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Friday, February 26, 2016

Neoreaction and the failure of democracy

A very good, very intelligent article called "What is Neoreaction" by Clark, formerly of Popehat.com, at his new group blog Status 451:
Why democracy doesn’t work

In what ways does democracy fail?

First, as noted above, many people vote as an expressive act. The typical Obama voter knew nothing of his policies, but wanted to be “part” of “something”. There are all sorts of cultural and emotional connotations associated with Team Pepsi, and people want to affiliate themselves with those signals. Team Coke is no better: many Republican voters are in favor of a culture of God, Flag, and Apple Pie, and cast a vote for the GOP as an expressive act, without knowing or caring the actual positions of the candidates they vote for.

Second, we are rationally ignorant: even if every voter chose to vote based on policy, not emotions, our individual contribution to the outcome of an election is insanely close to zero, and — at some level — we all know this. Thus, almost none of us bothers to educate ourselves about the candidates and their positions. This is, individually, a smart choice.

Third, democracy has the principal-agent problem: we voters send politicians to Washington DC for — well, for whatever purposes we have. We hope that, once there, they will do our bidding…and we expect to motivate them to do that bidding by using the threat of our future votes and future campaign donations. But a lot is hidden in that “voters hope to motivate them”. Because voters don’t have time or inclination to monitor politicians, and because they tend to vote for expressive purposes rather than policy purposes (think of all the anti-war Democrats who support Obama and his various undeclared overseas wars), politicians need only do just enough to appear to serve the voters, while actually pursuing their own policies.


Fourth, we humans are hyperbolic discounters. Given the promise of one marshmallow now over two in five minutes, we choose the one now. Is it any surprise that we, en masse, repeatedly vote for the politicians who promise us bread and circuses today, and a bill that won’t come due for … a while?
Fifth, democracy has the public choice problem. There are many issues which affect each of us very little — ten cents per person in extra taxes for program X, or three dollars per person more in the price of a commodity because of trade barrier Y, or a slight bit of extra hassle in doing thing Z. These hassles, collectively, destroy a lot of value in our lives, but individually, harm us very little. However, these small barnacles did not randomly accrete on the body politic — each is placed there by the dedicated lobbying of some group that benefits quite a lot from the tax, regulation, or trade barrier. Ethanol in our gasoline harms all of us a little, but helps a small influential group quite a lot. The outrageous salaries of some tenured public school teachers harms all of us a little, but helps a small influential group quite a lot. As long as one small group benefits from a regulation, they will be motivated to secure an outsized influence on politicians. And they will succeed.
However, I would note it should be kept in mind that what the author means by "democracy" here is "representative democracy" and not genuine direct democracy of the sort practiced in Greece, US state referendums, and European national referendums of the sort in which Great Britain is presently engaged. But regardless, a very good article.

My opinion, as I have previously expressed, is that the problems of "mob rule" of which the Founders so famously warned have proven to be considerably fewer and less problematic than the problems of establishing a political elite that uses the illusion of democratic approval as a protective shield. Now that technology makes it viable for larger polities, direct democracy is a moral imperative in any society with a government that is justified by the will of the people.

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151 Comments:

Blogger Al From Bay Shore February 26, 2016 5:10 AM  

The time has come to identify the two types of "Founding Fathers", the Federalists who were the designers of the Constitution's general body, and the Anti-Federalists whose opposition to the Federalists resulted in the addition of the Bill of Rights. The Federalists did not want a Bill of Rights but reluctantly added one in order to secure ratification. Imagine if the Federalists had their way.

The schools have trained us to focus only on the Federalists. Sparse attention is paid to their opponents. The Federalists were a political faction that existed long before the debates over the Constitution. Since the months before the First Continental Congress they wanted a coercive national power. At first they wanted to reconcile with Britain. When independence dashed those hopes in 1776, they refocused their efforts on forming a coercive national government under an American name. Those efforts failed with the ratification of the final draft of the Articles of Confederation. Then they moved to increase the powers of central government via amendment, interpretation, and an attempted coup (the Newburgh Conspiracy). When those efforts failed, the used extra-legal methods to replace the Articles with the Constitution. They succeeded.

My point is that the problems with our national government is caused by the successful endeavors of the Federalists. The time has come to challenge the worship of these "framers" and their "founding" document, the Constitution. The Anti-Federalists' critiques of the Constitution were, to say the least, prophetic. We need to read their arguments for it is in those arguments that we will see where things went so terribly wrong.

Blogger Hostem Populi February 26, 2016 5:12 AM  

Direct democracy is worth a try, but I doubt it will be any less susceptible to being gamed, just like representative democracy has been.

Democracy must be thoroughly and completely discredited before a new consensus justification for government comes into vogue.

Anonymous PhillipGeorge©2016 February 26, 2016 5:21 AM  

The ten commandments, and the six hundred and three others, provided a sort of "boundary condition" for any legislature or executive/ boundary condition for the common law. One might loosely call that Christendom's principle feature. A coherent rule of law.

Laodicea - the people rule/ democracy is whatever 51 percent decide it is, hasn't got that cultural constraint. If 51 percent decide all people with pseudonyms beginning with V pay 99 percent tax from yesterday forwards that is not easy to argue against. It's the will of the V persecuting peoples of the nation.

So the option starts to look like 'follow Jesus or sooner or later burn - culturally, economically, technologically, militarily, educationally, philosophically....... [this is a blog]

Blogger Josh February 26, 2016 5:31 AM  

Cue the hundreds of pointless comments frantically screaming that we're a republic, not a democracy, accompanied by various founding fathers' quotes about the evils of democracy...

Blogger Hostem Populi February 26, 2016 5:33 AM  

@4 Spergs gotta sperg.

Blogger VD February 26, 2016 5:35 AM  

Cue the hundreds of pointless comments frantically screaming that we're a republic, not a democracy, accompanied by various founding fathers' quotes about the evils of democracy...

Let appeals to authority be silent when experience gainsays their dogmatic assertions.

Blogger Josh February 26, 2016 5:36 AM  

Direct democracy is worth a try, but I doubt it will be any less susceptible to being gamed, just like representative democracy has been.

If every bill is subject to a direct vote by the people, eventually the stupid ones will get bored and stop voting.

Now, what groups in society are most likely to spend a lot of time on mundane tasks for no monetary reward?

Blogger Josh February 26, 2016 5:42 AM  

As long as one small group benefits from a regulation, they will be motivated to secure an outsized influence on politicians. And they will succeed.

Direct democracy would probably neuter the outsized influence of almost all of these groups.

Which, ironically, is why James Madison would support it if he were alive today.

Anonymous tublecane February 26, 2016 5:49 AM  

Mob rule would be worse than the pseudo-democracy we have now, I think. Fortunately, mobs can't sustain themselves they get tired. If technology now makes it possible, all the worse for us. I don't think non-mobish direct democracy is very viable. The Iron Law of Oligarchy holds.

Power would derive even more so from controlling public opinion. Though with the advent of the internet I've read more unusual and subversive literature then the me of 1938--to pull a year out of thin air--could ever dream of, I don't see the public mind as freer than it was before. The MSM is getting weaker, but the people are still stupid, gullible, and panicky. Washington could use them to further shield policy from "politics."

What a weird idol is democracy. Even the ancient Greeks, who supposedly invented it, chucked democracy out when it came to things they considered too important, like warfare and religion. And don't forget the vast majority of people couldn't vote or hold office. Democracy was practiced by everyone from the lowly farmer to the richest silver baron, but only if the were adult male non-slaves, non-aliens, and descended from the old tribes of Attica.

If you want to see it work, you've gotta at least break up the U.S. into little city states, which must be free to rise on fall on their own wisdom or stupidity. But that won't happen, short of Civil War II. And I don't have any faith Washington would lose Civil War II. Under direct democracy, or national plebiscitism, I see a still secretive, still dog and pony show central government, only bigger.

Blogger VD February 26, 2016 6:01 AM  

Mob rule would be worse than the pseudo-democracy we have now, I think.

You're both wrong and ignorant. We have no shortage of direct comparisons. In almost every case, the national and state referendum results are considerably superior to the results produced by the national parliaments and state legislatures.

Blogger VD February 26, 2016 6:03 AM  

Or to put it another way, look at the vast difference between the straightforward laws that pass via referendum and the massive, thousand-page monstrosities that are passed, unread, by Congress and other legislatures.

To blithely say "I think mob rule would be worse" is to be a fucking parrot. You're observably not thinking at all.

