The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018


Those of us who've worked in the computer sciences for decades are well aware of "scalability." A system (hardware and software) that works well for a small set of end-users (or devices or data points) must often be capable of being scaled upward to accommodate hundred or thousands or even millions of end-users (or devices or data points).

Proponents of Big Intrusive Government (B.I.G.) make the tacit assumption that federal government functions and federal government control are scalable. That a centralized "server" (the federal bureaucracy) can be scaled to accommodate hundreds of millions of clients (individuals and businesses) and do this efficiently and cost-effectively. That, for example, universal health care (current euphemism—"Medicare for all") or education policy controlled by a centralized government would be efficient and effective. After all, if localized or private control of healthcare or education works, all we need to do is scale it upward and make it a federal government function. Problem is—it doesn't scale!

And therein lies the problem and the inherent fallacy of the effectiveness of B.I.G. To try to overcome the scalability problem, proponents of B.I.G. institute a tsunami of regulations that dictate how clients should behave, how they should interact with one another, how much freedom of choice, movement, and action they should have—all in then hope of mitigating an insurmountable scalability problem.

Francis Turner describes this using communications theory:
...A classic bit of communications theory is that such a network has O(n^2) potential relationships between the nodes. 2 nodes have 1 potential relationship. 4 nodes (twice as many) has 6 potential relationships (6 times as many). 8 nodes (twice again) has 28 potential relationships.

100 nodes => 450 relationships
1,000 nodes => 499,500 relationships—nearly half a million.

And in a client-server network, the server has to be ready to manage every single relationship. In peer-to-peer, each node has a hand in managing its own relationships, and maybe a few others along the way. The work is distributed.

And it finally got through my head: NO server, no matter how large and how powerful, could keep up with O(n^2). Even if it were perfectly designed and never broke down, there was some number of nodes that would crash the server. It was mathematically unavoidable. You HAVE TO distribute the management as close as possible to the nodes, or the system fails.
But proponents of B.I.G, led by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren along with a significant percentage of all Democrats, rely on magical thinking, not communication theory, to define their ideology. Let O(n^2) (an illuminating technical discussion can be found at this link) be damned, centralized control is their future!!

Even if we reject the mathematics, common sense (and a lifetime of experience) indicates that the closer the server is to the client, the better and more efficient the service. A local server will be more responsive to the demands of local clients. The server can be tuned to the local environment. At a local level, peer-to-peer processing flourishes, eliminating the demands placed on the centralized server.

As the Democratic Party becomes a left-wing entity, we increasingly hear suggestions that capitalism is predatory and that socialism is "the way" forward. Forget the fact that socialism has recently led to ruin in places like Venezuela, Dems would argue that Scandanavia is a counter-example. But is that a valid argument as the Dem's push for more and more B.I.G?

Turner comments:
Lefties in the US tend to talk about how wonderful Scandinavian nations are (high taxes, equality, blah blah), they totally miss that in Scandinavia everything from Hospitals to Electricity to the Internet is regulated and financed at a local level. Sure there are coordinating bodies and financial transfers from richer places to poorer ones but the locals raise most of the money from local sources and they control it all too. Moreover the Scandinavians do not control markets (or when they do – e.g. with Norwegian farmers – they subsidize the farmer and his land but don’t set prices on the outputs) so the market still operates and consumers get to decide whether they want locally produced subsidized stuff or foreign not-subsidized stuff. The US probably should do more things like Scandinavia, but to do that the US would need to be cutting most of the federal bureaucracy, and something tells me that all those people who say the US should be more like Scandinavia don’t actually mean it that way…
Because the Bernie Sanders in our politics cannot respond to O(n^2) in any meaningful way, they simply ignore it, just as they ignore the repeated failures of their model when it has been applied in the real world. They also ignore the very real potential that centralized control can become totalitarian control. Just ask any citizen of Venezuela, where the current inflation rate—a result of the socialist B.I.G model—exceeds 24,000 (!!!) percent.


In the body of this post, I noted that regulation is the mother's milk of B.I.G. The current President is a sworn enemy of B.I.G. but unlike establishment GOP and Dem politicians, he's actually done something about it. He's reduced federal government regulations—substantially. James Freeman writes:
History shows that when a new President arrives in Washington, many elements of his campaign agenda do not survive the first 100 days in office. Others are jettisoned over the course of the following several months as political hopes collide with Beltway reality. Yet after a promising start in 2017, it appears that Donald Trump’s effort to eliminate government red tape is not only still active but may even be accelerating.

That’s the news today from Washington’s unofficial scorekeeper of the federal regulatory burden, Wayne Crews of the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Over the years, candidates too numerous to count have promised to streamline and reduce Washington’s myriad rules and regulations. By Mr. Crews’s tabulation, the current occupant of the White House is one politician who is actually exceeding his signature promise in this area.

Mr. Crews recalls that Mr. Trump promised that his administration would knock out two rules for every new one added. The tabulation gets a little complicated, but Mr. Crews reports that Mr. Trump is delivering more than he promised. Specifically, Mr. Crews counts five deregulatory actions for every one regulatory rule-making during the Trump administration.

Mr. Crews also notes that by this metric the pace of red-tape destruction is actually increasing, from a 4-to1 rate in the fall of 2017 to a spring 2018 ratio of six deregulatory rules for each regulatory addition.

Mr. Trump has famously remarked that red tape, when cut, becomes beautiful and he’s surely right about that. Mr. Crews figures the President cut the overall cost of federal regulation by $6 billion in 2017 and the White House is hoping to cut the burden by another $10 billion this year.

How beautiful is Mr. Trump’s $6 billion cut in year one in the regulatory costs imposed by Washington on the U.S. economy? It depends on how you look at it. It is certainly a remarkable and welcome change from his predecessor, who in eight years increased the regulatory burden by some $600 billion.
Proponents of Big Intrusive Government (BIG) love regulations. It gives them power, it allows for government to grow endlessly, and it is largely invisible, meaning there is no price to pay at the ballot box. The Dems love BIG, so its not surprising that they are apoplectic about reduced regulation, dishonestly suggesting that it somehow puts us all at risk. Nonsense!

Donald Trump should be commended for keeping a campaign promise that needed to be kept.