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> I don't think that participating in electoral politics is an effective means in reaching my desired ends.

And then I read from Peter Thiel:

> Most importantly, I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible.

And then I think that there are waaaay too many people in the tech industry who have gone completely out of their minds.

The anti-democratic rhetoric seems to be growing louder and it is starting to get pretty worrisome.




If you think of democracy as being majoritarian, the U.S. Bill of Rights is explicitly designed to be anti-democratic. Just read the language: “Congress shall make no law.” “Shall not be infringed.” “Shall not be violated.” “Nor shall be compelled.” “Shall be preserved.” “Shall not be required.”

These are rights that individuals — not societies or governments — possess. Even if a majority of the population wants to infringe them through the democratic process, that’s not permitted under the BoR. (You could also say that these rights are natural rights that predated and were merely recognized by the BoR, but that’s not necessary to make my point.)

We’ve already recognized that some aspects of life, including free speech, torture, and so on are too important to be left to the democratic process. We’ve explicitly blocked, or at least tried to block, the democratic process from interfering with those rights. That’s because the democratic process is imperfect: it’s subject to the day’s political whims and foibles.

Given that we already have a fine example of one anti-democratic mechanism at work, it’s hardly ridiculous to contemplate others. This is supposedly HN, not Status Quo Anti-Innovation Political Curmudgeonly News. Right?


I'm not sure where I ever argued for "pure democracy". I've got a ragged copy of the Federalist Papers sitting on my bookshelf and I re-read #10 a few times a year.

What I'm worried about is the anti-American, anti-democratic bullshit that is starting to pour out of Silicon Valley.

I think there is plenty of room within the existing framework to deal with the issues that we're facing. It may take a lot of work and may have to involve some serious restructuring of things like the House of Representative and the Senate, but I feel like it is worth it. What IS important is that we decide to do it together, with a plurality of voices, and not by building some sort of fucking space ship to hide away in like where everyone in SV seems to be heading.

The people who set up this system of government were true supporters of the Enlightenment. They were willing to compromise and willing to admit that "freedom ain't free", to put it in a common parlance. They had love in their hearts and the proof is that they were willing to listen and willing to compromise.

I don't see a lot of that these days. I see a lot of hate, misunderstanding, and self-absorbtion.


Sorry, just saw this response now. There's plenty of bullshit that's pouring out of Silicon Valley, sure, but it's generated by marketing departments or startup CEOs hoping to be the next billion-dollar-Instagram.

I honestly don't know what you mean by "anti-American, anti-democratic bullshit." If anything, it's the Washington congresscritters and assorted legions of hive-minded bureaucrats who are pushing anti-American and anti-Enlightenment regulations on us out here. I lived for a decade in Washington, D.C. before moving to SF and the peninsula, and can assure you that congresscritters and hive-minded bureaucrats and don't have "love in their hearts."

To respond more directly to your point about compromise, at some point people will recognize that the system is broken and suffers structural barriers that mean it is exceedingly unlikely to be fixed. So political compromise inside a broken system becomes not only difficult, but in the end futile. Some folks like the seasteaders are at that point already.


>If you think of democracy as being majoritarian, the U.S. Bill of Rights is explicitly designed to be anti-democratic.

Yes, and look how well that turned out!

(Spoilers: Not very well. The USA has thrived when it has been more democratic and stagnated when less. We are currently in a 40-year period of less and less democracy. Strangely enough, stagnation and crisis have become more and more common during this time.)


You could just as well argue:

"Look how well the expansion of FedGov worked. Spoilers: Not very well. The USA has thrived when it has been more free and stagnated under more government. We are currently in a 40-year period of more and more government. Strangely enough, stagnation and crisis have become more and more common during this time."


That's, er, the point of constituational democracy. It's not 100% pure democracy.


Yep (though it's a constitutional republic, not a constitutional democracy). My point is that discussions about moving the slider even more away from 100% pure democracy should be within the realm of reasonable discourse.


