Any observed statistical regularity will tend to collapse once pressure is placed upon it for control purposes.
This is often the result of attempting to overoptimize a system. You can optimize a race car to a huge degree, because you know exactly what you want it to do.
You can't optimize a schooling system, because you don't know exactly what you want it to do. A little noise is a good thing, because the you want a little wiggle room for teachers to sidestep the dictums of education czars, and students to sidestep the dictums of teachers.
The Greeks solved this quite a few years ago, with sortition. Under sortition (injecting noise into elections - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sortition), Bush and Gore would have been forced to pay "paper, scissors, rock" for the presidency. Under the US's more pure democracy, they would have been tempted to make all kind of Faustian bargains with sordid players to nail down the last 0.01% of votes.
Randomization means that the last percent is just not worth chasing, so players in a competition won't be tempted to bend the rules for a tiny advantage.
The same process could be used for tests. If you allocate places in desirable courses (say medicine) randomly to anyone above a certain score, the top students won't bother drilling as hard just to get the top score.
Stocks are the same - quants wouldn't sweat timing as much if their placement in order books was randomized. It would be more efficient to pay attention to fundamental value than momentary fluctuations if they weren't guaranteed to make large profits on the momentary fluctuations. Some would still work on timing, but not as many.
Patents are just bad policy badly implemented at the moment, not over-optimized.
Also regarding your racecar example; they've gotten so good at making them go fast they actually are required to have restrictor plates (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Restrictor_plate) so this fits the example of exploiting a well-defined goal to the point it's no longer competitive/safe/fun.
I find that quite amusing and cool. (I don't follow the sport I just like watching science-type shows on tv)
First, it makes it harder to fix any errors/cheating. You can ask for a reevaluation of exam papers or a recount of the ballot if you felt that something shady happened, but then what about the randomization phase. In the admissions example for instance, if after a re-eval, the composition of students in the >95 percentile changed, do you hold a new randomization to make it fair for the new kids who crossed the threshold? If you do that, is that fair to those who previously got selected in the previous admissions ballot, and weren't second time lucky? Would this lead to all the "losers" in the lottery to ask for re-evals just so that the lottery phase happens again? (given a large number of students, if there is any subjectivity in the evaluation, every re-eval is likely to change the composition, even if by a small amount)
Secondly, the losers in the lottery are going to feel cheated and angry, even if all evaluation was objective, and there was [provably] no cheating. I think most humans prefer an objective, unambiguous way of competing with each other, even when we think that the evaluation metric is flawed. So the unlucky competitors will feel angry post-lottery, even if everything was done in a fair manner.
Finally, it increases the chances of cheating/gaming the system at the randomization phase i.e. the administrator can game the lottery. And if/when the administrators do cheat, it is also easier for them to hide their cheating since the anomaly can be hidden within the random luck factor.
If a re-eval happens, all students that were already assigned a random number since before will keep it, and new random numbers will only be given to the students that previously were below the threshold.
This will have the effect that the list of selected students will not change much even after a re-evaluation. Only the few with lowest numbers risk losing their place.
Look now at the Bush/Gore election cited above, in light of this. A vote is simply a measurement of the people's desire for leader X or leader Y. This measurement is taken via a tool called the ballot. The ballot is for some reason taken as an ideal measuring device - for some reason we think it is a perfect tool of measurement. Yet, a huge chunk of the debate and contention of the scenario came out of problems with the ballot itself -- hanging chad, butterfly ballot confusion, and so on, are all measurement issues. At some point, we should have said "look this is just too close to call with our ballot measuring system, other measures or means should be used to determine the outcome".
The same is true of tests, they are an imperfect measuring system we are trying to treat as idea; so are many other systems you allude to.
The core idea here, is to stop treating our measurements as some sort of ideal measurement and instead look at alternate measures and methods once you get within the error range of the original measuring device -- at this point you are in the realm of "luck" anyway, because there are other unaccounted factors affecting the measurement anyway. Further, it has no more effect on cheating than treating an imperfect measure as ideal -- cheaters in both cases attempt to exploit unnoticable issues in the measurement. Statistical cheating detection already considers this sort of thing anyway, if the statsticians are any good.
As for the social situation you present -- this is a trickier problem, but I suspect a large portion of it could go away once proper understanding is given to people. A lot of the "unfair" complaints are essentially based around "the measure is perfect, so if I can tweak the value measured of my by a small bit, it has some fundamental implication". Essentially we need to train people on the difference between platonic ideals and the realities of the scenario. Then instead of complaining over obscure minutia, energy can be focused on either bettering the overall situation, or bettering the measurement.
As to your final point: ignoring the imperfectness and pretending it is perfect does not really change the gaming problem, in fact it adds to it, because when you treat the imperfect as perfect, you must have lots of complicated rules, which also allow for crazy gaming. Instead effort could be better spent on gaming detection or simple administrator investigation/oversight.
The writer of the article is asking generally about how a system's rules can be exploited to the point that the original intention of the system is no longer achievable. The sortition is also a system with rules, therefore it can be exploited. As soon as I saw the rock-paper-scissors, I remembered a competition some time ago where different bots played rock-paper-scissors against each other. Now the
best bot exploited the reality of the seed number generators, compiled a database of sequences to find which seed the opponent was using, and so on.
