Monday, April 17, 2006

Recently, TCS Daily published "Development in a Box" by Stephen DeAngelis of EnterraSolutions and the companion Enterprise Resilience Management Blog, in which Steve outlined how fostering "resiliency" was a key component of postconflict stabilization efforts. The core of his "Development in a Box " approach was as follows:

"In this new convergence of people, processes and technology, there is the heart of an entirely new opportunity for post-conflict reconstruction. To realize the potential, it's necessary to create a flexible framework -- one that brings together private- and public-sector capabilities for the post-conflict task. Tom Barnett, author of The Pentagon's New Map and I have been at work on such a framework, which we call "Development in a Box." We see its development in four stages.

In the first stage, best practitioners -- from both government and the private sector -- set to work on the challenge of post-conflict reconstruction in a particular country or region. Best practices, standards and performance metrics are established -- determining, for example, that "this is the most effective rapid manner in which to set up a central bank." These best practices are then recorded in a catalogue for core infrastructural platforms.

In the second stage, the best practices catalogue is put into action -- local institutions are established according to its guidelines. As part of this process, the needed technology platforms are put in place -- we provide pre-configured information systems and associated technologies, such as container scanners for port security. In effect, we jump-start the systems and establish trust within the country, which is a node in a larger geo-political ecosystem of "trusted nations." These nations, in turn, make it possible to connect that node safely to the larger networks of transactions that we call the global economy.

The third stage is truly revolutionary. Here, best practices and information systems converge. The best practices, standard operating procedures and compliance rules for each institution are transformed into executable software code that governs the operation of each institution. Business logic, best practices and governance operate directly through the information systems. Additional automated rule sets are embedded that connect the institutions in a secure, compliant and efficient manner to global partners such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization and the World Health Organization. The node-state, once verified, joins the larger network under conditions of real trust and efficiency.

In stage four, the local population takes over. Locals are offered training to operate the core infrastructural platforms. Training involves the local community in the transfer of intellectual capital, and aligns the natural ambitions of local leaders with the local population on the one hand, and the global community on the other. It is in the self-interest of the local community to master best practices, best technologies, and global connectivity and integration. All of those, in turn, lead to local self-sufficiency and stability, shortening our term of providing aid."

DeAngelis was talking about the principle - encouraging a resilient, connected, system- on which state building or what Dr. Barnett refers to as System Administration intervention, should be premised. There would be an enormous range of application in practice. Somalia's problems differ from Bosnia's which are not the same as Iraq's; hence the stress by DeAngelis on flexibility and private sector entities which are more nimble and adaptive than are government bureaucracies acting alone. I agree with this philosophy but the article evoked some odd reactions from a few TCS readers, one of whom angrily wrote:

"DeAngelis' "four stages" read like a sick roadmap to that happy condition known as state corporatism, which was brought to the modern world by Mussolini, among others. I smell a rat and the rat is fasci_m pure, simple and by Mussolini's very own definition."

Most TCS readers are libertarians or conservatives with libertarian leanings who have great affection for free market economics( a position I generally share) but the response of that reader comes from libertarianism's older, darker and reactively purist traditions. Aside from missing the point of the article, being entirely wrong about Steve's motives and daft with the historical analogies, this is not a very constructive political stance for libertarians to take. One they still take all too often, rather than pragmatically influencing the political process ( or the world, in the case of Development in a Box) to move further in the direction of freedom.

I suspect that part of the problem lies with the era, basically the early to mid twentieth century, in which the foundational treatises and manifestos of libertarian philosophy and economics were written. Ludwig von Mises, Ayn Rand, Albert Jay Nock, Rose Wilder Lane, Isabel Paterson, Friedrich von Hayek, Murray Rothbard and others were staking out a very lonely intellectual position on behalf of liberty, one which went against the spirit of the age. Statism was not only triumphantly dominant everywhere but in many nations it was genocidally murderous as well. As such, these writers often had an undercurrent of pessimism or bitterness in their works which are fundamentally critical of their society's direction. Not always, of course, but often enough that many readers today still imbibe this negative aspect and drink all too deeply.

This attitude is wrong. America and the world at large has serious problems. Many of them will get worse if they are left unaddressed or are approached in the wrong manner. But the world of 2006 looks a hell of a lot better than the world of 1976 when the Soviet Union's rulers felt that everything was going their way and the United States was a " pitiful, helpless giant". This is due in no small part to the power of the ideas of these authors who so stridently attacked tyranny and government monopoly and unambiguously called for the unleashing of human creativity and freedom.