OpenID simplytimothy February 26, 2016 6:06 AM  

How does direct democracy bypass the hyperbolic discounter problem?

If it doesn't then stupid wins.

For example, on the civilized side of town people do not litter, and if there is litter, they will pick up the trash in order to maintain the beauty of their place. Bring in a vibrant and they casually throw their trash w/o giving it a second thought--they live in garbage--it is natural to them as breathing. At first, the people, being kind will pick up after the vibrant, but after a time, they either evict the vibrant or they leave their formerly beautiful town. The stupid people win. (see Detroit or LA)

I submit the hyperbolic discounter problem is a variant of the same thing.


Now, if you see direct democracy as hastening of the current split into nation/cultures, then the HD problem is not solved at all, but is harnessed.









Blogger Hostem Populi February 26, 2016 6:11 AM  

@11 Who's going to write the bills? South Carolina about 15 years ago had a ballot referendum that was intentionally written in several paragraphs of legalese so that no one would know what they were voting for, or even if they did, whether a yes was really a yes, or a no a no. The passed a law afterwards requiring straightforward language in future referendums, but mischief at the level of the bill writers is still a potential avenue for the usual suspects to strike.

Blogger Josh February 26, 2016 6:23 AM  

Or to put it another way, look at the vast difference between the straightforward laws that pass via referendum and the massive, thousand-page monstrosities that are passed, unread, by Congress and other legislatures.

Not to mention fewer people vote for ballot measures than for candidates for office.

Blogger VD February 26, 2016 6:29 AM  

How does direct democracy bypass the hyperbolic discounter problem?

It bypasses most of it because so few of the voters have a direct interest in the goodies provided by any one particular bill. For example, the Swiss government has twice voted to join the EU and once voted to build a second north-south tunnel under the Alps.

The people voted down all three because, unlike the politicians and the construction companies, there was nothing to appeal to their short-term interests.

Who's going to write the bills?

Any citizen can, as long as he can collect enough signatures to put it on the ballot.

Blogger Josh February 26, 2016 6:42 AM  

Who's going to write the bills?

Any citizen can, as long as he can collect enough signatures to put it on the ballot.


These sorts of questions remind me of this passage from Chesterton:

Once upon a time, or conceivably even more than once, there was
a man who went into a public-house and asked for a glass of beer.
I will not mention his name, for various and obvious reasons;
it may be libel nowadays to say this about a man; or it may
lay him open to police prosecution under the more humane laws
of our day. So far as this first recorded action is concerned,
his name may have been anything: William Shakespeare or
Geoffrey Chaucer or Charles Dickens or Henry Fielding, or any
of those common names that crop up everywhere in the populace.
The important thing about him is that he asked for a glass of beer.
The still more important thing about him is that he drank it;
and the most important thing of all is that he spat it out again
(I regret to say) and threw the pewter mug at the publican.
For the beer was abominably bad.

True, he had not yet submitted it to any chemical analysis;
but, after he had drank a little of it, he felt an inward,
a very inward, persuasion that there was something wrong about it.
When he had been ill for a week, steadily getting worse all
the time, he took some of the beer to the Public Analyst;
and that learned man, after boiling it, freezing it, turning it green,
blue, and yellow, and so on, told him that it did indeed contain
a vast quantity of deadly poison. "To continue drinking it,"
said the man of science thoughtfully, "will undoubtedly be a
course attended with risks, but life is inseparable from risk.
And before you decide to abandon it, you must make up your mind
what Substitute you propose to put into your inside, in place
of the beverage which at present (more or less) reposes there.
If you will bring me a list of your selections in this difficult matter,
I will willingly point out the various scientific objections that can
be raised to all of them."

OpenID basementhomebrewer February 26, 2016 6:46 AM  

It would be worth a try but the entire government would have to be reset to zero first. As others pointed out many people would choose not to vote on most issues. That means that even a 10-15% voting block could effectively control the legislative process. The military and the current federal bureaucracy would be a very hard voting block to contradict. If everything was reset to zero it would work for a while but eventually I think a majority of the people actively participating would be government employees and lobbyists which would cause the system to devolve to where we are now.

Blogger Josh February 26, 2016 6:47 AM  

As others pointed out many people would choose not to vote on most issues. That means that even a 10-15% voting block could effectively control the legislative process.

That's a feature, not a bug.

Blogger VD February 26, 2016 6:48 AM  

As others pointed out many people would choose not to vote on most issues. That means that even a 10-15% voting block could effectively control the legislative process.

Not if a minimum percentage percent of the electorate was required to approve any law.

Blogger VD February 26, 2016 6:48 AM  

I think a majority of the people actively participating would be government employees and lobbyists which would cause the system to devolve to where we are now.

Better 30 million people controlling it than 300.

OpenID basementhomebrewer February 26, 2016 6:49 AM  

@18 I agree it would make hard resets possible when things got bad enough. In between, the graft and corruption would still find their way into the system.

Blogger Josh February 26, 2016 6:51 AM  

Does anyone have any objections other than OH NOES IT'S NOT GOING TO BE PERFECT AND IT WON'T GIVE ME A UNICORN PONY THAT POOPS ICE CREAM?

OpenID simplytimothy February 26, 2016 6:53 AM  

there was nothing to appeal to their short-term interests.

Convincing and interesting, thx.

OpenID basementhomebrewer February 26, 2016 6:54 AM  

@19 That could work fairly well. Apathy could help safe guard against government expansion. Like I said I think it is worth a try.

@22 Just exploring the issue. Not blindly opposing it.

Blogger rumpole5 February 26, 2016 6:59 AM  

I would favor a democracy if there were a few sifting mechanisms on place: Firstly, voting age of 25 to 30; Secondly requirement that voters register well in advance of a referendum or election in a poorly located location open for very limited hours every other Tuesday if it doesn't rain; Thirdly, a number of offices should be filled by lot, much like our jury system. Citizens hauled into government office by chance for a fixed period of service as a senator would probably produce a better check on congressional excess than the mess we have now.

Blogger David Power February 26, 2016 6:59 AM  

"Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others. Sir Winston Churchill

Blogger Josh February 26, 2016 7:00 AM  

"Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others. Sir Winston Churchill

Did you even read the linked article?

Blogger Josh February 26, 2016 7:06 AM  

I would favor a democracy if there were a few sifting mechanisms on place

The process itself is a sifting mechanism.

Blogger Hostem Populi February 26, 2016 7:08 AM  

I didn't know Winston Churchill said that...

Hey, did everyone else know that sex is popular? I just learned that.

Anonymous Abatunde Diongobongo February 26, 2016 7:08 AM  

The only solution I can foresee is to shoot everyone except a few hot girls of childbearing age and turn the world into a dictatorship of a proletariat of 1.

Anonymous Mike February 26, 2016 7:09 AM  

VD,

Brave browser has officially put out binaries for Windows and OS X. The majority of the old Opera team has also moved on and created Vivaldi which looks similarly promising.

Anonymous VFM #6306 February 26, 2016 7:09 AM  

In a choice between mob rule and the Mob rule, I would choose mob rule, as I am not in the Mob and thus they are not concerned about my interests.

Blogger Josh February 26, 2016 7:12 AM  

In a choice between mob rule and the Mob rule, I would choose mob rule, as I am not in the Mob and thus they are not concerned about my interests.

Don't you mean (((Mob)))?

Blogger Hostem Populi February 26, 2016 7:14 AM  

Glen Beck has assured me that (((Mob))) has our best interests at heart. He smelled like my friends Jack, Jim, and Jose at the time.

Anonymous Mike February 26, 2016 7:18 AM  

Initial reaction to Brave...

It is just not as good for blocking ads as Firefox or Chrome with ABP. Particularly disappointing since on those occasions I'm on Facebook I want to block their ads. Firefox + ABP does that. Not sure if Brave will let me.

Blogger W.LindsayWheeler February 26, 2016 7:19 AM  

Democracy is the vehicle for Socialism. Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle were all Misodemos! Plato calls democracy the annihilation of government.

There is NO moral imperative for democracy.

Blogger Josh February 26, 2016 7:21 AM  

Democracy is the vehicle for Socialism... Plato calls democracy the annihilation of government...

Ironically, Plato was a Socialist.

Blogger VD February 26, 2016 7:24 AM  

There is NO moral imperative for democracy.

You're wrong. You failed to understand a simple If-Then construction because you're in such a hurry to start performing your usual routine. Now shut up before I spam you.

In case it isn't clear, I've had it with your mewling, narcissistic bullshit.

Blogger W.LindsayWheeler February 26, 2016 7:26 AM  

Nature did not fit the vulgar class to rule.