So even sortition might be exploitable.
But the idea is that it's not easy to exploit. If it is more than trivially difficult to leverage, then that is wasted time/effort that dilutes from the greater message.
ie, why waste effort on the "tie-breaker" message when you can just spend that effort avoiding it altogether and push yourself beyond the margin-of-error?
The key to sortition is that effort expended on gaming sortition is wasted and non-complementary effort compared to the original contest/competition... right now, getting that 0.1% by dirty tricks is equivalent to getting-out-the-vote of 0.1% more of the populace.
The same problem happens with your exam example. Why is it fair that someone less competent than you got in? A better solution would be to let everyone over the cut off point in.
I can't disagree with your example of the stock market, so long as the trades were still executed with a few seconds.
Do people think our current politicians are legitimate? I'd rather see them be more willing to say what they think, and act with conviction than get a guy who is 0.1% more popular.
Yeah, it's a strawman. Will randomization discourage people from playing the game dishonestly? Or will people panic, and play the game harder, and give up on the honest component of what they are doing? I don't really know.
Why is flipping a coin worse than pretending the next count will be more correct? You kind of contradict your own point by implying the supreme court didn't supply legitimacy to the election. Nobody can blame a quarter for being stiffed with neocons on the heads side.
The main disadvantage with sortation seems to be that it killed Socrates. Randomly selected jurors did quite a few nasty and arbitrary things. But an elected tyrant (especially one who was willing to do anything to stay popular) might be worse. It's hard to say that sortation is bad because it allowed mistakes - every political system allows mistakes.
Also, systematic slavery, misogyny, the occasional genocide and other discrimination against non-male-citizens (non-voters) was a problem, but that's not really related to sortation. Any democracy can have those problems. Fortunately, we seem to have progressed a little in the last 2000 years (despite the occasional step back).
I was just reading this morning on the way to work a note made by Voltaire to Montesquieu's "De l'esprit des lois" that the decision in Socrate's trial was in fact a pretty close one, so things were not that bad (he still died, I know). I don't want to turn this into /r/politics, but look what's happening to Bradley Manning. I'm pretty sure that even if he were to be put to trial in front of a civilian court the call won't be as close as in the case of Socrates, for a lot of different reasons which I'm not going into details now.
For those interested, here's the count of the votes in Socrates' trial: http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/socrates/greek...
> In the case of Socrates, the jury found Socrates guilty on a relatively close vote of 280 to 220. (Interestingly, if less than 100 jurors voted for guilt, the accusers had to pay a fine to cover trial costs.)
Despite being a cause celebre, the fact remains that Manning's alleged actions were, in fact, illegal. Not that jury nullification doesn't happen, but it's actively discouraged.
Exactly. The point of voting is not, repeat not to execute the will of "the people" as faithfully as possible. "The people" can be just as powerful and arbitrary as a single ruler, when it comes to that. The point of voting is to randomize so that no single entity stays in power indefinitely. (No executive, legislature, or even set of ideals can win elections indefinitely, no matter how popular they are when they start out.) In exchange for mediocre performance in the average case, you get to eliminate the almost unboundedly terrible performance of the worst case.
True, but only in the case of complete randomization. In the case of randomization kicking in only when the election is close, one side will be chasing the last percent to get to randomization and the other to avoid it. Same thing...
What they want to see is unique and historical body styles for every company in the race, powerful cars vs. nimble cars, finicky engines, twisty turns and long straightaways, etc.
Could be an example in the original post, really. Over-optimization leads to a worse sport.
These "games" are basically the equivalent of counting lines of code or checkins. We're measuring poor proxies instead of the things we're actually interested in. The solution isn't an arms race to build bigger and better proxies, the solution is to measure real things instead of artificial ones.
Here's just one example of what I mean by "measure real things". Electing representatives every X years to decide the laws of the land was once upon a time the fairest and best way to have the voices of the masses heard. Today it is feasible to directly poll everybody about every issue, so we no longer need the proxy. If you say everyone cannot be educated about every issue, fine, I can "follow" PG's votes on wall street reform and grellas's votes on IP tort reform and Schneier's votes on TSA etc just by copying their votes on those issues into my ballot, a permission which I can revoke at any time or on a vote-by-vote basis, as easy as unfollowing them on VoteTwitter. This is better than the proxy of professional politicians deciding every issue with fixed terms.
By way of illustration, think of an issue that you care deeply about and are well-informed on. Now ask yourself if you would trust the public at large to make policy on it. For every pg, grellas, or Schneier, you'll have far more popular Becks, Palins, and Bachmanns. Direct democracy would be inherently susceptible to such demagogues, and as such cannot be seen to be any more reliable, or likely to produce wise policy, than the current system.
This statement could actually be used just as easily against voting for representatives as we do today. The real question is do you trust public at large to make a better or worse opinion than <name your representative> on some issue you are deeply informed on? In other words the comparison should be versus the existing system as a whole, not versus an expert on a single topic.
