How to Put Out Democracy’s Dumpster Fire

Long essay but interesting, made me think of Forumosa a lot

I don’t have any specific takeaway to discuss, and couldn’t find a good place to share it. Anyways, here it is. If anyone reads it, I think there are good ideas.

On the same lines, this- it’s funny to see how many ideas that were considered totally wacky then, wouldn’t raise an eyebrow now.

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I watched it, can’t see the relevance of your post beyond this:

Maybe you posted on the wrong thread, or this is the wrong video? It is possible I’m missing something… Is the connection, not doing the reading?

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Proportional Representation + Ranked Choice Voting (a.k.a. Instant Runoff) + Statistic-based Redistricting

Anyways, I think it is an interesting article that I started the thread for. I’d be interested to talk about it if anyone can manage to read the whole thing.

OK, I read through the whole thing because it’s a topic that interests me (I posted a similar topic last month).

If Tocqueville were to visit cyberspace, it would be as if he had arrived in pre-1776 America and found a people who were essentially powerless.

Not powerless. Just f’ing lazy. I think virtue-signalling, communist ideologies and the like are experiencing a new surge of popularity because they appeal mostly to the talentless and the shiftless. True democracy - as the article notes - requires that you dedicate your time, money, brains and effort to making the world slightly more pleasant. Not other people’s money. Not by proxy. You yourself have to get off your squishy ass and make an effort.

This is exacerbated, I think, not just by platforms like Facebook that encourage people to be lazy, but also by governments themselves. Democracy has always been in danger of being torn down: it’s not in the interests of the ruling classes. If there are few people who even care, the job is made easier:

“So long as they (the Proles) continued to work and breed, their other activities were without importance. Left to themselves, like cattle turned loose upon the plains of Argentina, they had reverted to a style of life that appeared to be natural to them, a sort of ancestral pattern…Heavy physical work, the care of home and children, petty quarrels with neighbors, films, football, beer and above all, gambling filled up the horizon of their minds. To keep them in control was not difficult.”

The article mentions Socrates, Aristotle etc, and it’s worth noting that the average 19th century citizen would have been familiar with the foundations of logic and philosophy. It was taught in schools. Not anymore. Therefore most modern debates are foolish, superficial, and emotion-driven. We’ve stepped back into a premodern age without even noticing. Democracy is impossible when nobody even knows what democracy means.

IMO democratic institutions jumped the shark sometime in mid-2020, when government responses to the COVID-19 virus resulted in massive polarization of popular opinion: society is now neatly split along ideological lines that revolve around the virus, with group A believing that it’s the biggest problem that humanity has ever faced and that any and all State-sponsored responses are justified; and group B believing that it’s all a hoax and/or a conspiracy. Personally, I believe that that schism was deliberately engineered (“divide and rule”); because people are now far less willing to co-operate, TPTB can do whatever they like without any challenge - particularly since half the population are firmly on their side anyway.

How anyone might fix all this is difficult; as mentioned, I think the situation where it can’t be fixed has been deliberately engineered. If you’re going to sabotage something, it’s as well to ensure that repair is impossible. I had two thoughts on the subject. One was similar to this:

In Britain, John Reith, the visionary son of a Scottish clergyman, began to look for an alternative: radio that was controlled neither by the state, as it was in dictatorships, nor by polarizing, profit-seeking companies. Reith’s idea was public radio, funded by taxpayers but independent of the government.

What’s needed, I think, is an ‘undernet’. A completely separate, massively-distributed communication system owned by citizens, resilient to government interference. Something like the original ARPANet, except dedicated to nothing else except the maintenance of Democracy. An electronic equivalent of the Greek or Roman Forum, in which the only allowed topic of discussion would be civic policy. Inevitably it would be very low-bandwidth to prevent anything other than text being conveyed (and to make security simpler). Somehow, people need to be able to flex and train their democratic muscles, with extremely high standards of debate being enforced.

The second thought I had was that the age of party politics needs to die in a ditch. It simply doesn’t work anymore: observe the endless childish mudslinging between “democrats” and 'republicans".

IMO we should be electing individuals to perform specific tasks on the basis of their ability to achieve a desired result. That needs to be done on a more ad-hoc basis than 4- or 5-year elections. Got an epidemic? Let’s get some candidates standing up in the Forum and making a case for management procedures. Then let people take a vote.