Blogger Josh February 26, 2016 7:36 AM  

Wheeler, you are the vulgar class.

You are the Ultimate Secret Philosopher King.

Blogger Mr.MantraMan February 26, 2016 7:46 AM  

An oligarchy always rules this plan would seriously scare the current oligarchy of world healers and Banksters at least at first

Blogger Michael O'Duibhir February 26, 2016 7:56 AM  

"... politicians need only do just enough to appear to serve the voters, while actually pursuing their own policies."

And their "own policies" are those of those whom they serve in Washington DC. Nothing was mentioned in the article regarding the blackmail system in DC. That little-known, but indispensable, system has been honed over the years into a well-oiled machine that produces results. The sort of people who get elected are typically preening, quaffed and arrogant narcissists. Their ignoble, and often criminal, acts before and after arriving in DC make them cannon fodder for that machine. The flesh pots of Egypt pale in comparison to those of DC. It is inevitable that these politicians wind up on the list, and their votes in Congress reflect their awareness that they are on the list. Hence, the consternation on the part of a baffled electorate as to why "so-and-so was supposed to be a conservative Republican but just look how he is voting!" Of course, the Dems get on the list, too, but then they were already onboard the system before ever arriving in DC.

Blogger Nate February 26, 2016 8:13 AM  

it is very difficult to make a case against true direct democracy given the performance of state referendums vs congress.

Anonymous VFM #6306 February 26, 2016 8:13 AM  

The big problem with the Swiss model is that I am not Swiss. Come on guys, let me in. Just me. Promise.

Blogger dc.sunsets February 26, 2016 8:14 AM  


Not if a minimum percentage percent of the electorate was required to approve any law.

This, plus all executive agencies sunset after 5 years unless renewed.

Frankly, Vox, if every executive agency edit in the federal register had to be reviewed and voted upon it would be like an email spam blizzard for 20 years.

Blogger Salt February 26, 2016 8:16 AM  

Nate wrote:it is very difficult to make a case against true direct democracy given the performance of state referendums vs congress.

The courts would have to be cleaned out, as they so often oppose the will espoused by the referendum.

Blogger skiballa February 26, 2016 8:17 AM  

"it is very difficult to make a case against true direct democracy given the performance of state referendums vs congress."

Exactly this, gay "marriage" couldn't even pass in CA when the voters decided.

Blogger dc.sunsets February 26, 2016 8:18 AM  

We cannot imagine the decrease in regulatory burden if most of the arcane and picayune edicts of literally several tons of Federal Register were to disappear.

Many people would have to find honest work.

Blogger Zaklog the Great February 26, 2016 8:21 AM  

I find this interesting because Mr. Wright just posted about reading the Federalist 10, which is, among other things, an argument in favor of representative democracy and against the dangers of direct democracy and mob rule. I'd love to see you two hash this out.

Blogger Durandel Almiras February 26, 2016 8:32 AM  

I'd be willing to give direct democracy a shot before setting up a more extreme system, but I still think government workers and anyone on any type of government welfare doesn't get to vote.

I also think marriage and 2 kids should be a requirement as well, along with a voting age of 25.

Blogger VD February 26, 2016 8:32 AM  

an argument in favor of representative democracy and against the dangers of direct democracy and mob rule. I'd love to see you two hash this out

It wouldn't be very interesting. 200 years of actual practical experience of both is going to utterly crush the abstract theorizing that preceded it.

Blogger Lovekraft February 26, 2016 8:33 AM  

We are devolving towards a type of benevolent dictator, no doubt about it. The second best option would be an elite cadre of string-pullers managing the herd.

Forget about any possibility of direct democracy when the populace gets over 10 000. Unworkable. Even under this amount will lead to an inner circle.

Blogger Nate February 26, 2016 8:37 AM  

"The courts would have to be cleaned out, as they so often oppose the will espoused by the referendum."

not really... we're talking about massive systemic changes here. In that context you simply redefine the role of the courts. Personally I would eliminate judicial review entirely.

I would leave it to the states to decide if the organization they joined is abiding by the rules they agreed to.

Blogger VD February 26, 2016 8:39 AM  

Forget about any possibility of direct democracy when the populace gets over 10 000. Unworkable. Even under this amount will lead to an inner circle.

You clearly don't understand what "direct democracy" is. Or how it works in practice. Representative democracy is a structural inner circle established by design. So, that's not a convincing criticism of direct democracy.

Blogger Nate February 26, 2016 8:41 AM  

"Forget about any possibility of direct democracy when the populace gets over 10 000. Unworkable. Even under this amount will lead to an inner circle."

The internet makes it workable. And again... I do believe we're talking about a federal system here anyway... so the administration of all of this would be handled by the individual states.

You would keep the exectutive branch... and you could even keep a scaled down version of congress... but once it came time to voting on their schemes... they wouldn't be doing the voting. we would.

Blogger Nate February 26, 2016 8:45 AM  

"Frankly, Vox, if every executive agency edit in the federal register had to be reviewed and voted upon it would be like an email spam blizzard for 20 years"

see you're making the typical sloppy mistake so many others make. You look out our government and then think you would apply this sytem on top of it.

You wouldn't.

Virtually all of those agencies go away. And federal law gets stripped back to the barest minimum... and you start over.

Blogger skiballa February 26, 2016 8:52 AM  

Hey VD, somewhat related, what do you think of the old "New England Style" town meeting form of gov't?

Blogger Gaiseric February 26, 2016 8:55 AM  

Josh wrote:If every bill is subject to a direct vote by the people, eventually the stupid ones will get bored and stop voting.

Now, what groups in society are most likely to spend a lot of time on mundane tasks for no monetary reward?

Most of the stupid ones shouldn't be allowed a vote anyway. A precondition of direct democracy should be the elimination of the concept of universal suffrage, and fairly strict rules in place to ensure that voters have enough skin in the game to not even attempt to game the system. My preference would be one vote per head of household per household net positive payment into the government.

If you receive more welfare than you pay in taxes: no vote. If your paycheck comes from the government: no vote. Etc.

Blogger dc.sunsets February 26, 2016 8:58 AM  

Virtually all of those agencies go away. And federal law gets stripped back to the barest minimum... and you start over.

No, Nate, I didn't make a mistake. This is a thought-exercise, nothing more. For direct democracy to occur would require the utter collapse of all current systems of order and regimentation associated with the Leviathan that feeds perhaps 30,000,000 people directly, including essentially every single person in the Deep State and Permanent Government.

I chose to discuss the fairy tale of getting from here to there without a near-collapse of civilization, which would probably crimp the use of technology slightly given it's a bit more complex than making a #2 pencil (see Leonard Reed's I, Pencil if you wonder why I note that.)

Modern tech will take a giant step backward if there's a significant disturbance to the vast network currently necessary to its production.

Blogger W.LindsayWheeler February 26, 2016 9:02 AM  

When a ship enters a port, a skilled professional, called the pilot, comes aboard to guide the ship into the dock.

Plato uses this analogy quite frequently as a metaphor to the state. There are numerous other examples of people referring a state to the ship; i.e. the ship of state.

Democracies do not run ships or airplanes or families. Democracy does not exist in nature or in the heavens. Professionals run ships and airplanes. The patriarch runs the family.

What is missing is Virtue. Training in Virtue. The form of government does not change or effect character training. Aristotle names three good forms of government, Monarchy, Aristocracy and Politiea, mixed government. All of these are good governments. They work when the character of the men running these have Virtue.

It is not the form of government that will solve our problems--it is the Training in Virtue that solves our problems; the four virtues are Manliness, Righteousness, Self-control, and Prudence.

Blogger dc.sunsets February 26, 2016 9:02 AM  

See, Nate, you're making the sloppy mistake of thinking that you can have the Internet, smart phones and other useful tech of direct democracy despite conditions that made all those agencies "go away."

It never ceases to amaze me when people think you can eliminate a major log in the Jenga Tower but still have the tower itself.

Blogger Skylark Thibedeau February 26, 2016 9:03 AM  

I was watching Ralph Fiennes modern update of Shakespeare's "Coriolanus" and was very impressed how he showed how the media under the control of dishonest politicians influencing the mob in a Representative Democracy could destroy the career of a Nobel Politician and citizen with lies and half truths. In a direct democracy this type of abuse could be limited as in Athens where direct democracy kept Oligarchs at bay(if you got too powerful you were ostracized and banished) but suffrage was limited to land owners and hoplites. Direct democracy without those limitations allows the Plebian mob to rally round Al Sharpton or Bernie Sanders to vote themselves access to your property.