My perception of the demagogue is that their power comes from railing against the current authority. So while I can agree that it seems likely that a 'true democracy' would instantly prop up the Becks and Palins of the country, who do they blame when a majority of people vote that they are wrong? Or maybe even more extreme who do they blame when their views and proposals are voted for but still fail?
There is no longer a 'bad guy' to blame and arguments put forth by a demagogue will have to deal with two new realities-
1- They can no longer claim they are part of the majority opinion in an effort to gain further support. It'd be hard for Sarah Palin to keep up her 'regular joe' persona and reconcile it with being in major disagreement with a majority of the country
2- They can no longer claim obstruction by some authority steam rolling them in legislature. It would become pointless to argue about which pundit supported which policy or law in the past, because every individual would have their personal voting record.
True. I'm no big fan of representative democracy, it just happens to be the least bad system we've tried.
>> The real question is do you trust public at large to make a better or worse opinion than <name your representative> on some issue you are deeply informed on?
Well, yes, because they are at least (usually) experts in business or law, which are the domains that are most important to government. Some will be military or foreign policy experts, and they will (hopefully) be appointed to the relevant subcommittees. It's a fairly broken system, open to all kinds of abuses and with little assurance of wise leadership, but I still think the competence of the average politician in crafting policy is higher than that of the average citizen.
>> My perception of the demagogue is that their power comes from railing against the current authority.
I think there's quite a bit of truth in that. I don't, however, think it's a necessary truth. Hitler was a classic demagogue, even and especially after he gained power. He appealed to antisemitism and a fierce nationalism, rather than to the incompetence of politicians. While the current crop in the US gain power by railing against the established political class in DC, that's not the only possible source of power for them.
>> It'd be hard for Sarah Palin to keep up her 'regular joe' persona and reconcile it with being in major disagreement with a majority of the country.
Reconciling her views with reality has never been particularly important to her, and I don't see how that would change in a direct democracy. She could just as easily rail against the liberals in the MSM who poison the electorate with their propaganda.
Ultimately, I picture direct democracy working quite similarly to the reddit hivemind, and I'm not convinced that's a good thing. It would likely be passionate and dynamic, but liable to go off the rails from time to time.
The US founders specifically rejected that system because it leads to majoritarianism. And it would do so again, if you let it.
It would be wonderful if you could cite a few primary sources discussing a direct vs indirect legislative branch as leading to majoritarianism, whether a longitudinal study or quotation of the appropriate historical person.
You can still have separation of powers, judicial oversight, bills of rights, local governments, federalism, and all the checks we have today against majoritarianism within a direct legislative system. Direct legislature doesn't mean only one branch of government.
To put it another way, I don't believe the solution to the "tyranny of the majority" is to set up little tyrants to rule over the majority instead. Even if those were the only two options (and they're not), I would prefer majority rule to what we have.
It is now practical to have a direct democracy: If we can bank online, we can vote online. In contrast, there are 26 lobbyists for every member of congress in the US. They are not there to support the public's will but to contravene it by paying for the opposite. Over 80% of Americans (statistically almost everyone) are dissatisfied with Congress, as they should be. The representational form of democracy is both no longer needed and horribly broken.
I think that the claim that it is now practical to have a direct democracy needs some support. Can you point to a smaller group which is governed in this manner? To a working prototype of transitive voting code? I am prepared to be persuaded, but the practicality seems far from obvious.
Is it possible now to instantly poll all citizens, at any moment, on a question of law? Absolutely. Indeed we've had that technology for decades -- since the 50s at least with tabulators and telephones.
The point I am making, and which I was originally being downvoted for making, is that technology is not the point. Social dynamics are the point.
Ancient Athenians lived in a geographically small area, such that the several thousand citizens could all participate in any matter of public policy, lawmaking and justice if they so chose to. Many did so.
Periodically, a particularly charismatic leader would arise and obtain of great power. The Athenians, acting entirely within the limits of their constitution, eventually came undone. In the process they killed Socrates for asking annoying questions and wracked the Peloponnesian peninsula in war for many years, which is how they came undone.
The Romans established a Republic as a reaction to the demise of a monarchy. It was riddled with inconsistencies, but contained many of the features we now recognise as common. For example, there was one lawmaking body elected from a limited franchise (the Senate) and another from a broader franchise (the Tribunes). They tussled frequently, but each jealously guarded its privilege. Rome, an obscure city whose only natural advantage was in being found athwart a salt trade route, came to dominate much of the world while still exercising representative democracy.
In practical terms, what does a direct democracy with proxies buy us? The main advantage is, in theory, to assign power, through proxies, on topics to experts. That is, it's meant to be a meritocratic-democratic fusion.
* How do you define a proxy's limits? I say "Bruce Schneier has my proxy on matters of cryptography". What does that cover? Simply voting on NIST competitions? Mandating the use of SSL in banking? Some say in the operation of the NSA? Here come thousands of nasty court cases to settle the boundaries.
* What about conflicts of proxy? If I give Bob my proxy on "the internet" and Jill my proxy on "fibre optics", whose proxy prevails when the question is about regulating Google's purchase of dark fibre?
