September 14, 2010

Magnus Carlsen vs. the World or the shortcomings of representative democracy

I participated in the G-STAR RAW World Chess Challenge last Friday, in which top-rated Norwegian chess player Magnus Carlsen played against the "World", eventually winning the game after 44 moves.

The game started going downhill for the "World" early on, and, as I was waiting to see how the inevitable 1-0 would play out, it dawned on me how closely the whole experience paralleled what goes on in a modern representative democracy.

Carlsen (C): a "challenge" facing the public; the crisis, or problem, that needs to be addressed
Lagrave, Nakamura, Polgar (LNP): the "politicians", suggesting what needs to be done to address C, one move at a time
The public (P): the "electorate", choosing from the moves suggested by LNP
Kasparov & Ashley (KA): the "media", providing commentary on C, LNP, and P

The game itself was good evidence in favor of two assertions about democracy:

1. The sum of mediocre minds does not create a genius
2. Crowds do not plan long-term and are not consistent

1) The sum of mediocre minds does not create a genius

In many situations, combining mediocre elements produces a superior result. This is true when tasks can be broken down to components that are easy to handle. A regular person would die of boredom before he could sum up a thousand numbers, but a hundred people could achieve it with a handful of additions each.

It is also true when mediocre participants are unbiased and independent, and there is a simple way to combine their output. For example, I can't guess another person's height with any great accuracy, but if twenty people take a guess, the average of their guesses may be quite close to the truth.

In the Carlsen vs. the World match, neither of these two conditions held: different individuals did not think about different aspects of the game. In short, there was no co-operation, no strength in numbers. The result was that the World did not play as a massively parallel machine, but rather as one amateur player picking between alternatives sugested by three really strong ones. Nor did they combine their thoughts in any interesting way, but simply with the basic rule of majority voting.

2) Crowds do not plan long-term

Long-term planning with many participants is difficult to achieve. This is not only due to the unpredictability of the future, or people's inability to think ahead except in the vaguest of terms, but also due to the difficulty of maintaining a consensus.

Consider a group of people deciding to reach the end of a maze. Each person has an idea of how to achieve this goal, but there are different ways in which the people can achieve their goal:

In a democracy there is a vote at each intersection, in monarchy the crowd follows a leader, in anarchy everyone goes their own way, while in aristocracy (in the original sense of the word, which is "rule by the best") the crowd follows leader(s) chosen for their ability in maze-navigation.

In the Carlsen vs. the World match it could be argued that there were aristocratic elements at play (as LNP, who led the people, are definitely chess experts) but also a democratic principle, as the leaders did not decide, but the people did.

If someone (say one of LNP) came up with a good plan, he could not carry it through, because midway through the plan's execution, the public, who did not understand the plan, and the other two leaders, who may not have guessed it, or may have preferred a different one, changed course.

Moves that were suggested early on, ended up played much later, when their "bite" was gone. The crowd flocked alternatively to displays of bravado and early counter-attack, followed quickly by overdefensive moves that created an uncomfortable cramped position that was impossible to defend.

The parallels to democracy

The world's failure is impressive, because it had so many good things going for it: the "leaders" were part of the chess elite, and both them, and the public had a clearly defined common interest: to win the game.

In a real democracy, not only do politicians and citizens have different and conflicting agendas (e.g., raise or lower taxes, increase or decrease immigration, regulate or liberalize markets, etc.) but the quality of politicians is generally low: LNP were selected largely because of merit, putting their plans to democratic scrutiny; in a real representative democracy, both leaders and plans are subject to a vote.

Not to mention the media, composed to a large extent of opinionated ignorami who have to sink to the level of the lowest common denominator of the populace in order to achieve circulation or viewership targets, rather than inform the public about the issues at hand, and the different political parties' plans.

It could be argued that the Carlsen was too smart, so we should not make too much out of the World's failure to defeat him; yet, it can also be argued that the real-world challenges that face societies are even more complex, whether they are climate change, the organization of financial markets, the decision to go to war, domestic and foreign enemies, and so on.

