A peculiar freedom.

It's handy living with a Crusader for Justice. He and I can have interesting couch-side chats about liberty, censorhip, control, morals, hegemony and the like. This is good. He also keeps an eye open for interesting bits and pieces on The Inner Tube.

Having recently released Filters on Flickr -- where one of the main premises is that people can self-moderate their content -- I've found myself thinking more about the idea of government and authority.

It's been particularly interesting to me that some people expect to be told how this self-moderation should work. The paradox is that any system decreed by the "State" is inflexible, immediately not suitable for everyone, and so open to interpretation and argument. I'm very curious to see how actual self-moderation (as opposed to community policing) will play out, given that no rules of engagement have actually been laid out. Do people innately possess an understanding of the Common Good, or, the common safety? Or, for that matter, the common decency?

I've asked myself how to present this lack of Decree to people who need guidance, and it seems to me that the easiest way to do it is to present a number of scenarios, rather than hard, fast rules. To help filter content which may not be suitable for global public view, one could ask oneself: Would you show this photo to someone sitting next to you on a bus? If there is even the slightest hesitation, that indicates that the photo is probably not "safe". Etc.

Anyway, Jason (My Roomie Crusader) put me on to a fascinating short series of programs from the BBC called The Trap, about how government mixes with Game Theory mixes with psychiatry mixes with self-interest. Very interesting program, particularly given current thoughts about the power and efficacy of government.

Here's a the program, if you have an hour to spare:

And here's my unabashed transcript, with many quotes verbatim and sadly, poorly referenced. I lay no claim to any of this content or its thrust. And I'm certainly not saying that the Flickr Team is any sort of government, but that it's sometimes perceived as such.

Government as major balancing influence


in the search for utopia, USSR attempted to control everything

Friedrich Hayek

"the road to serfdom"

"golden age of the free market"

"self-directing, automatic system created by millons of people searching for their own goals"

based on selfishness
not altruism

unleash self-interest

analyze signs of danger
new type of conflict

game theory

players are locked together
Phillip Mirowski
"incorporate your enemy into your own thinking"

Rand Corporation

strategic moves to create fear of self-interest

Alain Enthoven
dark vision of human beings, driven constantly by self-interest

"one could create stability through suspicion"

John Nash (A Beautiful Mind)
F**k You Buddy

system driven by suspicion and self-interest does not have to lead to chaos

equilibrium - what *i* do is adjusted in relation to what *you're* doing

"seeking separate optimisation"

prisoner's dilemma
could have a society based on individual freedom - everyone needs to be suspicious and distrustful

"rational pursuit of self-interest will lead to a kind of an order in which all players agree on the strategies taht they're playing and that those strategies make sense to them"

"construct your opponent"

no secretaries played that game - they always decided to co-operate

Nash - paranoid schizophrenic

"red tie = communist spy"

undermine the idea of trust and love

R.D. Laing
"is it possible to be a human being anymore?"

50s mental hospital - frightening, no medical control. talking instead?

shifted focus to actual circumstances of "madness incubation"

roots of madness lay in family
chemicals don't work - sending back to private horror

doctors were "violent agents of oppression"

power and control within the world of normal families - game theory

Dr Morton Schatzman
game = people playng by rules, explicit or not

secret game

"what does 'the other' really intend"

stratgies to control and manipulate - weapons used selfishly to exert power

love = "i love you, but i'm adding an impossible condition"

"normal families" = walking into a crabon monoxide gas chamber

Laing - the struggle for power and control in family linked to power in The World

bleak, paranoid ideas

"The Politics of Experience"

no institution can be trusted

counter-culture movement - tearing down insitutions in the name of freedom

joined by group of columnists from the far right, inspired by Hayek & Rand

that public duty should underpin public life is a sham

Early 70s
bureaucracy collapses

insitutions for help become destructive

"I can't tell you that"
"Not available"
reality of life - millions of people contunulaly watching and strategising against each other

self-interest of Cold War, now adopted by economists as truth

Thomas Schelling
"always trying to find ways to make believeable promises/threats" = strategy

public good = complete fantasy
shared goals? amongst suspicious individuals?

Public Choice Theory
James Buchanan

no such concept as public interest - only ever driven by Self

Margaret Thatcher
no agreed version of the public good - strategy in own self-interest

claim to be helping others? chaos

pursuit of the public interest - actions are those of self-interest

"agents of control, not freedom"

"illusion that you can have fredom by government decree"

Yes, Minister

Laing attacks psychiatric establishment in USA

undermines elite, bears new system of control

Anti-Psychiatry Movement

madness? sanity? labels to lock away those searching for freedom

David Rosenhan
8 people, never "mad", sent across the country to a mental hospital. told they were hearing voices, the word "thud". told to behave completely normally

they were diagnosed insane, and admitted

7 as schizophrenics, 1 bipolar

the only way out was to agree that they were insane, then to show they werwe getting better

hospital annouces "we've found 41 fakes" - but no new fakes were sent

privileged elite with specialized knowledge

how to manage people's inner feelings in society? scientific system to diagnose Inner State ?



Paul McHugh

do these syndromes exist? doesn't matter. they *can* be recorded

disorders described by numbers. answers yes or no.

computers decide whether people are normal or abnormal. computational diagnosis

Dr Robert Spitzer

random sample of ordinary people

computers say: 50% of americans suffer from a mental disorder

Dr Jerome Wakefield
conclusion - "hidden epidemic"

checklist as liberation

National Anxiety Screening Day
"what you're experiencing is common"


consequences - millions of people use checklists as self-diagnosis

powerful model of "normal"

"I want to be made normal"

"You have this disease."

"I have an ideal. I want to fit."

created from attack on arrogance

new form of control

"correct and appropriate feelings"

different systems of order

use checklist to monitor feelings and self-police


liberated from arrogant elites

new way to control

British State


large areas of the State should remain under Govt control

system of incentive, not public duty

Buchanan: politicians who preach the idea of public duty are the most dangerous, zealots

zealots not influenced by incentive

if success depends on "goodness", we're in trouble

reform of NHS
overthrow power of medical establishment

Thatcher turns to Alain Enthoven

Enthoven designed a system - nuclear weapon as rational incentive, bargaining table

Systems Analysis - can be applied to any type of human endeavour

Pentagon - remove the idea that patriotism should guide defense

patriotism replaced by mathematically measurable outcomes

disaster - Vietnam governed by numerical targets, performance metrics, measurable outputs
soldiers shot civilians to meet targets

how do you rewire incentive to create self-interest ?

"The Internal Market"

liberation from arrogant control - numeric targets, achievable without contraint
Madsen Pirie

motivation - "own the target"

individual constantly calculating own advantage

back to Nash

no such thing as a wider political story

human as information processor

interests of welfare of the whole at heart thought to be naive


new era of freedom

shape defined by its victims

deeply rooted in paranoia

corruption, growing rigidity