?

Log in

No account? Create an account
Musings on democracy + polls - Synchronicity swirls and other foolishness

> Recent Entries
> Archive
> Friends
> Profile
> my rpg writing site

November 7th, 2006


Previous Entry Share Next Entry
01:29 pm - Musings on democracy + polls
There's no point in writing about the election now, everything to say before voting ends and votes are counted has been said, and there are no results yet. So, I'm going to discuss what's behind this mess: democracy.

I'm curious about why people support it. I've heard three primary reasons for supporting it:
  1. It's the best system we've yet found for assuring the selection of non-horrid leaders.
  2. The populace should be able to decide who governs them.
  3. It is an essential component of a free and humane society.
I heartily support #1, but also am firmly convinced that better options are possible. I'm not at all convinced that selecting leaders by random chance would be worse and would be interested to see this tried, and various options that require transhumanist technologies also intrigue me and I look forward to them becoming possible. However, reasons 2 & 3 are utterly irrelevant to me. Having a humane, effective and reasonable government matters to me a great deal. Whether I or anyone else has a voice in this government is utterly irrelevant to me except as a means to this. If someone came up with a system for government ranging from randomly selecting leaders from among the population of mentally competent adults to rule by some posthuman AI that involved absolute no input from the populace as a whole, I would want some guarantees of the effectiveness of the system, but that complete lack of public participation would not bother me at all. From my PoV, it's vastly more important to maintain just laws, provide humane, reasonable, and effective services to the citizens, and avoid oppression than it is to let people decide their fate. Democracy has always contained ample opportunities for both demagoguery and the tyranny of the majority, and both problems become worse in large, highly diverse nations and nationwide mass media. Also, I'm an intellectual elitist and have a deep distrust of most people's ability to make reasonable choices, a distrust that has naturally become significantly greater in the last 6 years.

I have increasingly become convinced that both demagoguery and the tyranny of the majority are unavoidable problems with democracy. I am also increasingly less pleased with trusting the safety and comfort of myself and my loved ones to the whims of the stupid, the thoughtless, the ill-informed, and (most worrisome of all) the easily led (ie the majority of the populace in this and every other nation), so I'd eagerly embrace alternatives that were clearly superior. Unfortunately, with the exception of selecting leaders by lot, all other currently possible alternatives are provably worse. Obviously, US democracy could be vastly improved via strict campaign finance reform. I also think that proportional representation, and a parliamentary system are both important changes that would significantly improve government in the US. However, even with these changes, I'm suspicious of the entire system.

In any case, I'm interested in your opinions about democracy as a system of government.

Also, if given a choice between a system of government that maintained just laws, provided humane, reasonable, and effective services to the citizens, and avoided oppression but gave the populace no voice in their government and one that allowed the populace to choose their government but was clearly not particularly humane or just would any of you would prefer the second option to the first. If so, why?

I think democracy is

The best possible system of government
2(6.5%)
currently, the least bad of a series of bad choices for government
26(83.9%)
a bad system of government that should be absolished
1(3.2%)
other (explain)
2(6.5%)
clicky box
0(0.0%)

If you support democracy, then I have one additional poll for you

I support democracy because

no one has yet some up with a better option for avoiding bad government
5(21.7%)
the populace should be able to decide who governs them.
4(17.4%)
it is an essential component of a free and humane society.
1(4.3%)
other (please explain)
2(8.7%)
clicky box
0(0.0%)

Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative

(20 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:veleda
Date:November 7th, 2006 09:43 pm (UTC)
(Link)
i also support proportional representation.
[User Picture]
From:aekiy
Date:November 7th, 2006 10:15 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Change "decide" to "influence" in number two and you'll have something more relevant and actually more accurate to the way our system works. Still, though, I think it should be changed.

Something I mentioned a couple of years ago to people that I think would be a more fair system of election (as a modification of our current system) is this:

People should be unable to vote for candidates. I think there should be an application process whereby any potential set of candidates (say Bush-Cheney versus Kerry-Edwards and whomever else, for instance) record official stances on a variety of primary issues facing the country overall (or state, county, etc. for more local levels of government).

When people vote, then, they would vote on those same issues; filling out essentially the same application form listing what stance they have on each issue presented, similar to all the constitutional amendments and bills that we vote on during elections normally.

Once voting is completed, the next step would be to tally all the votes on each issue to see which decisions came out on top by what margins and then decide which set of candidates most fits that description. This eliminates the prejudice involved with voting for parties or candidates and brings out the actual important factor involved -- the impact the next administrative body will be likely to have.

In addition to this, I think that critical analysis of the actual performance of an administration should have greater bearing on actions that may be taken against them. IE, if they fail at virtually every issue they were supposed to address, regulatory action of some sort should be taken (up to and including removal from office, obviously with alternatives put in place beforehand).

Of course, I also believe that there should be greater requirements for any elected official, such as full psychoanalysis from no less than three verifiably impartial and autonomous professionals with the requirement of passing as mentally healthy by a significant margin to even qualify for a position in government.