Conclusion

The main advantage of democracy, compared to other political systems is its adaptiveness. In a monarchy, you either get a good ruler or a bad one, for long periods of time. You have the advantage of long-term planning, but the disadvantage that the long-term plan may lead to ruin. In a typical representative democracy, you get a series of average rulers. Constancy and long-term planning go out the window, but course correction is built into the system.

Experiences like the Carlsen vs. the World match should, however, bring into our attention how suboptimal as a governing system representative democracy really is. It's difficult to see how democracy would evolve in a more efficient direction, but it is definitely worth thinking about.

60 comments:

onur said...

The main advantage of democracy, compared to other political systems is its adaptiveness. In a monarchy, you either get a good ruler or a bad one, for long periods of time. You have the advantage of long-term planning, but the disadvantage that the long-term plan may lead to ruin. In a typical representative democracy, you get a series of average rulers. Constancy and long-term planning go out the window, but course correction is built into the system.

I think you should have mentioned the third option, aristocracy, here. When applied based on the principles of meritocracy and not based on the principles of plutocracy or hereditary rule, aristocracy becomes the most efficient and effective system of rule ever possible and really deserves to be called rule of the best, or better, the best rule.

Marnie said...

Especially like the part about the press sinking to the LCD in order to achieve viewership targets. And those are the "free" press who are not beholden to covert interests.

Also liked the point about the difficulty of maintaining consensus. There is often a momentum in group decision making, where the intense effort to establish consensus can only be sustained for a limited time.

Fanty said...

Hehe, interesting.

Also reminds me to the saying:

"Viele Köche verderben den Brei" (many cooks will ruin the mash)

And a quote of a prince about democracity (sorry know only the German version and translate it by myself):

"In a democractity, the majority rules. But since the majority of the people are stupid morons, democracity means, that the stupid morons rule!"

Average Joe said...

aristocracy becomes the most efficient and effective system of rule ever possible and really deserves to be called rule of the best, or better, the best rule

But who decides who is the best?

onur said...

But who decides who is the best?

Best connoisseurs in a particular position appoint their successors.

onur said...

Best connoisseurs in a particular position appoint their successors.

Based on the principles of meritocracy, of course.

McG said...

My question is how do we encourage the Carlsens of the world to get interested in what we call "politics"? Intelligence is sorely needed in the political system which depends partly on wealth and partly on interpersonal relationships.(you help me etc.). One final fact is that many people don't respect/like intelligent people. Imagine Stephen Hawking?

Marnie said...

What is an intelligent person?

Is intelligence the only quality required of a leader?

Eloquence?

Courage?

Integrity?

Empathy?

Sense of Humor?

Fanty said...

Hmm.
Back in the early 90s I read about a study that claimed, that nation leaders are already the profession with the highest IQ average.

As far as I can recall it, it claimed

Average people: 100
Average mathematician: 105
Average physicist: 109
Average nation leader: 130

This however clashed into another claim about an average university student beeing 112 (wich is above the claimed physicist and mathematician IQs)

Dienekes said...

The problem isn't that leaders are not intelligent, but rather that leaders' plans are subject to a vote. I'm sure that LNP are very intelligent and could each of them individually stand a decent chance against Carlsen, but combining the three of them + giving a vote to the public does not create a better "meta-player".

Using a chess analogy, imagine that you calculate a forced checkmate in 8 moves, provided that you make all the right moves from beginning to finish. If you can't see the end, you may ruin the plan in move four.

In politics this is particularly difficult to achieve (long-term planning), as politicians need to present "intermediate results" that will get them re-elected and also to distinguish themselves from their predecessors. Unfortunately change does not operate in four-year cycles.

A good example of this is the space program where the goal of e.g. going to Mars is lofty, but politicians are unlikely to sacrifice votes by diverting funds from popular items to the space program so that their successors 20 years in the future will see the landing of men on Mars. The same is true for climate change, population aging, deforestation, and many other problems that have a rhythm that does not gel well with the electoral cycle.

onur said...

Eloquence?

Courage?

Integrity?

Empathy?

Sense of Humor?


