Horizontal Decentralization

A culture which holds leaders in check, shuns vertical power structures, encourages independent thought, and tolerates dissent will always be more healthy and free than cultures which demand blind obedience and conformity.

Any society which stacks authority and conformity in layers (utilizing vertical collectivism) will always concentrate power and wealth at the top. Since power and wealth tend to accumulate, over time the gap between the highest and the lowest strata of society widens, and a host of secondary symptoms follow. The only way to avoid this dynamic is to use a totally different social structure.

Vertical collectivism is a relatively recent innovation. For the vast majority of human history (300,000 years prior to the dawn of civilization) our species organized horizontally.

Horizontal social structures have leaders, just as animal packs have alphas. Some members of any given group are always more outspoken or assertive. However, within horizontal cultures the power of a chief is inherently limited and is always subject to being revoked. The lack of a layered authority and conformity pyramid prevents large power differentials from developing and eliminates the absolute protection afforded the ruling class in the current system. As such, when horizontal leaders get out of line it is much easier to bring them back into line (or remove them). This level of accountability inherently changes the nature of leadership. The ability to build consensus, coordinate without coercion and resolve conflict become much more important than the inclination to give orders. In a healthy culture individuals who seek power over others are kept far away from leadership positions.

Because horizontal social structures rely on strong interpersonal relationships and cohesion, group size is a key variable. If the population and territory of a people extends beyond its range of effective coordination, it will naturally tend to segment itself into smaller groups by region.

The territory held by horizontal societies can be extended by forming decentralized federations with neighboring groups. The Iroquois Confederacy, which united six tribes in this way, provides a concrete example. The Iroquois confederacy was highly organized and stable for hundreds of years (until defeated by the U.S. military). Each member tribe had its own culture and leadership, but a shared code of ethics and tradition enabled them to unify and cooperate.

Many historians believe the Iroquois system served as an inspiration for the governance structure of the United States. Unlike the U.S. system however, the Iroquois Confederacy had no central government. Decision making at the federation scale was handled by diplomacy rather than force.

The decentralization inherent in horizontal structures reduces the total power available to any individual or class within a given region. This distribution of power encourages diversification of strategies, and reduces the impact of bad leaders and of social / political experiments gone wrong.

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