How any of this might come about is anybody’s guess. But it seems to me that nobody’s permission is required. It could be overlaid on top of existing institutions, and if it works, it would gain credibility.



I was just chatting with him on another thread

Do you think the Internet is the best place for this? The article is willing to give it a go, but I’m not so sure

To a certain extent this is what the article suggests, pointing for example to the Uber situation in Taiwan. But to do this for everything I think is unworkable, people would get confused and also voter fatigue would set it

Mostly after the 5-minute mark. But even a bit before that.

O’REILLY: I’ll tell you why [religion’s] not a scam, in my opinion: tide goes in, tide goes out. Never a miscommunication. You can’t explain that.
SILVERMAN: Tide goes in, tide goes out?
O’REILLY: See, the water, the tide comes in and it goes out, Mr. Silverman. It always comes in, and always goes out. You can’t explain that.

I can’t imagine saying something like that to Newman’s audience, or claiming that the parents of massacred schoolchildren were just pretending to be sad and the whole thing was a fake, but nowadays you can attract a huge following like that.


which ‘virtue signaling communist ideologies’ are you referring to? sorry this is getting too alt right lingo wise. you should specify? Or just more mccarthyist twaddle?

Were you chatting into the mirror?

The average 19th C. citizen didn’t go to school, or not at least beyond elementary level. Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic.

`In Britain, John Reith, the visionary son of a Scottish clergyman, began to look for an alternative: radio that was controlled neither by the state, as it was in dictatorships, nor by polarizing, profit-seeking companies. Reith’s idea was public radio, funded by taxpayers but independent of the government.

The BBC as the ideal? Sounds good to me- what harm could come from that?

Got an epidemic? Let’s get some candidates standing up in the Forum and making a case for management procedures. Then let people take a vote

“No fancy-schmancy smarty-pants in a white lab coat is going to tell me what to do.”

A couple of things to note- 25 years after de Tocqueville took his trip, thousands of Americans were joining voluntary societies- they were called the Union and Confederate armies.
Nobody goes ‘Bowling Alone’, it’s just a snappier title than “Bowling With Family and Friends Instead of in Organized Leagues”.

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Amen. Therein lies the problem. But probably innevitable once the rats breed to the numbers we see now. Thus, we are just simple animals with immense curiosity and an amazing ability to justify anything. and this is where the entitlement the religious enlightenment evolution to what we are now messed up royally. Short term gain, long term pain. To roll back and fix it, gonna hurt…buckle up.

Or mars and the moon situation happens super fast and.extrapolates. then we just continue as a cancer. The Borg. Whatever term suites the reader.


As horrific a way to settle differences as that was, I don’t think it means American democracy is unsalvageable

Well, here we are, aren’t we? :slight_smile:

But the answer is no. That’s why I suggested a completely separate space for it - a 21st Century forum for (conceptually) 7.5 billion people. It would be owned by the people (I’m thinking a mesh network of UWB radio nodes or short-range optical links) and would have no purpose other than the maintenance of democracy via curated debate.

I’m just throwing some ideas out there, but the way I see it the problem is this: how do you give 7.5 billion people a voice, without having the whole thing swamped by idiocy?

  • Authoritarian societies have a simple solution: deny them all voice.
  • “Democracies” have a sleight-of-hand solution: give a few people a voice, and convince the plebs that those few speak for the many.

Most democracies just aren’t anything of the sort. The merely let the plebs indulge in a pointless ritual twice a decade so they can select this idiot or that idiot to lead the nation, thereby making them think that they did something important (insert Ralph Wiggum meme here). In reality, these societies are still autocracies run by dolts, not radically different to China. And 'twas always thus. It’s just that more people have noticed that it’s a sham.

I think this observation provides its own answer. Any practical democracy must deny a voice to the majority. It’s inevitable. You cannot listen to, and truly take into account, every half-baked opinion - there are just too many people. Even if you could, it would be a Bad Thing.

19th Century America got around this (@MikeN1 is partially correct here) by denying the vote to the uneducated (which, at the time, meant the unlanded classes). The downside of that is that corrupt cliques formed: simply having brains doesn’t mean you’re honest or public-spirited. The 21st century might be able to do it better: let people exclude themselves. That, in itself, is an expression of choice.

