Archive for the ‘democracy’ Category

A few days ago I mentioned that centrally planned economies can’t work, but neither can capitalist economies unless there are rules that redistribute the tokens to the consumers and workers who generate wealth rather than allowing them to accumulate unfettered in the hands of owners of capital. At which point someone says, “well, the only way to do that is tyranny!”

What, in the 1950’s the United States was a tyranny? For real?

Then there’s the argument, “the rules will always be hijacked by the rich and powerful. How are you going to prevent that?”

My answer is democracy. The large number of young people looking at democratic socialism as the answer, which is where democracy is used to re-write the rules to favor redistributing the tokens back to the masses rather than letting them accumulate in the hands of a rentier class, shows that democracy can be self-correcting over time. Democracy is not Orwell’s boot pressing the face of man into the ground forever, it has the capacity for change, albeit sometimes the change happens depressingly slow and takes forms at times that are equally depressing. Is democratic socialism “the” answer? Not in its purest form, certainly, but it is a natural reaction to rentier capitalism and is the direction we must go if we don’t want a Mexico North with a huge impoverished class and a tiny but stupidly wealthy upper class and nothing inbetween. Mexico is not a nice place to live for the majority of people there (and the fact that they’re no longer coming to El Norte should tell us something too about where our nation currently is). If democratic socialism takes us away from that, sign me up!

– Badtux the Somewhat-socialist Penguin

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“I’m an aspirational anarchist. Society’s not ready for it, not close, but it’s the direction I’d like to see us head toward.” — a SF writer

The central problem of power is the central problem that anarchy theory correctly defines but the solution proposed — eliminate all power structures that could allow one person to impose power upon others — is nonsense if we are talking about humans. There are always humans who are more physically powerful than others, there are always humans who end up in control of scarce resources needed by others and thus are in a position of power over others, and the sociopath problem has no solution in anarchy theory, the sociopath problem being where those with the least compunction for harming human beings always rise to the top unless there is some other power structure to prevent them from doing so. I basically have not come up with any solution to this problem of power that in any way resembles traditional anarchy solutions that require consensus because they fall prey to the Liberum Veto problem where sly people use the need for consensus as a tool for obtaining power.

The only way I can see to make anarchy work is the unlimited resources and the (literal) deus ex machina of the AI “Minds” of Iain Banks’ “Culture” novels. And even there, we have seen Minds go insane and space their entire human contingent before heading off into the wilds of the galaxy to do whatever. Making anarchy dependent upon a deus ex machina in order to work properly in short isn’t a perfect solution, though I’d far prefer life in Banks’ “Culture” to life here.

So what can we do? Well. Democracy is the best solution we have thus far to the central problem of power. Unfortunately what we have seen is that democracy requires an educated, involved, and informed populace or else it is susceptible to being hijacked by rich jerks using propaganda and lies. Still, what is your alternative? Anarchy? Anarchy doesn’t work. Everywhere that it has been tried, it has turned into rule of gun as the most venal and ruthless gain followers and use concentrated force to impose their will and concentrate wealth in their own hands. In a sense the current state of Russia is a result of the anarchy that occurred after the fall of the Soviet Union. If there had been a smooth transition to a functional democracy after the fall of the Soviet Union, it is unlikely that Russia would currently be ruled by a strongman who maintains power by jailing and/or killing opponents.

Fuck anarchy, in other words. Everywhere it’s been tried, it’s ended up with strong man rule where armed thugs impose their will upon those who are less ruthless. Either it has been ineffective at fighting the armed thugs due to the liberum veto problem, or the people end up rejecting it in favor of the armed thugs because the armed thugs at least keep the common criminals in check. If you have a counter example, let me know about it. But thus far the only “anarchy” I’ve seen that actually works, works only because it’s embedded in a system that’s *not* anarchy. Which is sort of not a solution to the general problem of power, yo.

