The Externalities of the Democratic System

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Neodoxy
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The Externalities of the Democratic System

Post by Neodoxy » Fri May 11, 2018 9:17 am

This is one of the most interesting little anti-democratic arguments I've ever thought of.

I've recently spent a lot of time in countries where democracy isn't exactly a thing. One of the things that really struck me about this is that in the event that the populace is semi-okay with an undemocratic system, that this arguably saves on a huge externalize. Statism is supposed to save us from externalities, but the act of democratic discourse on a national scale arguably causes a huge amount of displeasure to people within a democratic system. The power, incentive, and perceived responsibility to engage in political discourse causes a great amount of disagreement, conflict, and social unrest. Even if this is peaceful, it is still pretty psychologically negative. How much disutility was caused by the last election? Forget any of the "real" political consequences of the election, how high do you think a mainstream economist might put the total public cost of the last election at just from how unhappy it made people?

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Jon Irenicus
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Re: The Externalities of the Democratic System

Post by Jon Irenicus » Fri May 11, 2018 10:55 am

Perhaps they realise it’s not whether you’re given a token vote on predetermined issues which counts towards whether a system is oppressive, beneficial etc, but the actual results it produces. In effect, non democratic regimes have to take into account public opinion. They just don’t need a rubber stamp from it whenever pushing policies through.

Emigration and competition from other jurisdictions are far greater checks on a government’s power.
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Neodoxy
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Re: The Externalities of the Democratic System

Post by Neodoxy » Fri May 11, 2018 11:31 am

Part of me really wonders whether or not a "non democratic system on edge" actually has a greater incentive to produce real results than a democratic system does. In any case, there's just a huge problem of ignorance, high time preferences, and broader problems of knowledge.

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Re: The Externalities of the Democratic System

Post by Jon Irenicus » Fri May 11, 2018 6:17 pm

I think it absolutely does, because the government in that instance is less concerned over whether it will lose an election in the next couple of years. Most democracies cycle out politicians on a 5 year cycle but in practice it's closer to 2-3 years since campaigning begins well before, plus they are all beholden to special interest groups. This does not encourage a long term perspective. It cuts both ways, in that a non-democratic ruler could double down on bad policies, too, but I'm not so sure this is all too different from how bad policy becomes entrenched in democracies due to the fact that revoking them can end up being political suicide. E.g. inflationary monetary policy. I guess it really depends on the type of non-democratic government, and the extent to which the ruler can "offload" the cost of bad policies. So for instance, a feudal monarch had much less capacity to do so than an absolute monarch, who in turn has less ability to do so than a dictator, but also less so than a democratic government, which can literally inflict death on an economy through a thousand cuts. :)
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Merlin
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Re: The Externalities of the Democratic System

Post by Merlin » Sun May 13, 2018 2:22 am

Neodoxy wrote:
Fri May 11, 2018 9:17 am
Forget any of the "real" political consequences of the election, how high do you think a mainstream economist might put the total public cost of the last election at just from how unhappy it made people?
The only way I’d think of testing that is to ask random folks whether they would prefer for the outcome of some coming election to be decided by a coin throw (note, not their vote, the full outcome). If most would agree, then we may say that voting does indeed cause anguish. I doubt we’d see that though, and I’d say that most folks would greatly prefer the anguish and tiny slice of power than comes with voting to being left out entirely.

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FvS
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Re: The Externalities of the Democratic System

Post by FvS » Sun May 13, 2018 4:09 am

In this video on Pinochet, the guy talks about how many people felt relief when Pinochet took power because then they could just go back to living their lives and not have to worry about politics so much. Of course, this is all anecdotal.

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Tom Rogers
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Re: The Externalities of the Democratic System

Post by Tom Rogers » Sun May 13, 2018 3:38 pm

FvS wrote:
Sun May 13, 2018 4:09 am
In this video on Pinochet, the guy talks about how many people felt relief when Pinochet took power because then they could just go back to living their lives and not have to worry about politics so much. Of course, this is all anecdotal.
The anecdote chimes with a thought I have had about democracy and its flaws. To be fair, I think a distinction can be made among different types of democracy. Traditionally, democracy was any system in which decision-making was vested in the civic body. Typically, women, aliens and slaves were excluded, either because they were not fit to participate or were generally ineligible to own property or they were not considered part of the native population and thus were not custodians of the culture. The problem, it seems to me, is that this limited application of democracy has been expanded into mass democracy, in which (subject to very limited disqualifications) anybody of a certain age may vote, regardless of capacity or civic standing. Alongside this, two further broad developments have occurred: the state has expanded in scope considerably and societies have industrialised and urbanised in such a way that the means of living have been taken out of the hands of most individuals and are now owned by a capitalist class.

