Home Philosophy The Onlife Manifesto
We have already seen how the information revolution jeopardizes key traditional assumptions of legal and political philosophy, such as the state's monopoly of the legitimate use of force and the law conceived as a set of rules enforced through the menace of physical sanctions. Whilst an increasing number of issues have to be addressed at international and transnational levels, national sovereign states should be considered as one, albeit relevant, agent in the network of competences and institutions summarized by the idea of governance.
In Good Enough Governance (2005), Merilee Grindle provides eight meanings of governance: in this section, it suffices to quote two of them. On the one hand, according to the World Bank, the idea of governance concerns “the process and institutions through which decisions are made and authority in a country is exercised” (in Grindle 2005, p. 14). On the other hand, Hyden, Court and Mease refer to “the formation and stewardship of the formal and informal rules that regulate the public realm, the arena in which state as well as economic and societal actors interact to make decisions” ( ibid.). On this basis, the notion of governance can be furthered as a matter of “good” governance. In the case of the World Bank, focus should be on inclusiveness and accountability established in three key areas, namely,
(i) “selection, accountability and replacement of authorities”; (ii) “efficiency of institutions, regulations, resource management”; and, (iii) “respect for institutions, laws and interactions among players in civil society, business, and politics.” In the case of Hyden, Court and Mease, the concept of good governance can be measured along six dimensions, i.e., “participation, fairness, decency, efficiency, accountability, and transparency,” in each of the following arenas: “civil society, political society, government, bureaucracy, economic society, judiciary.”
Drawing on such definitions, Merilee Grindle has objected to the length of the good governance agenda, because “interventions thought to contribute to the ends of economic and political development need to be questioned, prioritized, and made relevant to the conditions of individual countries. They need to be assessed in light
Fig. 2 “Good Enough” in the governance of the onlife experience
of historical evidence, sequence, and timing, and they should be selected carefully in terms of their contributions to particular ends” (Grindle 2005, p. 1). By following this methodological approach to what should be deemed as “good enough,” what are then the issues that ought to be questioned, prioritized and made relevant, so as to pinpoint what is new in the legal and political dimension of our concept reengineering exercise?
In his brilliant In Search of Jefferson's Moose (2009), David Post proposes an analogy between the American West of 1787 and today's cyberspace:
Cyberspace is not the American West of 1787, of course. But like the American West of 1787 is (or at least it has been) a Jeffersonian kind of place… And like the West of 1787, cyberspace poses some hard questions, and could use some new ideas, about governance, and law, and order, and scale. The engineers have bequeathed to us a remarkable instrument, one that has managed to solve prodigious technical problems associated with communication on a global scale. The problem is the one that Jefferson and his contemporaries faced: How do you build “republican” institutions—institutions that respect equal worth of all individuals and their right to participate in the formation of the rules under which they live—that scale? (Post 2009, pp. 116–117)
The question begets three different levels of analysis. The first viewpoint is ethical and has to do with the foundation of any good onlife governance; the second level is both legal and political, since it concerns the distinction between the emergence of spontaneous orders in the legal field, and human (political) planning; the third perspective is related to the aim to embed legal safeguards into ICTs and other types of technology. From a methodological stance, each level of abstraction can be grasped as an interface made up of a set of features, that is, the observables of the analysis (Floridi 2008). By changing the interface, the analysis of the observables and variables of the three levels of abstraction should strengthen our comprehension of the onlife experience and, more particularly, of today's governance. In accordance with some principles of information ethics (Floridi 2013), the emergence of spontaneous orders, and matters of design and scale, what is new in the legal and political dimension of our concept reengineering exercise is thus pinpointed through such observables of the analysis, as the right balance between representation and resolution at the first level of abstraction; notions of nodes, diameters of the network, and links, to grasp the second level of abstraction, and so forth. These different levels of analysis, discussed separately in the next section, are illustrated with Fig. 2. The aim is to shed light on what ought to be prioritized, and made relevant, in our concept reengineering exercise as that which is “good enough” in the governance of the onlife experience.
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