Our story so far: in a thrilling series of bold acquisitions and mergers, occasional plague- or famine-related downsizing and aggressive management restructuring rounds, the human race has managed to invent, in approximate sequence: banditry, tax, cities, bureaucracy, capital wealth, relative wealth, underclasses, social revolutions, writing, statist/hierarchical models of governance and universities.  This brought us to the point of answering the initial query: “Just what is it that centralised, statist/hierarchical models of capitalist civilisation are better at than all of the competitor systems human ingenuity has suggested?”.
The answers are scaling, and technological boot-strapping
I have covered in IV the self-reinforcing spiral of development. Centralised, violently hierarchical societies scale better than any other method of administration in a low-bandwidth, low education environment. They’re better at gaining control over large populations and land areas which can provide an effective tax-base, or “capital accumulation”. They’re better at enforcing and monitoring the tax system so that they’ve still got enough peasants next year but also have enough food and other essentials to sustain urbanisation. Urban centres are key to developing pre-industrial manufacturing and technology industries, which in turn create conditions for natural industrialisation. In Britain, those conditions occurred in a geographical and communications context which permitted a technological singularity in the 1770s. After that, the rest is about how efficiently and how quickly people learnt from our mistakes.
Thus, right from early Anatolian and Sumerian city-builders up to the modern plutocracy of a tiny few compared to the many who feed it, we’re seeing a single, coherent story played out over and over again. Any attempt to deviate from that path has resulted in system failure, for the reasons outlined above. The more you move wealth from the edge of the network to the centre of the network, the more effective a competitor you will be.
Which brings us to our next contentious statement. Therefore, our evolved global economic system is, inherently, a machine for taking money away from those at the edge and moving it into the hands of those in the centre.
It is from this observation that I drew the title of the series of posts. There’s a lot of ways people try to mask or ignore the underlying truth of it, including pointing out that where the only capitalists used to be royalty, they had to add aristocracy, then the upper mercantile classes, then the bourgeoisie until now everyone has a chance of a CD player and an iPhone. This analysis misses the significance of relative wealth entirely.
The number of people who are in the centre of the web of constantly in-flowing money, expressed as a proportion of the total world population, is smaller than it has ever been. The real-terms power gap between those in the centre and everyone else, expressed in terms of capital accumulation, is at least as big as it has been since Pharaonic times. The liklihood of a complete outsider joining that plutocracy, and thus gaining the power and security which come from being stinking rich, is lower now than it was in Anglo-Saxon England (for a man; it was easier for women to become wealthy in the Plantaganet era). The Great Machine is still working, though it’s beginning to grind its gears: money still flows to the centre. That’s the whole point of the system.
It’s not anyone’s fault. I just want to re-iterate that. It’s not the fault of the Robber Barons that aggressive market capitalism was a good way to get USA Corp. up and running as fast as and effectively as possible. It’s because at the scale of the North American continent, telegraphs and steam trains are still a very low-bandwidth communications infrastructure; and when they started you were talking about river-boats and horses. This is true right back to Enki: to get to any scale larger than about three hundred people, being a top-down capitalist is the only way at low tech levels. Which leads us to the reason the right don’t want to answer the question the left don’t like to ask.
We’re not a low-bandwidth civilisation any more. We’re increasingly a high-education civilisation. The nature of the Information Revolution is species convergence; the divided nature of our past is being replaced by an economic unitary future as we break down information flow barriers. We’re on a path leading towards global information availability, which leads towards global education normalisation, which leads towards global economics; cf. how much easier it is for a group of stupid people in America to domino an entire species economy now, than it was even 80 years ago. We can move data very fast, now. We can communicate very fast. Also, very effectively. Scale has ceased to be a problem for non-centralised authority structures.
So, controversial conclusion four: the entire body of historical data on alternative civilisation structures must be re-examined for future viability.
Open Source Society
There’s a simple reason why nothing quite like the Open Source phenomenon was invented in the telephone era. On a phone network, all the power (autonomy; decision-making) is in the core and the edge devices are as dumb as possible. A user can only make one decision; a number symbolic of a destination. All other decisions; switching, network path, network reliability, connection bitrate, sampling rate, etc. are dictated by the core. That means they are controlled by the center of the human hierarchy; all decisions affecting these things are made in the middle.
The reason internet communication precipitated a truly comprehensive uplift in human capacity is that the very largest quantity of autonomy possible was moved to the edge of the network. Computers are smart; internet networks are dumb. I know, I used to design them for a living. That also meant I had to fix them. They’re dumb very very quickly indeed, and in some creatively organic ways at times, but as much autonomy as possible is passed to the user. Not just where to go, or what to say, but also how to get there, what languages to write in, what MTU you wish to set, whether to use tcp or udp, whether to compress or encrypt your traffic, which search engine to use: all of these decisions are placed, to the greatest extent we can engineer, into the hands of the user. The edge device is smart, the network is dumb. On the phones, it’s the opposite; a dial phone handset is a very dumb bit of kit.
The internet generation are simply better at all three of the earlier-stated determinant factors: what do you know, how fast do you learn, how quickly can you get the word out, than any previous human culture. The more eyes on the problem, the faster you find bugs. The more minds can publish their work, the faster you find the diamonds in the rough. Access more of your brainpower as a species; lower the cost of entry into the free market of ideas, and you will see business models no-one in Bill Gates’ generation could see coming. We know this because they didn’t.
The monopoly of centralised, hierarchical structures on effecient scaling has been broken by the internet. That means that any competitor system which failed in the past, can be re-assessed: is the information infrastructure and educational penetration advanced enough for this idea? We can make rational, functional assessments of things currently assigned to history by ideological entrenchments from old wars. We can re-assess what works in the context of a completely new capacity to move power to the edge of the network; to give autonomy to the users, rather than the gears, of the Great Machine.
 One may debate the positive or negative attributes of pretty much any of these except writing. History’s pretty consistent on the point that writing is a cunning plan.