarchy actually handles it's main job by looking at Vietnam, Somalia, and how Israel handled Hezbollah in the mid-2006 "war" against Lebanon. These are also indications of how much better the alternatives are. And finally, we'll look at just how effective alternatives to hierarchical national defense can be by taking a look at the ultimate in national defense: A modern country that hasn't been invaded -- or involved in an official foreign war -- since 1515 A.D.

First, let's look at how government hierarchies performed -- not just immediately after Hurricane Katrina (which devastated the south-central United States in August, 2005 A.D.) -- but over the next full year.

Hurricane Katrina -- one year on VClip 11

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Face the Nation & ABC's This Week, Aug. 27, 2006

So, not only were the government hierarchies in the united States obstructive and inefficient in the immediate aftermath of Katrina, the obstructionism and inefficiency persisted for at least a full year afterwards.

We know that distributed decisions based on distributed information seem to have an edge over hierarchies in many situations. We know this is generally true, particularly because of the example of "markets" -- and for natural disasters as per the poor performance turned in by hierarchies as in the case of Katrina, above. But surely the military in time of war is an exception. Isn't it?

In the summer of 2006, the people in the Government of Israel attacked and bombed the people of Lebanon, purportedly because the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon took two Israeli soldiers hostage. The Israeli military at that time was, for its size, touted as one of the most effective state militaries in the world. How did that 33 day "war" turn out?

Hezbollah won! VClip 12

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from 'This Week,' etc. August, 2006

Opinion was pretty much unanimous that a reported 3,000 Hezbollah militia men defeated the hierarchical Israeli State military. But the Israelis shouldn't have been surprised -- their own history holds an heroic precedent: The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising during WWII when a handful of repressed Jews held off a division or two of crack Nazi troops, beginning with, if myth and my memory serves, a few old outdated firearms. The 700 or so ghetto Z.O.B. fighters were hungry, thirsty, and completely surrounded and cut off from help even before the fighting started. And of course the Germans couldn't let them win and so completely razed and burned the Ghetto. That was the only choice they had -- against even minimally armed and determined decentralized warfare .

But today, things have gotten more sophisticated -- and the "resistance" to state military power has, it seems, matured - - -

Hezbollah's Nasrallah warns Israel of defeat VClip 13

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Democracy NOW! August 10, 2006

"The central secret to Hezbollah's success is that it trained its (global) guerrillas to make decisions autonomously (classic 4GW), at the small group level. In every area -- from firing rockets to defending prepared positions to media routing around jamming/disruption -- we have examples of Hezbollah teams deciding, adapting, innovating, and collaborating without reference to any central authority. The result of this decentralization is that Hezbollah's aggregate decision cycles are faster and qualitatively better than those of their Israeli counterparts." --Global Guerrillas, Sunday, July 30, 2006 THE SECRETS OF HEZBOLLAH'S SUCCESS, Organizational Improvements

And the slow-moving and slow-thinking hierarchical state apparatus is slowly becoming aware, if not of all the implications, at least of the details of decentralization - - -

Hezbollah's decentralization recognized VClip 14

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Democracy NOW! & Meet the Press, August, 2006

      It's worthy of note that Hezbollah folks were also much quicker to aid the Lebanese victims of the Israeli attack than were those in the Lebanese government. Hezbollah was already making $10,000 emergency loans to Lebanese families even before the fighting was over, while inadaquate government aid was just beginning to arrive a month later. --DN!

And decentralized militia movements are now proliferating -- and aren't necessarily under the control of the hierarchical structures of the state. That's why the militia movement of the late 1990s in the u.S. was broken up by the U.S. Federal Government. But the militia movement is not dead here -- and it's alive and well in foreign countries as well. Hierarchical leaders are and should be wary of the threat these decentralized organizations pose to the established state's hierarchical structures -- and to the "centralized political authority" these hierarchical structures are attempting to keep in place.

