Bingo

A science blog I like to read published a post of interest to me this week showing the bonuses to democracy if our legislators were chosen at random. This is a subject I am very interested in because it is one of the only systems that we could employ in order to ensure that our legislators do not become a carefully groomed breed of absurdly rich, created in order to benefit their peers while the workers of the world suffer a gradual grinding into dust. If we were given a chance to run our own lives, we could make this world a better place; a place made for the betterment of all our sisters and brothers. Not only does this ring true in our hearts when we look at the world the ultra-rich have created for themselves at our expense – but science is showing us that it makes sense as well!

While the article reference at this blog says that a combination of elected officials and randomly selected citizens is the most efficient, my reading suggests this is mostly as a precaution against rocking the boat too much against the interests that have controlled society for far too long. Sure, this combination shows benefits to our society and would be a big improvement over the system as it currently stands, but as leftists we want to entirely reshape this world – not merely improve the efficiency of the one we have.

Furthermore this article only considers a two-party system, which we have already seen for centuries – leaves a lot to be desired. It is a perfect design for choking off real change. Do away with so-called ‘parties’ and team-politics and instead have a body of people interested in furthering the interests of their respective communities and amazing things will happen.

52 Responses to "We Can Run This Better Than You"

fwoan says

Well yeah Daniel, that would be optimal. But I was just using the article as a reason to do away with why is current. Write an article about doing away with all our legislators an ill reference yours next time ;)

Daniel says

Sure, I was naturally being snarky and flip. It’s my default position.

The thing I will say in favor of random selection of representative is it places a strong onus on the populous to make the structure and role of representatives capable of being filled by random citizens. That is to say you don’t want anyone selected by lottery with access to the nuclear codes, more likely they’ll have a set agenda of tasks that already have a general consensus they’re expected to see to completion. And should this lottery winner prove to be absolutely bonkers, you want them to be easily recallable, certainly more so than their current high barriers. So, the result is likely to wind up looking something a lot like participatory politics.

Yoram Gat says

> There’s also the possibility of not having legislators at all, if we’re picking dream scenarios.

No – I don’t see how this as a possibility at all. Society needs some rules of interaction and someone needs to set and enforce those rules. Otherwise we would live in a lawless society where might makes right.

> it places a strong onus on the populous to make the structure and role of representatives capable of being filled by random citizens.

Who is this “populous” who will design the structure and role of representatives? How will the design process work? Unless it is designed by a randomly selected body, the structure will be determined by some elite.

> And should this lottery winner prove to be absolutely bonkers, you want them to be easily recallable

No. First of all, the lottery assures that the group selected is not any more (or any less) bonkers than the population at large. Besides, how would an ideal recall procedure be different from the one already in place in California and other places? The recall process is inherently an arena of mass politics where those with advantage in power and resources have great influence on the outcome.

> So, the result is likely to wind up looking something a lot like participatory politics.

Again, how would an ideal “participatory politics” work? How would it be different from the “popular initiative” process in California? Again, “participatory politics” is a mass political process where those with elite status (fame, wealth, expert status, etc.) exert disproportional influence on the policy outcomes.

fwoan says

Interesting discussion Daniel/Yoram!

First of all, Daniel, I snark is welcome as long as it is well meant, as I believe yours has always been.

As far as the dream scenario of no legislators, I have to say it is something I would want to work towards. I agree with you that it is an awesome goal and one that I think we should work towards. I don’t know that is something that could be instituted over night as it may too much of a culture shock, but maybe like an onion we could peel back the layers until there is nothing left and my neighbor and I govern ourselves. I disagree with Yoram here in his “might makes right” slippery slope because that is exactly what we already have. “Mighty” people make all the rules of our system right now. I can think of no evidence to suggest that true equality between our sisters and brothers will produce our current system.

I do agree with Yoram about the predefined agenda comment that Daniel made. It makes the idea sound more like kids playing at being legislators rather than having any actual power. Like some sort of vanguard made the schedule.

Because right now we’re talking about imaginary system that no one has seen yet, I don’t really know the best course of recall procedures. My gut says to go with Daniel’s idea of making those selected easily removable should they seen unfit for any number of reasons (crazy being one of many, but I’m mostly just worried about the plain old corrupt).

Yoram, I don’t think we need to look at currently existing system (especially those in the US) because they are system created by those with power and the intention of keeping that power. They are needlessly complex, confusing, and difficult for the sole purpose of keeping that official in their office. Any recall process must be simple, maybe even as simple as showing up at that person’s office and physically pulling them out. Though I’d be interested in hearing more of why you think recalls are a bad idea.

Thanks for the great ideas, both fo you!

Daniel says

Yoram, participatory politics is a specific council style direct democracy model. You can google it if you like, it’s a very involved model somewhat similiar to a spokes council, but multi-tiered. Nothing I’m describing involves a “vanguard,” the populous is, well, the populous. Masses collaborating, consenting (or perhaps voting, depending on the nature of the decision) in very small groups on what the decisions are, delegates (representatives, though not in the traditional sense) from each small group gather into a group of their own, exchange decisions and decide themselves, so on and so forth on up to a wide-spread decision representing the masses.

