Thursday, July 1

How big is too big?

This is a question I've been pondering for quite some time. I know I haven't quite got this figured out, but this is a blog, so it doesn't have to be perfect yet.  Here's what I am thinking:

Is there a size limit to every human endeavor? Is there something hardwired into us humans that makes us incapable of building a large organization that does not abuse its own power? Can you think of any large organization that does not abuse people? I cannot.

Humans band together to form organizations because whatever goal they wish to accomplish is unattainable without cooperation. But what happens when the existence of the organization becomes a threat to the original goal? What happens when, for example, a government that was formed "of the people, by the people, for the people" becomes the single biggest threat to the liberty of those same people?

In a small organization where the raison d'etre for its very existence is still at the forefront of the group's consciousness, it may be apparent that dissolution of the organization is the best way to meet the organization's original goals - or at least the best way to quit screwing up the organization's original vision. A small organization is able to dissolve with a minimum amount of fuss and pain.

But the bigger an organzation becomes, the more it loses sight of why it was formed, and the more self-preservation becomes the dominant goal of the organization.

The mess in Iraq is made far worse by the almost universal insistence that the country of Iraq remain One Country. But why? The reality is that the nation-state the world knows as "Iraq" is composed of three distinct ethnic and religious groups, none of whom gets along with the others. Why then do we insist on uniting them all under a single flag? Why do we not seriously discuss the option of splitting the state into three smaller, autonomous countries? Does it have any thing to do with the human (generally) and American (particularly) addiction to bigness and power?

Closer to home, schools were formed for the sole purpose of educating our children. But as school systems get bigger and control of the schools becomes more centralized, the actual task of educating the young takes a back seat to perpetuating the existence of the schools.

Perhaps you recall that the Republicans promised to disband the Department of Education in their "Contract with America" in 1994. What happened when they took over the house, though? Same ole same ole. No one can honestly argue that the intensified centralization of schools has actually helped to better educate our children, but almost no one seriously advocates decentralization as - if not a solution - at least a step in the right direction.

I don't know if there is a principle involved here or not. But I suspect that there is a natural size limit to any organization - no matter the type. I suspect that God has created us in such a way that we are incapable of creating non-abusive organizations bigger than X. (What X is, I have no idea. But I suspect it is a lot smaller than almost any organization we are familiar with.)

Whether government, business, education or religion, once an organization grows beyond that limit - whatever that limit may be - it loses the human element; it loses its ability to respond to people as people.

No comments: