Direct democracy using technology - Page 2 - Politics Forum.org | PoFo

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The solving of mankind’s problems and abolition of government via technological solutions alone.

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#13890701
...One drearily cynical post after another while everyone lines up to prove how down they are about the human race... Of course it doesn't matter what system you use if people are all into it - see Nazi Germany. The problem isn't Democracy - we don't even have a democracy, we have a snake oil sale, maybe people aren't stupid, maybe they just know how pointless it is - because many politicians are both clever (not stupid) and not sincere about the public good. And maybe that wouldn't be such a problem if we weren't meant to fight each other just to survive - see Capitalism.

[mb edit: moved to technocracy]
#13890711
And maybe that wouldn't be such a problem if we weren't meant to fight each other just to survive - see Capitalism.

I was with you until almost the very end.

Of course which form of Democracy we have is not that important. It doesn't even matter which form of government we have. At the end of the day, whenever government concentrates power, it attracts, like flies, those who attempt to benefit themselves at the expense of others using government force.

Capitalism is not the problem - it is the solution. Free market Capitalism, the one without government assistance or bailouts, protective tariffs or cartel-protecting regulations, is the ONLY system in which one can only get ahead by cooperating with others rather than at others' expense.
#13890717
Eran wrote:As somebody who is keenly aware of the inherent faults of any form of democracy, the question of direct vs. representative democracy is a difficult one.

I'd say they are both as bad as each other, but have distinct faults.

Both forms of democracy reflect, overall, the strong and predominant sentiments of the public. That is their common fault. Beyond that, each has additional shortcomings.

For representative democracy, the obvious shortcoming is the agency problem - representatives act in their own interest rather than that of their constituents. Admittedly, one of the major interests of representatives is to get re-elected, and consistently voting against the wishes of most constituents on issues that are very important to those constituents reduces one's chances of getting re-elected. But there are other factors determining re-election such as fund-raising or the concentrated power of certain organizations to "turn out the vote". And most votes are over issues over which most constituents don't care. In the case of those votes, the interests of the constituents don't matter.

For direct democracy, the issue, as many people noted, is both uneven and low turnout (as most people, rationally, don't care about voting), and magnification of the ignorance and bias of the electorate. To be clear, that bias and ignorance show their ugly head even under representative democracy, but can potentially be somewhat mitigate through the agency of representatives.

Which is better? I think that's hard to tell. The best solution is obviously to reduce the size and scope of government so that neither avaricious and self-serving representatives NOR ignorant and indifferent voters get to tell others what to do.


I agree in part. The problems caused by democracy are that essentially it lowers the discussion level of the nation. The nation with a strong democratic ideal will be thinking in terms of election cycles -- in most cases 4-6 years -- because anything that will cost money in the next cycle has to produce results in that cycle or be scorned as a "waste of taxpayer finances". We have a lot of long term problems that need to be thought of in generational terms (such as education, defense, technology investments), but no electoral system will handle such problems well, because investing in most tech programs, for example, is a 20 year quest with no payoff until the tech is mass produced. That means 20 years of ZOMG TAXES talk and potential for the program to be cut completely before the results are in. You can't create new solutions to our problems that way. Heck, we can't even get the highway program adequetly funded, because the highways to be fixed might not cross your state, and thus you're paying to fix the other guy's road.

The second problem is that it lowers the level of the debate. If it doesn't fit on a bumper-sticker, it's really too complex for the electorate to have a debate about. This results in all kinds of problems in dealing with budget shortfalls. The image of granny on the streets because of evil Social Security cutbacks prevents even the discussion of how to keep Social Security solvent for future generations once the Baby Boomers retire. We can't have an honest discussion about the real causes and effects of terrorism in the world because the left and right already have the bumper-stickers at the ready. For the left, if you critisize Islamic countries, you're Islamophobic, a bigot, and so on. If you say that we had anything to do with it, you "Hate America" and you hate Israel. So rather than talk about whether the Afghan proxy war might have stirred up fundementalism in the Middle East, or whether some strains of modern Islam are not as nice as other religions, we deal in slogans. And any policy we try in the region is going to be judged on whether it's Islamophobic or America-hating. I just want something to work, screw the ideology.

