Please don't vote because democracy is a local optimum

Related to: Voting is like donating thousands of dollars to charity, Does My Vote Matter?

And voting adds legitimacy to it.

Thank you.

#annoyedbymotivatedcognition

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I understand that you feel annoyed, but this post comes off (to me) as snarky and makes me feel annoyed. In turn, I am less able to take your request seriously.

Given the little that I know about your political views, I imagine that there is a large inferential chasm between us. And I don't dismiss your views out of hand. But if you're interested in convincing me that I shouldn't vote, a much better tact would be to rigorously argue for your views rather than making a curt discussion post.

I would totally like to have written that but unfortunately there are meta reasons to not take such analysis as seriously on this particular date. I'll write at a later date, the irony is that LW might it considered more political on that later date when its actual political influence in terms of LessWronger voting behaviour is likely smaller.

And there are salience reasons not to talk about it other times. I defy the meta level concerns. Because of acausal trade, don't be coy for decision-theoretic reasons.

;)


Seriously, make your case if you want to. Or at least be explicit about the decision-theoretic reasons not to. You shouldn't be concerned that there will be affects on the election tomorrow.

Yay, now lets go more meta since I'll tell you that I was totally aiming for this association. Up voted :D

Edit: Seriously, I totally will but on some later date.

As the map is not the territory, I decline to go meta, because we are already enduring it.


Edit: Apparently, some folks aren't clicking through my link in the grandparent, and don't get the joke. Or don't think it is funny. Too bad. :(

If that's the case, then I encourage you to take a break from engaging with people about politics on LW or otherwise. I know from experience how draining it can feel, especially for those of us with non-mainstream political views during political cycles.

Plus, as you said, today may not be the optimal day to have this discussion. Although I do look forward to reading your arguments on the issue once the election cycle is over.

Edit: My comment was written before I saw the following addendum to Konk's comment:

I'll write at a later date, the irony is that LW might it considered more political on that later date when its actual political influence in terms of LessWronger voting behaviour is likely smaller.

Please don't downvote this discussion post because moderating is a local optimum?

More productive would be exploiting tensions: if someone claims voting is a fantastic idea because of 1 to millions odds of affecting the outcome, why don't they accept this same reasoning in other cases like existential risks?

Among other reasons, because :

  • they believe the odds for voting (voting and polling data are more solid evidence)
  • it's socially popular, and voting can be good for your social standing; people tend to live in politically segregated localities and communities, so for most people voting means affiliating with the groups your associates are connected with
  • there are huge marketing campaigns for voting since politicians and advocates have a vested interest in convincing people to vote for them, and in the process produce generic pro-voting spillovers collectively
  • voting is a cheap and bounded commitment (although political donations can be arbitrarily large)
  • voting affects current generations and fellow citizens more relative to future generations,
  • voting invokes coalitional thinking and group loyalty/morality more
  • consequences of votes, conditional on decisiveness, are revealed to a degree relatively soon
  • voting justifies reading about or watching politics for political junkies and policy wonks

I think the last reason is illegitimate, because it is symmetrical with the existential risk case. Just as voting justifies following politics, so does trying to decrease existential risk justify soaking up X-risk information. Therefore, someone who accepts it as a reason to vote should accept it as a reason to try to mitigate X-risks.

Great, now HPMOR will never get finished.

Hmm, how would that world look, assuming he had his way? Billions spent on FAI research and cryonics? Mandatory basic rationality training? Legalizing polyamory marriage? Erecting statues of Bayes?

To give a boring answer:

If we are assuming there wouldn't be any other major changes to the political structure (e.g. no bayesian party in congress) then the effect on policy outcomes would be fairly minor. For better or worse the president doesn't have that much direct power, and has to work with a lot of other interested groups.

Also I think people underestimate the domain specific knowledge in politics, there's no reason to believe that being rational would make Eleizer a particularly effective politician any more than a good doctor or lawyer.

The main specific power the president has is in publicity, so Eleizer could probably increase attention on existential risk and FAI issues, but how much concrete change that would make I don't know.

Does voting add legitimacy to a democracy? I've seen many people take it as a given (as Konkvistador does in this post), but I don't see why it is necessarily true.