Too much empathy and sense of humor can be harmful. The rest should be as much as possible, especially courage.

Marnie said...

To the list of qualities of a leader, I would add:

Stamina,

Humility.

Just point this out, since there seems to be an assumption here that the public have made a mistake in not electing a leader who is intelligent. It's clear that many leaders are selected for other qualities, their intelligence not being their primary strength.

With regard to this chess game, why didn't P (the public) simply elect one of LNP to play the game against C (Carlsen)? It's not clear to that C wouldn't still have won, even with this solution. No fun opportunity then to observe the horrors of group dynamics!

Different problems (military deployment, school administration, state or national government, small business, large business, high-tech business, university research group) require different scales and levels of expertise, so there isn't one optimal kind of leadership. Perhaps I'm stating the obvious here.

Back to national government:

Dienekes:
"In politics this is particularly difficult to achieve (long-term planning), as politicians need to present "intermediate results" that will get them re-elected and also to distinguish themselves from their predecessors. Unfortunately change does not operate in four-year cycles."

Yes. But it isn't just governments that march to the four year term. The economy also fluctuates in shorter cycles than many of our greater plans and problems (Space program, climate change, deforestation, as you mention.) It would be negligent of any government to not adjust their plans to the realities of economy.

In the US, institutions such as NASA, the NSF, the EPA, the National Forest Service, etc. are supposed to temper the coming and going of presidents.
Unfortunately, their autonomy has been undermined by several recent adminstrations, which has weakened the ability of the US to stabilize investment and decision making with respect to many of its longer term policies.

In many cases, it is NGOs that have the longer memory, particularly with respect to issues such as the environment and aid programs.

The demands of government today far exceed the capacity of even the brightest individual with the best qualities, so I doubt that the best national government could look like anything other than some kind of representative democracy with checks and balances, abetted by permanent institutions such as the NSF.

I'm confident that the average person, even in the face of a failing and corrupted press, can, most of the time, elect reasonably competent leaders.

It is the responsibility of those who possess information and expertise, to convey to the public the importance of solving our long term problems.

And it is the responsiblity of all of us to act to limit covert interests who would subordinate the long term public trust.

Jason Malloy said...

This chess analogy was also used by Mencius Moldbug in his debate with Robin Hanson over his crowdsourcing poitical model.

Dienekes said...

The demands of government today far exceed the capacity of even the brightest individual with the best qualities, so I doubt that the best national government could look like anything other than some kind of representative democracy with checks and balances, abetted by permanent institutions such as the NSF.

When a task exceeds the capacity of an expert, the way to go is to break it down in a way that multiple experts can achieve the goal, rather than put it up for a vote among non-experts.

For example: should a nuclear plant be built or not? It's energy experts that can tell us if it's cost efficient, seismologists to tell us if it's safe in a given area, medical doctors about the possible consequences to health, and so on. The rulers' job is to integrate these various strands of knowledge and make a decision, considering the tradeoffs.

Dienekes said...

I'm confident that the average person, even in the face of a failing and corrupted press, can, most of the time, elect reasonably competent leaders.

How can the average person judge competence in a field (such as governance) in which he is not competent himself?

In a knockout chess tournament, non-experts can _observe_ the ability of the players by seeing them advance all the way to the final, because their ability to advance depends on their ability to play chess. In democracy, politicians "advance" from stage to stage in their career because of their ability to get votes, not their ability to govern well.

Marnie said...

Jason Mallory:

You might enjoy this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CkHrOjTY6V4

Fanty said...

Personaly, I prefer the rule of a extremly intelligent, super-thinker AI Sytem. ^^

A mashine that is an expert on anything and outmatches the smartest human that ever lived in a way that a human outmatches a maggot.

And I prefer the christian leader-ideal to be coded into it (and a mashine will not fail it like a human):

A leader is like a father with the population beeing his children. He sees for all his children beeing fed, dressed and well. Cares for his weak children too. On the other hand he also wants them to do things on their own to grow up.

Marnie said...

