Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to show how the application of cybernetic principles to governance and democracy shows dangerous gaps in control due to a lack of appreciation of momentum, requisite variety and scale. Design/methodology/approach – This is a conceptual paper with examples drawn from the news. Beer's Viable System Model and Ashby's Law of Requisite Variety underpin the arguments. Findings – The workings of our democracies depend on nineteenth century concepts and are easily overwhelmed by lags, distortions and problems that interfere with a level of feedback that would enable effective control. The elective process, the regulatory process, the boundaries between public and private spheres of action and the threat to our common viability share similar difficulties balancing changing circumstances with limitations on the means to address them. Although some of these issues have been noted before, there has been little appreciation of their interconnection and the consequences of a political system whose dynamics counteract its ideals. Research limitations/implications – There is a need for more research into the problems identified here and how they relate for governance to be effective when the pace of events is rapid. A plea is made for sufficient resources to be devoted to the task. Practical implications – These are problems we must solve if our societies are to remain viable. Our knowledge in the systems and cybernetics communities could help – but it must be used and it will not be used effectively until it is more widely known and applied. Originality/value – Most current political analysis deals with the problems discussed in piecemeal fashion if it deals with them at all. Drawing a boundary around the situation that is wide enough to include these interconnected issues is needed for effective corrective measures to be applied.
Kybernetes – Emerald Publishing
Published: Jan 1, 2006
Keywords: Governance; Democracy; Communication; Cybernetics
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