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Polls on politics, news, current affairs and history.

Can We Elect Our Own Leaders?

Yes, we're smart enough.
3
9%
Yes, intelligence doesn't matter.
7
22%
No, we're not smart enough.
16
50%
No, we have other big problems.
4
13%
Other
2
6%
#13909732
Interesting Study:

http://www.livescience.com/18706-people ... cracy.html

The democratic process relies on the assumption that citizens (the majority of them, at least) can recognize the best political candidate, or best policy idea, when they see it. But a growing body of research has revealed an unfortunate aspect of the human psyche that would seem to disprove this notion, and imply instead that democratic elections produce mediocre leadership and policies.

The research, led by David Dunning, a psychologist at Cornell University, shows that incompetent people are inherently unable to judge the competence of other people, or the quality of those people's ideas. For example, if people lack expertise on tax reform, it is very difficult for them to identify the candidates who are actual experts. They simply lack the mental tools needed to make meaningful judgments.

As a result, no amount of information or facts about political candidates can override the inherent inability of many voters to accurately evaluate them. On top of that, "very smart ideas are going to be hard for people to adopt, because most people don’t have the sophistication to recognize how good an idea is," Dunning told Life's Little Mysteries.

He and colleague Justin Kruger, formerly of Cornell and now of New York University, have demonstrated again and again that people are self-delusional when it comes to their own intellectual skills. Whether the researchers are testing people's ability to rate the funniness of jokes, the correctness of grammar, or even their own performance in a game of chess, the duo has found that people always assess their own performance as "above average" — even people who, when tested, actually perform at the very bottom of the pile.

We're just as undiscerning about the skills of others as about ourselves. "To the extent that you are incompetent, you are a worse judge of incompetence in other people," Dunning said. In one study, the researchers asked students to grade quizzes that tested for grammar skill. "We found that students who had done worse on the test itself gave more inaccurate grades to other students." Essentially, they didn't recognize the correct answer even when they saw it.

The reason for this disconnect is simple: "If you have gaps in your knowledge in a given area, then you’re not in a position to assess your own gaps or the gaps of others," Dunning said. Strangely though, in these experiments, people tend to readily and accurately agree on who the worst performers are, while failing to recognize the best performers.

The most incompetent among us serve as canaries in the coal mine signifying a larger quandary in the concept of democracy; truly ignorant people may be the worst judges of candidates and ideas, Dunning said, but we all suffer from a degree of blindness stemming from our own personal lack of expertise.

Mato Nagel, a sociologist in Germany, recently implemented Dunning and Kruger's theories by computer-simulating a democratic election. In his mathematical model of the election, he assumed that voters' own leadership skills were distributed on a bell curve — some were really good leaders, some, really bad, but most were mediocre — and that each voter was incapable of recognizing the leadership skills of a political candidate as being better than his or her own. When such an election was simulated, candidates whose leadership skills were only slightly better than average always won.

Nagel concluded that democracies rarely or never elect the best leaders. Their advantage over dictatorships or other forms of government is merely that they "effectively prevent lower-than-average candidates from becoming leaders."
#13909773
Or as Winston Churchill put it: Democracy is the worst system of government accept for all the rest. From brain studies and comparison with other primates, it seems we're designed to deal with the social interactions of a 200-400 person group. The world political system with its 7 billion people is way beyond that. But there's another problem, take the British Conservative Health care reforms for example. I have no clear grasp on what they are, let alone whether, there any good. I could research the whole business but then, I'll only be one vote amongst 30 million in an election in which health care reforms will only be one issue. Why bother?
#13909781
It's not about being smart enough, it's about being adult or wise enough. However, even ancient Athens could have been a democracy, although I don't believe the common Athenian citizen was so smart. A good education system and a rich cultural life might help though.
#13909784
its funny most people think it doesn't matter but no one seems to think we are actually smart enough. :lol:

that's why there are a lot of things the government should do on a small scale and not try to reform, say, the entire medical system in one go, its no wonder the entire things a mess, they dont have any idea what their doing and we have even less.
#13909798
It isn't about intelligence. It is about:
* Direct representation means decisions must be made by taking into account the interests of the greatest part of the nation, not by a small, unrepresentative in the name of the nation
* Elites not only have no immediate incentive to act in the public interest, but their so-called "experts" can be just as stupid, prejudiced and ideological as the ordinary citizen

Denis Diderot wrote:For man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.


I think this is true. Most people understand the threat posed the King, who rules absolutely by divine right (and all the totalitarian and other variations of this). People tend to be more trusting of the Priesthood. The "experts" supposedly know better and power must be entrusted to them. It is always a disaster. It doesn't matter if its the Generals of World War I, the nuclear arms builders and strategists of the Cold War, the National Security State of the War on Terror, or the expert technocrats of Frankfurt and Brussels. These are all variations of the same theme: unaccountable elites serving their own institutional interests, convinced of the righteousness of their abuses of power because of their Theology. In each case, the nation and the world suffers.

The sooner these liars and scoundrels are hounded from power and policy returns to the nation and citizenry, the better. Politics is too important a matter to be left to the politicians - to misquote Clemenceau - and the same is true of every other sphere.
Last edited by Ombrageux on 03 Mar 2012 20:14, edited 1 time in total.
#13909809
The problem is the "winner-take-all" model of democracy in which it's a contest of one side against the other. That kind of democracy has no room for intelligent, nuanced discussion. On the other hand, a model of deliberative, consensus-based, radical democracy encourages cooperative decision-making in which the collective intelligence of the group is brought out in a synergistic way that leads to optimal agreements rather than a battle of egos.
#13909818
Paradigm wrote:On the other hand, a model of deliberative, consensus-based, radical democracy encourages cooperative decision-making in which the collective intelligence of the group is brought out in a synergistic way that leads to optimal agreements rather than a battle of egos.

