Forums - Politics Discussion - About democracy and other ideas for government

Hello everyone,

So nobody else appears to want to comment on my other thread. Fair enough. Here's another matter that I've pondered since a few years ago which I believe is worthy of discussion. I'll make sure to write less so my posts don't sound so boring.

In the western world, unrestricted democracy (i.e. everyone can vote) is seen today as the best way to elect "leaders". By "leaders", I mean those who are the government. This idea is questioned very little (or not at all) by the mainstream political movements (left, right, socialist, libertarian, etc.). Nevertheless, I strongly believe that this unrestricted democracy is not ideal, even if for practical reasons it works right now. I base this on the following two observations:

1. Most people rarely apply rational or logical thought when making a choice for a leader. They most often vote with their feelings.

2. Politicians prefer to "look better" rather than do the right thing a lot of the time. Moreover, because there is no screening, a highly corrupt politician can be very well liked.

 

So what am I suggesting? I won't flesh out my ideas in this post, but basically I'm saying that democracy is not the best solution, and that, in my opinion, ideally a committee of very intelligent people with complete transparency should basically be dictators; or more practically, that in order to vote, one should have to first apply and get a permit.

What do you think? Too radical?



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Who gets to decide what standards are required to vote? Why are those standards correct, versus another set of standards? Why should the people who selected the standards get to select the standards?

Or, who gets to decide who should sit on this committee? Why should they get to decide who is on the committee? What happens if the committee oversteps its boundaries? What if some other people are more qualified to sit on the committee? Are they placed on there? And who gets to decide?

... I could keep asking these questions forever, really. Your idea involves a great number of arbitrary decisions. What makes those arbitrary decisions correct? How are they more correct than other arbitrary decisions that could be made?

insomniac17 said:
Who gets to decide what standards are required to vote? Why are those standards correct, versus another set of standards? Why should the people who selected the standards get to select the standards?

Or, who gets to decide who should sit on this committee? Why should they get to decide who is on the committee? What happens if the committee oversteps its boundaries? What if some other people are more qualified to sit on the committee? Are they placed on there? And who gets to decide?

... I could keep asking these questions forever, really. Your idea involves a great number of arbitrary decisions. What makes those arbitrary decisions correct? How are they more correct than other arbitrary decisions that could be made?


Your questions are, of course, very important and non-trivial. I didn't want to discuss them on the first post because it would have been a hell of a long post. In fact, wrong answers to the questions you ask is what leads to the terrible dictatorships or monarquies that have occurred so prevalently throughout the world's history.

However, I strongly believe there is a right answer for most of your questions. I'm not implying that I know these answers, but I am saying that the answer to the question you ask is most probably not: "Everything is relative, so it would be wrong" or along those lines, which is what most people assume is the answer to the questions you pose.

I won't discuss your questions in detail yet, but I will say that there are clear paths by which you may "increase" or "decrease" people's happiness, and these paths are not arbitrary. People's choices on leaders, however, do occur because of arbitrary factors.



The only people that are fit to lead don't want to.

I wholeheartedly agree. Unfortunately, most people don't care about politics while the elections have become beauty pageants. I don't think what you suggest is the answer. I want a democracy where ordinary people are actually in charge (similar to Ancient Greece). It may mean that each town works collectively on local issues themselves with a handful of people from each town/ commune representing those on the national level. I want a strong government but not a centralised government as i believe some things should be left up to people themselves. Although that may not work in the modern world as there are far too many people for such a localised system to work.

I don't know, but the one thing that should really change is the election type. They need to be far more representative. A 2 party system is really a one party system but not a democracy i think, as ordinary people have a wide variety of opinions unlike their "representatives"

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As long as the well-being of the planet and its inhabitants are their core interest i totally agree.

Without choices for most, the world would be a much better place.

TheLivingShadow said:

Your questions are, of course, very important and non-trivial. I didn't want to discuss them on the first post because it would have been a hell of a long post. In fact, wrong answers to the questions you ask is what leads to the terrible dictatorships or monarquies that have occurred so prevalently throughout the world's history.

However, I strongly believe there is a right answer for most of your questions. I'm not implying that I know these answers, but I am saying that the answer to the question you ask is most probably not: "Everything is relative, so it would be wrong" or along those lines, which is what most people assume is the answer to the questions you pose.

I won't discuss your questions in detail yet, but I will say that there are clear paths by which you may "increase" or "decrease" people's happiness, and these paths are not arbitrary. People's choices on leaders, however, do occur because of arbitrary factors.

I hold an opposing view. I believe that there is no correct answer to those questions that will lead to everyone being better off. In a democracy, the politicians have incentive to, as you say, make themselves look better. They do whatever they can to keep getting elected. Why wouldn't they? That's their job. And if something goes wrong, they can easily blame someone else. Americans seem to agree with this; Congress has a historically low approval rating, yet the representatives themselves are largely doing fine. It has taken the Benghazi scandal, the IRS scandal, the NSA scandal, the legislative disaster that is Obamacare finally revealling just how much damage it will do, and now Egypt for Obama's approval rating to dip lower. And still, he's at 46% approval, according to this.

So yes, politicians have no incentive to actually solve problems today. But would this be better under your system? In such a system, would it be possible to remove someone from the committee who is not doing their job? How would we know if they were or not? If they can't be removed, then they have no incentive to help at all. They're there for however long they're there. If they can be removed, they have an incentive to appear to be helping... but that doesn't necessarily mean that they will actually be helping. More importantly, they have an incentive to appeal to the standards by which they are held, but those standards can be corrupted... much like the corruption we have seen in the US.

