by David McElroy
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about monopolies. We’re told that monopolies are bad when most people choose to use a particular company for a certain product or service, but few people realize that the biggest and most abusive monopoly of all is whatever government claims authority over people against their will.
I’m a big fan of blind experimentation, so I do a lot of things just to see what will happen. As an amateur photographer, I take a lot of very random pictures — exclusively with an iPhone 4 lately — so a lot of them are very bad and very useless. But sometimes a result comes through that surprises me and makes something beautiful that I didn’t anticipate.
Friday, I wanted to experiment with shooting directly into the sun, one of the most useless experiments possible in photography. For whatever odd reason, the lens flare that I got happened to create this lovely pattern — quite unexpected, quite unplanned, quite serendipitous. Things like that don’t happen when everything is planned and ordered and there’s only One True Way.
In the modern “civilized” world, there’s only One True Way to run a city or a nation — and that’s through a majoritarian system that puts power over everybody into the hands of politicians at the top after they’ve been elected by some convoluted voting system. And in more and more and more cases, those politicians are taking control of greater areas of people’s lives, dictating the One True Way to do just about everything.
We don’t see competition or experimentation today in models of governance. As a result, we get things done the one way that conventional wisdom says things work. For many people — maybe even most — the results aren’t terrible. But we get stagnation and lack of choice in the rush for safe conformity.
I’d rather live in a world where we experiment. Many of the experiments will go wrong and fail, just as most business startups fail today. We accept that from companies starting grocery stores and resort complexes and homebuilders. Shouldn’t we have the same kind of competition and experimentation in governance and education and health care and a dozen other things?
You might not like the weird results I got from my photo experiment, but I do. You might not like the results of a city that I set up based on principles I believe in, but some people might. Those who want to try new things should have the freedom to pursue something new to offer to the world — and the world should have the freedom to choose which of our models its people wants to embrace.
Experimentation is good. Sometimes it yields beauty and creativity that we never expected.