Cool idea, but there will always be egos and fractions battling. However, a democracy doesn't necessarily need to have parties.
#13909833
other - I am smart enough, but most other folks aren't

I believe in freedom. But we should teach people to recognize they're limits. If you don't know shit about public policy, then don't bother to vote. Just stay out of the way. If you're physically disabled and there is a fire at the orphanage...do you wheel yourself into the burning building? Nope. And no one thinks you should, and we'd all rather you didnt'. mkay?
#13909879
The real question for me is not are people smart enough for democracy, but are they smart enough to see through it.

Lets take my country the UK for example.
Over half the workforce is part of the government and many more contracted to it.

Which means that my government consists of literally tens of millions of people.
Of which I have the ability to vote for 1 of them once every 5 years. (Or perhaps 2. Local and national elections).


Woot democracy. Big deal.
My vote is pointless. No one I am forced to pay for is accountable to me in any way worth seriously mentioning.

Everyone and his dog is smart enough to have an opinion.
Elected politicians have no qualifications required for office. Clearly none are called for.
#13910092
DudeWhoGetsIt wrote:other - I am smart enough, but most other folks aren't

I believe in freedom. But we should teach people to recognize they're limits. If you don't know shit about public policy, then don't bother to vote. Just stay out of the way. If you're physically disabled and there is a fire at the orphanage...do you wheel yourself into the burning building? Nope. And no one thinks you should, and we'd all rather you didnt'. mkay?

You seem to be assuming that the right public policy is a purely objective question. Matters of preference come into it as well. Less intelligent people and particularly less informed people may have differing material interests to more intelligent and more informed people. Why should they trust these people to decide for them. This was a flaw in Blairism and Obama, a tendency to assume all ideological questions have been decided and we just need good mangers to implement the appropriate technocratic solution.
Last edited by Rich on 03 Mar 2012 16:52, edited 1 time in total.
#13910098
Obramageau about nailed it but he could have left off the priest. Churches don't exercize the control they used to and besides, they offer a needed balance against corporations, at least in the US.
#13910120
Paradigm wrote:The problem is the "winner-take-all" model of democracy in which it's a contest of one side against the other. That kind of democracy has no room for intelligent, nuanced discussion. On the other hand, a model of deliberative, consensus-based, radical democracy encourages cooperative decision-making in which the collective intelligence of the group is brought out in a synergistic way that leads to optimal agreements rather than a battle of egos.


Radical democracy sounds like "Harrison Bergeron". Can you explain how that's compatible with consensus?

______________

Ombrageux wrote:Elites not only have immediate incentive to act in the public interest, but their so-called "experts" can be just as stupid, prejudiced and ideological as the ordinary citizen.


This sounds like aristocratic elitism, dissociated from the public.

Can you show how aristocratic elites won't sacrifice some members of the public for the good of the collective? Nobody asks to be introduced into society, so nobody deserves to be sacrificed for it.
#13910132
The general stupidity of the electorate is but one of the reasons democracy is at worst a bad idea, and at best useless. Since I'm planning to make a thread about this subject, I'll leave it at that for now.
#13910213
Daktoria - That was a quickly-typed post, a few typos, I was arguing strongly against pseudo-aristocracy.

Dr Lee - I use "Priesthood" as the metaphor for being governed by unaccountable "experts". The priest traditionally was the only one to read Latin, to have studied the scriptures, to be in correspondence with the broader Christian Church, and hence he had a claim of "divine knowledge" which no one in the community could contradict. From this arbitrary source he draw temporal power and authority.

Today secularism has done its work to, in most places, purge the Church from formal political power. I have no problem with priests whose power is solely that of the word and operate based on voluntary donations. Other Priesthoods - in Frankfurt and Langley Falls - still exist and are provoking untold harm with their power.
#13910216
Langley Falls isn't a real place, you have been watching too much American Dad!.

As per usual, I have no idea what Daktoria is going on about.

Paradigm wrote:The problem is the "winner-take-all" model of democracy in which it's a contest of one side against the other. That kind of democracy has no room for intelligent, nuanced discussion. On the other hand, a model of deliberative, consensus-based, radical democracy encourages cooperative decision-making in which the collective intelligence of the group is brought out in a synergistic way that leads to optimal agreements rather than a battle of egos.


I like winner-take-all, because it allows political parties to worry less about constant politicking, coalition building, favor-trading, etc. There is less room for deadlock and it strengthens the cent er against the fringes. (I realize that the current deadlock in the US Congress does not help my argument, but usually things are not this bad.)
Last edited by Nets on 03 Mar 2012 20:29, edited 1 time in total.
#13910219
Ombrageux wrote:Daktoria - That was a quickly-typed post, a few typos, I was arguing strongly against pseudo-aristocracy.


Yes, I got your opposition to theocracy Ombrageux, but what about family values?

For example, elites could encourage gay marriage, multiculturalism, and free labor to make working class families struggle and preserve upper class family social status.

The working class' social mobility resides in becoming meritocratic middle class experts. Otherwise, they're never given the chance for economic prosperity and cultural sophistication.

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