"When a task exceeds the capacity of an expert, the way to go is to break it down in a way that multiple experts can achieve the goal, rather than put it up for a vote among non-experts."

That's what the leader of a representation democracy is supposed to do.

"For example: should a nuclear plant be built or not? It's energy experts that can tell us if it's cost efficient, seismologists to tell us if it's safe in a given area, medical doctors about the possible consequences to health, and so on. The rulers' job is to integrate these various strands of knowledge and make a decision, considering the tradeoffs."

Good point. Whether a dictatorship, a republic, or a representative democracy, its leader is supposed to integrate the contribution of experts. Regardless of the system, it may be the case that the leader is not able to integrate the knowledge being fed to him or her.

At the moment, we have exhibit A: Angela Merkel, a physicist, Germany's Chancellor, somehow miraculously elected within a representative democracy, leaning toward the extension of the lifetime of nuclear power plants, something which I believe is an optimal decision.

"How can the average person judge competence in a field (such as governance) in which he is not competent himself?"

I don't know of any system that is consistently able to put forward competent leaders. What is the alternative to elected representatives?

Are you saying that the electorate is incompetent? Perhaps that is sometimes the case, but if so, then our problems are greater than that of leadership.

There is no perfect system of government, nor has there ever been.

onur said...

What is the alternative to elected representatives?

system of meritocratic aristocracy, which is built on the basis of ever greater success and efficiency

Marnie said...

"system of meritocratic aristocracy, which is built on the basis of ever greater success and efficiency"

History speaks for itself in this respect. Meritocratic aristocracy is inconsistent in promoting competent leadership. However, aristocracies, mericratic or not, are quite good at producing governments that are unaccountable to will of the people.

Why is it that great leaps forward economically go hand in hand with governments that respond to the will of the people? Because it is the people, able, industrious, competent, given a reasonable chance, that drive the economy forward.

It is up to leaders to give the people a reasonable chance.

Undemocratic countries, aristocracies and dictatorships, unaccountable to the people, in general do not give the people a reasonable chance, and produce economies that are poor and backward.

Onur, I'm not going to get into a tit for tat with you again. Let's just say that we don't agree on almost anything and that the source of our disagreement stems from one or two things:

I believe in the fundamental goodness and intelligence of the common person; you do not.

I believe that on average, people, regardless of their genetic makeup, [purity or impurity?] , are reasonable intelligent; you do not.

Dienekes said...

History speaks for itself in this respect. Meritocratic aristocracy is inconsistent in promoting competent leadership. However, aristocracies, mericratic or not, are quite good at producing governments that are unaccountable to will of the people.


What historical examples are you referring to?

Fanty said...

Hmm what about the "Staff".

There is something that is called "Macht der Stäbe" (power of the staffs)

In a way this is also comparable to the chess thing.

A leader has a staff of experts for all kind of things.

If he has no clue about what to do, he asks his experts to explain the things to him and what they would do.

Finaly the leader decides what to do.

Called "Power of the staffs", because staffs have no power. But they have heavy influence on the leader by the councel they give.

onur said...

What historical examples are you referring to?

I would have asked her the same question if I had read her post before you, as I know of no historical example of meritocratic aristocracy (I don't regard non-hereditary warrior-class aristocracies as meritocratic, at least not in a modern sense).

Marnie said...

Nations with long standing traditions of democracy have the highest standards of living:

http://skeptically.org/economics/id21.html

Working from a list of countries that are highest on the Human Development Index, I've added the form of government.

1. Norway - constitutional monarchy and parliamentary representative democracy.

2. Iceland - parliamentary representative democratic republic.

3. Australia - federal constitutional monarchy under a parliamentary representative democracy. The structure of government encompasses federalism and separation of powers into a legislative, executive and judicial branch.

4. Luxembourg - parliamentary representative democracy and constitutional monarchy.

5. Canada - parliamentary representative democracy with an executive, legilative and judicial branch.

6. Sweden - constitutional monarchy and parliamentary representative democracy.

7. Switzerland - federal parliamentary democratic republic.

8. Ireland - constitutional republic with a parliamentary system of government.

9. Belgium - parliamentary representative democratic and constitutional monarchy.

10. United States - constitutional republic. The structure of government encompasses federalism and separation of powers into a legislative, executive and judicial branch.