* What about generality? We can assumably assign proxies to any level of generality or specification. Say that Ashton Kutcher, who holds 3 million proxies good for any subject, weighs in against Bruce Schneier over crypto, only holding 500,000 proxies on crypto alone. Is that the outcome you want?
* Demagogues! Bob, who has 500,000 proxies on education policy after a lifetime of careful study, experience and rumination, is suddenly exposed as being gay. Fox News hints he's in league with the devil. Overnight Glenn Beck cries a bit and acquires 2 million education proxies.
* Transferable proxies / sub-proxies. Beck's proxies cause Bob to be outvoted. Beck's viewers, who have now tuned into World's Greatest Unicycle Crashes III, forget that they ever assigned that proxy. 6 months later Beck sub-proxies the 2 million he still holds to the CEO of EvilCo. Hilarity ensues.
I just don't see it scaling.
I'm saying: eliminate Congress. Allow people to vote directly on all bills. They can read various opinions online (no advertising allowed).
> It's my understanding that the reason it was created is because technically it was too difficult to allow everyone to vote on every law.
It was created that way to prevent the tyranny of the majority.
"A pure democracy can admit no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will be felt by a majority, and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party. Hence it is, that democracies have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have, in general, been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths."
- Federalist No. 10.
Think of it as defence in depth. Do you pin all your security hopes in file permissions? Of course not: you demand randomised address layout, auditing tools and so on and so forth.
In short, you want defence in depth. Representative democracy is a defence against majoritarianism.
> I'm saying: eliminate Congress. Allow people to vote directly on all bills.
Who will write these bills? How will they be proposed? Is there a minimum number of sponsors required, if so, how many? How do bills lapse? How are they amended during discussion?
Who will write the bills? Tim Eyman, Industry Groups, Costco, and other Lobbying Groups.
Who will get sponsors? Probably the same. They'll probably pay for it. The same forces that pay for lobbyists will pour into the direct democracy process, like they've taken the initiatives.
What will we get from it? A bunch of bills, all looking for no taxes, no gay marriage, and a pony. Meanwhile, the important stuff will quietly get looted by People With Lawyers who now have no more oversight.
That said, I down-voted you. Don't reduce this argument to name calling. People are voting up my arguments; you seem to be in the minority in not finding the alternative I'm suggesting to be better. That's fine. I wouldn't belittle you for it.
So I don't need to explain myself to you. I don't need to go into details. I don't need to get your permission. None of us do. You had decades; your turn is up.
The future will see open government and direct democracy via the internet as the obvious, logical next step of politics. The internet has transformed nearly every industry -- and now it's simply time to consider transforming politics.
And those students, radicals and "juveniles" who are launching it, won't care what you think. You had your chance. You fucked up. Now it's our turn, whether you like it or not.
Of course you don't need my permission, why would I care, I don't even know you. I just thought that you were debating on content, and was annoyed that the one person who was providing sound reasoning was being downvoted for it.
Anyway, good luck with your revolution, be sure to post back when you're done.
What I'm saying is there are 13,000 full-time employees of rich clients, each representing a bus-load of money, whose job it is to stop what people want if it conflicts with what their wealthy sponsors want. That system cannot stand. It is rotten to the core.
I'm telling you that it's not about us or the people on HN. Politics have been gamed and the people know it, and they will change it. The internet has revamped industry after industry; politics is next. You can call it revolution. You may think I'm crazy and extreme. But I (and others) see something disastrously broken and are willing to use modern technology to fix it.
Instead, attach the voter's name to the bill, as either yay, nay, or abstain. When their position is proven wrong, fine them to cover the damages their mistaken choice cost.
As is, voting is unjust. It leads to abominations like the draft.
Technologically it's already possible.
Do you think this sort of thing makes you clever? In every idea there are implementation details. What's your point?
Unless you're saying that these things will somehow be radically harder under the proposed system, and if so say how, it doesn't need saying.
> Representative democracy is a defence against majoritarianism.
No, representative democracy is often proposed as a defense for such.
We can routinely see our politicians playing to the masses so obviously if it works it's only in a round-about fashion.
You could do the same with direct representation. Have a constitution, wich can only be modified by a 2/3rds majority. Require a 2/3rds majority to execute philosophers, start wars, and murder the male population of subject states.
And Socrates was not just a kindly old Zen master, preaching peace and understanding. He was a bright guy, but as he developed philosophy he also preached against democracy in favor of some kind of military dictatorship run by philosopher kings. Some of his students led bloody revolts, overthrew the democracy, and executed hundreds of democrats before they were eventually toppled. He wasn't quite the Osama Bin Ladin of Athens, but he was responsible (in a sense) for a lot of deaths. But he couldn't be executed for that, because there was an amnesty; so they got him on some trumped up charge related to his religious skepticism.
Of course, his more philosophical (and less political) followers (i.e. Plato) painted his execution as a great miscarriage of justice.
It seems like you're attributing the ideas in The Republic to Socrates. Of the Socratic dialogues written by Plato, some of them were fairly faithful representations of conversations Socrates actually had and others used Socrates as a fictional character to argue for Plato's ideas. The Republic falls firmly in the latter category.
