Note to Self #2

Hopefully, I get past these self-notes, but for now, I’m busy…

I don’t know if this is a good thing or not, but as I was structuring my thoughts critical to democracy, I discovered (recovered?) a structure I created several years ago. The structure was centred on the premise that democracy is a specious concept that retains life through the illusion of control. My latest concept is that people are just too dumb for democracy—not that it would matter if they weren’t.

I still question why I expend the effort. Who wants to read a piece whose premise is that the reader is likely too stupid to merit participating in a democratic process? Even worse, who wants to read a piece that claims the weakest link in any political process is people. I’m a sad panda.

On the upside, there’s some content crossover. And now I need to settle on a new centre. Please stand by.

Note to Self #1

Humans are much less rational than commonly assumed and the presumed ability to reason is either hubris or wishful thinking. Dan Ariely has brought attention to being predictably irrational, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Basing societies and legal systems on the premise of rational actors is a massive structural error.

— Bry Willis

I’ve got too much distraction to make progress on this, but I’ll save thoughts now and again so I don’t lose them…unless it’s deliberate.

Neo-Feudalism

It seems that Capitalism took a wrong turn and is retracing The Road to Serfdom. Hayek worried about government intervention in business, but he did not imagine a world where corporate leaders would grow large enough to not only be able to control government power through money and influence, but it could actually ignore governments altogether—or at least to a large extent.

The last time government was challenged at this level was by the Church. In the end, it resolved into a tenuous stalemate. But this next conflict will be ostensibly bloodless, opting to be fought with political weaponry.

serf master cap

To the workaday people, it doesn’t change much. Denial is an interesting bed partner anyway. As most deny being wage slaves, they now just deny being serfs. In their minds, they are free, just inches from the goal line. I’m not the one to break it to them that the goal line away from in inches is the wrong one. They’re an entire field’s length to reach their goal. Thank goodness for denial and mechanisms that assuage cognitive dissonance. Ignorance is indeed bliss.

For some, the COVID response doubled down on the transition from Capitalism to Communism. For others, it was a reinforcement of the strength of Capitalism—and if in the milieu of fighting between authoritarians and Libertarians. But the phoenix rising from the dust—hardly flames—seems to rather be a sort of neo-feudalism. This seems to be a more likely future than Capitalism in a nation-state world. I assume that Nation-states will continue to exist, but they will serve only to contain the commoners, the ones who can’t afford to escape the fetters.

I don’t have much to add to the discussion at this time, but this article sums up some of my perspectives. My question is how the Capital aspect is extricated from the system. The serf part is easy.

Dialetheic Logic and Reality

It’s too late for me to digest this piece on Graham Priest’s Radical Dialetheic Logic and Reality, but I’m interested enough to bookmark it here.

The word dialetheism comes from the Greek δι (di- ‘twice’) and ἀλήθεια (alḗtheia ‘truth’). It’s the view that there are some statements which are both true and false. In other words, it’s the view that there can be a true statement whose negation is also true. In the literature, these statements are called “true contradictions” or (to use Graham Priest’s neologism) dialetheia.

Paul Austin Murphy

Fais dodo

Slotrocket

Being in a band is hard. It’s like being married to a bunch of partners, and if you are a band and not just some cat with some supporting characters, you’ve got artistic differences to consider. This is where I soured on direct democracy.

Slotrocket is the name of one of the bands I performed with. We played under this name exactly once, but let’s rewind to the democracy bits.

Skipping a lot of the details, I played bass in this line-up. It was a 3-piece with a focus on alt-post-grunge-nu-metal, but we all came from different places musically. The drummer came from speed metal, death metal, and maths rock. The guitarist-vocalist came from Classic Rock, Grunge and Nu-Metal. I came from all sorts of places, but I wanted to focus this project on the post-grunge thing. For the uninitiated, this is the likes of Seether, Three Days Grace, Breaking Benjamin and so on.

We didn’t have a name. Since we only played with friends and at parties and sometimes provided the backing for live karaoke, it was just us. We did arrive at the name of Breached, but it turned out that a Canadian band was already calling dibs on that, so we just let it slide—especially when they released an EP in the vein of early Incubus.

But then the guitarist-vocalist didn’t want to hold both roles. Too much effort. He didn’t care which. In the end, they found a female singer who was interested. It seems that there was a mixup in communication. They asked if I minded if she joined us during our next rehearsal. I figured it was just another live karaoke session, so when I said yes, it turns out that she was now a member of the band. Truth be told, I didn’t think a female would cop the vibe I was seeking. She was no Lacy Sturm or Amy Lee. She didn’t know any grunge material as she was more of a Country gal. But that’s not the story.

The story is the name. We deliberated for well over a month to settle on a name. We decided to create a spreadsheet. We’d all force rank the entries. And each of us had infinite veto votes to kill an offending entry from the list.

