That human society needs to be regulated is obvious enough, it’s by whom and how that regulation is done which is the important matter. Regulation by law, by bureaucracy, by the state, they’re not the only three ways to do it - or, given their similarity, the only way.
In fact, we’d argue that they’re the last gasp attempt to do what we don’t have better methods of doing.
Take, for example, Elinor Ostrom’s work which gained her the Nobel. Garrett Hardin’s highlighting of the Tragedy of the Commons had led us all into believing that government must do something, government must regulate. It might be by defining property rights and leaving the market to do it, it might be by using the bureaucracy to direct actions in detail, but that state definitively had to do something, to act. Ostrom pointed out that this wasn’t so. Often enough a community could work out the rules for itself. And enforce them too.
Government only needs to act to prevent that tragedy when voluntary interactions haven’t worked.
We think this a useful guide to all regulation. Sure, society needs it. But often enough - everyone agrees sometimes, any argument is only going to be over how much or when - people just rubbing along together will produce entirely adequate regulation of whatever it is. Thus we do not require detailed prescriptions of how to run a society to emanate from the bureaucracy.
Sure, that might surprise the occasional German but then so what?
Further, changing technology can flip us from requiring that intervention, those bureaucratic emanations, to not:
Thousands of Britons are earning between £40 and £200 a night by offering illegal taxi services on social media, prompting police warnings.
The Times found 18 Facebook groups with a total of more than 50,000 members where people advertised or sought “lifts” for cash from drivers without taxi or private hire licenses. Many lifts drivers are students and others are in their teens or twenties. They ferry people to and from clubs and house parties, taking their highest earnings on New Year’s Eve.
Drivers and passengers often claim that licensed taxis are too expensive or are unavailable on busy nights but the police warn that clients risk travelling in unsafe or uninsured cars with drivers who could be sexual predators.
Facebook, social media more generally, is producing that reputation management system which is the regulation. That’s what the bureaucracy is proving for us anyway - that the people doing the taxi rides are reputable. We’ve not another system for doing this, maybe we don’t need that formal one any more?
Yes, obviously, such a system would be leaky, would make mistakes. As the state version does as proven by John Warboys. We don’t therefore claim that reputation management through social media is a perfect system of taxi regulation. Only that it’s one that works to a certain extent and the interesting question is. well, how well does it work? Better or worse than the current state regulation? Or even, well enough that we don’t need that state?
We’re not even insisting upon what we think might be the answer - only that we’ve got to answer the question.