Taliban more dangerous than al'Qaeda because Taliban has its 'roots in the people' VClip 15

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Democracy NOW! September 13, 2006

And, of course, Americans currently (2006 A.D.) have the Iraqi "insurgency" as a grim reminder of the impossibilities of dealing with a decentralized resistance. There are other relatively recent examples: the French in Algeria, U.S.A. in Vietnam, U.S.S.R. in Afghanistan, the British against the I.R.A. in Northern Ireland, U.S.A. in Somalia, etc. [8]

And we have a much more thoroughly "researched" and historically tested example, strongly suggesting that decentralized defense works almost magically well. Name the modern country that, despite being in the very center of the European "corridor of war," hasn't been involved in a single war of any kind since 1815 and hasn't been involved in an "official" foreign war since 1515.

How have the Swiss managed that phenomenal -- and suspiciously ignored -- record? Well there seem to be three main factors:

1. Mind your own business

2. Be well armed -- all Swiss males get military training and are encouraged to keep their marksmanship sharp -- and to maintain a military weapon and ammunition in their homes in case of an attack.

3. The government dissolves if there is an attack, completely decentralizing Swiss defense and making surrender a completely individual decision. Ultimately for every individual armed citizen.

It doesn't hurt that the Swiss president only serves a one-year term and so isn't around long enough to accumulate power -- or even to get well known -- which implicitly defangs the hierarchy. Again, this seems to work remarkably well -- no involvement in any official foreign war since 1515 -- as of this writing (2006 A.D.), that's 491 years. And the Swiss system sounds remarkably in tune with the advice given us by U.S. founding father George Washington in his farewell address.

But the U.S. Government clearly fell off the wagon: Compare the Swiss record to U.S. war involvements. According to the House Armed Services Committee, even excluding World Wars and expeditions to suppress piracy, the U.S. has been involved in well over 135 armed interventions and invasions of other countries. See here and/or here. It seems that the founders' admonitions against "standing armies" were well founded: Standing armies seem to encourage their own use.

It should be further noted that Switzerland -- actually the "Swiss Confederation" -- is composed of 26 "Cantons," speaking three different languages (French, German and Italian) and many still with their own distinct culture -- which proves that quite diverse folks can get along -- and that the Iroquois Confederacy wasn't a fluke.

You can get quite an interesting interpretation of the Swiss system -- in comparison to other (hierarchical) centralized defense approaches etc. here.

It's of note that, just before the U.S. Government's second major attack on the people of Iraq (Operation Iraqi Freedom), Saddam Hussein made a fledgling effort to distribute weapons to the Iraqi people, probably in an attempt to enable an insurgency. [9] Similarly, popularly elected Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez prepared his people to resist foreign invasion from the grass-roots.

In fact avant-garde military thinkers suggest such a decentralized defense relevant, not only to 21st Century Switzerland but also suggest a decentralized "4th Generation" defense for America.

This effect -- Goliaths being in trouble at the hand of more decentralized structures -- isn't limited to military operations. Lacking mercantalist links to governments in the current age, all economic structures (corporations, etc.) larger than justified by "economies of scale" are vulnerable.

"Micro-power (termites of power) is spreading to all areas of human endeavour. Rather than the bi-polar world of the 20th century, we are entering a hyper-polar world -- a world with hundreds, thousands of smaller centers of power. Central Banks used to call all the shots, but now there are hundreds of independent hedge-funds that limit central banks, for one example. I don't know what the ultimate outcome will be and I don't think anyone does." --Moises Naim, Venezuelan Minister of Industry, Foreign Exchange with Fareed Zakaria, July 25, 2006, 12:21:36

The successes and viability of decentralized defense -- as well as decentralized "emergency management" -- are the tips of the icebergs, showing that more egalitarian forms are making serious inroads on the now traditional hierarchical structures that have evolved into the modern proto-fascist, proto-toalitarian hierarchical state. What good are FEMA, HLS, etc. if local folks and NGOs work better?

And if decentralized defense works better than state militaries to protect "we the people," what good are state militaries and standing armies? Or the mega-states that field them -- and finance them with money exacted from "we the people?" Especially when they regularly deploy them in foreign countries and thereby instigate "terrorist" retalliation -- and the needless death of our young men and women? And the killing of innocent men, women, and children in foreign lands.

The Collective Action Problem


[START HERE: |cm:The Collective Action Problem |fn:Hierarchy & coercive democracy log-jams spontaneous order

Uses for Modern Hierarchy?

"But," you may be thinking, "Aren't there ways hierarchies can overcome some of the problems inherent in 'chains of command'? For example, if each officer discards some of the irrelevant information on the way up, that would handle the 'information overload' problem?"

