Friday, November 19, 2010


Titling a blog "Government, Anarchy and Chaos" sounds fairly radical, doesn't it? And perhaps today it is.

But anarchy, or at least a social organization that leans much more heavily toward some of anarchy's basic principles, doesn't sound quite so different, quite so scary, when you look at what the word really means, rather than the shorthand assumptions often made about it.

One definition of anarchy is, "A social state in which there is no governing person or group of people, but each individual has absolute libery (without the implication of disorder)." (Wikipedia.)

A perfect example of this use of the word anarchy is, ironically, Wikipedia itself. Essentially unregulated 'from the top', but kept orderly and informative from the collective actions of an empowered user base, Wikipedia exemplifies what happens when you let people do something without getting in their way; to wit, it works.

And works pretty well, too. Various surveys of technical topics within Wikipedia continue to demonstrate that it generally offers information as, or more, accurate than dedicated journals and publications. In fact:

Because Wikipedia is open to anonymous and collaborative editing, assessments of its reliability usually include examinations of how quickly false or misleading information is removed. An early study conducted by IBM researchers in 2003—two years following Wikipedia's establishment—found that "vandalism is usually repaired extremely quickly — so quickly that most users will never see its effects"[1] and concluded that Wikipedia had "surprisingly effective self-healing capabilities".[2]
A notable early study in the journal Nature suggested that in 2005, Wikipedia scientific articles came close to the level of accuracy in Encyclopædia Britannica and had a similar rate of "serious errors".[3] This study was disputed by Encyclopædia Britannica.[4]
By 2010 reviewers in medical and scientific fields such as toxicology, cancer research and drug information reviewing Wikipedia against professional and peer reviewed sources found that Wikipedia's depth and coverage were of a very high standard, often comparable in coverage to physician databases and considerably better than well known reputable national media outlets. Wikipedia articles were cited as references in journals (614 cites in 2009) and as evidence in trademark and higher court rulings. However, omissions and readability sometimes remained an issue – the former at times due to public relations removal of adverse product information and a considerable concern for fields such as medicine.

Essentially, Wikipedia is a microcosm of an anarchist society; few rules, great freedom, mutual self-interest at the heart of chosen collective endeavors. It almost smells a bit like communism, until you realize that there is no 'uber-comrade' behind the curtain somewhere, and then you realize it's just about the exact opposite; a society without a powerful overseer.

We live today with a tacit acceptance of the fact that government and society are the foundation of what we've achieved, but think: does the 'government' actually make anything? Does it innovate, does it press forward into the future with vision and foresight? No, people do that. And people, when crushed into a society designed by bureaucrats and politicians, generally do it less well than when left to their own devices.

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