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Why don't we try a grand social experiment?

Everyone has a different idea of what the laws should be, some even claim their way of living is the best. So my question is why not have a grand social experiment and let government be run on a very local scale. I think the most interesting findings would be how those fare that choose a large intrusive government versus those that choose to live under a small limited government.

It seems silly to me that civilization has been around for thousands of years and the scientific method for hundreds but people still can't agree on how to live. It's about time we stop relying on majority opinion or some so-called prophet to decide the best way to live.

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    Lejan .

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    Sep 6 2013: This social experiment has been conducted in the history of Europe, which, at some time, was divided in hundreds of small kingdoms, duchies and city states and each of them was on a 'very local scale'.

    Besides an ridiculous amount of 'traveling taxes' and local wars and quarrels, there also was as a vast diversity in 'local laws' and 'rules', units of measurement and currencies ... All in all, those were not the best times to life in ...

    Additionally there is to say, that there is no fundamental way of 'how to live', as each generation, each century has to figure it out for itself. And so the 'majority opinion' is actually nothing but the fairest way to install the best possible compromise for a number of people who, more or less, choose to life together and to reduce the numbers of individuals, who keep trying to rule them.

    This is an ongoing experiment ever since, but I agree with you, that this process is not based on self-improving mechanisms and does not converge towards fundamental principles of improved life quality.

    And as humans are 'social animals' and tend to form communities, I haven't seen any working and self-organizing concept of 'anarchy' so far, in which no 'government' has formed or was needed.

    A 'government', at least a truly democratic one, is no entity in itself, as it is the representative form of 'the people'. So if your wish was to reduce or to remove this 'government', you had to reduce or remove 'the people' as well, which, in its highest form was pure anarchy consisting out of individuals which does not form any social group at all, of which I think this won't happen due to our biological nature.

    And the very moment groups are getting formed, the experiment starts anew ... :o)

    Nevertheless, I think we have a high potential for optimization in our modern societies, and as long we manage to continue to exist, we should try to improve the life for as many people possible.
    • Sep 6 2013: I agree having a diversity of laws also has its downside. I contend that since it is in a communities financial best interest to keep standards for things like currency (precious metals), measurements, and transportation the same, the downsides don't outweigh the upsides.
  • Sep 6 2013: those who favor intrusive government are not likely to allow those who wish to experiment with small limited governments to do so. however if it were possible, i would be glad for such an experiment.
  • Sep 5 2013: Biggest problem I see with the idea is "who cleans up the mess?", followed by an equally important "how do we secure funding?"

    Human experimentation is problematic enough without going large scale.
    There is assured to be a mess to clean up by the time its done. For every improvement and good idea you stumble upon, you're bound to end up with two dozen bad ones. With these bad ideas affecting how real people will lead their lives, its something of an issue.

    Then there's the matter of humans around the globe all coming from distinctly different cultures, with ideas that work for some failing disastrously for others, and you end up with practically no universally applicable data.

    Sociology is not an exact science, and it'll take more than a few ambitious experiments to change that. Never mind the problem of getting such experiments off the ground and dealing with the inevitable disasters.
    • Sep 6 2013: I was imagining a bottom up approach rather than a costly top down approach.
      • Sep 10 2013: My mistake. Grand implies scale, and scale implies encompassing the whole system, from the top down if necessary.
        Starting big comes with the big advantage of shortening experiment time. Finding yourself in the middle of an experiment, over budget with your funding having gone dry is always a possibility after all.

        Of course, small scale comes with its own problems. You end up with many of the same issues only in miniature (human testing is human testing, no matter the size of your group), testing in general is an issue due to smaller sample size, and some things simply don't scale up very well.

        This is one of the reasons social experiments usually end up half baked. No way around with with the non-exact sciences, especially when testing humans.
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    Sep 9 2013: Brian, I would think life is kind of flexible in that you can get away from government to some degree just by going where there is less development, less of a city or suburb atmosphere, more of a rural one. If you went and lived in a cabin in the Ozarks, grew your own food, spun your own wool, the government wouldn't touch you too much, would they? Maybe government mostly is for people in cities and suburbs, more people together need more rules for getting along. I read that the cities mostly went for Obama in the most recent election, and the rural areas for Romney.
    • Sep 10 2013: It does seem to be true that the less developed an area is the less "policing" people have to abide by. New York City for example is highly developed and look at the amount of control the local government has: Stop and frisk, limit on sugary beverages.

      I agree that people do have flexibility with how much freedom they are granted in their life. To a degree.
  • Sep 6 2013: "Lord of the Flies" and the Donner's party or "Animal Farm" or Jonesville
  • Sep 5 2013: No. You mis read or didn't read entirely. My idea is to encourage diversity so that over time experimentation tells us how certain laws fare for the population. Obviously there is always going to be diversity with matters like gay rights or religion and state. And some people will choose radical lives but what I am saying is that diverstiy will produce statistics about how different societies fare thus giving an overall view of what works best.
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      Sep 5 2013: But wouldn't it make sense for different ways of living to work best for different people?
      • Sep 5 2013: Yes.

        Here's a scenario. A group of people maybe the size of half a million vote to have a very limited government. Another group of a half a million want a watchdog government that offers more services and more taxes.
        Say thousands more groups like this did the same with small tweaks based on regional preferences. On the grand scale could we make some conclusions about what works best. I think so. Basically I'm advocating for broader State rights on an even smaller scale than a State.
  • Sep 5 2013: Sadly we often try things out of the blue that cause problems. Yes, there can beoblems as well as benefits. And when a change is being suggested we are never told the real reasons.
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    Sep 5 2013: If it seems silly to you that "people still cannot agree on how to live," would it seem more sensible to you if people with diverse preferences and interests DID agree on a single best way to live? Do you think homogeneous preferences are more logical or desirable than diverse preferences? Do you think static preferences are more logical than changing preferences?

    I think it is very valuable for people to experiment with different ways of living, both as individuals and within the organizations in which they participate. This grand experiment is underway.

    If I am not mistaken the TED prize winner from a couple of years ago, City 2.0. is partly a venue and forum for aggregating and sharing the results of local experiments in living/working/decisionmaking. Do join in!
    • Sep 5 2013: Fritzie see my above comment. It is my response to your statement.