In one sense competitive races with high turnout are legitimate in terms of "probably not stolen with corruption", and I agree that illegitimacy in the form of stolen elections can reduce turnout. But in another sense competitive races with high turnout are the least legitimate. They have the most controversy, the most regret, and the highest percentage of the public disliking the result and getting a turnover next race. In the US you get a spike of turnout in '92, then the Republican Revolution of '94, a spike of turnout in '04, then the democratic sweep of '06, Obama in '08 then the Tea Party takover in '10. These are not signs of a stable electorate that is happy with it's legitimate government. Just eyeballing a pair of 30 year graphs of "citizen satisfaction in the US government" and "voter turnout" seems pretty convincing to me that people go out to vote when they're most dissatisfied. Voter turnout thus seems to be a combination of dissatisfaction in government and a belief that you can change that government (which implies you don't like how it currently is).

For a hypothetical, which government do you think people are happiest with and consider the most legitimate...
a government where 90% of the population votes because they really want to get their side in power, and fuck those other guys... or a government where only 9% of the population votes because everybody is pretty indifferent between either party and don't consider it a big deal no matter who wins?
All things being equal (eg corruption level, education, etc) I'd assume people consider the second more legitimate. They are happy with how their government would turn out, and even though they could potentially have 10 times the voting impact, they choose not to exercise their right. By not-voting they aren't giving authority and legitimacy to rule to any one political party, but they are giving legitimacy to the system as a whole. They're saying that they trust the rest of the country to come to the right conclusion.

Anyhow I've gone astray. Why do you think that voting adds legitimacy to a democracy, rather than the opposite? I know I believed in that statement too, but frankly I think the only reason I believed it was because it was repeated so much. I would be interested in hearing the logic behind it, because at this point I can't remember why I used to believe it aside from repetition.

Non-voting as a political strategy

I would certainly vote for a candidate that could belivably promise to replace democracy with something I thought worked better. But since I know I'm biased against the strenght of the Humean small-c conserviative argument against change (because it doesn't make good insight porn ), I would require a very high standard of evidence. I don't think I'd vote for Moldbug's Neocamerialism as a replacement for my cozy Central European Parlimentary Social Democracy just yet for example.

But consider that the high voter turn out happened in the examples you gave in a later comment because there where parties that promised fundamental change in the political system which included abolishing voting or changing its role in society. Without such an option casting your ballot is just demonstrating the system is working as intended. The overton window was not moved in those cases by the Demublican party moving slowly away from democracy year after year because it kept giving them more votes, but because of external change convicing people the old parties and the old system was lame. New parties arose who promised to change the system by which they arose (oh irony). But what if such new parties where illegal? And the laws enforced because people serving in the police forces or the benches still believe in democracy and saw those trying to work around them as scum?

Eastern European referendums in the 1980s and 1990s had high turn out too. But I bet local party meetings or mayoral elections (yes Communist countries had elections too a whole lot of them) in late 1980s Eastern Europe weren't well attended. The governments of Eastern Europe weren't scared of people participating in government or unions or whatever, they where scared of people abandoing their insitutions for alternatives. General elections are more party meetings than referendums today.

So ok where are we left? We have strong evidence that the obvious alternative (the one we where most familiarized with by our pro-Democratic education system), that of violent revolution, almost always works out badly. The American one was actually a revolt or secession not a real revolution. I mean old King George was still happily sitting on his throne in London when it was over no? He just had one province less as the elites in it managed a sucessful secession.

Lets think about alternatives. What if there was a massive loss of confidence in Democracy in face of new non-democratic societies elsewhere in the world that would radically outperforming democratic ones to the point the latter appear to be economically and socially stagnating. Sounds implausible? Well something precisely like this happened not 20 years ago. You first need such societies, but lets assume by some magic the State Department, Department of Defence and the NYT let them happen. Shouldn't we be seeing low voter turn out untill a party emerges that promises to abolish democracy? And then wins. Or untill a new government arises and simply peacefully pressures the old dinosaur to put up one final referendum to abolish itself. The Communist parties agreed to this because they had lost confidence in themselves and weren't willing to resort to enough repression (those that did are still around), why not the Democratic parties?