You actually could put everything up for debate (or lots of things, anyway) because:

  • not everyone would be interested in every topic. This guy here might be passionate about education and will spend an hour every day debating about it in the Forum. This other guy over there might be fanatically interested in transport policy. He’ll be talking about that. Nobody will be talking about everything.
  • those who do want to talk about everything will not be well-informed about everything. If the forum enforced some robust rules, people talking shite would be quickly eliminated from any debate.

There will always be a hell of a lot of people who either (a) would rather bugger about on Facebook than have a high-falutin’ discussion about the environment or (b) don’t know anything about “the environment” anyway. Taking option (a) is a Democratic choice: you’re expressing the view that the topic is best left to others to resolve.

Those two factors should cut down debate participation to manageable numbers of well-informed citizens, without explicitly barring anybody from participation except on the basis of The Rules. I’d suggest things like this:

  • All participants must have a solid understanding of logical fallacies and must pass a basic test on the subject.
  • Any comment made must move the problem resolution forward; merely bitching about some other speaker, or about life in general, will get your comment moderated out. Likewise unproductive comments like ‘that won’t work’ (without any elaboration).
  • Long rambling posts (like this one!) are disallowed.

I’m sure y’all could think of some others. The point would be to narrowly constrain the debate only to posts containing information.

In my head, this could grow organically. There’d be no need to formalize it. For example people could, if they wanted to, find like-minded “representatives” to hold Forum discussions on their behalf, exactly as was done in ancient democracies. The ordinary man in the street might want to take this route.

The people being “elected” (or fired) via the forum need not even have any official standing - indeed they would not, in the early days. But they would have the support of The People, and would therefore have (benign) power and legitimacy. This “shadow democracy” would be a force to be reckoned with. The actual powers-that-be would have to pay at least a bit of attention.

That’s a natural reaction when you have no say in the matter. When you have at least been part of the debate to elect said white coat, you’re somewhat invested in the decision. You’re not being “told what to do” because you elected someone you already agreed with anyway; or at least, whoever ended up with the job isn’t someone you vehemently dislike.

Obviously you can’t please all of the people all of the time. But allowing people to vote for issues rather than parties - I would suggest completely eliminating the concept of political parties - gets things fine-grained enough to make consensus more likely. “Republicans” and “Democrats” probably agree on more things than they like to admit, but because they’re each rooting for a particular team, they can’t acknowledge that.

lol, you had me for a second there

This is debatable, I’m with Winston Churchill

Is oxymoronic the right word here? Once you deny a voice to the majority it is no longer a democracy in practice, right?

The article mentions an algorithm that does find consensus, that was part of the point of the article. I thought that was pretty cool.

Yes, the problem with democracy: people.

Sure, but as I said it would end up that only the die-hards would be voting in the end, it would still be polarized.

Some people talk shite because their government has given them a poor education and they don’t know better, in which case who will stand up for them? I’m not saying there aren’t some stupid asshats on the Internet, but who decides? And what about free speech?

Factors A&B? It seems to me these are already in place, but haven’t helped much; quite the opposite!

Not just fallacies, but logic. Straight thinking and argumentative logic (including fallacies). Yes, I agree. It seems these days even the people who teach rhetoric haven’t passed the tests on it. Why did I study this as an undergrad elective? That random choice really paid off (I thought philosophy would be fun considering all the math/computers). This should be required in every high school.

That would be nice, though hard to implement. The article mentions algorithms that can do something along these lines based on upvotes and zero responses allowed, IIRC

Here, I’ll just go get a quote from the article

Since it hasn’t happened organically, and we have the dumpster fire, why not promote something like Polis?

The funny thing is, if you study adult education this is one of the fundamentals.

Agreed. I think the approaches discussed in the article are a good way forward with this.

I already answered this: those that appeal to the talentless and the shiftless.

I recall here an anecdote (I forget who the writer was; he was describing his experiences at the onset of WW2) about a conversation with a Nazi-party supporter. This guy was becoming increasingly agitated, and eventually concluded the conversation with: “it’s all right for you - you’re smart and you can do things. People like me, we need the NSDAP”.

Well, great. I guess I can safely ignore those then.

Americans had a choice of a populist leader that wasn’t a RW ethnostater. But they called him a ‘communist’ and his ideas ‘unrealistic’.

Democracy in the abstract might be better than anything other system in the abstract. But the devil is in the details.