The third problem is that it promotes selfish thinking. In democracies, you form blocks of various interests to get your ideal agenda passed. You vote your pocketbook, and you defend jobs in your local area. You want your schools to be top notch, but resent paying for the schools in other poorer areas that might need it. At every turn, it's all about whether or not a policy helps you or your pet projects, not whether the nation itself benefits, not whether the policy will be a long term problem for others. This is part of why Americans are loath to pay for welfare programs -- most voters don't get welfare, so they don't want to pay for it. Most people want WIC and other food stamp programs to pay for the Top Ramen diet (just give them Ramen noodles), because they don't see the people who use food stamps.

Democracy has a lot of serious problems, and while it's not the worst way to govern a small community, it's not a system than promotes long-term thinking.
#13890741
Two other comments (I think my California example pretty much cements the issue, but whatever)

1) Are people going to vote every day? Voter turnout in America is fucking pathetic, and it only happens at most every 2 years (usually every 4 years for most people). Bills are passed *daily*. How many Americans can name their current district representative, and which one they voted for last time? I don't even know my representative's name.

2) Even ignoring all reality, technology is not nearly in the realm of having this be possible. We can't even produce an electronic voting system, even one that leaves a paper trail.

If the most technologically advanced country on the planet can not collectively come up with a secure electronic voting system used once every 4 years, what on earth makes you think every citizen could vote on issues daily?

A third point:

3) Debate. How would debate happen? Taking my point above about people not even bothering to vote, how many more would actively debate? How much of that would reach a large part of the population? The population of PoFo is a sheer exception to how most people think and vote. They are more likely to be convinced by Jon Stewart or Glenn Beck than any rational discussion of an issue. California ballot initiatives happen, with maybe 2 major issues, and public debate for months is basically zilch. A commercial runs and the firefighters support it. That's the literal amount of thinking people give issues. Really, the daily bills being presented, changing news, statistics and logistics, committee review takes a great deal of effort. It is easy to loathe politicians, but they actually have fairly difficult jobs. Not even political nerds like us on PoFo follow every issue and review every study.

Representative democracy, as long as it is based on a fair representation of the public, is the most efficient and best interested system of government we have.
#13890773
septimine wrote:The nation with a strong democratic ideal will be thinking in terms of election cycles -- in most cases 4-6 years -- because anything that will cost money in the next cycle has to produce results in that cycle or be scorned as a "waste of taxpayer finances".

Yes. That's the point made persuasively by Hans Hoppe in "Democracy, the God that Failed". Democracies are inherently short-termist. Decisions are always made with the next election-cycle in mind.
Contrast that with decisions regarding private property. Shareholders, for example, always consider the long-term prospects of the company. That's why companies like google could have a huge market value and attract investors even during the years during which they had no profits.

If it doesn't fit on a bumper-sticker, it's really too complex for the electorate to have a debate about.

Agreed. Unfortunately, the modern state is trying to handle issues that are far too complex even for expert to deal with. Note repeated failure of regulatory oversight, or failure to resolve any of the problems (health, education, crime) that the state undertakes to resolve.

No cosmetic change in the nature of the democratic process will help.

The third problem is that it promotes selfish thinking.

