Open Thread, March 1-15, 2012

Related to: List of public drafts on LessWrong

I want to talk about democracy.

I do so here because I don't think this is mind-killing. And I sure feel some rational debate about it would be educational, for me mostly, since there are so many great minds here and... I will come clean, I think democracy isn't that great, considering this how is it possible that I am but ignorant? Or possibly evil. But before I can explain why I think as I do, I need to see why people think it is great. Who knows, maybe I've missed something vital? Or maybe people don't like d... (read more)

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I'm not sure I understand what question you are asking or what alternative you're comparing democracy to.

Ultimately, a government is an organization that claims a right to compel obedience, and in practice, has the ability to compel. Some person or persons is ultimately going to be in charge of wielding that power. That means there has to be some means of choosing them.

To be more concrete: a government needs a military or at least a national police force. Those forces work much better with a unified command structure, which means there needs to be some su... (read more)

2buybuydandavis7yI'd reply as I think Thomas Sowell would, with his standard question "compared to what?" Compared to what is democracy a poor form of government? Sure, sugar gum drop trees won't spontaneously spring out of the earth when people get the vote. Nor is the vote an automatic cure for your aunt's gout. And there are plenty of failure modes. The particular ones you show from European parliamentary democracy are not surprising to me, as an American with a preference for the constitutional republic we nominally have here. The key difference seems to be attitude toward government. In the US originally, and to some degree in pockets still, the federal government, and government in general, is seen as empowered with authority to secure your rights. Not positive rights to the fruits of the labor of others, but negative rights against abuse from others. From the Declaration of Independence: This model of government does not include a "goodness generating machine" as one of the deliverables. Government exists to protect your "inalienable rights", such as life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. It is not a happiness generating machine, which will fedex you monthly packages of happiness, it is a machine to protect your freedom, leaving you free to live your life and pursue happiness. You are the happiness generating machine; it is the freedom protecting machine. This model has it's own failure modes, such as when much of the populace starts wanting the government to be a "goodness generating machine". And it's not a perfect machine even in a society of people who support it for it's original purpose. Inevitably, those controlling the levers will exercise that power for their own interests, while the general population will have both limited knowledge and incentive to properly watch over them. "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance." That's an expensive price, suffering from free rider problems, so we should always expect some abuse of the system. Wah wah wah! I can'
4NancyLebovitz8yI've been wondering-- there seems to be a fair number of LessWrongians who are revolted by democracy, and I've never been sure why. Would you or anyone else be interested in explaining why democracy seems like an obviously bad idea to you? I can understand not approving of government in general, but democracies (which I'm going to tentatively define as governments where a noticeable proportion of elections have surprising enough results to be worth betting on) seem to have less awful failure modes than a lot of other sorts of governments.

Open Thread, March 1-15, 2012

by OpenThreadGuy 1 min read1st Mar 2012106 comments


If it's worth saying, but not worth its own post (even in Discussion), then it goes here.