Blogger Nate February 26, 2016 9:04 AM  

"I chose to discuss the fairy tale of getting from here to there without a near-collapse of civilization"

again... you are jumping to conclusions and making assumptions without even realizing it.

regardless... the collapse is coming regardless. So it makes much more sense to discuss this in a federal blank-slate context.

Blogger Nate February 26, 2016 9:08 AM  

"It never ceases to amaze me when people think you can eliminate a major log in the Jenga Tower but still have the tower itself."

***chuckle***

The federal government doesn't keep the power grid up. It doesn't keep the internet up or the cell towers up.

Believe it or not large governments go away almost over night all over the place... and everything keeps right one working while the new systems are constructed.

Look at Egypt a few years back. There effectively was no government for a couple of months.

I don't recall the power grid shutting down. Hell tourist sites were still running. I had a buddy that visited the pyramids during the crisis.

Blogger dc.sunsets February 26, 2016 9:14 AM  

I do offer this: Direct democracy would still utterly fail if for no other reason than distilling it down to a tiny metaphor:

Five guys are voting on what toppings to order on a pizza they're going to collectively pay for. In order for the order to occur, at least three have to agree. Due to allergies and preferences, no combination (including plain cheese) can obtain a necessary 3 votes.

No pizza is ordered. No political system is produced. But people will desire a political system so a war will settle the question and some sort of state will be established.

Bottom line: all political systems come and go. All have a life cycle. None is permanent or ideal. It's f-ing childish to believe otherwise, a Utopian fantasy shared by Left, Right and Libertarian.

The most durable system has been the Swiss. It WAS characterized by enough shared values to let the very disparate Cantons coexist under one polity for four centuries, and it encouraged people to defend themselves from politicians arrogating power. The Immivasion is all but certain to change this, unless reversed.

No polity can exist without a certain threshold of shared values. A highly diverse (tm) polity is extremely unlikely to hit the necessary threshold, so it will be relatively brief, and like a marriage of unmixable people will end in a brutal, fiery divorce.

The USA as it is currently populated could not possibly endure direct democracy; it is far too geographically, culturally, ethnically and racially diverse to get even near the necessary threshold of shared values.

Blogger Krul February 26, 2016 9:14 AM  

@64 Nate,

Didn't Belgium go for over a year without government back in 2010-2011? I remember reading something like that.

Blogger Josh February 26, 2016 9:14 AM  

Everyone complaining about universal suffrage in the context of direct democracy, do yourself and favor and research voter turnout before commenting.

Blogger Nate February 26, 2016 9:14 AM  

Think about it... if you woke up and while you were getting ready for work the radio or tv or internet told you the US government was shutdown over a coup... what would you do?

You'd probably pay very close attention... while you were on your way to work.

You'd still go to work and do your job. And that's all it takes really. For a bunch of people to go to work and do their jobs... and everything keeps right on working. Maybe its not working at 100% capacity.. maybe its 80% or even 60%... but that's plenty good enough for a few months.

Blogger Jake February 26, 2016 9:14 AM  

I've read that block chain technology (think bitcoin) had applications in ensuring secure and accurate vote tracking and tallying. The details are a bit beyond me, but computers and encryption provide a powerful toolkit for implementation.

Laws should require renewal, currently we see measures brought to vote over and over until the people or their reps "get it right" then the same bill that passed once in 8 attempts is suddenly holy writ beyond question.

The challenge I see is how is the ballet determined, if 70% of voters support some idea how does that get turned into a law that is true to the voters desires and how does that get on the ballet. We see how the current system is made to ensure that nothing truly important is ever settled by a vote of the people, I could see the same problems in a direct democracy.

Blogger Aeoli Pera February 26, 2016 9:17 AM  

My opinion, as I have previously expressed, is that the problems of "mob rule" of which the Founders so famously warned have proven to be considerably fewer and less problematic than the problems of establishing a political elite that uses the illusion of democratic approval as a protective shield.

They didn't foresee 1) Prussian education and 2) the science of propaganda and marketing becoming a major industrial force comparable to technology, military, agriculture and finance.

Blogger Jake February 26, 2016 9:18 AM  

I've read that block chain technology (think bitcoin) had applications in ensuring secure and accurate vote tracking and tallying. The details are a bit beyond me, but computers and encryption provide a powerful toolkit for implementation.

Laws should require renewal, currently we see measures brought to vote over and over until the people or their reps "get it right" then the same bill that passed once in 8 attempts is suddenly holy writ beyond question.

The challenge I see is how is the ballet determined, if 70% of voters support some idea how does that get turned into a law that is true to the voters desires and how does that get on the ballet. We see how the current system is made to ensure that nothing truly important is ever settled by a vote of the people, I could see the same problems in a direct democracy.

Blogger Gaiseric February 26, 2016 9:19 AM  

Josh wrote:Everyone complaining about universal suffrage in the context of direct democracy, do yourself and favor and research voter turnout before commenting.
Do you really not think that a decently well-funded propaganda campaign couldn't get the wrong people to the polls to vote for the wrong policies? All it takes is the false promise of some security to get hordes of women to the polls as it is now.

Blogger dc.sunsets February 26, 2016 9:21 AM  

regardless... the collapse is coming regardless. So it makes much more sense to discuss this in a federal blank-slate context.

***chuckle***

I hope you don't live downwind of a GE nuclear power plant, then. Lest you forget, they've been kicking the can on long-term storage in part because no one wants to pay for it. Do you think that'll improve once the USA begins to dissolve?

The key component of coming problems is the magnitude of the embedded-cost problems about to surface. When old-age pension systems fall apart it's easy to deal with old people: they starve. WTF do you do with highly radioactive isotopes with half-lives in the thousands of years? "Oh, we don't have the money for that right now, but come back in a few years and we'll talk about it then."

Once again, I find those who talk about the coming conflagration in hopeful terms rather charming in their naivete. All of the places you cited that melted down did so as flyspecks in the Global Economy while the Massive Engines of Commerce staggered on in old age.

When the USA and Europe choke, Japan finally succumbs to gravity and China gets its own reorg, it won't be one bit like Egypt's little dust-up.

Blogger Josh February 26, 2016 9:22 AM  

Do you really not think that a decently well-funded propaganda campaign couldn't get the wrong people to the polls to vote for the wrong policies?

Yes

All it takes is the false promise of some security to get hordes of women to the polls as it is now.

You realize that only 43% of female US citizens voted in 2014, don't you?

Blogger Krul February 26, 2016 9:23 AM  

Apparently 2010 was the second time in recent history Belgium went without a government. The first was 2007.

Blogger rho February 26, 2016 9:26 AM  

Virtually all of those agencies go away. And federal law gets stripped back to the barest minimum... and you start over.

There's your rational argument against direct democracy. It won't happen. Whether it's objectively better or not is irrelevant.

If the prerequisites for direct democracy involve wiping the slate clean, the primary form of government will be direct thumpocracy, where the strongest guys with the biggest clubs do all of the voting.

Anonymous BGKB February 26, 2016 9:34 AM  

Now, what groups in society are most likely to spend a lot of time on mundane tasks for no monetary reward?

I don't know why people say that about people who vote for a living. Once every 4 years Latrina tells her older anchor babies to vote for more free stuff.

Better 30 million people controlling it than 300. Or one guy at the HQ of (((Diebold)))

Exactly this, gay "marriage" couldn't even pass in CA when the voters decided

For a while NYC was special in that 2 grown men couldn't share a 20oz soda but could get married. Even boss Hogg wouldn't steal all the salt shakers from the Duke boys restaurants.

If you receive more welfare than you pay in taxes: no vote.

On top of that simple math version of captcha, we currently allow people that don't speak English to vote.

Blogger Josh February 26, 2016 9:36 AM  

I don't know why people say that about people who vote for a living. Once every 4 years Latrina tells her older anchor babies to vote for more free stuff.

Only 30% of unemployed citizens vote.

Blogger dc.sunsets February 26, 2016 9:37 AM  

Think about it... if you woke up and while you were getting ready for work the radio or tv or internet told you the US government was shutdown over a coup... what would you do?

10 minutes later store shelves are bare. EBT & Link cards stop working & inner cities begin to burn. Cops go home to protect their families so inner city fires become conflagrations.

Banks close. Payment systems cease. OTR trucking, whose fuel payment is overwhelmingly done with credit card, freezes.

You grossly overestimate the ability of a place like the USA to keep going based on examples with little in common.