Put it this way. Have you ever met anybody who really shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a voting booth, for about the same reason they shouldn’t be allowed near a vat of hydrogen fluoride? They do exist, don’t they? There are some people who can barely make the right decisions about what to have for breakfast, so why on earth should they have a say in running the country?

OTOH they do need to be listened to, somewhere along the line. Let’s say there were a public debate on police reform. If you had the “defund the police” crowd shouting everybody down, it’d go nowhere. You’d need that debate focused on sober solutions. But somehow the wingnuts would have to feel that their concerns weren’t being ignored, even if their proposed solutions are stupid. They would have two choices:

  • learn how to communicate properly
  • talk to a sympathetic representative, who could translate their gripes into sensible English

If there were an open platform available to them, constrained only by standards of participation, they couldn’t legitimately claim that they’re being shut out because of their views.

Polis sounds good for certain things, but I was thinking of something at least slightly more formal. The (unnamed) system used by Ronaldo Lemos is more what I had in mind. The infrastructure would need to be physically disconnected from the internet, for the simple reason that governments would interfere with it if it became too popular. I think it would need to be managed by some trusted (human) team, not just algorithms.

But yeah, those ideas in the article are all pulling in the right direction. What’s required is for those people to reach a consensus and build that ‘killer app’ product that can actually be deployed, switched on, and put to work on a vast scale, with billions of people getting involved.

I guess you could use AI (as per Polis) but I was thinking some human moderators would need to be involved. The ultimate arbiter would be The Rules, which would be draconian. It would indeed be hard to comply with them, and a lot of people would find it too much mental effort. That would be the whole point: to keep conversations fiercely focused on finding a solution to a problem.

What about it? There is no “free speech” in (for example) the House of Commons. The debate is incredibly constrained, because the aim is to reach some practical conclusion. I don’t have “free speech” in a business meeting: again, I’m there to get something sorted out, not to waste everyone’s time with my opinions about life, the universe and everything.

Well … we have a lot of debate going on, but it’s diffuse (mostly just hot air) and ultimately the outcomes are non-binding. All that happens is that people win on the Internet. No actions are taken. It’s not formal participatory democracy. It just reinforces the illusion.

Absolutely. Without this, Democracy goes nowhere. It’s like having the world’s finest Swiss clock and removing the spring.

I’ve seen how this pans out in Elbonia, where formal logic has never even existed as a concept. Political debates therefore descend into slanging matches and a shopping-list of fallacies (which, obviously, nobody can spot). Democracy is just a word spouted by demagogues to get what they want, and the hoi polloi wave their little flags and go along with it all.

It would be hard. Intentionally so, in my mind. But I agree that there must be better ways to do this. I’m just throwing ideas around.

I meant that, once the basics of the system were in place, with enough constraints to make it workable and robust, people would figure out “extensions” to the basic concept. They’d overlay the human factors onto the technology. But the vision would have to be inherent in the product - as it is, for example, with Smartphones. People can pick up a smartphone and think “wow, I could do XYZ with this”. A “Democracy Platform” has to fire the imagination in the same way.

I don’t think Polis is where it’s at. I’ve looked at the webpage and read the man pages, and frankly, it’s just boring. The authors haven’t presented it in a way that inspires the average person to participate.

I disagree with the article’s conclusion about wishy-washy inclusiveness: what we absolutely do need is something monolithic - something based on robust technical standards that’s immune to sabotage, in the first instance; but also something that can be rapidly and seamlessly deployed across the planet and will kick off a firestorm of positive, directed participation.

Always. I even have a conference paper with this in the title.

Well, they’re working on it! And it is even in the news :nerd_face:

Imagine the cost. How would we even train that many? The problem is people’s biases in the first place!

Fair enough, and it should be on our phones!

It is democratic, and also fashionable right now.

I kept writing responses to some of your comments and then I scrolled down a little more and saw that we’re mostly on the same track :smiley:

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Democracies sure are flawed. But so far, aside from very small teibal communities, i cant think of a scaled system i would prefer over it. Sure does need to upgrade.

In the end i see brain implants being the interface and all these conversations wont be allowed to, or need to, be heald :frowning:

Edit. Some of the most advanced species transformative techlogoy and their website cant figure out how to use the basic html < title > coding right haha. Never assume “they” are perfect and in the right. Whomever they may be.