11. Japan - constitutional monarchy and bicameral parliamentary representative democracy.

12. Netherlands - constitutional monarcy and parliamentary representative democracy.

13. Finland - parliamentary republic.

14. Denmark - multi-party parliamentary representative democracy.

15. UK - federal constitutional monarchy under a parliamentary representative democracy. The structure of government encompasses federalism and separation of powers into a legislative, executive and judicial branch.

16. France - constitutional republic. The structure of government encompasses federalism and separation of powers into a legislative, executive and judicial branch.

17. Austria - constitutional federal republic.

18. Italy - since 1948, a republic.

19. New Zealand - parliamentary representive democracy.

20. Germany - republic with a bicameral parliamentary representative democracy.

21. Spain - since 1978, parliamentary representative democracy and constitutional monarchy.

22. Hong Kong - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Politics_of_Hong_Kong

23. Israel -
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Politics_of_Israel

24. Greece - since 1975, a parliamentary republic. The structure of government encompasses federalism and separation of powers into a legislative, executive and judicial branch.

25. Singapore - unicameral parliamentary representative republic.

26. Slovenia - since 1991, a parliamentary representative democratic republic.

27. Portugal - parliamentary representative democratic republic.

28. South Korea - parliamentary representative democracy.

29. Cyprus - presidential representative democratic republic.

30. Barbados - constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy.


No aristocratic meritocracies on this list, only various forms of representative democracies, so how is it that an aristocratic meritocracy leads to greater "success and efficiency"?

for whom?

Dienekes said...

Marnie, you first claimed that:

Meritocratic aristocracy is inconsistent in promoting competent leadership

Your long list proves nothing, as the claim is not that democracy isn't better than other existing regimes (such as communistic regimes, hereditary monarchies, military dictatorships and so on), but rather that it is not as good as aristocracy (in the original sense of "rule by the best").

The claim is that democracy is suboptimal, not that it isn't better than truly awful regimes.

onur said...

Marnie, these examples are totally irrelevant as there is no modern or ancient example of meritocratic aristocracy to compare them with.

onur said...

in the original sense of "rule by the best"

I would use the word "literal" instead of "original" here, as the original aristocracy was a kind of militaristic dictatorship (warrior-class aristocracy).

Marnie said...

"Your long list proves nothing, as the claim is not that democracy isn't better than other existing regimes (such as communistic regimes, hereditary monarchies, military dictatorships and so on), but rather that it is not as good as aristocracy (in the original sense of "rule by the best")."

My long list does not *prove*, but certain suggests that representative democracy is superior to other forms of government, including aristocracy. Try going into any formerly aristicractic country. Have a vote. Ask them if they want their king back. From the mountains of Greece, to the the plains of Canada, I can tell you that the answer will be a resounding NO!

"The claim is that democracy is suboptimal, not that it isn't better than truly awful regimes."

There are no aristocracies that secure prosperity for their citizens, compared to representative democracies. If you can think of one, please let us know.

"The claim is that democracy is suboptimal, not that it isn't better than truly awful regimes."

Again, there are no perfect systems of government, nor have there ever been. The most optimal system, representative democracy, is quite inefficient. Suboptimal? Compared to what?

onur said...

Those hereditary aristocracies have nothing to do with the meritocratic aristocracy that I am dreaming of. In fact, no aristocracy in history is like it.

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

It is worth noting that not all decisions in a democracy are made democratically. Part of what democratically elected leaders do is to carve out domains of decisions that are theirs to make (how much money should be spent on defense) and domains of decisions that are made by retained experts selected by bureaucrats who ultimately report to politicians (how will the next $100 million jet fighter be designed). For democracy to work well, politicians have to have some level of humility and delegate decisions that are beyond their expertise.

Some decisions (religion, who to marry, day to day economic decisions) are placed largely outside the realm of government decision makers entirely.

