The networked species

Sapiens can cooperate in extremely flexible ways with countless numbers of strangers. That’s why Sapiens rule the world, whereas ants eat our leftovers and chimps are locked up in zoos and research laboratories." - Y.N.Harari, Sapiens: A brief History of Humankind.

Humans rule the world because they can collaborate flexibly at scale. One way they found to cooperate is forming networks:

A network of people or institutions is a large number of them that have a connection with each other and work together as a system. Collins dictionary

Initially isolated individuals that connect and cooperate with their neighbours becomes a group. The group becomes a tribe. The tribe a society. The society a civilisation.
The strength of the network comes from its participant pooling their ressources and following the same rules to allocate ressources effectively.

However, two fundamental facts prevent networks from either being built in the first place or from operating effectively:

  1. Different people follow different ends
  2. Ressources are scarce

Types of networks

"There are essentially only three ways that I can get another person to help me achieve my end's: love, trade, and force" - D.Friedman, The Machinery of Freedom.

How are the network rules enforced?

"Love" network: I want what you want

Love means situations where help is voluntarily given out of love/kindness: I wish to see someone get what they want. So their goal is mine. Or their goal and mine are aligned/close. Cooperation happens naturally.
This requires the participants to either:

  1. love each other
  2. know each other, know what the other wants, wanting the same thing

So such networks are unfortunately reduced to small groups such as a family. Indeed the higher the number of people, the more unlikely to love them all. It is also difficult to know well enough a big number of people to either love them or know that we want the same thing.

"Mob" network: do what I want or you'll get into trouble

This is the Law of the Strongest. People are hurt or threatened into doing things (providing their ressources). These "things" being what the strongest wants. This strongest person can be a King, a Dictator, a Totalitarian State. Or an elite...
Indeed, less obviously, religion for instance can also be seen as a "Mob" network. Although not physically threatened, a central authority (Pope, clergymen) gets to fix their dogmatic rules and controls information (Bible). Religion coerces society into following their ways and believing their says.
The most libertarian people will even say that any State is coercive. Because the State ultimately relies on Police and military force or threat of emprisonment to enforce Law. Law that citizens don't follow voluntarily.

"Mob" networks are superior to "love" networks in several ways:

  1. they are efficient at large scale
  2. they don't require people to know each other
  3. they don't require people to want the same things. They are not asked what they want. Only the "Mob" gets to decide.

Violence, coercion or guns made possible to build efficient Empires, and are still making possible to build Dictatorships or States.

From a moral point of view, one should wish to an alternative though.

"Money" networks: pay me and I'll do what you want

This is trade. Help me, give me something, or pay me, and I'll do what you want.

The trade has to be voluntary. Otherwise it becomes economic coercion and a form of "mob" network again.
Trade and economic incentives are very effective at a big scale. Our society as we know it, with its technological progress and its cities, has been built thanks to trade. People buying, selling, exchanging goods and services voluntarily because it was in their economic interest.

This kind of network (or capitalism) is not perfect and is legitimately being criticized nowadays. Without a proper Legal and Justice framework it can dangerously lead to a society unfairer than it was. However it is superior to the two previous networks:

  1. efficient at large scale
  2. doesn't require people to know each other
  3. not coercive

Let's get political

Depending on the "incentive" that leads to cooperation: love, coercion or money, we seem to recognize different political systems.

Incentive Network Political System
Love Love network communism/socialism
Coercion Mob network Dictatorship
Trade Money market Capitalim

Is it so simple? Especially, are communism and socialism "love networks"? They wish they were...
Out these 3 types of networks, only networks that rely on trade or coercion are efficient at large scale. In our connected and digital world, we precisely need networks that are efficient at a large scale.
This is why communism and socialism can't work at the scale of a nation. Can millions of citizens want the same thing? Despite sharing and equality being some of their core values, communism and socialism make the tragic and naive mistake to believe it can scale. It unfortunately can't. History confirmed it multiple times. They pretend to be "love" networks but turn out to be "mob" networks. They assume that people who have more will voluntarily give to strangers who have less. If this assumption were true, why would we need socialism in the first place? What about charity? The reality is that people don't voluntarily share (or too little and not often enough) with strangers. So socialism is actually about coercion. A central state that relies on e.g taxes to achieve their end. They take money that is not theirs to reallocate it as centrally planned.


Just like different people follow different ends, different people have different hierarchy of values. I value freedom more than equality. Especially I am reluctant to pay the coercion cost of equality.
Depending on the scale at which it shall operate, can't we consider a particular networks/political system to be best?

Scale Political system Attitude
Small (family) Communism "What belongs to me belongs to the family"
Groups that include people I know well enough or love (friends, community) Socialism "I'll voluntarily help you out and give you what you need."
Anything else Trade/Capitalism "Let's make a deal"

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