– Badtux the Anarchy Penguin

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By 2040 or so, because most young Americans (and immigrants) are migrating to the few large metropolitan areas in states where jobs are plentiful, 70 percent of Americans will live in 15 states. Meaning 30 percent of the population will choose 70% of the senators. And the 30% minority choosing 70% of the Senate will be older, whiter, more rural, more male than the 70% majority who are only getting to vote for 30% of the Senators.

I do not see how the United States is going to survive this. Not as a democracy, anyhow. We have a name for a nation where 30% of the population rules the other 70% of the population. That name is *not* democracy or even republic. That name is “tyranny”.

Americans have thus far shown a remarkable tolerance for living in a police state, as long as that police state is primarily targeting brown people. (For details of this police state, read Radley Balko’s columns in Reason and the Washington Post). But once 30% of the population is using police state powers to impose their rule upon 70% of the population, they may find that the tolerance of Americans is limited. I don’t see a good outcome from that end state. At least, not an outcome that is nonviolent.

– Badtux the Demographics Penguin

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So the criticism is that the Democratic Party hasn’t done proper outreach to: racists, xenophobes, Christian Dominionists who want to impose Biblical law upon non-Christians, bigots who want to stone gays and trans-people to death, and other such deplorables of that sort. At which point I say: Wha?! Frankly, if the Democratic Party had embraced bigots, I would have voted Green Party because I can’t support a party that embraces bigots.

Not to mention that it would have been futile in the first place. Even if the Democrats had reached out to bigots, the Republican Party appears to have a lock on the bigot vote at present, having elected a President who actually was *convicted*, in a court of law, of being a bigot (he was fined major dollars multiple times for refusing to rent his apartments to black couples).

No, what the Democratic Party needs to do outreach to is, well, Democrats. If the same number of Democrats had voted in this election as had voted in 2012, we wouldn’t be talking about President Donald Trump, because the race would not have even been close. Not that it actually was close — Hillary Clinton won by 2.5 million votes, after all, the largest margin of victory-that-is-not-victory ever in American history, giving the lie to the notion that the United States is a democracy because in a democracy the person with the greatest number of votes wins. But the fact that 5 million Democrats stayed home means that what would have been a 7.5 million vote blowout instead turned into a 2.5 million vote win that was a defeat.

So: Democrats need to reach out to Democrats. Leave the racists, xenophobes, Christian Dominionists, bigots, neo-Nazis, and other such deplorables to the Republicans. The notion that Democrats need to reach out to deplorable people is contradicted by the electoral victories of Barack Obama. None of the deplorables voted for Obama, yet he won. Why? He reached out to Democrats. That’s why.

And the Democratic Party, going forward, needs to do the same.

– Badtux the “Fuck the deplorables” Penguin

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There are about 350 wolves in Wyoming. There are around 355,000 sheep in Wyoming. If Wyoming was a democracy where wolves and sheep voted for what’s for dinner, wolves in Wyoming would be eating a lot of grass.

This is true of all predator / prey relationships — prey species are far more numerous than predators are. Otherwise the predators would exterminate the prey and starve to death.

It’s true of humans too. The vast majority of humans just want to raise their families in peace, they don’t want to do predatory stuff. They don’t want to deprive someone else of their worldly goods, they don’t want to hurt someone, they don’t like violence, they don’t inflict violence and they don’t want violence. Think about it — the city of San Jose has 9.1 police officers per 10,000 population. That means that most people in San Jose are nowhere near the eyesight of police officers. Yet the number of major crimes in San Jose is around 330 per 10,000 people. In other words, figuring that each crime was being done by a distinct person (which it isn’t, a lot is repeat crimes by the same group of people), that’s 3.3% *max* of San Jose’s population that is predators, and the rest just want to get along and live their lives in peace.

So democracy, in a human society, is the 96.7% of the population that is sheep deciding what’s for dinner, and the 3.3% of the population that is wolves getting upset that they’re eating a lot of salad. Then the wolves get the idea, “hey, why don’t we start spreading stupid stories painting democracy as bad! Like that two wolves and one sheep deciding what’s for dinner story!”. And so they do. And so they do.

