Coordination Is Hard

- Monday, April 12, 2010

Insightful perspective on governance, and the difficulty of concerted effort to achieve anything.

The author makes the compelling point that it would be wise for us to find ways to improve the effectiveness of our government, even if we believe in less government.

The key thing to understand is: governance is hard, especially in a democracy.  Fundamentally, this is because coordination is hard.

It can be very hard for even a single owner to coordinate with a dozen subordinates that each coordinate with a dozen employees in an ordinary firm to achieve a simple clear goal like making and selling a simple product at a profit. Organizations fail at this task all the time, and for thousands of different reasons.  Most new organizations attempting this fail, and most that are succeeding now will fail in a few decades.  When they fail, they will fail so badly that it will not be worth trying to save them; better to throw them away and start anew.

Once one appreciates the difficulty of coordinating even small organizations, and that bigger coordination is harder, one can see why it can be extremely difficult to manage the vaster coordination required by government.  How can ordinary citizens continue over centuries to coordinate to support interest groups that coordinate to support politicians who coordinate to approve and manage policies that empower agency heads to coordinate to manage thousands of agency employees to achieve the vague incoherent goals of many millions of citizens?


This is from a new blog I’ve been reading. It’s worth following the link to read the whole article.