A major problem with that approach is that it's not clear which information is irrelevant -- and whatever is perceived as relevant must pass through a lot of agreeing minds to make it all the way up the chain of command. And, in the time which passes as the information makes its way up, the circumstances that spawned that information have probably changed. And the necessarily short messages can't pass the context of relevance, only experienced by the original observer, up the chain to properly Orient the OODA Decider. That's why "intelligence" -- attempting to tease out or photograph "the big picture" -- is a separate function in the military, for example.

Perhaps hierarchies can overcome some of their handicaps by creating smaller sub-hierarchies with shorter chains of command, particularly to deal with "lower level" recurring problems? While sub-hierarchies may be smaller, they're still hierarchies and while possibly minimizing them, sub-hierarchies still can't escape the inherent problems created by a "chain of command." There are some other accomodations hierarchies can make to help reduce their inherent problems, but, except in certain rare instances, even in combination, these accomodations are simply not able to overcome the deficiencies inherent in a "chain of command." Remember even the Special Forces' OODA delay in Bolivia took them way out of the game -- "intelligence" and all. And, of course, if you go too far, without a chain of command, people are independent, autonomous and co-Operative -- and you don't have a formal hierarchy. OR central control.

None the less, as we noted in Chapter 17, Diversity vs. Ruin in Small Groups and Elsewhere, despite the down-sides of "hierarchy" even our small ancestral groups found at least five practical uses for one element of hierarchical behavior: In the form of dominance displays, 1. to repel enemies; 2. to control and train children; 3. for dominance play in mating; 4. to temporarily coordinate people during "emergencies," and finally and most importantly, 5. for alpha confidence signalling as the basis of co-Operation.

Despite the down-sides, are there any similarly practical uses for large, persistent, formalized hierarchies in the modern world?

As we might suspect, those who gravitate to hierarchies generally have a genetic predisposition for them -- rather than a preference for the majority's "instincts for freedom" and our egalitarian roots. As a result -- and as [^^wLINK HERE] hierarchy took over during The Great Transitions-- modern hierarchies evolved and are, cat-rubbing-like, run by the same biological rules that run hierarchies in other non-human species, largely uninhibited by egalitarian considerations. These rules are inherent in "libido dominandi," remember, that is, in the "lust to dominate."

These biological rules of hierarchy include, remember, preferential "access to females and natural resources (food, etc.)," -- and "decisive political domination of other males," accomplished by "competitive displays," which amount to "threats backed by the possibility of attack." In modern government hierarchies, those are most commonly administered by L.E.O.s as agents of "centralized political control," that is, "centralized political authority," remember.

In other human hierarchies, the methods are usually much more subtle -- but not absent.

From these biological roots, then, comes one dubiously useful function hierarchies pretty much universally perform -- and have, ever since the Great Transitions: They concentrate natural resources (food, etc.) in the hands of those who attain "decisive political domination."

There's another closely related and probably more valuable aspect of hierarchical organizations: They facilitate and enable large numbers of people who don't know each other -- well or at all -- to work together. This is because titles and hierarchical position in the modern world also bestow what you might call "artificial credibility" right along with the position and/or title. Thus we assume "the boss" knows what he's doing, mainly by virtue of his position alone -- and thus, we should do what he says. This might remind you of the difference between authority and Authority from Chapter 20, Authority: Correcting a Major Linguistic Deficit.

"Artificial credibility" etc. enables quite large numbers of people to be involved in a hierarchy -- and have their energies concentrated. So modern hierarchies concentrate both resources and people's energies. For better or worse.

What do those who attain "decisive political domination" do with those concentrated natural resources and energy? We already have a reasonably good idea from Chapter tu, The Ultimate Selfish Clique.

Ex-U.S. President Jimmy Carter: Governments are stingy VClip 16

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NOW, Nov. 6, 2005

So, according to ex-U.S. President Jimmy Carter, the U.S. Government -- actually all governments -- are "stingy." "We only give 16 cents out of $100.00 for all kinds of development assistance or foreign aid. And this includes, unfortunately, special favors for the nations that are important to us, that can give us something back or that align with us against others, and the most destitute people who, don't have any oil to provide and don't have any strategic importance in the world, they are at the end of the line." This is fairly typical of governments in general. But maybe that's good. If they are stingy with people in other lands, maybe that leaves more for us citizens - - -

Congress pursued its own interests instead of the peoples' VClip 17

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Sen. John S. McCain, Meet the Press, Nov. 12, 2006

- - - since, as Sen. McCain puts it, "our failure to address their [we the people's] priorities as opposed to our own" is the rule, probably not.