Point: when Libertarians trot out that two wolves and one sheep story, they’re full of shit and deliberately trying to mislead people into believing something that’s not true. In any democracy, the number of sheep voting is far, far larger than the number of wolves voting. So you don’t have to worry about the wolves voting in mutton for dinner. In a true democracy, that is. Of course, we don’t live in such a thing, and never have. But that’s another story.

– Badtux the Numbers Penguin

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An interesting outlook on urban planning in the SF Bay area:

“The people who bought their homes a long time ago lucked into a windfall and they resentfully lash out at anyone trying to cut in on that windfall. But notice how un-American these claims are. The current residents want to protect their gains by telling other people how they can use their property. When a new restaurant starts to take patrons from an old restaurant we generally don’t think that the old restaurant–the long-term resident–has the right to prevent the new restaurant from opening. The same is true, by and large, for new technologies and ways of doing business. Yet when it comes to residential land we give the old residents a veto on the new.

We have collectivized property in the United States (unlike in say laissez-faire Tokyo). Property is not fully collectivized, of course, but a person’s land is not their own–it’s subject to the dictates of the collective. Collectivization has been tried in many other times and places and the results are by now predictable. Collectivization in Palo Alto has produced inefficiency, high costs and a politicization of choice that makes for ill-will and endless conflict.”

I can vouch for the ill-will and endless conflict. Here in the City of Santa Clara, it’s coming to a head. The 45.1% of Santa Clara residents who are homeowners are adamant that the 54.9% of Santa Clara residents who are renters not be given the opportunity to own a home here, because building more housing would lower their property values. These people are a minority, but they are an affluent minority, and thus far have managed to enforce their edicts irregardless of the desires of the majority, who simply want more housing so they don’t have to double up with multiple families in overpriced rental housing. But oh, to hear the screeching of those who bought their homes in 1973 and now suddenly there is a major retail/residential development going 4 stories tall on the corner down the street from them! It’s as if they think they have a right to dictate to the majority that no, you cannot have a home.

In that respect, I believe that Alex Tabarrok is completely incorrect. We have not collectivized property in Santa Clara. Rather, we’ve Animal Farmed property in Santa Clara. In Santa Clara, all residents are created equal, but some are created more equal than others…

– Badtux the “Who appointed these people dictators of our city?” Penguin

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Libertarians say that democracy is evil because the majority would impose laws to oppress the minority. They call it “tyranny of the majority”. Yet recent history seems to be contrary to that assertion. Black people are around 13% of the US population. Despite that, there are now lots of laws on the books saying they have equal rights with white people. Gay people are around 3% of the US population. Despite that, there are now lots of laws on the books saying they have equal rights with straight people (though not as many laws as protect black people, still, the days of laws that ban being homosexual are long past us). It seems that the majority of people are, well, nice people. They might think homosexuals are squicky, and black people might make them nervous, but they don’t want to be mean to blacks or gays by treating them worse than other people.

In fact, it’s only a very determined *minority* of people that is against equal rights for all Americans. A group I call the “bitter clingers”, who bitterly cling to their bigotry because they have a deranged need to feel superior to everybody else and being a bigot lets them feel superior to everybody else. It appears that democracy, rule by the majority, is the *solution* for bigotry — oppression of the minority — not the cause as Libertarians would state. Let us not forget that the whole Southern segregation thing was imposed upon the South by a well-armed *minority* of Southerners, a well-armed white minority that were former Civil War soldiers with military training and thus ended up winning a guerilla war against the police forces put in place by the (black) majority governments of the South after the Civil War.

In short, the notion of the “tyranny of the majority” is bullshit. But I guess we already knew that. Heck, even when it was first said in 1788 by John Adams it was bullshit. John Adams was a wealthy mercantile magnate who was worried that if the majority were allowed to rule in America, they’d vote to tax wealthy oligarchs like him rather than imposing the tariffs that he wanted in order to protect his interests. I.e., the phrase “tyranny of the majority” was all about an attempt by a minority to impose its will upon the majority even then, a dishonest debating parlour trick, not a reality that has ever happened.

– Badtux the Observant Penguin

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