And things.. I'm pretty much just rambling at this point and very distracted here at work, so I'll stop now.
[User Picture]
From:andrewducker
Date:November 7th, 2006 10:22 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Basically, I'm not convinced that anyone should be able to tell me what to do.

The only way you're going to convince me that other people are going to be allowed to tell me what to do is to let me take part in that decision.

Thus: Democracy.
[User Picture]
From:heron61
Date:November 7th, 2006 10:27 pm (UTC)
(Link)
That logic makes perfect sense to me on a fairly small scale. However, with elections where between several hundred thousand and more than 100 million people are voting, your direct influence via your vote is negligible and instead, what you are doing is trusting the populace of the nation as a whole to tell you what to do. I have little confidence in the ability of most people to effectively decide what they want for lunch, much less to make choices that will affect me, thus my distrust for democracy.
[User Picture]
From:andrewducker
Date:November 7th, 2006 10:32 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Oh, I feel the same way. But I'm still not happy to take away my ability some contribution.

I'd be happier with Proportional Representation. And even happier if people without an IQ of 120 who didn't keep up to date with the news, have a basic understanding of economics and the ability to explain the fallacy of the excluded middle weren't able to vote.
[User Picture]
From:heron61
Date:November 7th, 2006 10:51 pm (UTC)
(Link)
And even happier if people without an IQ of 120 who didn't keep up to date with the news, have a basic understanding of economics and the ability to explain the fallacy of the excluded middle weren't able to vote.

Gods yes.
[User Picture]
From:talonstrike
Date:November 8th, 2006 01:24 am (UTC)
(Link)
This is one of the reasons I don't vote. I meet the IQ requirement, but I'm too lazy to educate myself on the issues. An uninformed vote, IMO, is worse than no vote at all.
[User Picture]
From:thomryng
Date:November 7th, 2006 10:47 pm (UTC)

I like democracy

(Link)
For the second question, I was forced to choose the second option, though it's not quite framed correctly. It's not so much that the populace should be able to decide who governs them, but rather that, as a fundamental human right, people have a right to help choose the destiny of their society.

The first option is laughable, because the Romans pretty much proved that benign autocracy was the best possible government, both with regards to the meeting the needs of the citizenry and in terms of efficiency. Sadly, it's not possible to insure the "benign" part of the equation.

The third option is also not quite correct. It's possible to have a free and humane society with any form of government.

The real question is this: who gets to decide what "[h]aving a humane, effective and reasonable government" actually means?
[User Picture]
From:heron61
Date:November 7th, 2006 10:53 pm (UTC)

Re: I like democracy

(Link)
Sadly, it's not possible to insure the "benign" part of the equation.

That is of course the central difficulty with any sort of government and especially with determining any sort of governmental succession.
[User Picture]
From:andrewducker
Date:November 8th, 2006 08:25 am (UTC)

Re: I like democracy

(Link)
I suppose that democracy at least allows you to have a certain kind of revolution every few years. And as the results today have showed, it's very hard for any one group to hold on for huge lengths of time if the mistakes they make are bad enough.
[User Picture]
From:tyrsalvia
Date:November 7th, 2006 10:58 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I'm not really sure what you mean by democracy for your poll. In general, I favor social democracies similar to some European countries, with proportional representation. That is my ideal system of governance. Also, I prefer countries that are smaller than the US in terms of both geography and population, because it makes it very difficult to take a stand with so many dissenting opinions.

So if by democracy you mean a system like I mentioned above, then yes, I like democracy. If you mean the current US political system then no, I am not too happy with it.
[User Picture]
From:thiebes
Date:November 8th, 2006 01:01 am (UTC)
(Link)
The pinnacle of democracy's achievement is mediocrity.
[User Picture]
From:slothman
Date:November 8th, 2006 01:26 am (UTC)
(Link)
There are certain times when it is helpful for a population to take advantage of the economies of scale. For example, it’s much more efficient to have a small group of people employed to keep the peace rather than requiring everyone to be able to defend themselves against malcontents. The tragedy of the commons is another case where it’s important to have a central body capable of resolving disputes; we’re running into a huge case of that right now as humanity’s resource usage exceeds our environmental capacity.

If I’m going to pool my resources like that, I’d like there to be accountability in how they’re used. If I thought there was an authority that was 100% trustworthy, I wouldn’t object terribly much; Iain M. Banks’s Culture and Neal Asher’s Human Polity, both of which are run by benevolent hyperintelligent AIs who seem to keep humans around much as we keep cats, are a lot less prone to the ravages of stupidity than our modern-day world. Mere human intelligences, on the other hand, have a very bad track record with abuse of authority, so I prefer to have a mechanism for holding them to account. Selecting decision-makers by lottery would just create an industry around bribing officeholders, so I don’t see how it would improve on democracy.

I do think that the flaws in the United States’ implementation of the idea of democracy have become rather glaring in recent decades, and would like to see improvements like proportional representation and preferential voting.