When it comes time to use concentrated resources, hierarchical genetics plus the "selfish clique" effect plus the "Iron Law of Oligarchy" and THE EQUATION -- all in cahoots with exceeding Dunbar's number -- invariably make hierarchies "selfish" in the interests of the hierarchical "innies" rather than in the interests of, as Hitler put it, "the great mass of the anonymous, the serving collective, the eternally disenfranchised" and "Beneath them ...the northern slave class." Or, as we would put it, "we the people."

So, perhaps, we should add a tenth problem to our list: Problem 10: Hierarchies Are Selfish.

On the positive side, hierarchies may discover "The Big Picture" -- and when they get it right despite discarding lots of information, wasting time, the possibility of hi-jacking, etc., they may concentrate some of the resources (and people) they've amassed on that problem. Or on other projects -- in the U.S., on projects such as the Manhattan Project, Hoover dam, the interstate highway system, etc. But this concentrated use of resources is subject to "opportunity costs," often "putting all the eggs in one basket" and may, of course, be "wrong." And this use of concentrated resources may be expected to be handicapped by all the other problems that beset hierarchies as enumerated above.

But concentrating such immense resources, hierarchies can sometimes accomplish some pretty impressive things -- the Pyramids, the Great Wall of China, Hoover Dam, the U.S. Interstate Highway System, the Manhattan Project, etc. The question is, are such projects justified? Particularly in light of what might have otherwise been dmne with those resources -- especially had they not been un-naturally concentrated by coercive means (taxes).

Was it appropriate to have large numbers of people in Egypt spend their entire lives building huge tombs for their hierarchical leaders? Some environmentalists challenge the wisdom of the Interstate Highway System (actually, "The Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways") -- which was largely a military project -- and Hoover Dam. And what about The Manhattan Project?

And concentrated resources may not be all that necessary -- spontaneous donations of clothes, water, blankets, food, medical aid, etc. from all over the U.S. and world -- including Venezuela, Cuba, etc. -- poured into New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina to such an extent, some had to be turned back. Likewise, in the case of the December 26, 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean, world-wide relief was abundant.

And remember the danger of loss of face-to-face control when you exceed ^^wDunbar's Number. And is it important to concentrate the efforts of really large numbers of people? And if it is important, is hierarchy the best and safest way to do that - - -

And here is probably the main value of formalized hierarchies in larger groups -- and it shouldn't be underestimated: They keep the hierarchists happy and so minimize the violence and disorder caused by constant, explicit, "pecking order disputes" -- and the "dominance displays," intra-group hierarchical frictions -- and sometimes violence -- these may otherwise cause.

On the other hand, in some cases such hostilities are more likely to occur when there are hierarchies because, beyond a certain size, they don't usually involve the family or friends of those at the helm.

And clearly, concentrating power and resources in the hands of hierarchies means that, when they do occur, any hostilities can be bigger and much more disruptive than if power and resources weren't concentrated. Would Al Capone have financed a "Manhattan Project" and developed an atomic bomb? Or, like the U.S. Government, develop two differently designed bombs and drop them on two cities -- Hiroshima and Nagasaki -- in three days to justify the expense?

^^w Also, conflicts within countries rack up a huge death toll. Remember, the over all total, as tallied by R.J. Rummel at www.hawaii.edu, was 262 million (262,000,000) men, women, and children killed by governments in the 20th Century alone -- and more than two-thirds of them were killed by governments without even the excuse of "war." And, in addition, there were huge numbers injured and maimed as well.

Further, during the so-called "Cold War," the U.S. and Soviet Union got in a nuclear arms race, evolved the Mutually Assured Destruction (M.A.D.) strategy, and came within seconds of blowing the whole biosphere off the face of the earth -- and they did this more than once, often by mistake.