Why are you worried? Don't you think it is even possible that some other form of societal organization will upend democratic majoritarianism? Have you actually read any books on the subject like Caplan's The Myth of the Rational Voter or Hoppe's Democracy: The God that Failed?

There's real arguments behind being anti-democracy, so rather than just complaining about me like a bother, insta-downvoting, and declaring it "simply wrong", maybe you should tackle the issue in a substantive way. It's very "anti-hacker" to just accept democracy as the pinnacle of perfection and think it will last forever.


I'm worried because there is nothing in your voice that speaks to love, art, or beauty.

All I'm hearing is hate, distrust, and of failure.

If you and your technocratic visionaries really want to build a new future you're going to have to do it with love in your hearts. We need a system that expresses compassion and acceptance of all walks of life.

The rhetoric of Thiel and Page if of escapism. Of leaving the system behind. Well, guess what dude, the only system in the known universe capable of supporting life is Earth. Any sort of idealized community in the desert or floating around on a barge is going to need an umbilical chord to the rest of us. You can't leave and start your own brand new world.

It is also "anti-hacker" to not engage with the system in place. An important quality of hacking is to learn the system and how to work within its constraints.


>I'm worried because there is nothing in your voice that speaks to love, art, or beauty.

Give me a break. Nobody talks about such things during a crime in progress. All political programs promise to be the best way of bringing about what its adherents want. I'm not even talking about A or B or C being better. I'm saying it is undemocratic to be forced to choose option A, "democracy".

>Any sort of idealized community in the desert or floating around on a barge is going to need an umbilical chord to the rest of us. You can't leave and start your own brand new world.

This could have been said by an 18th century British bureaucrat too. The US was a noble experiment but it has failed, and, no, it's existence today doesn't contradict what I am saying. Tyranny was supposed to be kept at bay by a unique system of checks and balances + democratic representation. History shows that the US political elite has continually aggrandized itself instead. It's like a piece of software that is going to have terrible memory leaks no matter what. If you want a blazing fast app, you can't keep working with this setup.

Hacking can certainly be making the best with what you have but totally ignoring the possibility of the best option being to scrap it all and start over. I'd think that the startup world would be comfortable with at least considering such ideas.


Have you really looked at nothing besides America in order to draw this conclusion? America is easily one of the worst of the functioning democracies in the world. (Russia would be an example of a non-functioning democracy.) It's great to talk about how the US was a noble experiment and how it's all tyrannical and how it has a political elite, but keep in mind that the world learned from the US and then moved on.

Poke through this thread: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6661282

It's not democracy that's broken; it's the US.


There's a large US audience here, many of whom still worship the nation as a "functioning democracy". I see you are talking about liquid democracy and I think that approach might not be perfect but would certainly be an improvement, maybe a very big one. If there is something else specific, point it out to me.

What country is using liquid democracy though? What country is a "good/functioning democracy" right now in your opinion? I assume some European country will be pointed to, then I can still find slews of examples where the structural incentive problem is taking place and causing harm. Liquid democracy is the type of radically different idea that we ought to be able to experiment with.

Introducing a web of trust and having a mechanism for recall or direct representation by individuals is an improvement over the popularity contests we hold in the US every 2/4/6 years. If you slap liquid democracy on the idea of geographic monopoly, you still have an inferior system, because it only outputs one thing, the A or B in a box. If I want A but the chain of delegates chooses B, I am still losing out. What if we could have a way to have both A and B as well as all minority opinions C .. Z be expressed? (as long as they don't break the code so to speak)

Well, we already have this and it is called free markets. If I want soda, I go to an entity I and a bunch of other people have largely turned over power to control picking the best sodas: one of my local supermarkets. That is like the concept of handing over my votes to someone who can in turn give all those to someone they trust to represent them. Coke and Pepsi dominate as people's favorite choices, so they and their flavor variants occupy a lot of shelf space (think Earth's territory for the analogy). What if I want some guava soda or Jamaican ginger beer? Well, there might be some if there is enough demand in the area to make it profitable to carry it.

Obviously, I expect people to have all sorts of objections here to comparing laws to flavors of sodas. I think the availability of all sorts of niche things though is a great example of how markets make the individual consumer "king" whereas "typical democracy" only has the empty promise that anyone can rule.