In this kind of match, the real key is selecting the right representatives for the world, rather than trying to be democratic in each individual move.

onur said...

In this kind of match, the real key is selecting the right representatives for the world, rather than trying to be democratic in each individual move.

Every 4 or 5 years and there is absolutely no guarantee that they will be the right representatives.

Marnie said...

"In this kind of match, the real key is selecting the right representatives for the world, rather than trying to be democratic in each individual move."

True Andrew, pure democracy doesn't appear in the list of thirty countries which I put up. All of them seem to employ some mechanism to employ experts where necessary.

The legislative and judicial branches of many representative democracies are one means by which the decision pool of "experts" can be broadened.

Other experts at the disposal of governments, scientists for example, reside in parallel institutions to the government.

Dienekes said...

Try going into any formerly aristicractic country. Have a vote. Ask them if they want their king back.

First of all, there is no "formerly aristocratic country" in the precise sense "rule of the best, or more competent".

Second, you have your constitutions mixed with the statement about wanting "their king back".

Third, you are making an implicit assumption that what "they want" is good. It is circular logic to prove democracy's superiority by saying that people would democratically choose it over a different regime.

There are no aristocracies that secure prosperity for their citizens, compared to representative democracies. If you can think of one, please let us know.

Fallacious argument. The fact that "there are none", does not mean that "there cannot be any". Using your logic, prior to the first application of democracy (say in Cleisthenes' time) there were no democracies that secured the prosperity of their citizens, so we should've been happy with the existing regimes of the time.

The whole point is that representative democracy is not the end-all of political organization. To say that it is the best out of extant regimes is to condemn mankind to eternal stagnation.

onur said...

To say that it is the best out of extant regimes is to condemn mankind to eternal stagnation.

Representative democracy may really be the best out of the extant regimes, but that of course doesn't mean that there won't be a better alternative in the future.

Marnie said...

"Third, you are making an implicit assumption that what "they want" is good."

Actually, I am making an *explicit* statement that in aggregate, the citizens of a country know what is right better than a single ruler, no matter how excellent that ruler might be.

"The fact that "there are none", does not mean that "there cannot be any". "

I would hope that in the "could be" rather than the "is", you could mention some of the "could bes". You haven't mentioned any of the "could-bes" so I am left to wallow around with the "is". And I kinda like the "is". If you could mention some kind of "could be" government where Johnny and Jimmy will instanteously be able to come to a come to consensus on energy, defense, gay marriage, a balanced budget, corporate corruption, abortion rights, and taxes, let's hear it.

Representative democracy may not be the end-all of political organization. Fine. But for now, our greatest challenge is not finding an alternative to representative democracy. Our challenge is corrupt institutions, such as the banks, who would steal from the common person their birthright. Emerging aristocrats, no thank you.

onur said...

the citizens of a country know what is right better than a single ruler, no matter how excellent that ruler might be.

There is no single ruler in aristocracy, you are confusing it with monarchy.

Marnie said...

I'll add:

The citizens of a country know what is right better than a single ruler, or group of unelected rulers, no matter how excellent those rulers might be.

Onur, better buy yourself an island (Saudi Arabia already has an aristocracy) or get a job at a hedge fund, as the rest of us won't be signing up for what you are proposing.

Marnie said...

Oh, maybe Dienekes will sign up. Make that two island and/or two hedge funds.

Dienekes said...

The citizens of a country know what is right better than a single ruler, or group of unelected rulers, no matter how excellent those rulers might be.

If that were true, then the Athenians who chose to undertake the disastrous Sicilian campaign knew what was right better than Nicias, and their fathers who chose to flee knew better than Themistocles who tricked them into fighting at Salamis.

It takes a sort of mystical belief to think that a majority of non-experts will arrive at good decisions in complex matters.

Marnie said...

Regarding an aristocratic meritocracy, the world does in fact have at least one of these: The Islamic Republic of Iran. It is a tribunal of experts, although the experts may not possess the expertise that the country needs or wants.

So whats the big huff, Onur? Get going! Iran!

Comment said...