Blogger Josh February 26, 2016 9:41 AM  

I don't know why people say that about people who vote for a living. Once every 4 years Latrina tells her older anchor babies to vote for more free stuff.

Also once every four years is not a lot of time.

Blogger John Wright February 26, 2016 9:43 AM  

"I find this interesting because Mr. Wright just posted about reading the Federalist 10, which is, among other things, an argument in favor of representative democracy and against the dangers of direct democracy and mob rule. I'd love to see you two hash this out."

Unfortunately, if the debate were judged by a panel selected by the readers, the representative democracy argument would be judged the winner, but if all the readers voted, the direct democracy argument would be judged the winner.

Blogger Gaiseric February 26, 2016 9:44 AM  

Josh wrote:You realize that only 43% of female US citizens voted in 2014, don't you?
Wrong. In the 2012 election, 63.7% of the VAP female population voted compared to 59.7% of the VAP male population.

https://www.census.gov/hhes/www/socdemo/voting/publications/p20/2012/tables.html

Blogger Josh February 26, 2016 9:45 AM  

2014 != 2012

Anonymous Satan's Hamster February 26, 2016 9:46 AM  

"WTF do you do with highly radioactive isotopes with half-lives in the thousands of years?"

You bury them somewhere out of the way, and forget about them. The only reason it's not being done is because the government won't let it be done, or demands proof--proof, I tell you!--that the buried material won't mutate a rare desert lizard ten thousand years from now. Which is basically the same thing as banning it.

And, oh, half-lives of thousands of years are not 'highly radioactive'. The longer the half-life, the less radioactive it is.

Blogger AureliusMoner February 26, 2016 9:50 AM  

Of course, the real rot lies in the idea that sovereignty is vested in the people, as a matter of principle. All authority is from above, and is rooted, ultimately, in God. The lie that the people are free to make the laws they like, enshrines the incoherent relativism that now defines all Western societies. The people are subject to Divine and Natural Law. They are not free to choose what they like. Until we return to a system of government that compels all to conform to the Divine and Natural laws - kings, priests, lords, common folk - and dispenses with this "power of the people" bs (we see what "the people" have given us!), Western civilization remains doomed.

Anonymous LurkingPuppy February 26, 2016 9:50 AM  

dc.sunsets wrote:Modern tech will take a giant step backward if there's a significant disturbance to the vast network currently necessary to its production.

But Nate is postulating that the Federal government would go away, so there would be no one able to create that disturbance.

The only reason that the ‘government shutdowns’ have inconvenienced non-government entities is that they know the government will start back up again, and punishing anyone who went about their regular business without a permit that the Feds refused to issue will be the government's top priority.


dc.sunsets wrote:WTF do you do with highly radioactive isotopes with half-lives in the thousands of years?

Start reprocessing the spent fuel; send the neptunium to the High Flux Isotope Reactor, and send the americium and any other actinides without a better use to Canada (their reactors can burn them up).


dc.sunsets wrote:Cops go home to protect their families so inner city fires become conflagrations.

So the cops won't be around to punish people who defend themselves against the rioters. Is that really a bad thing?

Blogger dc.sunsets February 26, 2016 9:50 AM  

Unfortunately, if the debate were judged by a panel selected by the readers, the representative democracy argument would be judged the winner, but if all the readers voted, the direct democracy argument would be judged the winner.

"Let's see a show of hands, who supports the end of democracy?"
https://youtu.be/q-eAKnVGGBI?t=34m30s

Anonymous LurkingPuppy February 26, 2016 9:55 AM  

Satan's Hamster wrote:And, oh, half-lives of thousands of years are not 'highly radioactive'. The longer the half-life, the less radioactive it is.

I assume he's talking about the energy of the gamma rays they emit. For example, Pu-238 has a much shorter half-life than Pu-240, but Pu-240 is much more dangerous to be around because it emits high-energy gamma rays that cannot be shielded against effectively.

Blogger dc.sunsets February 26, 2016 9:55 AM  

@86 Start reprocessing the spent fuel; send the neptunium to the High Flux Isotope Reactor, and send the americium and any other actinides without a better use to Canada (their reactors can burn them up).

Solutions exist. Perhaps getting Leviathan OUT of the way will lead directly to them. If so, great.

My point is that while I agree with Nate that people have a remarkable ability to soldier on even when the Command Structure is bombed to smithereens, there seems to be an underappreciation for the brittleness of systems in modern first-world economies and frankly I find people laughably ignorant about the nearly infinite number of layers in producing what we currently take for granted.

Anonymous BGKB February 26, 2016 9:55 AM  

Many people would have to find honest work.

The govt owns 30% of US land, more in the west than east. http://wastefraudandabuse.org/2318-2/

"The federal government is looking to use the budget process to expand its ownership of land across the United States despite already owning three of every 10 acres, Rep. Louie Gohmert warned Monday.

Gohmert, R-Texas, said the government’s “massive” control over land has preserved less than 1 percent of endangered species and instead harmed individuals whose livelihoods depend on land ownership."

I think the none reporting of fraudulent feds names is to keep EEOC off their back with non Asian minorities more likely to commit or at least get caught with fraud. http://wastefraudandabuse.org/watchdogs-let-errant-feds-go-anonymous/

also there is this http://wastefraudandabuse.org/feds-spent-60000-play-first-gay-president/

Blogger dc.sunsets February 26, 2016 10:02 AM  

@88 http://www.nrdc.org/nuclear/fallout/

When the tsunami hit Fukushima the story was that they couldn't get power restored to the cooling tanks, etc. Given the US military presence within helicopter distance and the ubiquity of diesel generators in use by the .mil, it seems implausible that solutions were not a phone call away. If this is remotely true, then such disasters are in every sense man-made (via political miscalculation and diffuse responsibility found in all bureaucratic systems.)

Concern about similar systems dotting the eastern half of the USA seems prudent, especially if a series of politico-social cataclysms occur as is likely.

Blogger Blaster February 26, 2016 10:03 AM  

Third, democracy has the principal-agent problem: we voters send politicians to Washington DC for — well, for whatever purposes we have. We hope that, once there, they will do our bidding…and we expect to motivate them to do that bidding by using the threat of our future votes and future campaign donations

A minor nitpick: in the ideal, politicians aren't expected to do voters bidding they are expected to keep the voters happy or satisfied. That's the essence of a republican democracy. Otherwise you'd not bother to elect legislators, everything would be done with public referendums.

Blogger praetorian February 26, 2016 10:06 AM  

I don't have a beef with direct democracy, although California's experience with it hasn't been great.

Seems to me the problem is less government form, since lots of successful countries have had lots of different forms of government, and more one of scale, aggravated by multiculturalism.

Blogger Gaiseric February 26, 2016 10:07 AM  

Josh wrote:2014 != 2012
D'oh! Misread in my haste.

That said; are you really trying to say that 43% female voter turnout is good news when the male voter turnout percentage was only 40.8%?

Blogger Lovekraft February 26, 2016 10:10 AM  

"You clearly don't understand what "direct democracy" is. Or how it works in practice. Representative democracy is a structural inner circle established by design. So, that's not a convincing criticism of direct democracy."

The Supreme DL is addressing me directly. Must avert his gaze! Kidding aside.

I understand your take of things to be that dd may be messy, but it is a lot better than the current systems we have today. Agreed. Also agree that technology would assist in dd. Sure. But I still don't think an inner circle would form that would render dd an illusion.

I think we should be looking at what W.LindsayWheeler stated above - instilling virtue in leaders. Bring back hermetical enclaves of non-corruptible priest caste for instance.

There would still be the dynamism of a diverse society (messy but better than monochromatic herdthink) but an assurance that this enclave is working in the society's best interest.

And it would be a lot easier to maintain the ethnic and spiritual integrity of this group than to manage the demands of direct democracy.

Blogger ZhukovG February 26, 2016 10:10 AM  

It could work, and work very well. Just make it easier to repeal a law than to enact one. Say 1/3 vote to repeal, but 2/3 vote to enact. The details could be worked out.

The hump to get over, is setting up the system to begin with. That might require a bit of violence.

Blogger dc.sunsets February 26, 2016 10:11 AM  

@86, only the Memory Hole can attest to the full-circle fuel-cycle that was supposed to be implemented when nuclear power plants were first proposed. As I understand it, current plants only "use up" about 10% of the energy in the original fuel, but the original plan was to reprocess that into different reactors until the fuel was all but nonradioactive. Obviously someone got rich by opposing this, lobbying successfully and here we are with plants storing "spent" fuel on site, in some cases in (facepalm) raised pools, in most cases requiring continuous re-circulation of cooling water, in some cases quite near earthquake fault lines.

