The Problem of Over Control

A non-linear system is easily damaged from over-control by people. This over-control often occurs because scientists tend to apply linear solutions to non-linear problems (see 2.6). This is not surprising in view of the fact that Newtonian mechanics and linear mathematics have dominated science, for the past three centuries. Complexity theory, after all, is very new.

An excessive human control of a self-organising system damages that system. This is particularly obvious, for example, in our social systems. Clearly, some government control is essential, but if the government control becomes excessive, it is debilitating. This was seen in the more authoritarian dictatorships, such as those of Stalin, Hitler, Castro, and Mao. An over-controlled, authoritarian system of government actively prevents self-organisation. For this reason, it is incompetent and it contains the seeds of its own destruction. Communist states, for example, were described as 'centrally planned economies' and they were flagrantly over-controlled and notoriously inefficient. Indeed, the Soviet Union, and its system of satellites, eventually collapsed from internal inefficiency. Nowhere, perhaps, was this more obvious than in the collective farms, and the over-controlled system of agricultural production and food distribution. Bureaucrats do not make good farmers, and a hierarchy of bureaucrats does not constitute a self-organising system of food production and distribution.

Perhaps the most important conclusion we can reach about modern plant breeding is that it is over-controlled. Typically, a single plant breeding institute is in total control of a crop over a large area in which all farmers are denied any real choice of cultivars. Farmers are often compelled to cultivate a limited range of genetically uniform cultivars produced by a centralised institute. These cultivars are normally protected against crop parasites with host resistance, or crop protection chemicals, that are unstable (see 5.6 & 10.6) and that are liable to fail to new strains of the parasite.

This over-control is possibly at its worst in the cotton crop, where bankers and politicians have interfered outrageously. It is seen also in the 'miracle' wheat and rice varieties of the 'green revolution', as well as in many crops of the industrial world. There are better ways of doing things.

The over-control of agriculture is at its worst when the politicians interfere. Indeed, Adam Smith was induced to write The Wealth of Nations partly because of the rigidly controlled system in much of medieval Europe, in which farmers were denied freedom of choice in their cultivation of crops.

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