The history of government is primarily the history of bad government. If the ideal that is posed here is that of the philosopher-king, arising from an enlightened aristocracy, that would be wonderful if it were the likely outcome.

In all probability, the wise philsophers would remain on the sidelines and the rulers that would emerge would be despots, which is the recurring pattern.

Any system that does not have an effective mechanism for the periodic removal of rulers, as in republics, is liable to authoritarian rule by an individual who seeks to exploit the system.

Dienekes said...

Any system that does not have an effective mechanism for the periodic removal of rulers, as in republics, is liable to authoritarian rule by an individual who seeks to exploit the system.

The periodic removal of rulers is compatible with many different systems, both democratic and aristocratic in principle. The removal could happen both by constitutional rules (e.g., someone can be part of the ruling body for no more than X years at a time), and by decision of one's peers (e.g. the way that doctors or lawyers are removed from their profession today).

Holding elections every 4 or 5 years is not the only way to remove bad apples; actually selection of rulers should probably be done by lot rather than a vote, from a restricted pool of candidates based on merit.

Regarding an aristocratic meritocracy, the world does in fact have at least one of these: The Islamic Republic of Iran. It is a tribunal of experts, although the experts may not possess the expertise that the country needs or wants.

Experts at their own strand of religion, but not experts in governance. We have no problem in having non-democratic systems for recognizing excellence in various sciences and disciplines (e.g., chess, economics, medicine, or physics), so I don't see what's so different about building similar systems for politics.

onur said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
onur said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
onur said...

Marnie, of course the Islamic Republic of Iran has nothing to do with the system I (and Dieneke) am proposing, but you already knew it, didn't you?

McG said...

I agree, in general, that "management by committee" doesn't work. Dienekes chess example partially shows that. I'm not fully sure what makes a good leader, circumstances? moral fiber? I do know that if you rate American Presidents, Truman rates pretty highly. He was not highly educated, he was the product of a political machine, but all that said when he attained office, he became his own person. One of the toughest decisions was to drop the bomb on Japan. I won't comment on the decision but it is an example of the "buck stops here".

Marnie said...

Most of the successful representative democracies mentioned in the list of thirty, which I have posted above, have parallel systems of experts.

The judiciary are legal experts. They are appointed.

Various foundations associated with governments have expertise in health, environment, science, etc. They usually play a consultive role. That may be an area of weakness in some representative democracies. The voice of legal experts may be over represented compared to the voice of other experts, who often do not have a direct vote.

Senators, with various forms of expertise, are often appointed for indefinite terms in many countries. Canada has an appointed senate. In the US, senators are elected for a six, rather than four year term.

McG, the example you give of Truman is a very good example of why a committee of experts without a head of state, appointed or not, would probably be suboptimal. Dienekes' example of the decision of the Athenians to undertake the Sicilian campaign is another good example. That decision was made in an assembly. There was no head of state. A vote by a committee is not very good at weighing a tough decision, such as the decision to go to war. There needs to be a person who can weigh and integrate such decisions. Thus, heads of states that have veto power over legislative decisions.

If Dienekes is suggesting a system where some politicians are appointed, rather than elected, that system already exists in many representative democracies.

I'm not sure where the "aristocracy" comes into all of this. Some of the best rulers in history, such as Truman, Trudeau, Justinian, and Lincoln, would never have risen to power if we required that leaders be elected from an aristocracy. Some of our worst rulers have been aristocratic pretty boys, devoid of empathy and life experience.

The notion that intelligent people and great rulers are born of an aristocracy is not born out by history.

If you're suggesting an aristocracy born of the elite from institutions, without a popular vote, I'd say no. Joe the plumber and Isabella the hair stylist deserve to have their voice as well.

onur said...

Marnie, you keep referring to history, but I am afraid, there is no historical example of the system of rule I or Dieneke are proposing, so your historical examples are totally irrelevant.

Dienekes said...

Marnie, your acceptance of the role of experts raises the question of why you think subject A should be left to experts and subject B should be left to the voting public.

