Arnold Kling  

Internet Governance

Howard Hughes and the Economic... Economic Debate...

Alex Simonelis writes,

Certain protocols, and the parameters required for their usage, are essential in order to operate on the Internet. A number of bodies have become responsible for those protocol standards and parameters. It can be fairly said that those bodies steer the Internet in a significant sense. This document is a summary of those bodies and their most important characteristics.

The bodies belong to three major nexuses. Links, both formal and informal, exist between the nexuses.

It is tempting to think of the Internet's success as being technologically determined--the triumph of packet-switched networks over circuit-switched networks. However, do not under-rate the Internet's governance structure as a factor. I remember in 1993 hearing Vinton Cerf describe the way that engineering task forces emerged to address problems and then faded away when the problems were solved. I remember thinking how marvelous this was--that governing agencies put themselves out of business once their functions were complete. How unlike actual government.

I am generally anti-elitist. However, Cerf and the other engineering elite came up with a brilliant governance structure for the Internet, which has made it remarkably robust. I compare it to the American elite of 1787, who came up with a robust governance structure enshrined in the Constitution.

Elites who want to micro-manage are dangerous. Elites who design architectures for decentralized, flexible governance systems are a blessing.

Thanks to Ian of Truck and Barter for the pointer.

For Discussion. Is the proposed constitution for the European Union another instanace of elegant architecture?

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COMMENTS (2 to date)
Dave Schuler writes:

I'd certainly like to hear the pro side of that discussion question. Anybody? Anybody? Bueller?

Lawrance George Lux writes:
Is the proposed constitution for the European Union another instanace of elegant architecture?

No. The members of the Constitutional Convention in the 1780s had suffered under the limitations of the Confederation, and were the Advocates of their time for a powerful Central government. The EU suffers from all the deficits of the American Confederation: inability to enforce central policy, inability to sufficiently tax common levies for group efforts, and lack of structure to enforce compliance on Currency and Debt standards. The EU will eventually be replaced by a stronger regime, or eventually go the way of the League of Nations. lgl

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