How The Hell Do You Govern in a Complex World
Most things fail. How do governments deal with that knowledge?
In 2014, Martin Gurri published The Revolt of the Public: And the Crisis of Authority in the New Millennium. In it, he made the point that in a complex world governments have limited control over outcomes for their country and that the democratization of information dissemination has made the masses aware of this. The public, Gurri claimed, had gained the capacity to see that a lot of the elites’ promises are not true, because they simply cannot be guaranteed.
In 2023, J. K. Rowling and Eliezer Yudkowsky published Harry Potter and the Fog of Complexity. It contained roughly the same ideas but sold 3 billion copies.
In 2024, a wave of revolutions swept the world. Most of the old guard got kicked out of power, and an entirely new generation of leaders came into the spotlight. Here are their victory speeches.
Alexey Novichok, Russian Federation
My fellow citizens! You have been through a lot. First, you were serfs and the fruits of your labor never belonged to you. After that, the communists took what you made, mismanaged most of it, and squandered the rest on insane projects. Most recently, Putin’s government just stole as much as it could.
Now it is my turn to rule… And in my heart, I know that I am not any better than the Czars, the GenSecs, or even Putin. Give me a taste of power, and I shall abuse it as much as the rest have. You would, too, and you know it. As such, I have concluded that the only way to minimize the abuse of the citizen by the state, is to drastically shrink the state.
Here’s what we’ll do:
We shall cancel all of the taxes, save for a 1% tax on exports of raw materials.
We shall cancel most of the federal government functions, except for a limited defense department.
We shall end conscription and only maintain a professional army based on the Strategic Missile Forces.
Being Russian, you know that the only thing you are promised in life is some amount of suffering, and then the release of death. I shall not promise you money, happiness, or global domination. Here’s what I will promise you:
I will not steal from you.
I will not abuse you.
I will not save you.
I will retire to the Big Ushkan Island in Lake Baikal and spend all my time there, fishing and writing my memoirs. I will not interfere in your lives in any way, neither as a tyrant nor as a friend. I will not light up the night sky, but neither will I block out the stars.The only way, in which I shall “govern” is that I will take the nuclear football with me, and should we get invaded, I will nuke everyone. Not just the invading force, mind you, but literally the entire world, as I do not intend to maintain an intelligence force tasked with attribution.
People of Russia, I promise to be your Swordholder. Beyond that, you are on your own. Your successes and failures shall be only a product of your labor and the incomprehensible chaos of the world around you. Foreigners, I promise to not actively interfere in your affairs, but should anyone interfere in ours, I promise you swift nuclear annihilation. Otherwise, I wish you good health and the best of luck.
Angela Farrer, Swiss Confederation
My dear compatriots! These past few years have been a learning experience for all of us. It is clear to us that in the new millennium, the most dangerous quality to have is hubris. That said, objectively, life has been good to us. We have been healthy, wealthy, and mostly good to each other. The changes we make today are not those of a revolution, we just seek to reduce the pressure the government is exerting on the scales. Here’s what we’re going to do:
We shall cancel all of the federal taxes. The government shall hereby be funded by direct monetary emission by the Swiss National Bank. Taxes are, in a way, a punitive measure at heart. By funding our government through emission, we disperse the costs equally across all of our citizens through slightly higher inflation.
We shall cancel all of the social redistribution policies, and replace them with Universal Basic Income. It is not for us to say whose struggle is greatest, or who needs how much help, and when. This way, all of us will get equal benefits, and we hope that what gaps are left, charity will fill.
We shall cancel all state-sponsored research. The HBP was a huge disappointment. Perhaps bureaucrats in general aren’t meant to be in charge of science. And I know I am definitely not the person who should be deciding what to research and how to do it. So I just hope that the most dedicated scientists will use their UBI to proceed with their work.
We shall disperse the Swiss Armed Forces. We have signed a treaty with the Russian Federation, in which we pay them $1B a year (less than 20% of our previous defense budget). and they promise to nuke everyone should someone invade us. We believe that renting a nuclear umbrella is a cost-effective way to maintain territorial integrity.
That said, we shall maintain most of the other federal institutions. Where possible, we shall take the foot off the gas a little, but overall we plan on continuing our prosperous existence. We’ve built a fantastic country, and now we can sit back and enjoy the sunsets.
Cave Jackson, United States of America
Good morning, America! You have made the right choice by electing me. This presidency is going to be epic. While others cower in fear of chaos, we shall step boldly into the unknown, and dominate it.
We are the country that developed nuclear weapons. We are the nation that put a man on the Moon. We are the people who guaranteed free trade for the ENTIRE PLANET. Yeah, we have had some failures. The Bay of Pigs? School shootings? Watergate?
It seems to me that to succeed, we need to GO BIG. Our greatest successes are those where we manned up, sucked it up, and fully committed to doing things in the BIGGEST, BADDEST, MOST AMERICAN way possible. This is what my presidency will be like. Every day, all day.
I am hereby founding the Big F***ing Initiatives Bureau. Its motto is “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth spending 1% of GDP on”. Each initiative will thus get 1% of our GDP in funding every year. Here is the list of initiatives that we shall start with:
Big F***ing Mars Base. I want it. You want it. We all want it. What are we pussyfooting around for? Let’s do it!
Big F***ing Neural Net. The eggheads tell me that ADDING MORE computers makes their machines smarter. That logic sure as hell makes sense to me. Let’s add a lot more computers!
Big F***ing BRAIN Initiative.The human brain is the most marvelous thing, I tell you. But flawed. But awesome. If we study it at scale and in style, we will be able to understand it! And improve on it!
Big F***ing Fusion Reactor. It seems to me that if we want to GO BIG now, and also keep GOING BIG later, we will need more power. Let’s get some of that.
How are we going to pay for all of it? I could tell you about cutting out inefficiencies and special interests. I could tell you about the returns on basic R&D and zero interest rates. I could tell you about some monetary theory that promises a free lunch.
The reality is - we are going to pay for it. You and me. We will give up something to accomplish all of these AWESOME things. And then, by God, we are going to get to be proud of the things we have built.
Haven’t I read the smart books? Don’t I know that most things fail? Of course, I do, America. But I, for one, will not be deterred from GOING BIG and BEING BOLD. No, we will not be cowardly surrendering to uncertainty.
Success for us isn’t guaranteed. But you know what is guaranteed? Failure for those who don’t try. People who don’t try to build a Big F***ing Mars Base are NEVER getting a Big F***ing Mars Base.
So here’s my promise to you: we will shoot far, far beyond the Moon and we will do our darnedest. Together, we shall dare to bring America and the human race such glory as the world has never seen.