Sep 10, 2014

Fads, Focus, Leadership, and Why Democracy Fails

  The Kingdom of Edan uses social media to pass along information to others and as alterantive news sources. Today I was reviewing the ongoing battles in Ukraine between the coup leaders in Kyev and various separatist groups in the east; the impact of vaccine costs on the operations of Médecins Sans Frontières as they fight childhood disease; the work of various bishops to provide aid to the many Christians being slaughtered in Iraq; how ISIL forces are selling young girls into slavery to raise funds; the violent clashes between Boko Haram and African forces; etc. I was also reading a concerning report about the rapid decline in British military power in the last 2 decades and the possible impact this could have on global stability.
  In the midst of this I encountered a tweet (and associated picture) that was stunning in its incongruity. In midst of the greatest outbreak of Ebola in history, unemployment and economic downturn threatening to both expand rapidly, Pakistan (a nuclear power) in political chaos, civil wars in Syria, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic (in addition to everything mentioned above) this tweet and pic proclaimed,
  "No seriously people. Net Neutrality is more important than whatever you're doing right now."
   This discussion is not about net neutrality (although the arguments used in favor of it tend to reveal its proponents don't understand how the contemporary internet actually works) but rather about what some people have sarcastically named first world problems; how trivial issues can take on a large emotional value to people who do not face serious issues. There is a slightly older term for this - the fad.
  It is easy to understand how people become so easily distracted by the trivial. To a wealthy American or Australian unmenaced by war or rebellion, far from plague and famine, in a land never threatened with attack in a generation or more the problems of West Africa, the Middle East, and Southwest Asia seem far away and very, very impersonal. On the other hand the idea that it might take 0.5 - 1.5 more seconds to load your email in the morning is direct and personal.
  Note that while I said it is easily to understand I did not say it is defensible.
  As a result you have many people who are spending a great deal of time and energy influencing politics to make sure that their emails loads as quickly as they like even though their concern is based upon erroneous understanding of the topic at hand and their level of engagement is irrational.
  This isn't a surprise. After all it is easy to demonstrate that voters are irrational in their voting and tend to attach emotional weight to trivial topics merely because others have already attached emotional weight to the same topic, a phenomenon called 'herding'.
  But this may not be a bad thing, really - as Prince Jonathan pointed out, expecting every single citizen to be knowledgeable and engaged in all aspects of of government, economics, and foreign policy is a form of cruelty. Others have argued that voters are actually acting rationally when they remain ignorant of politics and 'herd' - to sum up their points, it isn't that voters are irrational but rather that remaining ignorant and voting as others do may be the only rational option for the majority of voters!

  Regardless of the underlying causes of voter behavior, the fact remains that the net neutrality issue is a perfect example of why Democracy is doomed to failure.
 Yes, really.
  Remember, the entire argument underpinning net neutrality is based upon a misapprehension of how the internet actually works. Yet as is shown in the links on this age several prominent politicians are proposing laws to enforce the position of the ignorant/irrational activists. Why would they do this?
  It could be that they are also ignorant of how the internet works. But why not consult some of the many experts they must have access to?

  The actual answer is that it is rational for politicians to make bad laws that appeal to ignorant and/or irrational voters.

  Why? Politicians are, in a very real way, just more voters: they do not have the time and energy to be fully conversant with every element of government, economics, etc. and they are not only likely to 'herd', they also face the tremendous pressures of being members of political parties - they are also forced to herd in many areas! Lastly, the tendency of voters to 'herd' means that politicians that appear to agree with a particular group of irrational voters will be seen in a favorable light by those voters - agreeing with ignorance will earn them more future votes; disagreeing might strip them of power.
  The result is a system where ignorant, irrational politicians maintain or increase their influence and power by enacting bad laws to appeal to ignorant, irrational voters. Or, in short, any modern Democracy in action.

  This is why the Edanian system of Feudal Technocratic Distributism is a critical element of governmental conceptualization; leadership in Edan is focused on avoiding decision making based on ignorance, reducing irrationality in leadership as much as possible and making the self-interests of leaders intimately tied to the long-term prosperity of families and the nation, not voting in short cycles. This concept of an integrated life is essential to Edan and foreign to Democracy.