In the previous post introducing governance we ended by observing a roughly pyramidal order in every organization. Yet in my mental model I visualize the 7.4 billion people on Earth as individual bubbles engaged in pedesis or Brownian motion. First observed, or at least documented, by botanist Robert Brown in 1827, he observed that the triangular shaped pollen of Clarkia Pulchella immersed in water would burst at the corners. The particles released would then randomly bounce around in the water.
In a bubble model of humanity assume every person is a triangularly shaped bubble that interacts with other bubbles, sometimes uniting to form bigger bubbles but doing so in a fluid called governance. This is a simple model if governance is absolute, but that is far from reality. The bubbles themselves define the fluid in which they exist and how they will interact both with other bubbles and the fluid.
Somewhat as an aside, the triangular or pyramidal bubbles have the same shape as most illustrations of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Every bubble has basic needs related to survival, be it an individual, a family, a business, a nation-state, or humankind. One of the needs for survival is getting along with other bubbles and establishing rules (sometimes called laws) for interaction. At one extreme is complete anarchy with each bubble essentially being a hermit. No bubble will interact with another bubble and humankind will disappear. At the other extreme every bubble is essentially a machine and repetitively performs a specified task of tasks. But someone or something has to be in charge to organize the 7.4 billion bubbles or chaos will result and humanity will disappear. Governance, agreed by the bubbles (maybe) provides the rules of interaction.
Each bubble wants independence and privacy but must be willing to sacrifice some of it to interact. If two bubbles are attracted and form a significant relationship, who is in charge? Who dictates what will be for dinner or is it negotiated? Who decides what make and model of automobile to buy or is it influenced by outside bubbles such as advertising companies and the bank? Child bubbles appear in the family bubble. Who tells them what to do and do they always obey? What influence do child bubbles have on the negotiation of governance within the family? And when negotiation fails, what results?
An individual bubble needs to earn money (value) to trade for needed survival things or just for pleasure. The bubble must find a bigger bubble where he or she can trade labor (value) for money (value). But the employing bubble has its own version of governance that is usually not negotiable. You follow the rules of the organization or you leave (change jobs), or you are fired, or you appeal to another bubble such as an employee union to negotiate with the employer bubble, change the rules of governance, or get an exception (also a rule change).
Now let’s view the employer bubble as a business bubble and jump to the complexity of a corporation. Who and what determines the governance, the rules and regulations for operations? A simple list might include the board of directors, the managers, shareholders, and other stakeholders. But it also includes external entities such as creditors, auditors, regulators, other businesses, and customers. The internal rules of the business are strongly influenced by the fluid of external governance in which the business exists.
Now consider an entity that has governance, but no government control or legal regulation (maybe).The Internet is a globally distributed network made up of many voluntarily interconnected networks. There is no central controlling body and each of the connected networks is independent. The independent bubbles can do whatever it wants within its own network regarding the distribution, interaction, and use of information. According to the Report of the Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG):
“Internet governance is the development and application by Governments, the private sector, and civil society, in their respective roles, of shares principles, norms, rules, decision-making procedures, and programmes that shape the evolution and use of the Internet.”
Per this definition, the Internet is merely a distribution system for the flow of bits and bytes, ones and zeros. It is the flow of data that may be reassembles into information and, perhaps, knowledge. But is it totally free in the sense of freedom or is it controlled, intentionally or not, by the design of the distribution components. Is it truly private or is information simply not private? Internet governance establishes the rules for interactions between autonomous networks on a voluntary basis – governance. But who’s in charge of the autonomy, the right to or the condition of self-government?
In the context of governance, what is government?