Friday, September 24, 2010

On Dependency Theory and Freedom

For some time, I've been wondering:  would it be possible to create some sort of "Dependency Control System"?  This topic has been on my mind recently because I'd like to create a CLtOS ("Common Lisp the Operating System"), and it would be nice to use something like Debian Linux's "aptitude" to install things, and to make sure that the dependencies work out nicely.

As I read this blog about Redundancy vs. Dependencies, I thought it would be nice to have a Dependency Control System for individual projects.  Does something like that exist?

In my efforts to find out, I stumbled on Dependency Theory.  In a nutshell, this states that, in a global economy, the Rich Countries naturally exploit the Poor Countries, keeping them poor, because poor countries are a good source of cheap labor and goods, and a nice dumping ground for obsolete technologies.

Unfortunately, I know of one good counter-example to this theory:  The United States.  Our country wasn't always a Rich, Dominating Superpower.  Indeed, at the time of our Founding, superpowers had funny names like "England", "France", and "Spain".  What made us different?  Individualism.  A determination to be Free.  A desire to try anything at least once, and a distrust of government.  While, to a certain degree, we are a Nation of Laws, we have also been a Nation to Ignore Unjust Laws or Even Laws We Just Don't Like.

What about Third World Countries?  Social Order--an attempt to make things ideal by making a multitude of laws, enforced by hordes of bureaucrats.  Hernando de Soto, in his book "The Mystery of Capital", has a very vivid explanation on how it's nearly impossible for a business in these parts of the world to legally operate, or for individuals to move into cities and build homes.  Thus, a single "factory" has to operate in small rooms, scattered about the city; families who wish to live in a home will build a small shack, and then gradually acquire the materials to expand this shack to a nicer home; and if a bureaucrat or police officer discovers any of this, bribes need to be paid--often periodically.

In other words, these countries don't respect freedom to conduct business without State interference.  And that, more than anything else, is what keeps these countries from prospering?

What lessons can we take from this?

First, Hernando de Soto tries to make businesses in Third World Countries legal, and tries to lessen the bureaucratic burden (which, apparently, is dangerous work:  lawyers and bureaucrats who like the system will go so far as to threaten de Soto's life!).

Second, for decades, we've been adding to our own regulatory boondoggle.  The latest examples are Obamacare and Financial Reform (about 3000 and 2000 pages, respectively, or something like that), but we also have things like OSHA, the EPA, the ADA, and even the Civil Rights Act, that put regulatory and civil liability burdens on our businesses.  Additionally, we have lots of State and local laws that add even more to the burden[1].  What can we expect to happen to our society, to our prosperity, if we continue down this course?

[1] My father-in-law, for example, recently had to file a building permit for a house he built twenty-five years ago.  What is the point of building permits, except to limit our freedom?  And what point is there in filing a building permit twenty-five years late?

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