The upshot of all this that what we call 'democracy' or 'liberal democracy' is something of a chimera and at best a very weak check on power. This represents an incoherence. In a true democracy, the civic body would also be the economic power in society, so in capitalist terms a 'true democracy' would be a system where only the owners of capital vote. Instead, we all have the vote and we are told this matters. I am not suggesting that voting is pointless - actually, I think the mass expansion of the franchise, at least to men, represents an Achilles heel for the system - but it would be misconceived to proceed on the basis that voting alone is an assurance that society can be run in terms of broader interests. Our 'democracy' is really just a rubber-stamp means of ratifying a political-economic system that is just as unequal and hierarchical as that which existed in the Middle Ages.

Our 'democracy' relies on a constructed narrative that justifies its existence. Instead of being concerned with the things that should concern a free people, such as family, land, community and so on, most people are asked to adopt concerns about things that they cannot possibly have any understanding of as they are too specialised or remote from ordinary experiences. This is where the myth comes from about the public being 'stupid'. The public aren't stupid, it's just that they are expected to have opinions about things that little concern them and about which they are unqualified to comment. A real democracy is organic in nature and allows you to run your own life - it is, in short, self-government, of the social, fiscal, political and economic kind, even spiritual and metaphysical. That is not what we have.

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Merlin
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Re: The Externalities of the Democratic System

Post by Merlin » Fri May 18, 2018 10:48 am

Tom Rogers wrote:
Sun May 13, 2018 3:38 pm
A real democracy is organic in nature and allows you to run your own life - it is, in short, self-government, of the social, fiscal, political and economic kind, even spiritual and metaphysical. That is not what we have.
Would you say that some sort of franchise reform would produce such a democracy? I'd be sceptical but curious to hear about alternatives.

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Re: The Externalities of the Democratic System

Post by Tom Rogers » Fri May 18, 2018 11:50 am

Merlin wrote:
Fri May 18, 2018 10:48 am
Tom Rogers wrote:
Sun May 13, 2018 3:38 pm
A real democracy is organic in nature and allows you to run your own life - it is, in short, self-government, of the social, fiscal, political and economic kind, even spiritual and metaphysical. That is not what we have.
Would you say that some sort of franchise reform would produce such a democracy? I'd be sceptical but curious to hear about alternatives.
No, there are pre-requisites. That's not to say I think the franchise is irrelevant, but my attitude to that would be to remove the franchise from women generally and restrict it to property-owning men. I would also restrict jury service the same way. That doesn't look very 'democratic' to the modern mind, but my understanding of democracy is based on liberal reaction (which I think of as true liberalism) as opposed to modernist ultra-individualist liberalism. As such, I put liberty before democracy, liberty being democracy's meta quality, in contrast to the modern mindset that puts democracy before liberty and thus turns the concepts on their head, making democracy false and liberty chimerical.

A move towards true liberty has to be preceded by a radical social re-arrangement. Bear in mind, I comment here from a British perspective and what I have to say may not be applicable if you are not in Britain. We desperately need land reform in Britain, and tax reform to accompany it. I have been gradually persuaded of the merits of a land value tax. These measures must be coupled with depopulation by means of deporting people who are not of north-western European heritage.

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Merlin
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Re: The Externalities of the Democratic System

Post by Merlin » Fri May 18, 2018 2:28 pm

Tom Rogers wrote:
Fri May 18, 2018 11:50 am
These measures must be coupled with depopulation by means of deporting people who are not of north-western European heritage.
Of course, but homogeneity used to be the norm before mass democracy tolerated the influx of the "new citizens", as it tolerated and tolerates selective law enforcement without which most of this wouldn't have been possible.

And mass democracy itself was ushered in by the limited franchise of yesterday, so what would change this time?

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