This is but one of the "IOU's" (we'll pay you, or fix this, or (.....) in the future) embedded during the last 50 years of collective idiocy.

Blogger Blaster February 26, 2016 10:11 AM  

VD: My opinion, as I have previously expressed, is that the problems of "mob rule" of which the Founders so famously warned have proven to be considerably fewer and less problematic than the problems of establishing a political elite that uses the illusion of democratic approval as a protective shield. Now that technology makes it viable for larger polities, direct democracy is a moral imperative in any society with a government that is justified by the will of the people.

Right, the problem isn't so much the representative democracy, it's who usually gets the benefits of the representation. The problems the OP describe apply to a representative democracy of oligarchs as much as to a democracy of the common people (perhaps even moreso).

Blogger Lovekraft February 26, 2016 10:11 AM  

"But I still don't think an inner circle would form that would render dd an illusion."

Correct to: "still think an inner circle would form..."

Anonymous Clark February 26, 2016 10:12 AM  

Thanks for link, Vox.

Just to clarify, "by Status 451" should actually read "by Clark, formerly of Popehat.com, at his new group blog Status 451".

(And re "formerly of Popehat.com", it turns out that some people, when confronted by an analogy for Islamic immigration https://popehat.com/2015/11/18/the-current-refugee-crisis/
do not respond well https://popehat.com/2015/11/18/the-current-refugee-crisis/#comment-1329158 )

Anonymous Brick Hardslab February 26, 2016 10:26 AM  

I am not arguing against direct democracy. My concern is how do we protect ourselves against the two special interest groups with the most pull, the judiciary and those entrenched groups that count the votes. My state has a problem with both. The vote counters are corrupt and have played games with the collection of signatures and counting votes.

What's the best way to stymie them?

Blogger Blaster February 26, 2016 10:27 AM  

VD We have no shortage of direct comparisons.[between direct democracy and representative] In almost every case, the national and state referendum results are considerably superior to the results produced by the national parliaments and state legislatures.

I would agree with this. Every ballot initiative I've voted on was straightforward and clear. Debate has been intense over a few and sometimes there are implications that aren't clear without some research, but they're infinitely more comprehensible than the average bill in congress.

Blogger The Hammer February 26, 2016 10:50 AM  

As linked to the other day, California has a lot more Left Coastians and Mexican Northerners than Far Westerners.

So no wonder they usually vote in idiotic policies. But we we wouldn't be in a direct democracy polity with them anyway.

Blogger Ingot9455 February 26, 2016 10:53 AM  

@86 @89 @97 I've been led to believe that it's an Executive Order by Carter that forbids nuclear reprocessing in the US. Because it creates a higher-concentration material and is therefore a proliferation risk. It's why we don't use plutonium breeder reactors and only have one or two around for testing/making nuke plutonium.

France used reprocessing for many many years to good effect and at least for some time, got 80% of their grid electricity from nuclear. That may have changed recently.

The big problem with reprocessing is that it involves moving highly radioactive materials around in a truck. As we've discussed about technological societies, it requires an average IQ 90 to maintain the basic ability to put military guards on something and drive it from place to place without losing it. If the people who perform such tasks aren't at that average...

Blogger Ingot9455 February 26, 2016 10:55 AM  

Oops, just read that Reagan lifted Carter's ban, but the nuclear regulatory agencies are so screwed that no company was willing to get into it.

Anonymous Cheddarman February 26, 2016 10:59 AM  

Agreed. There is no will to reform the current system enough to save it. It is doomed.

Anonymous LurkingPuppy February 26, 2016 11:02 AM  

dc.sunsets wrote:As I understand it, current plants only "use up" about 10% of the energy in the original fuel, but the original plan was to reprocess that into different reactors until the fuel was all but nonradioactive.

Not ‘nonradioactive’; even when all of the actinide-series nuclei are used up, the fission products are radioactive and need to cool off for a while.

dc.sunsets wrote:Obviously someone got rich by opposing this, lobbying successfully

President Jimmy Carter heard that reprocessing involved ‘plutonium’, and that's the stuff used to make bombs, so he decided to ban reprocessing of reactor fuel in the United States. No bribery needed, and I doubt that anyone benefits financially at all from the ban on reprocessing.

dc.sunsets wrote:and here we are with plants storing "spent" fuel on site, in some cases in (facepalm) raised pools, in most cases requiring continuous re-circulation of cooling water, in some cases quite near earthquake fault lines.

(a) The fuel rods are spent; that's why they're removed from the reactor. Reprocessing removes some of the neutron-absorbing crud from the fuel so that it can produce enough neutrons to sustain an energy-producing reaction again.

(b) Spent fuel rods are wildly radioactive (short half-life and high gamma-ray energy) when they come out of the reactor. They can't safely be reprocessed, or even transported away from the site, until they've decayed for a while.

Anonymous LurkingPuppy February 26, 2016 11:03 AM  

Ingot9455 wrote:Oops, just read that Reagan lifted Carter's ban, but the nuclear regulatory agencies are so screwed that no company was willing to get into it.

Ah. Still no bribery needed, just the Permit Raj in normal operation.

Anonymous Different T February 26, 2016 11:14 AM  

My opinion, as I have previously expressed, is that the problems of "mob rule" of which the Founders so famously warned have proven to be considerably fewer and less problematic than the problems of establishing a political elite that uses the illusion of democratic approval as a protective shield.

Or the aforementioned "problems of a malignant" elite are the consequence of a "a government that is justified by the will of the people."

Teddy Beal would benefit from joining the Friendly Artificial Intelligence movement. They are as obsessed with shaping an AI to respond to the "will of the people" (read: a cryptic concept meaning "the will of those most persuasive and deceitful") as Vox is to gaining influence by race-baiting.

And the FAI has the advantage of claiming "Deus ex Machina" validates their beliefs.

Anonymous #8601 Jean Valjean February 26, 2016 11:14 AM  

Direct democracy would be great as long as women don't get to vote.

Anonymous Senghendrake February 26, 2016 11:29 AM  

More probably, the smart ones will get frustrated and stop voting. Even the most direct form of democracy appeals to the lowest common denominator. Free stuff, new ways to orgasm, essentially the basest of animal instincts is what can appeal to the greatest possible number of people.

Anonymous Jack Amok February 26, 2016 11:41 AM  

I would favor a democracy if there were a few sifting mechanisms on place

The process itself is a sifting mechanism


Exactly. A great deal of mischief today comes from voters who don't want to have responsibility for making difficult decisions (like when a mentally unbalanced person is unbalanced enough to be institutionalized, or how to deal with poverty in a compassionate but sensible manner). So they outsource their responsibility by voting for some gladhander who promises to take care of things for them. They pat themselves on the back, proudly wear their "I voted!" sticker, and think they've done their part by checking a damn box. Someone else has to make all the hard decisions.

In a direct democracy, they don't get to outsource the decision making and then complain when it doesn't work out how they wanted. They have to make the choice themselves, and accept the responsibility when they're wrong.

Most of them will be too emotionally frightened to vote when they know there isn't some "expert" to fix up their careless mistakes.

Anonymous Malwyn's apprentice February 26, 2016 11:45 AM  

@67 Josh

Everyone complaining about universal suffrage in the context of direct democracy, do yourself and favor and research voter turnout

Yes, that's another way to restrict the franchise. Say that a person must have voted in X elections in a period of Y years in order to continue voting. There could even be an option for people to graduate to a higher level.

For example, a person who has voted in 95% of state/local elections for a period of five years would be elegible to vote at the federal level. However, continued elegibility for federal voting would be predicated on meeting at least a 95% voting record at the state/local level. State/local levels would have their own eligibility rules (taxes, property owner, marital status, etc).

Blogger VD February 26, 2016 11:51 AM  

There's your rational argument against direct democracy. It won't happen. Whether it's objectively better or not is irrelevant.

Don't comment again in this post. You're not tall enough for philosophical discourse.

Blogger VD February 26, 2016 11:52 AM  

Unfortunately, if the debate were judged by a panel selected by the readers, the representative democracy argument would be judged the winner, but if all the readers voted, the direct democracy argument would be judged the winner.

Okay, that was funny. I laughed.

Anonymous paradox February 26, 2016 11:52 AM  

That old trope, democracy is four wolves and one lamb voting on lunch, is wrong. In practice it describes a republic, where the SCOTUS now has 7 wolves, one black sheep, and they're about vote on lunch.