The higher legislative branch gives more weight to states as individual entities for very precisely balanced reasons. In a very real sense it is not representatives that act, but states themselves.
This has been incredibly important, because it further decouples the population from the decision. Sparsely populated states have traditionally had different concerns than urban states: the Popularist Party of the late 19th century was sharply divided along these lines.
In other words, the popular vote is disregarded because different 'types' of people shouldn't have too much power: the density of cities should not grant that population dominion over the agrarian folk.
People complained about the popular vote being for Gore without realizing that the system was still functioning as intended: the states vote for the president, their votes being determined by the population within. Those foolish states that split their electoral votes make themselves irrelevant!
In practice, the system grants sparse populations dominion over the majority. There's no well-thought-out philosophical reason for this, by the way, this was just a compromise states like Virginia had to make to get states like Rhode Island to agree to the Constitution.
Philosophically, people are people. Why should they be effectively disenfranchised for choosing to live in cities rather than in the mountains?
Not so! Populism _failed_, but it wouldn't have even had a chance to represent the interests of the agrarian states if statehood were not more important than sheer weight of numbers.
>There's no well-thought-out philosophical reason for this, by the way, this was just a compromise states like Virginia had to make to get states like Rhode Island to agree to the Constitution.
How is that not a well-thought-out philosophical reason? Balancing the needs of states is what enabled the Union. You act as if the compromise was not based in real, valid needs on behalf of the states. Rhode Island needed incentive to join. Virginia needed incentive to join. A two-senator Senate and a two-representative plus population-based-count representative HoR is the result: an _elaborate_ philosophical compromise, balancing power on several axes.
You're looking at it the wrong way: cities have much, much more by way of population. The most populous states would _steamroll_ everyone else if weighted solely by headcount, assuming they acted in unison--which has historically been the rule and not the exception.
In the United States, states are largely a historical accident stemming from the way North America was colonized. No one actually decided to establish a federal democracy in North America and divide it into states, different people from entirely different countries just happened to colonize different parts of the continent without ever intending that New Amsterdam and Jamestown would ever fall under the same American government. The Constitution was a political compromise based on the fact that thirteen of those colonies broke away from the mother country and needed a federal government. The Founding Fathers weren't gods, they were the same breed of hypocritical, self-serving politicians you see in any era, a scarce few wiser than the others for sure, but the same ugly sausage-making all the same.
Believe me, I ain't putting no fathers on a pedestal. But you seem to like putting them in a cesspit.
Is simply not true. Why did we (and by we I mean land owning white men) vote for congressmen directly but not senators or the president? Obviously the mechanism for voting was in place, but they did not use it for 2 of the 3 federal offices. They were specifically trying to distance the choice of president and senators from the poeple. It was only later that the voting base was expanded, people started voting directly for senators and the president (and technically, it's still a little indirect to the president).
Only if you ignore that pesky anonymous voting problem. I want my bank to know exactly what transactions I made when, and keep detailed logs of those transactions. I don't want some government body have detailed logs of exactly how I voted.
But I can imagine it being put into place and then being abused.
This doesn't change the fact that legislation would still take on a majoritarian tone. You'd need even more circumscription of the powers of the legislature for it to work at all; history suggests that it's at best a partial solution.
> I would prefer majority rule to what we have.
I saw majority rule in high school. No thanks.
It's not clear that this is substantially worse that legislation written for/by lobbyists.
The current process is thoroughly corrupt.
The people deciding political issues wouldn't be the reasonable and smart people who hang around here. It will be the people who stand around picking funerals, people who never graduated high school, functional illiterates and the drug dealers in the inner cities.
Is it really that kind of people, the ones who can be convinced with a few late night tv commercials, you want to run your country?
No, no it did not. Direct democracy means the legislative branch doesn't use a proxy. There are still two other branches. How is this so hard to understand?
Elected representatives are supposed to fully represent their constituents. There is not supposed to be a difference between the rep. and who they represent. What direct democracy says is that the proxy of a representative has been corrupted and is no longer necessary. That is all.
P.S. The whole notion that representatives are "smarter" than their constituents is both false (Michelle Bachman?) and elitist. Who the fuck are you to decide that people are too dumb to have a democracy? It's the same line throughout history and people have consistently proved it wrong.
I am pretty sure 99% of the lawyers in US would do a better job than me defending anyone in a trial.
Every car mechanic in the world would do a better job than me fixing some mechanical problem in my car.
Does this mean that I am dumb? No, it just means I devote my time to other areas of expertise.
I really cannot see why this shouldn't apply for politicians as well.
That's what representatives do, actually -- they have people who read the bills and give advice on what they think. I'm saying, like with so many areas, by using the internet we can skip the middle-man.
Socrates might not be executed (depending on the constitution in question), but he might still find himself prisoner for life because the law had mandatory sentencing provisions.
You may not like it, but it's not really up to you (or me) to decide. The people can choose to eliminate that ineffective, rotten layer.
If you look elsewhere, you'll see my notes on the particulars of the US system. We have rent-seeking here in Australia, but nothing like the scale of the US.
The difference is that US Members of Congress are basically independent agents. No party discipline, and no executive constraints, prevent them from that kind of deal-making. It's down to the peculiarities of the US system, not representative democracy in general.