Again, very true. In the political system, people are incentivized to use the power of the state to obtain favours for themselves at the expense of others. Contrast that with the free market, in which a firm can only make money by producing products that others are willing to pay for freely, at price/quality levels that are better than their competition. In the free market, people's greed is always channelled into productive uses.
#13890789
I am very open to the idea of total transparency in government, constant communication between politicians and citizens, and indeed Neo-Athenian e-democracy. All layers of government are absolutely crawling with redundant, unrepresentative middlemen. As direct communication becomes possible, the need for indirect representation declines.
#13890994
Finally a post I'm not rolling my eyes at like an epileptic. Thank you Omb. And an honorable mention to Eran for not just blowing right past what I'm saying. Capitalism is another issue - fair enough. Democracy doesn't lower the intelligence of people when it's ABOUT THEM. This bullshit that happens every 4 years is stupid. On the other hand we ought to be very concerned about state and local politics AND federal politics should stop trying to blanket the country with uniform policies.
#13891171
Suska wrote:Finally a post I'm not rolling my eyes at like an epileptic. Thank you Omb. And an honorable mention to Eran for not just blowing right past what I'm saying. Capitalism is another issue - fair enough. Democracy doesn't lower the intelligence of people when it's ABOUT THEM. This bullshit that happens every 4 years is stupid. On the other hand we ought to be very concerned about state and local politics AND federal politics should stop trying to blanket the country with uniform policies.


All politics is ultimately about you, though. If the issue is building a road, the question is "will I be hurt more by the taxes than I'll benefit from the road", or if we talk about raising the minimum wage, the questions are about how that will raise the prices I pay, or affect MY chances of getting a job, or raise MY pay. If the issue is forgein policy, the questions are again relative risks and benefits to me. Empires are supported abroad because it means jobs at home, cheap prices, and frankly prestige. Democracy is supported abroad because it's thought that making other countries like us will help us. Free trade is supposed to help our industries to make more money as well.
#13891701
Zagadka wrote:1) Are people going to vote every day? Voter turnout in America is fucking pathetic, and it only happens at most every 2 years (usually every 4 years for most people). Bills are passed *daily*. How many Americans can name their current district representative, and which one they voted for last time?

This is not specific to the USA. It's a worldwide problem pertaining to all systems of representative democracy: representatives are alienated from their constituents.
And yet people "vote" everyday for inane top 10 hit songs and reality TV shows, spend hours Like-ing each others' boobs/six-packs on social networks... or discuss politics in cyberspace.

The whole system is faulty at its root and inevitably corrupt. People don't care anymore because they know their vote doesn't change anything when, every few years, they're given the choice between two faces of the same coin.
#13891765
J Oswald wrote:Direct democracy, except in very limited circumstances, is a horrible idea. All that allowing the populace a direct vote on governmental matters would do is ensure that the government is hijacked by whichever group can muster the most dedicated voters. Given that the people most dedicated to politics are also usually the most radical, this would be disasterous.

Or, if you're lucky, very positive; i.e. on the rare one-in-ten-billion times the masses vote for someone who isn't a criminal, a moron, or both.
#13891772
Heaven forbid a populace could get what it went after the hardest! What's next?
#13891837
septimine wrote:All politics is ultimately about you, though. If the issue is building a road, the question is "will I be hurt more by the taxes than I'll benefit from the road", or if we talk about raising the minimum wage, the questions are about how that will raise the prices I pay, or affect MY chances of getting a job, or raise MY pay. If the issue is forgein policy, the questions are again relative risks and benefits to me. Empires are supported abroad because it means jobs at home, cheap prices, and frankly prestige. Democracy is supported abroad because it's thought that making other countries like us will help us. Free trade is supposed to help our industries to make more money as well.


Perhaps empathy will prevail. Under the current system do you not vote for a party that should most suit you? If the concern is that smaller communities may receive less attention than larger communities (which I can't help but think would not be the case) then perhaps the country's budget could be divided between each region and region-specific issues can be voted only by those in that region.
#13892293
Everybody on this forum seems to agree that democracy, both representative and direct, is highly problematic. Yet we can all agree that it is better than alternative forms of government.

Why don't we draw the logical conclusion, namely that government is inevitably corrupt, and rather than try to reform it, look for alternatives?

The US was founded on the idea of "checks and balances". We now have ample historic evidence that such checks and balances don't work as long as power can be monopolized by a small group of people.

If you are uncomfortable with straight-out anarchy, how about exploring a different direction? How about radically localizing government, thereby allowing much easier competition between local governments?