Given this perspective, some questions suggest themselves: "Are the hierarchical cultural artifacts which pervade our modern societies necessary? Are they useful? And more particularly, are they practical? And, taking into account all the downsides to hierarchy -- which is why our ancestors allowed it only very sparingly -- are permanent modern hierarchies worth their price?"


To begin this chapter, we recalled the reasons (from Chapter 7 and elsewhere) why we and our small-group ancestors were not happy with hierarchy and it's attendant "pecking orders." In fact, practical problems, particularly how hierarchy interfered with information usage, powered the evolution of our "instincts for freedom" so we would normally avoid it. We also recalled that persistent "leaders," who, along with their cliques and cronies, make their living at the expense of their group on a daily basis were much more damaging as "free-riders" than were those who take advantage by merely being lazy, feigninig injury, selfishly wolfing down meat, etc.

We noted that while our small-group ancestors exploited hierarchy for maybe five purposes, full blown hierarchy rarely happend until after the Great Transitions. When our ancestors did employ hierarchy what they had was temporary hierarchy in a co-Operative context. On the other hand, in the modern world, the exact opposite has evolved: Temporary and/or watered-down co-Operation in a permanent hierarchical context -- and we can measure hierarchies as permanent since at least the dawn of the Catholic and Orthodox Christian churches around 500 A.D.

While the basis of hierarchy lies in our genetics, so does our dislike of it -- particularly expressed through our "instincts for freedom." But perhaps modern societies, being so large, require hierarchy. It was this and other questions about the practicality -- rather than the emotional palatability -- of large, formalized, persistent hierarchies we examined in this chapter.

Next we noted that "emergency" and "hierarchy" are Siamese twins. The personal "uncertainty" caused by and inherent in "emergencies" opens the door to accepting outside direction from someone who alpha signals that he knows what's going on. As we noted in our working definition of "emergency", this makes perfect sense - - - if and when key knowledge is localized in one or a few minds. Abuses are possible of course as in those "States of Emergency" regularly invoked -- and renewed -- by United States Presidents, etc.

Next, we noted, by their essential nature, persistent, formalized hierarchies -- with their "pecking orders" -- require a peculiar pattern of communication called a "chain of command" (COC) -- where "superiors" issue orders to their "subordinates" but the subordinates typically must ask for permission to even speak to their "superiors."

Thus, unlike the situation in egalitarian groups where there are no "superiors" or "subordinates" and anyone can talk to anyone else without fear of reprisal, information transfer in hierarchies is severely restricted. This can have serious survival implications. We noted, for example, that had Tommy Thompson not bucked the hierarchy by telling President John F. Kennedy to respond to the "soft" (rather than the "hard") communique from the Russians, the result could easily have been nuclear war. None the less, we noted that, like it or not, centralized political authority counts heavily on centralized communication and thus, ultimately, on a "chain of command" ("COC)."

With this observation, we suggested there were three structural (and six other closely related) problems with large formalized hierarchies and their COCs. We spent the next part of the chapter looking at these.

First we noted that, because of the inherent nature of COCs and "information overload," Problem 1: Hierarchies Waste Information. We showed that if each person in a hierarchy passed a one minute message up the COC, by the time they got to the "superior" on the fifth level, he would be inundated with over 52 hours PER DAY of messages -- and that's with only five subordinates at each level. Thus hierarchies must reduce the flow of information up the COC by, among other things, requiring "subordinates" to ask, "Permission to speak, sir?"

Clearly a lot of information simply gets left behind and/or ignored -- that is, often wasted -- in all hierarchical organizations, including the U.S. Government -- as we saw in Getting Through To The President, Congress's reaction to emails, etc. Further, even when this incredible information flow is attenuated, for the "deciders" near the top, as U.S. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld suggested, "It's like trying to take a sip of water from a fire hose." This waste of information has consequences as in military commanders missing "the ground truth," -- and Tommy Thompson vs. the COC.

The time it takes for hierarchies to make decisions and for information to get up the COC and back down is the source of Problem 2: Hierarchies Waste Time. In relation to the U.S. Marines attempting to stop drug trafficking in Bolivia, we introduced the notion of the OODA loop or "decision cycle."

Because a hierarchy must exert "centralized political control" "centralized political authority," remember. to remain a hierarchy, the OODA delay is inherently unavoidable -- and longer -- in hierarchies. Often the result is that hierarchy is "not even in the game." Once you know what you're looking for, you can find the OODA delay all over the place.