I propose that it is the concentration of power that is the worst possible thing you could do. As an example, when the Constitution was ratified, there were many safeguards put into place to try and prevent power from accumulating too much in one area. I'm sure you're aware of the whole idea of checks and balances within the levels of government (and indeed, the initial attempt to create a governing document in the Articles of Confederation). But, through federalism, they also sought to limit the power of the federal government by making it compete more directly with state governments, and not just with the people. This was done by the state selection of senators. Now, you had a branch of Congress representing (some of) the people, and one representing the states. Then you had the executive at the federal level, and the judicial branch which ended up asserting its right of judicial review which should, in theory, allow it to keep everyone else in check according to the Constitution. This was a hodgepodge of conflicting interests that, in theory, should keep power from growing among any specific group.

The problem with that system is that it has become what we now have today. This is a direct result of the centralization of power. The president has asserted more and more authority in recent times (especially the last few), while Congress has backed off. Congress now solely represents the people, and the states have no voice anymore. The SCotUS... well, they're doing their own thing, but its opinions depend on whoever is appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate.

I am skeptical of your system because I believe that the answers to the questions I asked cannot be non arbitrary, and because it is a centralization of power.



TheLivingShadow said:

So what am I suggesting? I won't flesh out my ideas in this post, but basically I'm saying that democracy is not the best solution, and that, in my opinion, ideally a committee of very intelligent people with complete transparency should basically be dictators; or more practically, that in order to vote, one should have to first apply and get a permit.

What do you think? Too radical?

Realization that crisis of ideas exists and the modern world is in impasse is very good by itself (now we should just wait before majority realizes that), but your idea will turn modern world of oligarchy to the world of super-oligarchy. Moreover, the problem is not in the elections or political system in general.

But if you really want to talk about it, here's my idea. Every citizen has a point table and earns points for various things like social, business activity or anything else this given society considers "good", for "bad" things like criminal activity you receive penalty. In other words. You have kids? Here's you 10 points per kid. You own an enterprise and create jobs? Here's your 1 point per every $10 you make, etc. The more points you get, the more valuable citizen you are, the more your vote will weight compared to others. It's census, but more flexible than straightforward property qualification. I do not claim it will work or it's any good though :D

The problem arises when you'll try to define "good" and "bad", "right" or "wrong" -- you do not wanna break that brick wall with your head -- since in modern western society people get brainwashed to the point when "right" and "wrong" are on the same level of acceptance and there're many "rights" and "wrongs" coexisting. When society defines these "rights" and "wrongs" after all, effectively it defines totalitarian connections within the society, no society could exist without these connections, not even modern western society, not even Netherlands, -- but realistically it's impossible to do such thing globally until entire western world will go through a shock.



It's not that the medium is in its adolescence, it's that you're a bunch of f***ing adolescents! (H. Chaplin, GDC '09)

I agree that a good government doesn't necessarily have to be democratic.

But personally I'd rather favor a real democracy - because the systems we usually call "democracy" are hardly democratic at all in my opinion.

In my country for example (and I'm sure the situation is very similar in almost all democratic countries), the voter's influence is pretty much limited to deciding between pest and cholera every four years - with "pest" and "cholera" referring to the two big political parties that actually have any chance of winning. And while some decades ago these two parties were considered to have at least a slightly different agenda, nowadays it's almost impossible to even distinguish between both parties.

In my opinion, a great first step to improving democracy would be to get rid of political parties and directly vote the people we trust. Political parties always have a tendency of trying to bring their members into line: If one of the two big parties makes a proposition, almost all members of this party will vote in favor, while almost all members of the other big party will vote against. I just don't believe that this strange coincidence would happen if these people could vote really freely, instead of being expected to be loyal to their own party.

 The number of parliament members could also be drastically reduced. A nice side-effect would be saving money, but much more important would be that it would be easier for the voters to understand the actual people's involvement in the decision making process. In current democracies, it's usually very hard to figure out which persons are actually responsible for both good and bad decisions - so instead, people say that "party X" is responsible for this or that, even though parties are just abstract concepts and everyone's aware that these good or bad decisions were actually made by real persons that you are usually not really aware of.

In our modern computerized society, we could even go much more democratic, where the voters really decide on the actual propositions. In such a scenario, it would probably make sense to step away from the "one man one vote" approach, but that's not necessarily a bad idea.



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mai said:

But if you really want to talk about it, here's my idea. Every citizen has a point table and earns points for various things like social, business activity or anything else this given society considers "good", for "bad" things like criminal activity you receive penalty. In other words. You have kids? Here's you 10 points per kid. You own an enterprise and create jobs? Here's your 1 point per every $10 you make, etc. The more points you get, the more valuable citizen you are, the more your vote will weight compared to others. It's census, but more flexible than straightforward property qualification. I do not claim it will work or it's any good though :D

I feel a certain sympathy for the general idea of different people's votes having different weights.

But I see a lot of potential for abuse in your concrete suggestion. First of all, your suggestion really comes down to the idea of measuring every citizen's "value", which definitely doesn't fit with modern humanistic ideals. And even if you ignore that, it's impossible to think of really fair and reasonable measurements.

To me it seems like a better idea that people do not just vote once every several years, but that they can constantly vote on all propositions, and these people's votes have different weights for different topics. For example, a single professor of economics without kids might have a high weight when he votes on questions of economy, but he might have a very low weight when he decides to vote on questions of family. Ideally, these weights should be automatically computed based on a transparent formula - a person that on economic questions very often votes for the option that is later being considered "the right choice" automatically gets a higher weight on economic questions over time.