The Economist has written: “Farewell, left versus right. The contest that matters now is open against closed”.
In other places I have written extensively about how the traditional left/right divide has ended up conflating means and ends. The great human debate between more solidarity and more individual freedom has led to a tug of war between more state and more market. A quick scan around the world shows that this is a flawed equation: state and market are tools to an end, not the end itself. Market and state are better framed as interdependent: how they interwoven, defines what outcomes they deliver. Both the pure state and market frames are largely reductionist perspectives. Seeing at them as co-dependent leads a more systemic view.
Now the main political polarity is shifting. Coined as morphing from left/right to closed/open or from solidarity/freedom to protectionist/globalist. The US elections and Brexit are obvious recent illustrations. This shift, however, continues to conflate means and ends, albeit in a much more interesting way.
Closed and open describe types of systems. Complex systems are open, resilient and self-organizing. But subject to uncertainty, unforeseen effects and require more adaptive governance. Closed systems on the other hand are indeed much more controllable through top-down governance, but they often extract a price in other dimensions. Both systems can deliver various levels of wealth, inequality and happiness. The choice is not neutral, as it does appear open systems are better at delivering the goods in the long term. But there are lots of choices within each system, depending on the outcomes one prioritises.
So just as the market/state dichotomy confused means and ends, so does open/closed. The new framing does have the added benefit of inviting a debate on the system dynamics that might deliver desired outcomes.
Progress of a kind.
Published October 16th, 2016