Skipping ahead a few chapters, I liked Rapeseed. It was a benign word that sounded edgy. The boys were fine with it. Notsomuch, the girl. There was no particular rush until we booked a gig—the gig. We’d need a name to promote.

I came up with Slotrocket. Again the boys were fine with it; her notsomuch. However, she didn’t veto—later claiming that she didn’t think we could possibly be serious. Since I booked the date and created the adverts, everything seemed to go under the radar—or under the rug.

A bit before the show, I was distributing material and advertising on our media outlets (as it were) and she caught a glimpse of the promo mats. Let’s just say that she was not amused. Still, when the time came, we performed.

OK, so I skipped over some stuff—the months of pouring over a spreadsheet. Our goal was unanimity. The name didn’t have to be everyone’s top pick, but we did need to attain a consensus view. As it happened, two of the biggest decisions came about by accident, and they both resulted in hard feelings.

It’s not that the 3 or 4 of us couldn’t have eventually come to a unanimous decision amounting to all of our first choices, but this would have taken time—and who knows how much.

One may feel justified accusing me of allowing perfection to be the enemy of the good, but that’s just something apologists tend to say, as they defend their preference for democracy.

Descent of Man

Joe Talbert, singer and songwriter for IDLES, shares some of his perspective with us. Cued is a bit on masculinity, particularly the toxic variety.

Interview with Joe Talbert of IDLES

For me, it’s a breath of fresh air. Maybe it’s just nostalgia, but the IDLES bring some of the lost energy back into music. I’m old enough to remember the first Punk wave of the 1970s and the next waves as well as the ripples.

The Descent of Man clearly explains how masculinity as a construct is dangerous, problematic, and … bullshit

Joe Talbert

I’ve always been out of step with my music interests, ability, and availability. In the ’70s, I was raised on the Classic Rock of the day, from the Beatles and Stones in the ’60s, to Zeppelin and Sabbath in the ’70s before focusing more on the likes of Jeff Beck, John McLaughlin, and then Allan Holdsworth. In the mid-’70s, came vapid and syrupy, saccharine pop and the nonsense that was Disco. Thankfully, this was disturbed by Punk on one hand and Eddie Van Halen on the other. Then there was New Wave and the Hair Bands.

When I wanted to play Rock in Japan, I had offers for Country. My mates in Los Angles were into retro when I was into Progressive and Jazz Fusion. I did get on a Blues kick for a while, but I didn’t really feel like I could pull it off—some affluent white kid and all. Besides Hair Bands in the ’80s, there was a Euro-synth wave, but I wanted something more complex and experimental. By the ’90s, I finished grad school and was career-oriented. I fell in love with Grunge and post-Grunge, but that was a personal endeavour. I did finally play that in the 2000s as covers sprinkled with originals, but it was a side-gig not designed as a career. That train had sailed. Nowadays, I still dabble, but I’m not all that motivated to compose much.

Anyway, IDLES is refreshing. I don’t critique it as music. It’s not particularly melodic or harmonic. It’s about the message and the energy. There’s a beat that drives, and there is instrumentation and vocals. It’s an experience.

IDLES – Car Crash (Live on KEXP)

But this isn’t about the music. It’s about the notion of normalcy. In this clip, Joe talks about his longing for normalcy. Maybe that’s just normal, but I’ve never subscribed to the notion of normalcy, so I’ve never longed for it. Truth be told, my preference is for people to realise that it’s all a control mechanism.

Joe was influenced by therapy and The Descent of Man by the artist Grayson Perry. In this book, Perry, clearly giving a nod to Darwin’s earlier work, takes on toxic masculinity and attempts to reframe the very notion of masculinity. Like normalcy, I am not interested in gender roles either.

I worked as a statistician for a couple of years way back when, so it turns out that I have a perspective on normal. The problem with the notion of normal is that deviation for normal is seen as broken. Social sciences and pop-psychology have done this. Foucault wrote a lot on this phenomenon. I won’t address his work here.

Joe viewed himself as broken because he bought into the narrative. He feels better now. He feels he’s in a better place. Perhaps this was necessary for him. I can’t speak to that. It’s not a goal I aspire to. Perhaps I’m privileged. I can’t say. For now, I get to enjoy the respite Joe & Co afford us.

Are we too dumb for Democracy?

The road to Hell is paved with good intentions. I wanted to post a fairly robust piece arguing against democracy, but it is proving to be a bit daunting of a task. There is a lot of data and information to support this position. Too much, in fact. I’ve decided to step back and approach supporting this position more academically (which is to say, less blog-like… citations, footnotes, counterpoints, and the rest).

“Democracy don’t rule the world, You’d better get that in your head; This world is ruled by violence, But I guess that’s better left unsaid.”

—Bob Dylan

As it happens, I’ve been spending a lot of prep time reading, reviewing, watching online content, and so on. To be honest—I know, right?—, I’ve been engaging in deliberate selection bias, seeking arguments and evidence to make my case. In fact, it’s not too difficult to locate. The reality is that most people, such as David Moscrop, who asks Are We Too Dumb for Democracy? are creating provocative titles to grab attention, but their punchline is always ‘of course not’ and let me tell you why not by peddling hope and optimism. There is a reason self-help books sell.