I'm pretty impressed that you managed to reduce an entire discussion but several dozen parties on a large variety of topics down to "liquid democracy".

I am not a fan of liquid democracy. I think it's an interesting idea, but I don't think it's the silver bullet solution that its proponents have made it out to be. Thus why I didn't bother to even explain it when it was pointed out; I helped make fun of it. (It was never clear to me if the upvoters realized I was doing that.)

If you really want my opinions, then you can read https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4493663 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4658896 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5998145

I don't spend time on liquid democracy or first-past-the-post or cumulative voting because I think that focusing on the mechanism is useless. It might be part of the change, but making it the centerpiece of any kind of reform fixes a symptom, not a root cause. As you say, "it only outputs one thing, the A or B in a box". It's not a solution to change "How would you like to die, by rifle or pistol?" to "How would you like to die, by rifle, pistol, or machine gun?"

I've spent the last three years learning about how democracies are supposed to work. And you know what? Everything I was taught in school is wrong. Everything people are taught about democracy in school is wrong. To build an analogy, we've been taught that "if you double-click on the spinny E icon, you get the Internet". That's not technically false. It's just woefully misleading.

Of course we're disillusioned with democracy. We were never told what it was; we were told it was awesome and good and we should be very happy about it. We weren't told anything of substance. Our school senates have no power to speak of. Our leadership organizations are only capable of teaching us management skills. Our community service programs teach us about charity.

Where do we learn about civics? Where do we learn about jurisprudence? Where do we learn about legislation? Where do we learn about opinion-gathering? Where do we learn about journalism? As adults. If we're interested. When our biases are fully formed.


To be pithy, Americans live under a managed democracy, a system that is noted for not really being democratic, actually. So when that system tries to teach its young about democracy, it teaches about the rituals and mechanisms used for confirming which branch of the preexisting elite will rule this time around. Actual democracy, in which the people exercise real power over their own lives through both parliamentary and devolving mechanisms, simply doesn't get brought up.

Americans then go on to decide that democracy has failed and should be replaced with futarchy or neo-monarchy or technocracy, ignorantly presuming that they've even tried democracy.


Markets are where money votes, not people. The distinction is important, and creates the pathological behavior we witness in real capitalist systems all the fucking time.


>History shows that the US political elite has continually aggrandized itself instead. It's like a piece of software that is going to have terrible memory leaks no matter what. If you want a blazing fast app, you can't keep working with this setup.

People aren't software running on a machine! The point isn't for an idealized system of government that functions like a "blazing fast app".

You know who you sound like?

"Fascism should rightly be called Corporatism, as it is the merger of corporate and government power."

"Democracy is beautiful in theory; in practice it is a fallacy."

"The truth is that men are tired of liberty."

> This could have been said by an 18th century British bureaucrat too.

And yeah, maybe it fucking should have been said, and really loudly as well, because the real shitty thing about the USA is that it WAS built on top of the remains of an existing people, but the colonial setting is mainly tautological and I don't think it is a very strong argument against the tenants of the American Enlightenment.


> undemocratic to be forced to choose option A, "democracy".

oh?


Yes exactly. I mentioned that true democracy includes the ability to secede down to the level of the individual. What happens at our local knitting club? We take a vote on whatever and if I don't like it I can leave. I don't have to uproot my family and really leave because the knitting club has influence over only a very limited sphere.

The "democracy" option besides moving to an authoritarian country is what I actually call "democratic majoritarian rule", so yes this contradicts what I really believe democracy is. There's no options besides this except taking another step backwards to some dictatorship or whatever.


You can "secede down to the level of the individual" by leaving the country. Irrespective of whether the scope of territorial monopolies tends to go too far, it doesn't seem possible to have a civilized society filled with people who, having "seceded", refuse to accept the existence of any laws restricting their actions.


There's nowhere to go but the middle of the ocean if I don't want to live in a place that is either authoritarian or democracy-worshiping though.