When libertarians are leaping on each and every proposal and attacking when some new policies could potentially expand choices and markets, simply because the idea deviates from "Anarcho-Capitalism" or because it conflicts with something Ayn Rand once said, is idiotic. More than that, it does their legacy a disservice; the Right's equivalent of sophmoric, campus, Trotskyism.

The behavior is destructive. It marginalizes libertarians politically and leaves the field to those for whom government is the first, best and last solution.


Shawn at Asia Logistics Wrap, has also commented on the reaction to "Development in a Box":

"This is a strange leap to make from this article. The dynamic database of best practices that Mr. DeAngelis describes is not a one-way street--it is a two-way dynamic, shaped in real-time by global performance standards regularly adapted to local requirements. Although the initial database effort will rely on well-known, best practices in the "Functioning Core" and "New Core" (to use Barnett's language), these best practices through DeAngelis' concept would be highly adaptive to new challenges and before-unexperienced adversity on the ground. Thus, a country like Iraq is as likely to export best practices during its conflict/post-conflict/post-disaster phase as it is likely to import "baseline practices." Such a system would wholly exclude any "Core" best practices that were deemed/proven unsuitable for the region of concern--DeAngelis is not suggesting we force pegs into square holes. As he states, "Flexible, spontaneous, boundary-free collaboration -- as exemplified by "Development in a Box" -- is the framework that we need today."
Nicely put, Mark. That is an angle I wouldn't have thought about as I am not too familiar with the evolution of libertarian thought.

Looking forward to more opportunities for collaborative writing.

Best Regards,


It would seem that you believe that your sword of libertarian righteousness is a worthy weapon with which to defend your friends and colleagues. Sadly though the shield of words with which you defend those libertarian ideas against the transgressors that exist within your own fortress are no where to be found.

Let me see if I understand it correctly. When ones friends and colleagues are attacked wave the libertarian sword in an aggressive and threatening manner. However, when the Fourth Amendment is attacked by ones friends and colleagues keep the libertarian sword sheathed and talk about something else - like how some new policy could potentially expand choices and markets.

Ok, how does DeAngelis and development in a box themed state building affect the 4th amendment ? I'm not following your logic here.

Let's not be vague. If you are talking about another issue entirely- and it seems like you might be - be specific and I'll give you a direct answer.

I'm guessing though that you probably already know what my answer is and simply don't care for it. However, the floor is yours to proceed.
My point is very simple. You feel yourself qualified to advise other libertarians about what their proper views should be but few if any of your posts on this blog defend core libertarian ideas.

Where are your words denoting outrage at the encroachment of government into the private lives and liberties of its citizens (Patriot Act, NSA fishing without court order, Selective suspension of due process on American citizens). It seems very telling to me that these subjects and actions do not seem to bring your fingers to the keyboard but when its business (new policies that could potentially expand choices and markets) you find words a plenty.

If you are going to use the libertarian sword to impress your audience I would suggest that you at least become familiar with the words that are inscribed on the blade.

Thank you for expanding on your point. Here is my answer.

Zenpundit is primarily a foreign policy and mil theory/strategy blog with emphasis on history and questions of cognitive psychology. If my main priority were domestic policy, politics or economic policy you would hear more " core" libertarian arguments from me. These subjects, although worthy, are not my main focus here.

I realize there are libertarians who see their philosophy as a seamless garment for foreign and domestic policy. Liberty and Power, Arthur Silber, Matthew Sciabarra etc. etc. That's fine, I disagree.

A free society requires a Lockean social contract to safeguard property, restrict the boundaries of the state and ensure the rule of law. Qualities noticeably absent from the society of states and the system of international law, such as it is. Wishing it were otherwise and making judgments as if it were, does not make it so.

My comments were not directed at all libertarians nor did I mean to imply that all the philosophers listed in the post agreed with one another. Clearly they had sharp disagreements among themselves on many points - Rand's views of Rothbard's ideas (and of Libertarianism for that matter)to cite one example,were quite dismissive.

Instead, I'm stating that approaching complex problems primarily with a yardstick of moral reasoning (usually condemnation) and disengagement is a politically marginalizing activity. Moral philosophy informs our values but it does not determine the context in which they must operate, something that will never be entirely within our control.

Moving the world toward one's philosophy requires coherent action, patience and an acceptance that the perfect, aside from rarely being achievable on the first try, is often the enemy of the good.
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