Non-voting as rationality enhancing

In Slovenia we have a proverb "vera je v nogah ne v glavi", religion is in the feet not the head. People who go to Church every Sunday, tend to stay very religious, people who stop going to Church tend to realize a few years later they aren't they aren't too religious even if their non-Church going wasn't because of a loss of faith. Humans rationalize their actions. Simply by voting you are tempting your mind to come up with excuses for why voting is good. Now sure not doing something that everyone else does also creates strong incentives for rationalizations. But seriously isn't there something creepy about millions of people going through a ritual on a particular day every four years? Isn't there something memetically adaptive about this strange display? Not-voting can be signaling, but so is non-beehive-keeping or non-church-going, the benefit beyond signaling is just the benefit of dumping the cost of sustaining a meme.

What would an anthroplogist from Jupiter say the individual Earth monkey gets out of bed and does this every four years? Would this include TDT-like commitment to non-defection for the good of all mankind or at least their polity? Or perhaps a long term strategy to abolish the ritual? What would ze say about what effect it has on their opinions about the activity? Remember at the end of the day if you go to vote and don't spoil your ballot you have to vote for someone. Are you truly saying people don't very often go blue or green based on the ballot they at first grudingly cast a few days earlier for the green candidate? And if you are blue and green and neither has in its tribal atire abolishing democracy...

Even if it is a bad political strategy, which I'm certainly open to since you make very good arguments (I upvoted your post), non-voting still seems a good sanity preserving strategy for the individual and perhaps a community of non-voters who would like to be sane on politics.

I am having trouble fully understanding your response. (Please take this as a lack of understanding on my part, and not as an slight to how you communicate.) If it is okay with you, I would like to just summarize what you said to me, then you can tell me if I understood correctly or not, then I would rebuttal in a later post after I'm certain I understand your argument. I would much rather converse with the strongest version of the argument than argue with a straw-man my mind constructs.

P1 - You would happily vote for a (party that supports) alternative to democracy, unfortunately no such (proven) voting options exist.
P2 - The examples I cite are not valid because they explicitly advocated a new system, but that does not hold true for this election. Governments are not moved by internal forces (citizens voting) but by external forces, and actively work against both external change (which is known) and internal change (which most citizens do not see).
P3 - If voting could change anything, they wouldn't let us do it. :-) (As a side note, I thought Solidarity was a political/voting union? Though I should note that as a product of US schools, my knowledge on Soviet politics is lacking.)
P4 - Even violent revolution doesn't usually work. Revolutions do not overthrow governing systems; they merely change who is in power in those systems.
P5 - A possible solution to end democracy is a separate system arising that proves itself superior. Then the people vote for it or the government itself accepts the new system as superior. As proof, this is how the old Communist States died. (I actually did not know this. Probably due to the US's selective teaching of history.)
P6 - Humans rationalize our actions. By taking part in democracy, you become accepting of democracy; by not taking part in democracy, you become less so. To go out on a limb and put it in my own words, if you are hit on the head by a baseball bat every week you'll eventually rationalize why it's okay... but if you have to hit yourself every week, you'll rationalize that it's the most important/moral/good thing any person could ever do. (I'm a bit lost on the creepy/memetic argument though.)
P7 - By voting blue or green, you align blue or green. It poisons your perception of the world blue or green. And both blue and green support democracy, so voting for either one poisons your mind to support democracy.
P8 - The purpose of abstaining from voting is to prevent your mind (and your group's mind, eg lesswrong) from being poisoned, which is bad. (Furthermore, because of our size/influence, it does not cost us much to abstain.)

I believe that most of them are true on their face: P1, P3, P4, P6, P7. P6/7/8 strike me as especially good arguments against voting. I think P2 is incorrect, but I had extra trouble attempting to understand that paragraph, especially the second half of it; so that may only be due to my (lack of) understanding. I am undecided on P5 because I had not heard about that historical precedent until now and must research more (and if anyone has a short summary they could link to, I would love to read it). P8 is tricky... P8 is part of the wisdom of lesswrong that I disagreement with but haven't yet put into a post. I suspect that, unless I'm very wrong in my summary, my rebuttal will primarily concern itself with P8.

