Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Democracy is Inefficient (paper) Democracy is Inefficient (paper) Democracy is Inefficient (paper)

Tell us something we don't know!

Recent research in the press says
Democratic election is the preferred method for determining political administrators nowadays.
What? Where? By whom? Certainly there are an awful lot of them these days... but the actual power seems to be transferred as much by military and hereditary means as by the ballot.

The intention is to find the best possible leader in order to improve the group's competitiveness and success.
Um... no it isn't. I don't think anyone seriously believes that the purpose of holding elections is to pick the "best possible" leader - the idea is something to do with trying to avoid totalitarian tyranny by increasing public involvement in state affairs. We accept the inefficiency as a necessary byproduct.

Though preferred, democratic election is far from being optimal in this respect, and is increasingly becoming the target for fraud.
... they do need a citation for this point, but I don't think anyone is disagreeing here. It's just that I'd argue that many of the World's democracies have this aspect built in and if they don't they should.

A model was developed to scientifically analyze the presentelectoral system's insufficiency. It is based on Fauceir assumptions.

Faucier assumptions? ... this is a mathematical toolkit for study of evolving systems that have certain characteristics - like biological evolution. The application to political systems is dubious.

Its calculations enable principles to be developed that optimize the election process, while also revealing the limits of elections in societies growing ever more complex, so that in the end elections have to be replaced by processes similar to what has proved optimal throughout naturally occurring evolution - natural selection.
The assumptions in the analysis favor evolving systems: Faucier, remember, the conclusion is built-in ...

Natural selection is seldom optimal in nature so no reason to think it will be optimal in politics. Add to this that the researchers ideas about the aim of democratic elections, what problem they are supposed to solve, are flawed and the results are not surprising. They have attempted to analyse a system according to measures that were never a priority in setting up the system in the first place: of course it didn't work.

And that's just in the abstract.

The paper itself focuses on the ability of ordinary people to make a judgement on the competency of a candidate in some field important to the election. However, they ignore two important aspects: 1. the decision is not made in isolation; 2. the candidate does not have to have technical expertise in government to be a good choice.

  1. is why freedom of speech is essential to a functioning democracy
  2. is why incumbents hire staff to advise them ... and do the donkey-work.

The elected officials do not "run the country", that's not their job. Their job is to represent the interests of their electorate within the process of government ... the actual government includes a lot unelected people too. They are the ones with the expertise. In a way, the elected guys act to slow things down by forcing the unelected to work to get an idea into law. Well... more than they would otherwise.

After identifying "ignorance" as a major problem with election systems, they fail to identify, or under-value, "knowledge" as a solution. The lack is in critical analysis - this is the set of meta-skills that allow someone without specialized knowledge to judge the competence before the fact of someone claiming to have it. Without these skills, our elections have become a lemon's market.

The idea they did come up with would probably interest Greg Egan for a story. How would an elections system based on natural selection work? What would it look like?


  1. Just to let you know. I answered your question. It is on my FAQ webpage now.

    1. Does not answer the question - just reasserts that it is possible.

      The referenced project just has a description page and no files.