Next, because the COC is essential to a hierarchy but can be rather easily broken, Problem 3: Hierarchies Have Inherent Communications Vulnerabilities. How can those lower down the hierarchy know what to do if their "superiors" don't tell them? So, tellingly, one of the first goals of a normal ^^w"second generation" military attack is to disrupt the hierarchical "command and control structures" -- that is, disrupt the enemy's COC. It was to avoid this defect in hierarchies that prompted the U.S. DOD to commission it's decentralized "DARPA Net" -- which ultimately became "The Internet" -- to minimize COC disruption in case of a nuclear war. Thus one of the most centralized organizations in the world was forced to develop one of the most decentralized structures in an attempt to assure its own survival.

As those of us with hierarchical tendencies (and those of us who have been conditioned to emulate them) vie for position -- and because of hierarchy's genetic origins -- Problem 4: Hierarchies Magnify Pecking Order Disputes . These are generally called "turf wars," "jurisdictional disputes," etc., and if you insist on having persistent hierarchies, they are inevitable. One solution might be to have ranks (president, general, private, etc.) and settle succession issues ahead of time. However, especially in large, complex, rapidly changing situations involving bunches of hierarchical organizations, the pecking orders are too complex to be completely resolved ahead of time, or for that matter, ever. The main "value" of these disputes is that they aggrandize the prerogatives and the egos of the hierarchically inclined -- and institutionalize foot-dragging and sloth as everyone becomes leary of infringing assigned responsibilities. The ultimate result was painfully apparent in the video clip of Amy Goodman trying to get "Authorities" to pick up a dead body. Clearly pecking order considerations seriously degrade the performance of hierarchies.

As is appropriate for dealing with their Siamese twin "emergency," hierarchies focus nearly all a group's attention and effort in one direction, ignoring other situations, and thus, Problem 5, Hierarchies Risk Gambler's Ruin. We noted that this effect also makes today's large formal hierarchies vulnerable to mis-direction as the result of such things as inaccuracy, lack of intellectual rigor and/or the dishonesty of those at the top of the COC. As examples, we gave the U.S. Vietnam "War" -- and the Iraq so-called "insurgency" in the aftermath of George Bush's "Operation Iraqi Freedom" debacle. Further, we noted, formal modern hierarchies persist even when there aren't "emergencies" -- and this permanently institutionalizes gambler's ruin and "one size fits all" thinking and the attendant problems: What happens when U.S. "Social Security" goes bankrupt for example? There is no fall-back position.

Since hierarchies concentrate resources, anyone who can control the hierarchy also controls at least some of those concentrated resources -- and their capabilities. This creates Problem 6: Hierarchies Can Be Hijacked -- and, right from "Great Transtions" on, they regularly get hi-jacked from the top by "leaders" such as Hitler, Pol Pot, Mao, Stalin, Suharto, etc. We mentioned current (2006 A.D.) examples in Thailand and Fiji. And, according to Seymour Hersh, in 2001 the U.S. Government was hi-jacked by George W. Bush and the "neocons." But such hi-jacking isn't limited to those at the top: Our mercantalist "silent partners" -- typically large corporations -- regularly, as proven by economist George J. Stigler, capture sub parts of government hierarchies -- such as regulatory bureaucracies -- and use them for their own lucrative ends.

Next we noted that Problem 7: Hierarchies Are Expensive and that particularly maintaining them is very expensive. We pointed out kings with their courts and the Vatican as obvious examples but also noted the total tax take used to maintain the u.S (and U.S.) government hierarchies takes at least 50% of U.S. citizens' income (2006 A.D.), and projections suggest this figure will rise to over 80% for children born after 1991 -- and that this could lead to inter-generational warfare. Think "Logan's Run." Since a very large part of this expenditure is mainly to keep the hierarchy intact so it can attempt to deal with the next emergency, given hierarchy's problems, we questioned whether or not this was a reasonable expense.