(As a side note, I feel I understand your post much better now and also disagree with it much less after doing a paragraph by paragraph summary/restatement. It is a surprisingly enjoyable experience to read something I disagree with make so many valid points.)

If it is not too much trouble, could you verify that I have summarized your points accurately and I'm not reading your post as a straw man? Also, any clarifications would certainly be appreciated. This is a subject on which I'm still not fully decided (though do I lean heavily to one side), so I am especially interested in knowing all the facts and arguments, even if they go against my belief in this case.

Edit: I haven't abandoned this post, but I'm going out of town this weekend to help my brother move into his new house. So, I'll be rather late with a reply.

I would much rather converse with the strongest version of the argument than argue with a straw-man my mind constructs.

I really like this approach myself and commend you (up vote) for taking it, quite some time ago I did something similar with the pro-democracy positon. You might want to read and comment on it so we can both see if I understand the regular thoughtful arguments in favour of democracy.

P2 - The examples I cite are not valid because they explicitly advocated a new system, but that does not hold true for this election. Governments are not moved by internal forces (citizens voting) but by external forces, and actively work against both external change (which is known) and internal change (which most citizens do not see).

Be careful here, I was originally trying to say citizens voting can't be used to change the acceptable policy options in certain directions. But if those policy options do become acceptable because of other reasons citizens voting can change the state in that direction.

Mostly however voting does very little of anything, especially because things that get people voting are nearly always things that escalate policy tugs of war.

P4 - Even violent revolution doesn't usually work. Revolutions do not overthrow governing systems; they merely change who is in power in those systems.

I think they sometimes can set up new governing systems, just that those efforts tend to end badly. To give examples the French Revolution besides the terror and its atrocities also ended up abandoning much of its ideals and started a series of destructive continent wide wars. I don't think I even have to explain what kind of horrible badness happened due to the Russian revolution.

A possible solution to end democracy is a separate system arising that proves itself superior. Then the people vote for it or the government itself accepts the new system as superior. As proof, this is how the old Communist States died. (I actually did not know this. Probably due to the US's selective teaching of history.)

Correct. Another plausible example is Apartheid South Africa abolishing itself. In that example you didn't even need to prove a superior system existed on metrics like lifespan or GDP, just that it was plausible a different one might work just as well and convince people making up the state apparatus or power to control it that it is morally & ideologically superior. There was some terrorism and foreign meddling pushing in that direction long before this happened so this isn't as clean a case as Communist Eastern Europe but I think it still evidence of how damaging a lack of legitimacy in the eyes of the people who are supposed to be upholding it is.

P6 - Humans rationalize our actions. By taking part in democracy, you become accepting of democracy; by not taking part in democracy, you become less so. To go out on a limb and put it in my own words, if you are hit on the head by a baseball bat every week you'll eventually rationalize why it's okay... but if you have to hit yourself every week, you'll rationalize that it's the most important/moral/good thing any person could ever do.

Yes.

(I'm a bit lost on the creepy/memetic argument though.)

Basically consider how this ind of behaviour looks from a memetic perspective rather than listening to why the memeplex justifies itself as another way to analyse it. I think we probably agree on the memetic perspective of how "going to Church" evolved. I assume we also agree that what the "going to Church" memeplex has to say about "going to Church" is probably false. We don't think God exists.

This isn't to imply that what "going to Church" had to say about "going to Church" was necessarily a priori false just because it evolved via memetic selection. It just happens to be so in that example. Being true can help a meme propagate quite well but it is not the only thing that can help it propagate.

By voting blue or green, you align blue or green. It poisons your perception of the world blue or green. And both blue and green support democracy, so voting for either one poisons your mind to support democracy.

Among other things. Not voting can be rationalized by "the country will be well governed either way" too and you'll feel a loyalty and belonging to the state. But I think this possible rationalizations is weaker and that voting at least in countries like the US is far more inspiring of pro-state and pro-democracy feelings of patriotism than non-voting-because-I-trust-it-will-work-great. In the low voting, high legitimacy example of say Northern European Social Democracies I bet the people who do vote are more likely to have a favourable opinion of government than those who don't. Maybe if more people voted the non-voters would be even more sceptical of the state, but I don't think that is what is happening. Perhaps the high legitimacy is there because of other reasons like ethnic homogeneity or relative prosperity and endures in spite of non-voting. And a lot of people in Northern European Social Democracies do vote. It is a hard social science question to settle without doing experiments designed specifically to address it.

