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[liberationtech] Stability in truly "Democratic" decision systems

Peter Lindener lindener.peter at
Mon Jul 8 19:50:53 PDT 2013

   I'm not sure what to say about the rambling, I seem to have received in
response on this thread to my reflection that we might be able to better
define the concept of the truly Democratic group decision process as a
formal construct in Information and Game theory...

   For me, at least I have some hope we might be able to gain a fair amount
more traction towards the problem as an academic community that might have
some level of respect for a more formal foundation based upon the
foundations established in optimized utility theory...
   As for those less inclined towards this kind of formal reasoning.... I'm
not sure exactly what to say.... Perhaps who might be wanting to argue with
my perspective, Maybe they would be happier with the "He who has the
biggest gun gets his way" style of "Democracy"....
.... Personally I was hopping for better....

     In a nut shell.... Genuine democracy is clearly about Information
flow. That is: the flow of information regarding the desires of the
electorate into the setpoints of policy associated with the regulation of
the social governance process....   From this vantage point, seeing this as
an information process, we can go about assessing the quality of the
democratic feedback loop....
and for that matter then see quite clearly how to make it work far better...

    After all, I think we have moved into the information age...   or
perhaps, I missed something..
should spend our time carving an additional set of wheels out of stone...
Is any one with me here?




On Sun, Jul 7, 2013 at 4:25 PM, Sean Alexandre <sean at> wrote:

> On Sun, Jul 07, 2013 at 12:47:52PM -0700, Peter Lindener wrote:
> >    Watching Egypt iteratively attempt to find something that resembles a
> > democratic form government feels quite uncomfortable for me. Not only
> that
> > in the senseless confusion many lives will be lost, but also, closer to
> > home, here at Stanford, deeper reflections of the human condition seem
> > still to be leaving our institution's interest in promoting forms of
> > democracy that are more likely to function in a state of disarray..
> >
> ...
> >   While not all seem ready for the rigor of formal methods in information
> > and Game theory towards building our society's better understanding of
> what
> > it truly means to achieve a more genuine sense of democracy (i.e. a
> > government for the people, by the people)... It would see that to just
> sit
> > by and watch, as we preach to others that democracy is good, and then
> fail
> > in any truly meaningful way to show how to achieve it, feels
> discouraging,
> > at least for me.
> Here's an article that speaks to this, fwiw...
> System Failure; Christopher Hayes; 2010-01-14
> From the article:
> [T]he corporatism on display in Washington is itself a symptom of a
> broader social
> illness that I noted above, a democracy that is pitched precariously on
> the tipping
> point of oligarchy. In an oligarchy, the only way to get change is to
> convince the
> oligarchs that it is in their interest--and increasingly, that's the only
> kind of
> change we can get.
> In 1911 the German democratic socialist Robert Michels faced a similar
> problem, and
> it was the impetus for his classic book Political Parties. He was
> motivated by a
> simple question: why were parties of the left, those most ideologically
> committed to
> democracy and participation, as oligarchical in their functioning as the
> self-consciously elitist and aristocratic parties of the right?
> Michels's answer was what he called "The Iron Law of Oligarchy." In order
> for any
> kind of party or, indeed, any institution with a democratic base to exist,
> it must
> have an organization that delegates tasks. As this bureaucratic structure
> develops,
> it invests a small group of people with enough power that they can then
> subvert the
> very mechanisms by which they can be held to account: the party press,
> party
> conventions and delegate votes. "It is organization which gives birth to
> the
> domination of the elected over the electors," he wrote, "of the
> mandataries over the
> mandators, of the delegates over the delegators. Who says organization,
> says
> oligarchy."
> Michels recognized the challenge his work presented to his comrades on the
> left and
> viewed the task of democratic socialists as a kind of noble, endless,
> Sisyphean
> endeavor, which he described by invoking a German fable. In it, a dying
> peasant tells
> his sons that he has buried a treasure in their fields. "After the old
> man's death
> the sons dig everywhere in order to discover the treasure. They do not
> find it. But
> their indefatigable labor improves the soil and secures for them a
> comparative
> well-being."
> "The treasure in the fable may well symbolize democracy," Michels wrote.
> "Democracy
> is a treasure which no one will ever discover by deliberate search. But in
> continuing
> our search, in laboring indefatigably to discover the undiscoverable, we
> shall
> perform a work which will have fertile results in the democratic sense."
> --
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