RE: An anthropological exploration of why decentralization expedites progress.

Joseph S. Barrera III (
Mon, 16 Aug 1999 10:59:23 -0700

Diamond has many good points, but I'm not sure they
all add up to support his thesis -- at least as he
presents them. His thesis is that

decentralized [implying interchange of ideas ]
does better than
does better than
isolated [ no interchange of ideas possible].

His historical examples support his thesis. But
it's hard for me to accept that the German beer
industry "suffers" in comparison to the American
beer industry. Diamond uses "efficiency" as the
measure of success, but one could make a argument
for longevity (or low rate of business failure)
being a better measure of success. And there are
plenty of very-long-lived German breweries that
have survived for centuries, even in the face of
competition from the "more efficient" American

The second odd thing about the beer discussion is
that Diamond characterizes the German breweries
as isolated instead of decentralized, even though
the breweries can taste each other's beer and
even though there must, over time, be exchange
of information and employees between the breweries.
(Otherwise, how is it that great beer is made
all across Germany?) Unfortunately, I don't know
enough German beer history to fully support my

Interestingly, if Diamond were to conceed both points
above, he would be left with this argument *for* his
thesis: German beer industry is decentralized and
has retained the ability to make good beer, whereas
the American beer industry, in the progress of
becoming centralized, has lost the ability to make
good beer.

- Joe