P8 - The purpose of abstaining from voting is to prevent your mind (and your group's mind, eg lesswrong) from being poisoned, which is bad. (Furthermore, because of our size/influence, it does not cost us much to abstain.)

This is the reason I have more confidence in than the non-voting as a anti-democratic strategy. It wasn't the one I brought up in the OP because I thought it kind of a logical extension of the no mindkillers norm we have on this site. So we share some scepticism about P5 though I still currently believe in it strongly enough to consider encouraging people here to vote probably wrong for that reason in itself.

violent revolution, almost always works out badly. The American one was actually a revolt or secession not a real revolution. I mean old King George was still happily sitting on his throne in London when it was over no? He just had one province less as the elites in it managed a sucessful secession.

I think I agree with you on the underlying issue, but I think you put it rather oddly.

What made the American case good is not what happened high up the hierarchy, but what happened lower down. Yes, from the point of view of England, the king was still standing, but from the point of view of America, the king was gone: the main change was at the very top. What was good was that so little changed at the low levels of government. As you say, the people who took over were already running things.

To take another example, the Glorious Revolution did change kings, with much less bloodshed than the American. Its change was all at the top, the replacement of a king and a shift in the balance of power between the king and Parliament. It did not disrupt the lower levels of government.

One reason most revolutions are bad is that they sweep things clean and governments are hard to build from scratch. Even harder if you get rid of the people with experience.

I think you are confusing object level satisfaction and meta level satisfaction. Despite many policy disagreements throughout the years, the American people have agreed for about 150 years that the current form of government is the one that should govern.

In other words, Americans want a participatory democracy/republic. Voting is an expression of support for that model - thus voting enhances the legitimacy of the current system.

P.S. For cynics and public-choice theorists, I'm not arguing that the United States is a participatory democracy - that's a discussion for another time. I'm only explaining why the act of voting adds legitimacy to the current setup.

Erm, I don't feel you've explained it though. All you've reiterated is that voting is an expression of support for the model, without explaining how that is.

Also consider that voter turnout can be highest when meta level satisfaction is lowest. Voter turnout spikes right before revolutions and civil wars; this is exactly people saying that they consider the system illegitimate and want it scrapped.

Also consider that voter turnout can be highest when meta level satisfaction is lowest. Voter turnout spikes right before revolutions and civil wars; this is exactly people saying that they consider the system illegitimate and want it scrapped.

This sounds like a Muhammad Wang fallacy. (Even if Muhammad is the most common given name in the world, and Wang the most common surname, it does not follow that Muhammad Wang is the most common full name.)

Perhaps the people doing the voting and the people doing the revolting are not the same people. The voters may be rationally concerned to hold the system together because they correctly surmise that the revolutionaries are about to tear it apart.

It seems unlikely that the increases in voter turnout is comprised primarily of people happy with the system. 1930s Germany jumped to 85% participation before it became a fascist state. Iran jumped from 45% turnout in 75 to 90% turnout during the 79 revolution.

There's no room left in the demographic pie for non-voting revolutionaries at the numbers we're talking about.

All things being equal (eg corruption level, education, etc) I'd assume people consider the second more legitimate. They are happy with how their government would turn out, and even though they could potentially have 10 times the voting impact, they choose not to exercise their right.

That's one possible reason why they might refrain from voting. They might also be unhappy with how their government would turn out whether they vote or not. In my experience, people who don't care about voting are much more likely to be disaffected ("they're all idiots so it doesn't matter,") than they are to be satisfied ("they're all good enough as far as I'm concerned." )

I think that people who're enfranchised and largely satisfied with government are much more likely to participate in its operation than people who're enfranchised but unhappy. If most of the public agrees on the major subjects of debate between parties, the party lines will shift until they don't, and the people who're not too disenchanted with the whole system to participate will continue to have candidates the differences between whom they care about.

Downvoted because this post doesn't actually make an argument. Something this short belongs on Twitter, hashtag and all.

And if we push out of democracy, what are the chances the new optimum will be better? History is not encouraging on this point.