Let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater.
(Plus there's the standard libertarian argument that reducing the power of Congress reduces incentives to fiddle; but that doesn't do away with merely petty corruption).
Open government, e-democracy. The time has come.
But even those fall into strife. Politics is part of human nature; the encrustations of western civilisation and elsewhere are not arbitrary.
Maybe. But I think if you look at history, distributing power has always been the most successful strategies. Unfortunately, it's also the least popular with those who currently hold power, so it's often a knife fight.
I'm not quite sure it's as radical as you seem to think it is. Is voting for a Michelle Bachmann to vote on laws, or just voting directly on those laws, so different? Really? I'm not so sure. The internet has transformed every other industry. Can we not apply it to politics and leverage its power there?
I've been arguing the U.S. perspective, and it is so divisive there that I don't think it could be worse.
Jacques, this will be my last post so: thanks for the great dialog. All the best.
Switzerland is a federation of cantons with a patchwork of different electoral systems with some mechanisms for citizen-initiated referenda.
Citation needed? Some pretty stupid ideas get through and lots of corruption (e.g. "bridge to nowhere").
>The people deciding political issues wouldn't be the reasonable and smart people who hang around here.
What kind of people do think are in the Senate/Congress? They're not the reasonable and smart people who hang around here either. And in any case, those people you so happily deride are choosing said representatives anyway.
Any problems you see with giving everyone a say exist with giving a subset of those people a say. In fact I would say the problem is exaggerated with the smaller group because the kind of people who would be good for government are the kind who would never be willing to do that job. I bet they would be willing to voice their opinions though.
Edmund Burke made the point eloquently in his speech to the voters of Bristol:
"Certainly, gentlemen, it ought to be the happiness and glory of a representative to live in the strictest union, the closest correspondence, and the most unreserved communication with his constituents. Their wishes ought to have great weight with him; their opinion, high respect; their business, unremitted attention. It is his duty to sacrifice his repose, his pleasures, his satisfactions, to theirs; and above all, ever, and in all cases, to prefer their interest to his own.
But his unbiassed opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living. These he does not derive from your pleasure; no, nor from the law and the constitution. They are a trust from Providence, for the abuse of which he is deeply answerable. Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion."
Burke is already presaging the exact topic we're discussing: whether democracy is about the direct will of the people, or whether an elected representative has duties other than merely voting as his electors wish him to.
Remember, though, at that time the world was ruled by monarchies and it was thought that people were too stupid and illiterate to be part of their own governing.
It's 2011, and no one can debate this: It's up to the people to decide themselves whether they want to someone to override their will or to respect it. No one has the power to say, "Should we trust the will of the people?" The Enlightenment happened. You and I can debate, but we, the people, will decide.
Note the date. The Glorious Revolution -- establishing the ascendancy of Parliament over the Crown -- is more than a hundred years in the past when he made this speech. The American Revolution is but 2 years away. Before long Burke will be reflecting on the horrors of the French Revolution.
However, based on human nature, I think that given long enough time of your proposed system in place, some people will overlearn it and find a way to exploit it, e.g. to gather tons of votes for their favorite cause. We may even see 'vote consultants/strategists' that guarantee a huge increase in the votes for the cause you want to pursue.
I'd argue that referenda are more even susceptible to the problems described in the article than transparent representative democratic systems are; laymen are easy to influence, and groups of laymen even easier. In the end it depends on the population that is being ruled though - people get the rulers they deserve, and blaming the elected people while still participating in bribery, nepotism etc (while rational! classic prisoners dilemma!) is useless. But of course somebody needs to step up, like the Indian guy is doing now.
I for one would not want to spend much time on reading new law proposals and thinking about their exact meaning and implications, that's the job of a politician who is actually paid to do that.
I think its crazy that we can hire a lawyer or auto mechanic that must do what we ask, but we cannot be represented by someone that shares our perspective.
I don't think direct voting on every issue is the answer. Having the ability to pick our own delegate and change our selection any time is better. I really don't have the time to read every bill. But we can read people and share information with others that share our perspective.
Right now we must accept representation by whoever gets the most votes. And it doesn't even have to be a majority of the votes.
We also have a big cost shifting problem. People and states seek to shift costs to the larger country. That destroys any ability to weigh costs and benefits. Pushing such assessments down to as local a level as possible improves decision making.
So in the end you will always get overoptimization over those dimensions you are measuring, to the detriment of the other dimensions. I don't think there is a better solution than continuously changing the dimensions of measurement.
You'd love Hyperarchy (http://blog.hyperarchy.com/2011/07/19/hyperarchy-democracy-f...)
The US political system pretty much guarantees bad budgeting. Members of Congress are elected fairly independently. There is no party discipline, so each member will operate independently to maximise pork. This encourages horse-trading within and across party lines; nobody can be forced to give up something for a general good.
There's more: there's no incentive to balance the budget. The Executive's separation means that Congress does not need to concern itself with proper administration; it only doles out the cash. It has every incentive to ... maximise pork.