Clearly, governing a country is not a subject that does not require expertise, so why do you think it should be left to elected officials, whereas medicine, for example, a similarly difficult subject is left to people (doctors) chosen non-democratically?

If you're suggesting an aristocracy born of the elite from institutions, without a popular vote, I'd say no. Joe the plumber and Isabella the hair stylist deserve to have their voice as well.

Joe the plumber should have a voice, but should he influence decisions on subjects he knows nothing about? Medical councils derive no benefit by putting medical decisions to a vote among the hospital janitors, so why should a different setup exist for ruling a country?

onur said...

Joe the plumber should have a voice, but should he influence decisions on subjects he knows nothing about?

The recent constitutional referendum in Turkey was an obvious example of that absurdity. Tens of millions of non-experts were asked to vote on the constitutional reforms, about which the overwhelming majority of them knew next to nothing, so as a result, most of them blindly followed the decisions of the political parties they felt most sympathetic to. Regardless of whether the verdict is positive or not, making referendum for such technical and complex matters is absolutely absurd.

Marnie said...

Dienekes, as you well know, I'm not assigning subject A to experts and subject B to lay people. As in life, when a way can be found for them to talk to each other, experts and lay people together often make the best decisions.

That's why most representative democracies combine bodies of appointed experts with elected non-experts. The key is to come up with an effective combination of the two.

Onur, I'm not fan of direct democracy and I'm not familiar with the recent constitutional referendum in Turkey. However, the state of California has a proposition system which allows voters to vote on specific issues. The problem is that the propositions often impose demands which cannot be met by the budget. The propositions are often in conflict with each other. So there is certainly a limit to direct democracy, one seems to have been exceeded in California.

As I have pointed out in the above, term limits are not the only thing that ultimately tie the hands of even the best governments. Economies tie the hands of governments.

Our current economic climate of globalization and increased automation will impose constraints on employment, and hence governments, regardless of their structure, as never before.

onur said...

with elected non-experts

As you yourself said, they are non-experts. Why should I trust non-experts (elected or not) in such a technical and complex issue like governing a country?

Marnie said...

Dunno, Onur. Why trust anyone?

If you had plugged toilet, you might have to trust Joe. Joe may even be good at figuring out how to plug a gushing oil well. You just never know from whence expertise might arrive.

Guys, this has been fun. Please try to not break the world. Be nice to Joe and Isabella. Try to listen to them sometimes.

onur said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
onur said...

You just never know from whence expertise might arrive.

This is reminiscent of expecting miracles to solve our problems. Why expect miracles when the solution is within the reach?

Marnie said...

'Mystery Plumber' May Have Solved BP Oil Spill

http://www.aolnews.com/surge-desk/article/mystery-plumber-may-have-solved-bp-oil-spill/19558025

Luckily, one of Obama's consultants on the BP oil spill did not dismiss the contribution of a "non-expert" plumber.

onur said...

Marnie, plumbers are experts in their own profession, that is why we appeal to them in leakages and cloggages. But elected politicians aren't experts in politics, so your analogy is false.

Comment said...

"chosen for their ability in maze-navigation"

There have been a number of science fiction writers who have speculated about the creation of ideal societies.

If tests existed that accurately predicted ethical and political performance, then such a selection of elites might be possible.

The unfortunate likelihood in my opinion would be the creation of a tyranny by a another corrupt minority.

The Social Pathologist said...

The only logical argument for democracy is because all men are corruptible, even the wise it is necessary that restraints have to be placed on them in case they go bad. Making their appointment conditional to public approval is one such way of limiting the power.

The question resolves around the quality of the "public". No sane man would allow a moron the power to choose government, rather that choice must be restricted to those who have shown at least a modicum of successful governance of their own lives. The custom of having a certain property threshold or qualification before one could vote was based on this idea.

But when great issues of state are decided on the considered opinion of the "American Idol" class, the nation is doomed.

Health Articles said...

So good topic really i like any post talking about Investment Plans but i want to say thing to u Investing not that only ... you can see in Investment The Nature of Externalities and more , you shall search in Google and Wikipedia about that .... thanks a gain ,,,