The Self Organising Food Supply

If we consider the food production of a country, we find a self-organising system. Numerous farmers, acting individually, decide what crops to grow, and what cultivars of those crops to grow. Their decisions are based mainly on their environment, and on market demand. Merchants and manufacturers buy their crops. Self-organising commodity markets determine prices. Systems of transport and food processing convert raw materials into commercial products such as bread, corn flakes, and chocolate. Retailers make these products available to consumers through stores and super-markets. These consumers choose what they buy, usually on a basis of either cost or quality. The stores prefer to stock items that 'move' the most quickly, according to customer preferences. There is some government control to ensure purity and hygiene, to prevent cartels, and to stabilise prices. But, in general, too much control is damaging. This was seen in the failure of agriculture in communist countries. Government control must be kept to the essential minimum, and the entire system should be self-organising.

In any human system, the more individuals who contribute inputs to that system, the more stable that system becomes. This is democracy. Its converse is autocracy, in which only one, or a few, individuals control the entire system. Autocracy often has an initial gloss of success, particularly when it follows chaos. But it is inherently unstable, and it never endures.

A perfect example of a self-organising system is the Internet. Obviously, certain ground rules have to formulated and obeyed but, once it is functioning, it is almost totally self-organising. And its fantastic rate of growth indicates the very large number of people contributing inputs to it. In a wide sense, it represents a new form of global democracy.

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