The dynamic behaviour of American government arises from the static structure. The drafters of the constitution drew on their knowledge of history and current affairs to try and avoid certain pitfalls. The US Constitution was state-of-the-art when it was written. It's less so now.
Countries where the Executive is formed out of the Legislative -- the Westminster system -- tend to have much stronger party discipline, because that discipline is required to pass budgets, enact legislation and to form the Executive. This tends to almost eliminate horse-trading, except between parties and independents. It's not perfect -- whole parties can engage in pork too -- but when policy emerges that benefits the many at the cost of a few, countries with party discipline will find it easier to adopt than those without.
Australia, which has the amongst the toughest party discipline in the democratic world, is also a reform leader. And I think a lot of that is explained by our constitutional arrangements.
The primary purpose of a game is generally to Have Fun. This purpose is lost if you have "solved" the game. The stated purpose of patents is to foster innovation. However it doesn't work. The purpose of schools is learning. However its methods are flawed [3,4]. And so on.
The trick is to know your goals, and then find out means to best achieve them. The author said:
> But, in real life, we need to keep "playing the game": we need to have elections, and protections for inventors, and laws that govern society, and a market where companies can raise money.
But the actual goals are different: We don't need election, we need a working democratic system (which may, or may not, mandate elections). We don't need protections for inventors, we need innovations. We don't need laws, we need a fair and working society. We don't need a market where companies can raise money, we need a working economy.
Well, I could attempt recurse further up until pure morality, but that would be intractable. But at least you get the idea. If something looks broken, think about its ultimate purpose before you try to fix it.
: http://vimeo.com/5513063 (Dr Tae)
Worse, the end of the post suggest we have to preserve things like schools, markets and elections, even though we learned enough to spoil them. Therefore, the only thing left to sacrifice is learning itself.
That would really really sucks: I'm curious, and I always want to learn more. There are many things I would sacrifice before I accept to put hard limits on what I am allowed to learn.
For example, look at this: http://www.abc.net.au/elections/federal/2010/guide/deni.htm With USA's system, Australia Labor Party would have got re-elected.
There's still improvements to be made for democracy that doesn't need to involve such fancy technology yet .
For me, as a Zen student, the solution is to just accept that that it is, what it is. No system (shape, for Zen students) can be perfect. It is created to solve a problem and with time starts to fail badly at doing anything about the problem. Then another system is created by someone else and the cycle restarts. You might think for example that the stock market or democracy is a thing that doesn't change, because it exists longer then you live. But in the end it will change. We had different political systems before and we will develop different systems in the future.
So in the end the system is one of the most important things we have, because it gives us something to base our decisions and actions on and goals to strive for. But also the system is nothing, just an illusion we create for us, maybe based on how we understand the illusions other people created for themself.
The thing that is interesting to me personally is that every system itself is instable and will change or die in the end. But the life cycle of a system, what it does for us and doesn't, that all will always stay the same and even though we try to change that, we will never succeed. So while it changes a lot in one way it is totally unchangable in another. But that just as a side note.
The problem is that some elements in society have become extremely effective at creating a perversion of "stuff people want" for their own benefit. They exploit loopholes in the system, whether by preying upon the poorly-informed, shifting costs onto externalities that we can't price properly, engaging in corruption, or producing items of questionable actual value but very attractive perceived value. They take advantage of our desire for easy answers to our problems with minimal effort expended.
Case in point: Ponzi schemes, coal power plants, Halliburton, the tobacco industry, Zynga, and even to an extent, religion
We've tried to control this with laws, education, and social norms, but ultimately it seems the invisible hand reigns supreme.
Perhaps another way to look at the problem is to imagine creating an A.I. that you want to succeed at whatever system you present. In most cases, an A.I. will take the literal interpretation of the system and become a test-taker, an electable 'gotcha-game' politician or even an entity that finds it can maximize game theory to its own ends by complicating the rules of an existing system to the point of absurdity once it becomes powerful enough to modify and create rules.
So then how do we create systems resistant to beings that take everything literally? I suppose the only way is to reward certain outcomes as opposed to rewarding the direct product of the system itself.
Examples: After an election, have we elected someone who has met with a high degree of favorability in the electorate by the end of his term?
After having students become proficient test-takers, do they then become excellent doctors, lawyers, engineers, etc.. ?
In a game invented to be fun or fair, once overlearned, do they produce fun or fairness?
If not, then a new game needs to be created or the existing one might need to be extensively modified to produced the desired product. This is where the internet shines, where everyone is welcome to take an existing system and modify it to something better. The problem with politics, law, stock market, etc... is that they have become the only method adopted in real society (there is only one game in town).
If reality were allowed to adopt, incorporate or evolve from systems/games from virtual reality (i.e. internet) there might be some productive change. But first we would need to see the first step taking place, that being even flawed virtual systems are allowed to manifest in significant proportion within real life society.
Don't hate the game, hate the player. Every game that profits a winner will have its cheaters.
The only way to do this with much larger systems, such as systems of governance, is revolution or exploring new lands. Personally I'm a bit concerned about revolution -- the assumption with refactoring is that the people refactoring understand what the "good" parts are and what the "bad" parts are. They also need to be able to generalize and simplify in order to keep the system cognitively approachable. In my experience, it's very easy to be angry-tear-down-the-system guy, very difficult to actually refactor. As the author points out, it's not that these systems are entirely useless. The hell of the thing is that the reasons for creating these systems are still very valid.