Next we pointed out that, besides institutionalizing all the problems we've already mentioned, there was a derivative problem with long-standing hierarchical cultures, namely that Problem 8: Hierarchies Tend to Become Habitual. Because hierarchies, by their nature, take decisions and initiative out of the hands of the "rank and file," they create habitually dependent individuals who become unused to making decisions and taking initiative -- and so they do not regularly initiate spontaneous co-Operative behavior. Thus chronic hierarchy creates un-self-motivated people -- and changes the ambiance and character of a society and the people in it from self-fulfilled, secure and independent to un-fulfilled, insecure, and dependent. The habitual smiles disappear.

Because hierarchies concentrate resources and decisions, Problem 9: Large Hierarchies Are Inherently Dangerous. With increasing size, bad decisions by hierarchies effect more and more people, not only within the hierarchy, but also people nearby, and in some unfortunate cases, even people half a world away. This happens because, even in the case of a simple hierarchical failure, the more people who are directly involved, the more resources are needed for other people in the "neighborhood" to help, compensate, and adjust. We used Michael Moore's "Roger and Me" as an example again.

Governments going to war is probably the best example of dangers posed by hierarchies in proportion to their size, and the U.S. Government periodically attacking people as much as half a world away, one of the most egregious. We noted via. U.S. President Gerald R. Ford's role in the Indonesian invasion of East Timor, that "if you're a global power ...you can start wars, authorize wars, take actions that result in mass deaths in a fairly casual way."

In Hierarchy vs. Speed and Efficiency we noted that, based on the above problems, the assumption that hierarchies are fast, efficient and effective is clearly false. As evidence, we cited U.S. HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt's warning that in emergencies, "Any community that fails to prepare -- with the expectation that the federal government can come to the rescue -- will be tragically wrong." We noted that in comparison to small, flexible, autonomous groups, able to respond quickly to the here-now "ground truth" -- and then get on with their business -- large hierarchies are slow, klunky, and invariably out of sync. And while, when one hierarchy confronts another, the largest concentration of resources usually wins, in an "asymetric" context against decentralized structures, concentrated resources may not guarantee a hierarchy victory. We noted hierarchies always have these problems -- and that governments, regularly discovering they can't seem to quickly and efficiently take care of the things they're expected to, increasingly turn to NGOs instead.

But what works better than hierarchy? We looked at What Katrina, Hezbollah, and Switzerland Prove to find out. We discovered that even a year after Hurricane Katrina, the U.S. Government hierarchies had failed to help large numbers of victims, and had instead, prevented many of them from recovering on their own. Looking at the 33-day mid 2006 war between Israel and Lebanon, we discoverd that approximately 3,000 decentralized Hezbollah militia fighters had defeated one of the highest rated state military hierarchies in the world. We noted that Hezbollah was also quicker with financial relief to Lebanese citizens than was the Lebanese government.

We recalled other recent defeats of massive military hierarchies -- the French in Algeria, the U.S. in Vietnam, the former Soviet Union in Afghanistan, the U.S. in Somalia, the imminent (2006 A.D.) defeat of the U.S. military hierarchy in Iraq, etc.

Finally we looked at Switzerland, noting that in time of war, the government disbands and the military decentralizes, which is key to why that country, squarely in Europe's "corridor of war," hasn't been involved in a foreign war since 1515. That's 491 years as compared with America's involvement in well over 135 armed interventions or invasions of foreign countries in less than half that time. We noted that a decentralized defense strategy has been recently suggested for the people of the united States as well.

To sum up, we noted that the success and viability of both decentralized "emergency management" and decentralized defense -- contrasted with governments' failures -- challenge the assumption that the state, hierarchical by nature, is necessary or desirable for either function.

Finally, we asked, "Are there other Uses for Hierarchy, especially the huge permanent types that have evolved since The Great Transitions? We noted that some problems with large hierarchies can be improved -- but not fixed -- by shortening the chain-of-command, etc. -- but, ultimately, without a COC, you simply don't have a hierarchy.

Because those with genetic hierarchical tendencies are attracted to them, modern hierarchies tend to operate with minimal egalitarian considerations and similarly to hierarchies in non-human species. Thus modern hierarchies concentrate natural resources -- and, because "titles" confer "artificial credibility," people -- in the hands of those who gain "decisive political domination." Ultimately such domination is based on "threats backed by the possiblility of attack" usually, in the case of governments, administered by LEOs in the interest of "centralized political control," "centralized political authority," remember. but by more subtle means in other types of hierarchy.