If we adopted free trade and peace as founding principles, and setting aside national defence, what other issues genuinely require a national, rather than local (not state or regional, truly local) government?
#13892311
Have any of you read about ancient Athens? It was the most powerful state in the Greek world and held a vast overseas empire. This was compatible with direct democratic rule (obviously within the constraints of the time, citizens in Athens, no immigrants, women, etc). The mechanisms were of direct democracy however, big decisions of war and law being made by majority vote, politicians and generals being elected every year. Granted, Athens had its fair share of military and political disasters, but the same is true of any state regardless of regime.

Why not repeat the experiment somewhere now that the combination of technology, leisure and education (at least in developed countries) have eliminated all practical obstacles to direct democracy? The ruling class is always tends to become privileged, lawless, and abusive of its power. Why not try a practical mechanism to keep them in check?
#13892394
Everybody on this forum seems to agree that democracy, both representative and direct, is highly problematic. Yet we can all agree that it is better than alternative forms of government.

Actually, no, we can not. Monarchy, aristocracies and oligarchies are all functionally superior; so is a private-corporate form of government.
Why don't we draw the logical conclusion, namely that government is inevitably corrupt, and rather than try to reform it, look for alternatives?

Because in some the native features AND the corruption aren't as bad as others. The problem with democracy isn't 'corruption', it's that democracy is, was, and always will be an idiotic idea of no use to sane human beings.
#13892436
Democracy would mean the end of politicians. Probably just Head of State, Head of Government would be the only elected positions.

Not going to be implemented by any Western government, logically because it's suicide for them.
#13892448
Actually, no, we can not. Monarchy, aristocracies and oligarchies are all functionally superior; so is a private-corporate form of government.

I am familiar with the argument. Unlike most of Hoppe's arguments, it is contingent and empirical, rather than a-priori. Empirical records seems inconclusive at best. Consider North Korea and Syria has being effective monarchies (in the sense of having very few constraints on head-of-state behaviour, and hereditary transfer of power).

The problem with democracy isn't 'corruption', it's that democracy is, was, and always will be an idiotic idea of no use to sane human beings.

I disagree. The problem with democracy is that it is just a method of choosing government. Any government (including monarchies or autocratic ones) relies on broad acceptance and cooperation from the public.

In terms of behaviour, btw, all governments share many attributes - excess investment in defence, corrupt officials, pandering to well-organized pressure groups (including producers over consumers), prosecution of victimless "criminals", confiscation of private property, not to mention taxation. No systematic difference based on form of determining the people at the head.

The problem is government, not the various alternatives of picking it.
#13892986
I am familiar with the argument. Unlike most of Hoppe's arguments, it is contingent and empirical, rather than a-priori. Empirical records seems inconclusive at best. Consider North Korea and Syria has being effective monarchies (in the sense of having very few constraints on head-of-state behaviour, and hereditary transfer of power).

Hoppe is hardly the only source; but frankly, yes, North Korea is better than the USA. The USA is wealthier, more brain-controlled and full of Zionist-Liberals who are running a lunatic empire. I'll take NazCom any day.

The problem is government, not the various alternatives of picking it.

No. If monarchy is robbery, democracy is kidnapping. The various methods of picking it suck more or less, and the more popular they are the more ridiculous and irrational they become. It is far better to have a coherent, bribable oligarchy or caste-system than it is to have some crapshoot of mental midgets.
#13892993
The problem with democracy is that it is just a method of choosing government


No it's not, it's rule by the masses. By referendums on most major issues & no restriction on membership of the nation's legislature.
#13893302
If monarchy is robbery, democracy is kidnapping.

My point exactly - we are splitting hairs trying to decide which crime is less evil. That's silly. They are both criminals.

No it's not, it's rule by the masses. By referendums on most major issues & no restriction on membership of the nation's legislature.

At best, direct democracy can replace legislative functions. It can never replace executive functions, including regulatory agencies. Those are government.

The masses are not going to write and enforce the mountains of detailed regulations promulgated regularly from modern governments.

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