Thursday, January 15, 2009

Universality of Government

Two days ago, I found a "proof" for the need of government in an interesting place.

A friend is doing a project about security in the internet and how to accomplish it. (down in the weeds type stuff, DNS, packet switching-ness).

In his experiments, he found that some sort of central authority was essential to any security plan.
He came up with a dilemma. How much central authority is required for the minimum required authority? Do we even need any central authority?

I was struck with how those questions basically get down to questions about government. Replace "central authority" with "government" and the question still remains. It is a question that caused the Cold War. It is supposedly the main difference between the two parties in the United States.

Because security depends on trust, we tend to create an entity that is above questioning about trust. We all trust the government to check if the person is a citizen of a given state when we check a driver's license. We also trust that the driver's license points to a unique person. Chains of trust are built that allow us to have some sort of security, but it all goes down to just believing what the government (central authority) says.

Democracy's idea was to put that authority into everyone around you instead of one or a few other people.

This is why he had trouble with solely distributed authority. At some point, you need an entity that is agreed to be trusted by all.

It is even more interesting when you consider that the internet is sort of like the community of nations in the world. There is no central authority (although we tried to create one called the UN). Nations have created trust networks between them with rules that govern their behavior. I am not arguing for a world government, but each entity must trust neighbors for any scheme to work. In the nations scenario, we tend to assume that there will be few ill-intentioned actors, and that if an ill-intentioned actor arises, they can be dealt with by the rest of the nations. There is a minimal central authority, mostly comprising of laws and treaties between nations.

It seems to be possible to have a minimum amount of central authority, although one could argue that the community of nations is not extremely efficient. The answer for the internet may be to have a trust network similar to the Ebay model. Each entity over some amount of transactions tells a trusted central authority about the transaction. Over time, bad actors will just disappear. The thing is, you still needed that central authority that was above question (Ebay) that you trust has not been hacked or overtaken or etc.

So we are back at needing something that we call "government".
in conclusion, the anarchists in Greece are extremely dumb; some amount of central authority seems to be required.

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