But, for reasons ranging from "The Iron Law of Oligarchy" to "THE EQUATION," hierarchies are selfish in the interests of their innies at the expense of "outies." Though handicapped by all the problems previously noted, when they discover The Big Picture -- or for certain projects -- hierarchies can sometimes accomplish some pretty impressive things -- the Pyramids, the Great Wall of China, Hoover Dam, the U.S. Interstate Highway System, the Manhattan Project, etc.

But is it necessary to have such large concentrations of resources -- and are such projects justified? There were plenty of private resources donated after Katrina and the 2004 tsunami, for example, and we noted the statistics of Hong Kong's 50 years of record economic development despite only a very small number of larger hierarchies. Was it appropriate to have large numbers of people in Egypt spend their entire lives building huge tombs for their hierarchical leaders? And what about the Manhattan Project?

We noted the main value of modern hierarchies may be that they keep the hierarchists happy and minimize pecking order violence. But we also suggested that with larger hierarchys, hostilities, when they happen, can be much bigger and more disruptive than if resources weren't concentrated. We cited R. J. Rummel's 262 million (262,000,000) men women and children killed by governments in the 20th Century alone as proof.

Given all these considerations, we asked if permanent modern hierarchies are worth their price.


[1] FORT CARSON, Colo. --One of four soldiers charged with shoving two Iraqi civilians into the Tigris River where one of them drowned says his superior officers ordered up the incident and told him what to say to officials looking into the death ... Spc. Terry Bowman said he "was told by his chain of command what version to give CID," Sgt. Irene Cintron of the Army's Criminal Investigation Command (CID) said -- Fort Carson Soldier: I Was Ordered To Push Iraqis Off Bridge, thedenverchannel.com, July 28, 2004 return

[2] While rumors were that Shinseki was sacked for publicly disagreeing with Rumsfeld, they are apparently not true -- but he and other officers took a lot of heat for their disagreements. return

[3] To see how this strategy has been applied to the U.S. Government in general, check out ^^w COG . return


Gulf of Tonkin: "It [the 2nd attack on the Maddox] didn't happen." VClip 7:

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Robert S. McNamara, Sony Classics, "The Fog of War"

The only thing Mr. McNamara didn't explain was that the first attack on the Maddox was North Vietnamese "hot pursuit" retaliation for U.S. UDT attacks on North Vietnamese shore installations -- and that they weren't the first such U.S. attacks on North Vietnam's sovereign territory. return


U.S. Senator John McCain explains "earmarks" VClip 9

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Meet The Press, Dec. 12, 2005

Obama explains who benefits from government and who pays VClip 10

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This Week, Feb. 2, 2007


[6] Huge econo-memetic hierarchies may be judged "too big to fail" and may be bailed-out by the government-banking axis, as was Chrysler Corporation in late 1979 under Lee Iococa. Such bailing out leads to what central bankers call "moral hazard" when business managers factor-in the possibility of such bailouts into their decisions, making banks and their patron governments -- ultimately meaning taxpayers -- unknowing partners. return


e|mer·gen|cy n., pl. -cies a sudden, generally unexpected occurrence or set of circumstances demanding immediate action -WEBSTER'S NEW WORLD DICTIONARY, Third Edition, Copyright 1988

Also, remember our working definition from Chapter 14, Emergency! return

[8] The central problem of decentralization for those who count on the short-cut of "decapitation" -- which only works when dealing with hierarchies -- is that there is no head or distinct hierarchy in decentralized "acephalous" groups.

"It's that decentralized nature of MS-13 -- with no clear hierarchy or structure -- that makes it so vexing to authorities. "Taking out the heart of the leadership is very hard if there is no definitive leadership," says one federal law-enforcement official. The Most Dangerous Gang in America They're a violent force in 33 states and counting. By Arian Campo-Flores, Newsweek, March 28 issue [2005] return


WASHINGTON, Nov. 23 -- As the world worried about Saddam Hussein's quest for nuclear and biological weapons, he took time out to discuss with his top advisers the merits of a decidedly more primitive arsenal: slingshots, Molotov cocktails and crossbows. In Video, Hussein Uses Slingshots and Bows to Rally Iraqis for War

He had also taken more substantial steps to make more conventional weapons available to Iraqis. return

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