Blogger W.LindsayWheeler February 26, 2016 11:59 AM  

As Machiavelli pointed out democracies work only in small locales. Princes are needed for large areas.

Nature dictates the Division of Labor.

What worked for 1500 years from the Edict of Constantine to the Enlightenment was Throne and Altar. That worked.

All of the arguments in this thread pro-democracy is based on the writings of the Enlightenment. France has been through 5 republics. America has had a civil war and countless cultural revolutions. Europe is turning into the Caliphate and being betrayed by the Political Class.

I would have to say that the whole Enlightenment movement has been discredited.

God set up Throne and Altar. That is what works. All democracies fail.

The Reconstitution of Christendom is the only answer. Return to the Old Order---Is the ONLY answer!

Anonymous Philipp February 26, 2016 12:04 PM  

As a Swiss, I think that our system of direct democracy is the only true democracy in the world while all the representative democracies are only pseudo democracies.

At least here the people can vote and the government has to obey their decision.

Blogger James Dixon February 26, 2016 12:09 PM  

> (And re "formerly of Popehat.com", it turns out that some people, when confronted by an analogy for Islamic immigration https://popehat.com/2015/11/18/the-current-refugee-crisis/
do not respond well https://popehat.com/2015/11/18/the-current-refugee-crisis/#comment-1329158 )

Can't say I'm surprised, unfortunately.

Blogger Servant February 26, 2016 12:10 PM  

Not knowing much about anything besides Florida, our direct democracy is utter crap. Due to it we have a three day waiting period on hand guns, pregnant pig pen regulation, and a host of other crap.

It's incredibly vulnerable to emotional reactions. Electing Men is a fine solution. Results will be superior to allowing the sheeple to talk about their feelings.

Electing women, effeminate Nancy boys, sodomites, looters, and narcissists of all stripes is where we went wrong.

Blogger skiballa February 26, 2016 12:10 PM  

Um, no Wheeler, man asked for the throne, God is not a fan.

10 Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. 12 Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. 16 Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle[c] and donkeys he will take for his own use. 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”
1 Samuel 8

Blogger BunE22 February 26, 2016 12:19 PM  

We've seen people being bussed in by unions and paid to vote a certain way, this gives me less faith in direct democracy.

Question: If whites were the minority of the population is direct democracy as appealing?

I agree that something needs to change, but there are too many people that are completely clueless for me to be onboard with DD and I don't know how you would be able to institute it without a revolution of some kind.

I think term limits for congress, a ban on lobbying, more states rights, and stricter voter requirements would be a start in getting the country back on track. But how do you go about that? Congress isn't going to vote themselves term limits. The lobbyists fund them, so they won't vote to ban them.

Even if we had DD, boomers wouldn't vote themselves out of SS, women wouldn't vote themselves out of voting, people that don't pay taxes wouldn't vote to keep taxes low, etc.


Anonymous Mr. Rational February 26, 2016 12:28 PM  

@73 I hope you don't live downwind of a GE nuclear power plantAre you kidding?  After some cooling you could stack spent fuel outdoors behind a shield of precast concrete beams and gravel and it would be fine for at least a decade.  That stuff is built to endure years in water at five hundred degrees Fahrenheit; a little bit of rain isn't going to do squat to it.

In a collapse the only better neighbor you could have than an electric power plant that has literally a year or more of fuel on-site is a hydro plant.  Pipelines and railroads may get disrupted, but one semi-load of fresh rods is all you need to go another 18 months.

WTF do you do with highly radioactive isotopes with half-lives in the thousands of years?Oxymoron.  If it's "highly radioactive" it has a short half-life.  If it has one chance in 500 of decaying during your lifetime it's not highly radioactive.  Polonium 210 (half-life 130-odd days)... that's highly radioactive, and makes a good stealthy murder weapon.  People who've taken in microgram amounts of plutonium still live long, healthy lives.  Uranium is toxic because it's a heavy metal, not because of its 4.5-billion-year half-life.

@86 end the americium and any other actinides without a better use to Canada (their reactors can burn them up).That's actually not true; thermal-spectrum reactors can't do much with Am and Cm, and CANDUs are just that.  You really need a fast-spectrum reactor to get rid of them (fast neutrons cause fission, thermal neutrons are mostly absorbed), and that also takes care of all isotopes of plutonium.

@88 Pu-238 has a much shorter half-life than Pu-240, but Pu-240 is much more dangerousDepends if you've taken it internally or not.

@91 The generators were in the (flooded) building basements, and their fuel tanks had been washed away.  The electrical panels to get power to the pumps were also in the basements.

The real problem was that Naoto Kan put himself in the loop and wouldn't let the people on the site carry out their procedures for venting the containments and adding water.  That led directly to the hydrogen explosions.

@97 About 5% of light-water reactor fuel is actually consumed, then you have all that depleted (in U-235) uranium discarded as tailings upstream.  Every bit that isn't fission products is potentially usable in reactors we've already proven.  Then there's about 3-4x as much thorium available as uranium.

Fossil-fuel interests hate that.  It breaks their scarcity model.

@106 LWR fuel starts with 3.5-4.5% fissiles, but is typically down to about 1.8% total fissiles at removal.  It's pulled because the neutron economy isn't good enough to go any further.  You can throw "spent" LWR fuel into a CANDU (which uses neutron-stingy heavy water and is just fine with 0.7% fissiles; 1.8% is a feast) and burn it some more; look up DUPIC if that interests you.

Blogger Gaiseric February 26, 2016 12:39 PM  

The Reconstitution of Christendom is the only answer. Return to the Old Order---Is the ONLY answer!

Sigh. Show me again where the people of God ever had a temporal Christian government? This comment is grade-A stupid. Some drink from the fountain of knowledge, but that comment was just a gargle.

A system of government not unlike the old Judges system that ruled Israel before the kings is something I could get behind, maybe.

Anonymous Dedicating Ruckus February 26, 2016 12:41 PM  

The argument from the respective histories of representative and direct democracies is strong. The only objection I can raise against it is less a rebuttal, more a caution: Currently, in the US at least, direct (referendum) democracy is only a low-level sideshow and a pressure valve for local frustrations. It does not run the country on the most significant (federal) level, and its decisions are subject to arbitrary veto by the courts, part of the federal machine. Thus, it is not the most juicy available lode of power, and so the buzzards do not crowd around it (much). I see no guarantee that a direct democracy established as the true ruling system of the country would retain the desirable qualities currently visible in the system of referenda, when the enormous gang of parasites that currently feed on the federal government begin attempting to prey on the direct democracy instead.

It's possible that the example of Switzerland could provide some reassurance here. I do not know much at all about its history, or the specifics of its system of government, so cannot comment. In any case, this argument can only be a caution, since its force is merely "the proposed replacement may, with time, become as bad as the current system".

My own preference is still for a feudal or monarchical system, but then, I'm a romantic. It does seem as if, for the US, a direct democracy is much more realistic than either (barring real collapse on an enormous scale).

Anonymous Cheddarman February 26, 2016 12:49 PM  

Wrong. We use common sense solutions to problems intend of government mandated ones. Nuclear waste can be processed with ion exhange resins to recover all of the metals including uranium and plutonium. But the government does not allow it.

Blogger skiballa February 26, 2016 12:55 PM  

I dunno Gaiseric, Wheeler has finally convinced me of the benefits of Christian Monarchy with his constant rambling on the subject.

So Wheeler, what do we need to do to make it happen?

Blogger BunE22 February 26, 2016 12:58 PM  

OT: Christie endorsed Trump.

Says Trump is the one person Clinton does not want to face.

Blogger Servant February 26, 2016 1:03 PM  

We don't need government. The only problem with our republic is the politicians spends too much time being politicians.

Government has a strict mandate: national defense, and legislating morality. Anything else is oppression, and I'm not too sure about the national defense.

Anonymous Mr. Rational February 26, 2016 1:07 PM  

@124 Look up "pyroprocessing".  No resins involved.

Blogger skiballa February 26, 2016 1:08 PM  

Whoa, no, legislating morality is not going to work for me, my ancestors tried that, it doesn't end well.

Anonymous Cheddarman February 26, 2016 1:57 PM  

Bull. I used to work for a nuclear industry supplier company. Dissolve the metals with mineral acid. Separate with an ion exchange resin from everything else. All done with automation and robots.

Blogger Servant February 26, 2016 2:28 PM  

Theft and murder are ok?

Anonymous tublecane February 26, 2016 2:42 PM  

@7-The types of people to spend countless hours doing mundane tasks for no monetary rewards sound like the bureaucrats who rule us already.