Where I am now as 2021 has bled into 2022 is to try to create a structure around my thoughts. So far, it looks like this—not necessarily in this order:

  • Position and setup
  • Prima facie arguments
  • essential strawman counter arguments
  • historical backdrop – pre-enlightenment until now (pro-dem args)
    • Celebrity supporters (Marx, Churchill)
    • Celebrity anti-dem peeps (Plato, Churchill, Washington, Adams)
  • Shaky grounds and necessarily suboptimal outcomes: Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem
  • Possible people-based solutions
    • Are we too dumb for Democracy? (David Mascop’s defence)
      • Reconciling worldviews: Individualism versus Collectivism
      • Dealing with rational ignorance and unknown unknowns
    • Against Democracy (Jason Brennan’s proposed epistocracy solution)
      • Effective mob rule (better voters: or how to avoid learning from Jim Crow era mistakes)
    • The representatives (what about better-qualified representatives: or Plato was a dumbass)
      • Jeremy Benthem’s Panopticon — watching the watchers
  • People-based counter arguments
    • US / UK politics (your country likely sucks, too)
    • SCOTUS partisanship (SCROTUS? — evidently, this term already exists. Now I feel bad)
    • Jury systems
    • Rittenhouse – Pathetic paternalism and subverting outcomes
  • What about…?
    • Anarchy and Libertarianism
    • Deliberative Democracy
    • Republicanism
    • Epistocracy
    • Sortition 
    • Tea Leaves
  • And so what? Where to go from here?

Special guest appearances by…

  • Irrationality, cognitive dissonance and other biases and deficits, logical fallacies, and hubris
  • Misanthropy versus pity
  • Limits of intelligence and IQ

Obviously, this is a work in progress, so the structure and contents may change and discovery may lead me down different paths.

Woe Anarchy, Democracy, and the Rest

Think about it: The average person has an IQ of 100. Essentially, half of the people have lower and half have higher. Not a good hand to be dealt. I don’t particularly buy into the whole IQ thing, but it serves this line of logic. Adopting this framework and reflecting on normal or so-called Gaussian distributions, this means (pun initially unintended) that within one standard deviation of the mean, 68 per cent of the population falls, which is to say having an IQ between 85-115.*

Zut Alors!

An IQ score of 100 wouldn’t be that bad if it was calibrated to Einstein or Hawking, but it’s not. The average police officer in the US has an IQ of around 103. Think about it. This is who democracy is asking to be in charge; this is who we expect to make good voting decisions. Amor fati. Memento mori.

Continuing on my It’s People riff, I am further struggling with options. As a Disintigrationist, I don’t feel compelled to provide answers, but as a personal matter, it seems that I am stuck in the middle. Idiocracy was supposed to be satire, but it’s serious.

So, accuse me of being an elitist. Call me a misanthrope. But it’s more patho-anthropy. It’s pity. Dunning-Kruger, be damned. On the one hand, a hierarchical structure leaves us with self-interested opportunists, megalomaniacs and narcissists; on the other, we get to know the political opinions of the Paul Blart‘s and Homer Simpson‘s of the world. And there’s nothing in between.

The Devil You Know

Following Plato’s Republic, the current system presumes a sort of meritocracy that elevates those who excel at politics to rise to the top. Optimistically, this is precisely what happens; pessimistically, this is precisely what happens. This is as good as it gets—self-serving politicos doing all they can to maintain their positions.

But what about the other people? Surely some honourable people are attracted to the political calling, right? Some who make it into the system are spat out by it; some are marginalised; the remainder are corrupted by it.

Then there’s the other side of the coin. There’s something to consider with local democracy. At least you know the idiots you are dealing with, but that’s not really a consolation. Here, Plato noted the benefits of rhetoric.

15 Things You Should Know About Dogs Playing Poker | Mental Floss
Police break up an illegal poker match—doggy style

Given the limited prospects for even a third-tier suboptimal solution, we might be better off by adopting RNG as a ruling system. No boundaries. No parameters. Remove any interference by humans. They’ll only muck it up.

Where to Go from Here

Hyperbole aside, what is the solution? Nazi Germans took a stab at it, but of course, they were idiots, too. Plain and star-bellied Sneetches. Pots calling the kettles black. People have tried literacy testing, income and wealth testing, lots, and any other number of approaches. The challenge is to have a system with no human intervention. Sadly, even this system would necessarily be constructed by humans, so we’re pretty much doomed.

Sneetches

Finally, to silence those who might label me an elitist, no, I don’t think that a society comprised and governed by people only with IQs at and above, say, 160 would fare much better because the problem is broader than facile intelligence.


* If your reaction is ‘but my IQ is in this range’, you may now get my trepidation.