>refuse to accept the existence of any laws restricting their actions.

I was trying to focus on our lack of ability to choose, not so much what I advocate, but I do not advocate a lawless society. A corollary to "right to secede down to the level of the individual"—which is a law/rule BTW—would be that other people can't arbitrarily take control of you and not let you secede.

But what if there are disagreements? I try to approach this in a way that I feel is scientific. I think that we can discover an eminently "human" law but then still have a lot of variation in politics, maintain peace and prosperity with having a few fundamental rules dominate popular acceptance like democracy does now. I don't have time now to get into all of that but if you are genuinely curious I could help you learn.


If you want to live as if you're the only person in your own little world, I recommend you find another planet. This one is kind of inhabited.

Perhaps Solaria?


>"You can't leave and start your own brand new world."

Of course people can, and will. Humans have endured great hardships and mortal peril many times for political or religious or other reasons. For Americans, the Puritan emigration to a harsh new world is the most familiar. Hundreds of African migrants, almost all reportedly Christians, died last month when their boat sank during an attempt to escape to Europe. An excellent New York Times article last weekend described a harrowing crossing by refugees from Indonesia to Christmas Island; the reporter was told by Australian officials that "if we had left a few days earlier, the boat would have capsized."

The moon and Mars and the rest of the solar system can and will be colonized eventually (barring an existential event that Stephen Hawking and others have warned of). Yes, it's rather more difficult when there's no free atmosphere or radiation shielding. But it's a question of economics, not will, and every generation in the west is wealthier than the last.

The interesting thing, and this is what apparently alarms folks who would prefer HN to be Status Quo Anti-Innovation Political Curmudgeonly News, is that there's no guarantee that the political systems that emerge in the diaspora will be democratic. Some, I imagine, will be non-democratic and worse than our current system. And some will be far better.


No man is an island,

Entire of itself,

Every man is a piece of the continent,

A part of the main.

If a clod be washed away by the sea,

Europe is the less.

As well as if a promontory were.

As well as if a manor of thy friend's

Or of thine own were:

Any man's death diminishes me,

Because I am involved in mankind,

And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;

It tolls for thee.


What I find depressing here is the notion that rather than actually learn to live with each-other, we should all just isolate from each other as thoroughly as we can, to the point of moving to other planets (and thus eventually covering the galaxy in virally-reproducing humans each claiming Sovereign Rights) just to get away from everyone else.

Sounds like a species of massive assholes, and I see some ethical problems with letting them off their home-planet.


No, it sounds like a species of killer apes. Which is what we are; Raymond Dart was right.

If you're serious about "ethical problems" letting our species of killer apes off of our home planet, how exactly do you propose to stop it? (Remember: Once you try it, you've just made these killer apes very mad at you.) Seems tricky, once the economics line up for space, unless you're talking mass genocide or mandatory doses of soma.

Transcending the millions of years of evolution that turned us into killer apes is the task of civilization and culture. But the megadeaths of the last century caused by wars between democratic governments actually dwarfed the prior century's wars between non-democratic governments. Maybe, to go back to the upthread discussion, there are better alternatives that don't involve the straw man of "isolat[ing] from each other as thoroughly as we can."


Of course there are better ideas than isolating from each-other as thoroughly as we can. We could just, you know, learn to live together without being assholes, and thus have no actual need to "start my own planet, with blackjack, and hookers!". That, in turn, makes things like population control for sustainable resource usage a lot simpler.


We will start with the oceans.. http://www.seasteading.org/

And we will gladly conduct free trade with the rest of the world. But I don't think that means we have to accept the status quo in governance or social systems.


The question is whether the arguments behind "anti-democracy" (bad terminology: not all non-democratic forms of government have anything in common with each-other other than their lack of democracy) are value arguments or effectiveness arguments.

There's a huge difference in saying, "We have a system that serves the people's values and interests better than democracy does", and "You proles don't deserve a voice." Unfortunately, the vast majority of anti-democratic rhetoric right now is of the latter kind.


If a system works well, how does having a voice add anything? If a system is broken, how does having a voice matter?