Anonymous tublecane February 26, 2016 2:47 PM  

@10-If you read my post carefully you'd know I distinguish between mob rule and direct democracy (when I talked about non-mobish direct democracy). You call people names carelessly.

Besides, any number of good results doesn't demonstrate direct democracy is better than the system we have now, even if it is. I speak as an "extremist" opponent of the system we have now.

Anonymous tublecane February 26, 2016 2:51 PM  

@11-The vast monstrosities passed by Congress aren't the problem. Administrative dwarfs it. I fear mob rule wouldn't solve that problem, considering the mob can be massaged and fooled every bit as much as the electorate is now. I suspect you think not simply because you happen to be on the popular side of a few issue.

Who am I fucking parroting, anyway?

Blogger Josh February 26, 2016 2:58 PM  

The types of people to spend countless hours doing mundane tasks for no monetary rewards sound like the bureaucrats who rule us already.

Bureaucrats get paid, retard.

Blogger Nate February 26, 2016 3:03 PM  

" Nuclear waste can be processed with ion exhange resins to recover all of the metals including uranium and plutonium."

absolutely correct. I've got a friend or two doing that very thing... and working on some other ways to deal with nuclear waste that are mindblowing.

For example.. a nuke reactor that only produces clean water as byproduct.

Blogger W.LindsayWheeler February 26, 2016 3:05 PM  

Skiballa, this is Eric Nelson's article explaining the Samuel reading where English Whigs rejected the Puritan exegesis of it:
In the aftermath of the Glorious Revolution, whigs emphatically rejected the Hebraizing view, as well as the biblical exegesis upon which it was based. They offered instead a straightforward neo-Roman reading of
1 Samuel 8, according to which the Israelites had sinned, not in asking for a king, but in asking for a king with sweeping prerogative powers.


From: Hebraism and the Republican Turn of 1776: A Contemporary Account of the Debate over Common Sense

The 'Commonsense' in the title of the article is Thomas Paine's pamphlet of that name. Paine the Atheist, took the Hebrew exegesis.

The Natural Law runs the world, not Hebrew exegesis. The Natural Law runs Monarchy, Aristocracy and Mixed Governments. Democracy rejects the natural law.

This is what I am telling you--you are doomed to failure, if you don't recognize the Law of Nature which comes from Jesus Christ. We have to be "according to nature". We have to obey the constitution of the cosmos; the Old Order is based on the natural order because it was organic and natural procession of processes.

The American and French modern republicanism are all man-made constructs that have failed! America is a failed state. Europe is a failed state because they have all been following the dictates of atheists and Hebrewizing Protestants.

Why are we going down a path that has failed?

Blogger Josh February 26, 2016 3:16 PM  

The Natural Law runs the world, not Hebrew exegesis. The Natural Law runs Monarchy, Aristocracy and Mixed Governments.

None of those things are natural, they are all man made.

Blogger JimR February 26, 2016 3:33 PM  

@73 dc.sunsets
"I hope you don't live downwind of a GE nuclear power plant, then. Lest you forget, they've been kicking the can on long-term storage in part because no one wants to pay for it. "

And because they are forbidden by the USGOVT to reprocess this valuable resource back into usable fuel rods.

Blogger W.LindsayWheeler February 26, 2016 3:38 PM  

Then, Josh, tell me how the Tripartite paradigm of Monarchy, Aristocracy, commons, appear and reappear throughout history?

The Tripartite pattern appears in the atomic level, at the cellular level, in the family, and throughout the insect and animal world?

Don't wolf packs, gorilla and chimpanzee troops, all exhibit a hierarchy with a dominant male/couple? That is monarchy! Aristotle says that we are social animals. Humans are Herd animals.

And what do herds require? Shepherds. What is the Monarch and the Bishop? Shepherds.

Blogger Josh February 26, 2016 3:43 PM  

Jesus is both Monarch and Bishop

Blogger W.LindsayWheeler February 26, 2016 4:00 PM  

Jesus is both Monarch and Bishop

Yes, Those are his titles and his actions and as Jesus is the author of the Natural Law, between Himself and His people, He inserted an aristocracy called the Clergy. The clergy is also in a Tripartite pattern of Bishop, Priest, Deacon. The Tripartite pattern is throughout the cosmos and the Tripartite pattern in the cosmos is paralleled in the Church as Bishop, Priest, Deacon. All of them that exhibit the Division of Function. That is why Throne and Altar were natural organic constructs guided by the Holy Spirit. The Godhead is Tripartite, of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

As Above, so Below.

Anonymous Mr. Rational February 26, 2016 4:05 PM  

Cheddarman wrote:Bull. I used to work for a nuclear industry supplier company.

In other words, you haven't handled spent LWR fuel in your life and have no concept of how hot fission products change the game.  Any kind of wet chemistry immediately gives you radiolytic byproducts which create the kind of dangerous, gas-emitting sludges causing so many headaches at Hanford, and your resins are going to break down under beta and gamma bombardment.

The brainiacs at Argonne knew about those problems and designed a process to eliminate them, by eliminating molecular solvents; no covalent bonds, no radiolysis.  Try starting here.

@141 Uranium is still too cheap to make recycled plutonium pay, but MOX is a great way to make weapons-grade material unusable for anything that goes "boom".  That's why we have a MOX plant under construction in S. Carolina to hold up our end of the treaty with Russia.

Blogger Joshua Sinistar February 26, 2016 4:09 PM  

Vox, I consider you to be a smart guy, maybe almost as smart as me, but your loyalty to the false gods of populism and direct democracy is what I would expect from a Marxist crank yelling angry diatribes on a soapbox in Hyde Park. Democracy destroyed the Athenians when some of the smartest men in human history were living there. It destroyed Rome when their Legions were running roughshod over everyone.
The problem is racial and demographic, not political sophistry. A nation is blood and soil. You can no more transplant loyalty as you could transfer the love of your wife and family to a group of strangers. Letting people vote is the height of lazy arrogance. Only the stupid and lazy would appoint other people to make important decisions about their lives.
We should have a Government run like a business. Leaders should have to prove their worth by deeds and skills. This popularity contest where glib strangers wearing fancy suits and making sweet talk like he's picking up women at a bar has been an unmitigated disaster. Especially now that women can vote. The scumbags and cads who screw you are getting all the wimmen voters and bankrupting us by extravagent promises of romance and perfect love. Fuck that.
You want power, earn it. Take an army and crush an enemy. Run a business and start an industry. I don't give a shit where you went to school or how good you look on the Telly sissy boy. This is power, not show business.

Blogger W.LindsayWheeler February 26, 2016 7:47 PM  

St.Robert Bellarmine argued for mixed government "Because of the corruption of human nature we judge a monarchy blended from aristocracy and democracy better at this time."

Blogger Charlie Martel 7359 February 27, 2016 9:22 AM  

This comment has been removed by the author.

Blogger Charlie Martel 7359 February 27, 2016 9:26 AM  

@44 The big problem with the Swiss model is that I am not Swiss. Come on guys, let me in. Just me. Promise.

If you have the money you can get a residence visa but with the current situation they might just close down the borders. That's what happened to my grandfather in Detroit, they cancelled his green card and sent him home. This was in the 40's before anchor babies were a thing. (I actually declined AMCIT for tax reasons and work in the US under NAFTA. Guess I have to go back too.)

Blogger Anthony February 27, 2016 11:39 AM  

Direct democracy only solves the Principal-Agent problem with regard to legislation, not administration, and as a result also only mitigates the Public Choice problem. The other issues identified remain, and there's still a problem of administering the will of the voters, which will require some amount of bureaucracy.

Blogger dc.sunsets February 28, 2016 12:16 PM  

Vox, FWIW this late in comments, I think you are wrong about direct democracy.

Reasoning from axiom, since people are never equal, all systems of social interaction will be hierarchical.

If so, the only question becomes On what basis? DD gives each unequal person an equal vote, so from where will hierarchy emerge?

1. Marketing savvy?
2. Demogoguery?
3. Effectiveness at coalition-building?
4. ??

How are any of these more likely to produce civilization (low time preference) and other goods?

Hierarchy will emerge, either explicitly (where citizens accept it and their place in it) or in an occult fashion. The effect of occult genesis yields an inversion of result, I'd suggest.

DD is not a cure for a citizenry lacking a relatively coherent philosophy of governance. It would produce all of today's bads without a complete remake of the last 500 years' evolution of Progressivism & the total state as a secular theocracy.

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