Morality in Learning Organisations LO18051

Simon Buckingham (
Sun, 10 May 1998 17:32:55 +0100

Replying to LO18027 --

I was interested to read your principles of honesty, autonomy etc. Here is
my optimal status- Fat Liberty.

When I look at the evolution of civilization, I see the following
development route:

Lean Liberty

Fat Slavery

Lean Slavery

Fat Liberty

Lean Liberty is the state of civilization in developing countries where
there are no widespread government welfare programs such that people have
to fend for themselves. It is like America was 200 years ago when the
Founding Fathers wrote the Declaration of Independence. Everyone has the
opportunity to make something of themselves- and the requirement to do so
due to a lack of official safety net systems.

Fat Slavery is the state of civilization that gradually evolved in
*developed* countries by the 1970s and 1980s. The Scandinavian welfare
model is the classic example of Fat Slavery. Under Fat Slavery,
individuals are not incentivized to do anything themselves except comply
with institutional norms. Fat Slavery is the situation where large
government and business institutions provide everything for citizens and
employees- initiative is not encouraged, compliance is. The government
accounts for half of all economic activity and hierarchical corporations
in which people are employed account for a lot of the rest.

But Fat Slavery is fundamentally flawed and is becoming Lean Slavery-
individuals suffer all the disadvantages of the fundamental flaws whilst
receiving little in return. These flaws are a lack of adequate
market-based incentives for employees to perform to the same levels as
they would as entrepreneurs, dependence between employees who rely on
their colleagues to carry out their jobs in organizations, the presence of
force in managerial contexts such as task-setting, office presence and
team membership and increasing difficulty for managers and politicians to
successfully intervene because of their limited understanding of today^Rs
complex global unorganized world.

The fundamental flaws mean that both large governments and organizations
are failing to deliver the improvements in state systems such as health
and education that they promised, and employees are bored in
organizations. The flaws are turning Fat Slavery into Lean Slavery-
employees are trapped in routines and their organizations are not
necessarily the best or only means for developing careers and realizing
individual potential. These organized systems of business and government
are more trouble than they are worth- they take a lot out of us and from
us and give us back very little of anything valuable in return.

And so civilization must evolve towards Fat Liberty- this is the
combination of individual freedom and individual prosperity. Too often in
the past, the choice was between Fat Slavery and Lean Liberty- you got
more freedom if you ^Sdownshifted^T, but you also got less prosperity.
There are some fundamental forces that mean that it is now perfectly
possible for individuals who think of themselves as brands and have
developed multiple lifestreams to achieve Fat Liberty.

The fundamental forces are falling transaction costs (the costs of getting
into a position to do business) because of enabling technologies such as
electronic agents and the Internet, increasingly contestable markets that
can be profitably entered and exited by new entrants and the realization
of the voluntary exchange principle that no-one need do anything they do
not want to.

These forces underpin the opportunity for more and more individuals to opt
out of Fat or Lean Slavery either voluntarily or because they have no
choice. Fat Liberty is the status that incorporates freedom from force,
financial, intellectual and emotional independence and individuals in
pursuit of realizing their full personal potential. Every individual can
achieve the glorious combination of both autonomy and independence and
wealth and prosperity. The achievement of Fat Liberty should be the goal
of us all.

A "Dispatch from the unorganized world", twice-weekly at

best wishes Simon Buckingham, unorganization


"Simon Buckingham" <>

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