In the United States, "Voice" is just rhetoric used to make people accept the status quo.


>If a system works well, how does having a voice add anything?

It's entirely possible for the system to work well at doing something people hate. Hence why the people need a voice.


The sentiment that democracy is perverted by economic interests seems legitimate. I don't think the solution is throwing out democracy with the bath water, but I can understand where they're coming from.


I don't think there is any question that democracy is an absolutely awful system of government. You might that it's the best system we have, like I do, but it is terribly inefficient and full of problems.

There are incentive problems, like people having no incentive to do in depth research on all the political issues before they vote. There is the problem of respecting minority rights since only the majority has any control. And psychologically it's a terrible system since it creates "Blues vs Greens" type situations and needlessly polarizes everything. Any kind of rational discussion gets drowned out over a thousand voices cheering on their "team" against their hated rivals.


Tianming. If some other system governs better than democracy, then we should use it.

As Moldbug points out, the current US Govcorp is structured as an employee collective[1][2], which no competitive corporation chooses as a system of organization in the free market. As Mancur Olson points out, bureaucracies tend to get more inefficient over time[3].

I know we've all been raised to believe that democracy is love and rainbows, but maybe it's time to rethink that.

[1] http://unqualified-reservations.blogspot.com/2007/07/why-whe...

[2] http://foseti.wordpress.com/2011/02/02/on-government-employm...

[3] http://www.amazon.com/The-Rise-Decline-Nations-Stagflation/d...


>As Moldbug points out, the current US Govcorp is structured as an employee collective, which no competitive corporation chooses as a system of organization in the free market.

That's doubly inaccurate.

* Worker cooperatives don't give membership votes to non-workers, and the vast majority of American voters are not government employees.

* Many firms choose worker cooperative organization and thrive on it. The fact that many districts don't have laws for chartering cooperatives is what holds them back, not some innate untenability of the form itself.


I edited my comment with a Moldbug link. From the essay:

"So Fedco, while it still has a bit of the cooperative flavor, is mainly organized around the other model of bad corporate governance: control by contractors (essentially, employees). To be exact, most of Fedco's decisions are made by its civil service.

As a general rule, an employee-controlled enterprise will never, ever be profitable. In fact, even its bondholders are lucky if they see any payments. The primary interest of contractors is, first, if they can get away with it, in distributing profits to their own pockets; and second, if they can't, in expanding or at least protecting their own power bases. They will make as much work for themselves as they can get away with.

Of course, even the CEO of a company is a contractor. This is why corporations have boards, who work for the shareholders. (In my opinion, it's an abuse to have any corporate employees, even the CEO, on the board.)

If you combine a shareholderless governance model with an enormous revenue stream, you have the perfect recipe for massive and permanent inefficiency and incompetence, and an enormous overgrowth of pointless, self-serving tasks. This is exactly what we see in Fedco. Of course, it could just be a coincidence."


The notion that the US Federal Government is overwhelmingly inefficient and stupid is popular wisdom. However, outside the fat-and-happy military, which is eagerly overfunded beyond even its own desires by a Congress looking to make war jobs in their districts, there is an astounding lack of evidence for the proposition.


400 million dollar websites that don't work?


Compare to, for instance, Microsoft Bob.

The high-profile failure of one project (particularly when so much of it was carried out by private contracting, a process known to be more corrupt and wasteful than just using federal employees) is not, in and of itself, evidence that the federal civil service is abnormally wasteful or corrupt when compared to other organizations of similar size or scope, or when compared to combinations of organizations forming an interlocked unit of similar size and scope.

Basically, the federal government can trivially be labelled suboptimal, but calling it abnormally bad requires evidence that you can do better. Overwhelmingly, this is not what we see people bringing forth. The claims we see made are, "This organization is suboptimal for the job it currently does, therefore we should destroy large parts of it entirely. The important jobs done by those parts don't need to be done, because we say so."


It's amazing what the complete inability to fire anyone will do to an organization over time. All government projects have cost and time overruns, just some are worse than others.

You should click that foseti link a few comments up.




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