When confronted with an increasingly despotic régime, the good people of almost any nation will cower in their homes and, once they are flushed out, will allow themselves to be herded like domesticated animals. They will gladly take orders from whoever gives them, because their worst fear is not despotism—it is anarchy. Anarchy! Are you afraid of anarchy? Or are you more afraid of hierarchy? Color me strange, but I am much more afraid of being subjected to a chain of command than of anarchy (which is a lack of hierarchy).
Mind you, this is not an irrational fear, but comes from a lifetime of studying nature, human as well as the regular kind, and of working within hierarchically organized organizations as well as some anarchically organized ones. The anarchically organized ones work better. I have worked in a number of start-up companies, which were quite anarchic, in a good way, and were therefore able to invent and to innovate. I have also worked in a number of big, established companies, with many hierarchies of management, and a laborious approval process for any new proposal. These companies couldn’t invent or innovate worth a damn, and only continue to exist because the system favors big companies. When faced with the need to do something new, they always tried to buy a smaller, innovative company. This is because in a hierarchical organization people who know more are inevitably forced to take orders from people who know less, and often know nothing at all beyond knowing how to get promoted. The result is that in hierarchical organizations—and I have seen this over and over again—the smart people sit around and do nothing (or as little as possible) because following stupid orders is a waste of time, while the stupid people run around like chickens trying to get themselves promoted. This is not a matter of scale, but of organization: I have worked in just one (but it was quite educational) start-up that was organized as a rigid hierarchy and had a laborious approval process for any new proposal. This abnormal, dysfunctional situation came about because one of the founders was cognitively impaired, and the company did not get very far at all.
Thus, I may be persuaded to accede to the specific and temporary authority of a superior (superior at a given task) but I find it problematic to blindly accept the authority of my superior’s superior. It does happen that a competent person gets kicked upstairs into management. This has happened to the best of us, and has even happened to me. But to keep climbing up the hierarchy after that is to prove that the promotion wasn’t an error, and that the person in question really is management material, i.e., a bit dumb, not particularly scrupulous, but very obedient. I am definitely not management material: I seem to be missing a gene that allows middle-management types to automatically look up to their superiors and look down on their inferiors. I could never get past the thought that this hierarchy thing is all a big mistake. If anarchy works so well for the birds, the bees, the dolphins and the wildebeest—why can’t it work for us? There are many things that deserve be feared in the world, but a pleasantly, congenially, efficiently organized lack of hierarchy is definitely not one of them…
[continues at Club Orlov]