I remain convinced that programmers (hackers) have a lot to add to the discussion when talking about complex, brittle systems. After all, we spend a lot of time both working with them and fixing them. To me, programming and systems architecture is applied philosophy. Very cool stuff.
What programming has taught me is humility in the face of complexity. Refactoring only works because we can, at a stroke, reverse our changes; because we can place those changes in isolation and test the heck out of them.
But society, constitutions, laws: they are not software systems. A revolution can't be rolled back. A constitutional change is a hotfix applied to a running system. It's important to be careful.
You might find reading Burke on the French Revolution interesting; also Oakeshott on conservatism (the intellectual kind, not the god-n-guns kind).
"Reform" is a big, fuzzy word. A lot more brittleness and complexity has been added under that rubric. Systems of governance eventually get "over learned", that is, people adapt to the system and use it in more ways than it was intended. The ability of hundreds of millions of people to adapt is much greater than any amount of complexity that we can create. Yet we persist in the idea that by continuing to "tweak" the system, somehow magic will come from it. To me this is where humility comes in. We can never create a perfect government. The best we can do is have one that balances stability and refactoring.
Election cycles and constitutional amendment processes were supposed to do this. What we've found, though, is that legal precedent, statutory code, and an expansion of pure democracy and the role of career politicians, given enough time, puts us exactly where we didn't want to go.
Interesting side note: overly complex and brittle systems that people execute actually give dictatorial powers to those responsible for executing them. That is, in a computer system, the complexity creates program crashes and dysfunction, because the computer has to treat each instruction cycle and piece of data the same. In a system executed by people, a subtle social goal takes over: things still appear to happen. The system still superficially looks like it is working somewhat -- those in authority just selectively apply and bend the rules depending on whatever their whims are. If you've ever worked in a large organization with too much process, you've easily observed this: most struggle under burdensome rules, never being able to get anything done. A few, however, work completely outside the system, given special permission. These folks are usually kept off the radar so as not to upset the troops. Complex people systems don't ever stop working, they just make things miserable on most everybody and give a few permission to do whatever they want.
You'd think that modern tyrannies would look like old Libya: one guy in a funny hat ruling totally. But that's not the way it works any more. It's not one guy, it's a distributed oligarchy, and it's not out in the open, it's obfuscated.
What's the difference between your "overlearning" and "hacking"? They sound like the same thing.
This phenomenon is the reason for the Wikipedia rule, "Ignore All Rules".
They are similar, but I think one difference between "hacking" and "overlearning" is that a hacker can learn to subvert/circumvent a system quite quickly, and usually does so in a way that breaks the rules. Overlearning usually takes longer to achieve, and is a more insidious problem because it achieves its goals without actually breaking any rules.
Of course, there may be other, breakable, rules that are broken — "You can't render 3-D in real time on a PC!" — but those aren't the relevant rules.
Many hacks are not quick at all to achieve.
The former would get fined or imprisoned if caught, but the latter is fine under our legal system.
In any case, I do see your point about similarities between hacking and overlearning, but I think there are some differences. If I can articulate those difference better, I'll reply a little later.
However, I got hooked on thinking about the childhood game that he mentions briefly in the introduction. Asking more and more questions about an object and wanting all of them to be consistent is a good description of mathematics. According to Godel, both teams are bound to lose, because you cannot create a system of descriptions/properties about a system that are self-consistent (as their number increases), there will always be questions to a team whose answer will be inconsistent with the previous set of questions. The game is then to see which team can push the inevitable further.
IDEABOLT: It would be interesting to develop a program that plays this game. Each answer could be stored as an RDF statement in database.
Finite games like the one invented by the children described by the OP have end states, they have winners, and the goal within them are always framed from that perspective. While infinite games have no winners, have no end, and the goals are often framed around ensuring that the game never ends.
It's easy to think of finite games in our lives, they are everywhere in our society, and the OP does a good job of pointing out some of the less obvious cases. Infinite games are less obvious, the one that I found most illuminating was "language", a game where people actively collude to extend the game to the end of time, and has no winner.
Anyay, it's an interesting read, but a little bit mumbo-jumbo by the middle of the book. I would recommend it.
There is no optimal system, be it political, economic or whatever.
You can always find loopholes.
I think it is time we take responsibility for what we do - then there is no need for a better system.
The patent system is not responsible for people attacking each other - its the people.
Black majority electorates came decades after Gerrymandering.
Not a bad article though.
Also, while gerrymandering is indeed an abhorrent practice, its not clear it actually leads, in aggregate, to more extreme politicians. Gerrymandering is a delicate balance, and is often designed to create "just safe enough" seats (rule of thumb is 55% projected support), which, it turns out, are rarely safe at the margins in tumultuous times.
Indeed, its unclear that gerrymandering is hampering the ability of voters to change their minds. The last 3 elections have all led to historic upheaval, +30D, +23D, and -44R.
EDIT: Removed Gerrymandering example.