[User Picture]
From:darkoshi
Date:November 8th, 2006 01:30 am (UTC)
(Link)
Also, if given a choice between a system of government that maintained just laws, provided humane, reasonable, and effective services to the citizens, and avoided oppression but gave the populace no voice in their government and one that allowed the populace to choose their government but was clearly not particularly humane or just would any of you would prefer the second option to the first. If so, why?

I think a problem with the first option is that the definition of "just", "humane", and "reasonable" varies from person to person, and from social group to social group, and so therefore there's a good chance that the government wouldn't be what I considered just, humane, and reasonable. Without having a voice in the government, if I wanted it to change, I'd have to resort to trying to overthrow it.
[User Picture]
From:risu
Date:November 8th, 2006 02:01 am (UTC)
(Link)
I think of it in terms of feedback patterns.

You want positive or negative reinforcement in the structure of a government for each claim it wants to make. That is, if it's going to claim that it doesn't abduct people for political or financial aims, you want habeas corpus. If it's going to claim to "represent the people," then in some fashion the people need a say.

I think you can probably make a much better structural reinforcement for that, though, such as proportional representation and instant runoff voting.

I think that the problem with a government that doesn't claim to represent the people is that it provides a strong moral argument for revolution. In some ways, this is parallel to the argument that a government needs an army: sure, it's quite probably a *better* government that doesn't have an army and doesn't represent the people, but then when people aren't revolting they're getting invaded.

Jenna
[User Picture]
From:antayla
Date:November 8th, 2006 02:04 am (UTC)

Why wait for democracy?

(Link)
I have this idea of a form of government where the government is initially founded on a public domain document written and maintained by one person at any given time, which is "accorded" to by individuals and derives its authority from those who pledge to follow it. The Author of the document would have no actual decisionmaking powers other than the power to alter the text of the document. The document can be publicly accepted or rejected by its pledgees at any time, who are free to author their own similar documents (I figure the best writer(s) would end up with the most pledgees.) Most decision making structures derived from the document could be proportional, as you suggest. My inspiration for proportional decision making structures came from corporations, actually... or more like, LLCs, where you have a much more flexible sort of structure (really it is a fascinating thing to consider how many ways you can structure a company...)

Maybe a similar structure where you get votes based on how much unpaid community service (rather than invested capital) would be a good way to go (although this would tilt the structure in favor of incumbents and older people.) The "invested effort" structure might be balanced by a one-person one-vote decision making structure (which could actually also be proportional.) I have this idea of starting an employee-owned staffing company under this concept, with the hopes that it may become something more in due time and testing. I'm not waiting around for a revolution, and studying incentive and decision making systems is a hobby of mine...
[User Picture]
From:rjgrady
Date:November 8th, 2006 02:36 am (UTC)
(Link)
I view democracy as a peacable alternative to tyranny and the resulting violence. Nothing more. I do not view it as including, benefiting, being necessary to, or requiring a free society, although there is some correlation insofar as the majority will protect their own freedoms (to the limit of their ability, that is).

In fact, I distrust elitism, because I have little faith in the ability of intelligent, well educated people with good moral principles to make reasonable choices. Empirically, it can be shown they do not, and even top tier experts within their fields can be shown to make basic errors based on stereotypes, magical thinking, and other artifacts of our survival-oriented brains.

Democracy is simply an agreement that we will let the majority have their way, rather than forcing them to club and shoot us until they get their way (minus any losses incurred in trying to achieve this aim). It is superior to aristocracies, oligarchies, and technocracies in that the opinions of the ruling elite are given the attention they deserve, which is to say, very little. I view the American government as a democratic form, currently polluted by plutocracy and mediacracy.

As one of Heinlein's characters said in Glory Road, "Democracy is predicated on the belief that adding zeroes can produce a sum," and "a good government for beginners."

I believe that if you took any current regime on Earth, however corrupt or broken, and simply improved the rational abilities of those persons with a magic wand, to some small but significant degree, the result would be better government than under the best regime currently on Earth.

"Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power." - Abraham Lincoln, American president, Republican, first president to suspend habeas corpus, commander in chief of the first federal standing army of the USA, conqueror of the secessionist states, martyr

[User Picture]
From:eklectick
Date:November 9th, 2006 08:02 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Shortest answer: Cream and Crud always rise to the top - in any system. Democracy in any of its forms is one of the stablest ways to change up, and get rid of, both.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:November 10th, 2006 11:52 pm (UTC)

Randomness

(Link)
Isn't the american voting system, with its districts that have to be won by simple majority, which then elect people to voice another choice, as close to randomness as possible?
It seems to me, that both candidates, have a chance of about 50% percent because the system is so horrible dumb and outdated.
[User Picture]
From:heron61
Date:November 11th, 2006 10:24 am (UTC)

Re: Randomness

(Link)
I don't much worry about the electoral college, archaic and foolish as it is. It seems fairly clear to me that if it was ever abused, it would then swiftly be eliminated, but the state-by-state victory by simple majority does seem like a remarkably poor idea. In fact, the entire nature of US democracy seems rather like it is designed to encourage a mixture of randomness and mediocrity. Proportional representation and a parliamentary system seem like a vastly better way to elect a government.

> Go to Top
LiveJournal.com