If a delegate is going rogue (bonkers, as I put it) and not accurately reflecting their groups ideas, they can immediately recall them. (No large referendum, of hundred of thousands of signatures, as in California or Wisconsin in a drawn out process, followed by elections, someone challenges the delegate, and a quick vote is taken among the group and someone else is randomly chucked in).

So that’s participatory politics, and like I said, I think random selection of representatives necessarily lends itself toward those types of reforms. But honestly, I find the model, while more democratic, to be needlessly bureaucratic and academic. And anyway, I don’t think it’s ultimately desirable for nation-sized decision-making bodies. There’s really no need for self-governance to extend beyond the local, Town Hall size, and it’s fairly impractical.

And Yoram, I really don’t believe in such a thing as Rule of Law, so you’re not going to get far on that count. The law has historically always been used by those in power to oppress those out of power, and where the law happened to align against power’s interest, it will simply be ignored for the piece of paper that it always was. Allowing a single individual/group exclusive right to enforcement is to ensure this selectivity.

Yoram Gat says

> I disagree with Yoram here in his “might makes right” slippery slope because that is exactly what we already have.

We have a regulated system that is oligarchical, but is not a free-for-all where might makes right. There is a central government which enforces certain rules. Those rules are far from ideal, but they do create certain physical safety for most people most of the time. Places where no such authority exists are much worse places to live. The hope that a cooperative equalitarian society could somehow appear and become a stable system without any central government is a dangerous fantasy.

> Any recall process must be simple, maybe even as simple as showing up at that person’s office and physically pulling them out.

I have no idea what this means. Who would show up? If a group of 100 people show up, could they “recall” the official? What if those 100 people represent an extreme minority opinion in the population? This seems like a completely anti-democratic system. On the other hand, any system that requires polling the entire population is prey to the standard problems of mass politics – sloganeering and manipulation, agenda setting by elites, etc. In other words, I just don’t see how this could work well.

> it’s a very involved model somewhat similar to a spokes council, but multi-tiered

I have no reason to believe that a multi-tiered system would be any better than our current system. How is the fact that I am electing someone who elects someone who elects someone who elects someone better than electing that final someone? (I’d much rather have in power a statistically representative group of people.)

The bottom line is that the political power of the average individual in a large group is necessarily very small. No amount of re-design would change that. It is an arithmetic fact. Given that this is the case, sitting in long meetings and discussing things is useless (in fact, worse than useless).

> There’s really no need for self-governance to extend beyond the local, Town Hall size, and it’s fairly impractical.

Really? So who gets to decide on where a bridge would be built or which factory to build? These decisions will impact much more than a single town. What about decisions about effectiveness of drugs or regulation of disposal of industrial waste? And so on and so on.

The idea that all important decisions can be made at the local level is about as realistic as the Right-wing “free market” fantasy which asserts that all important decisions should be made by individuals.

> The law has historically always been used by those in power to oppress those out of power,

This is true, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Sortition can create a situation in which those with decision power are normal people and thus they truly represent their interests. On this matter, you may be interested in the essay “Every Cook Can Govern” by Left-wing theorist CLR James: http://www.marxists.org/archive/james-clr/works/1956/06/every-cook.htm and in The Demos Versus ‘We, the People’: from Ancient to Modern Conceptions of Citizenship by Ellen Meiksins Wood: http://www.iefd.org/articles/demos.php

fwoan says

Hi Yoram!

> We have a regulated system that is oligarchical, but is not a free-for-all where might makes right.

Yoram, I have to strenuously disagree. If you substitute “might” for “money”, you see our system is a place were wealth creates the rules. Not any sort of concern for safety or the good of the people. Our system is in place because it creates an environment that wealth has accepted while lulling a majority of its citizens into complacency. I absolutely see it as a scenario you painted in comment number 4769.

> The hope that a cooperative equalitarian society could somehow appear and become a stable system without any central government is a dangerous fantasy.

Again, I have to disagree. While I currently favor a demarchy/sortition setup for humanity’s immediate future, doing away with the state entirely is a goal I find absolutely imperative. After all, most of humanity’s history is one of governmentless decentralized communities. Only after the agricultural revolution did inequality become a reality through coercion of a state.

> …Recall comments…

Heh, maybe I was being a little ridiculous with the angry mob idea, but I was trying to go for a joking way of saying I favor a casual, non-bureaucratic method for recall. Perhaps though, a recall system would be unnecessary as long as term limits were kept appropriately short. I don’t really know, but my gut tells me that I’d want an option for undoing a terrible selection.

You make an excellent point on the failings of local-only governance. Perhaps there needs to be some overlap. Imagine a venn-diagram of one large local-based authority, being slightly eclipsed by a smaller regional-based authority?

Thanks for the links, I’m going to be checking out a lot fo the stuff you have sent me this week.

Yoram Gat says

FWOAN,

> After all, most of humanity’s history is one of governmentless decentralized communities.

True, but we can’t (and don’t want to) return to the pre-agricultural lifestyle, and without adopting that lifestyle we cannot adopt their system of government. Our society is built upon interactions of large numbers of people and the society created through those interactions should be governed for the benefit of the people. Again, the idea that such a system can be achieved through a system of “free” interactions of village-sized units is about as unrealistic as the idea that such a system can be achieved through a system of “free” interactions between individuals.

I am looking forward to your comments on the essays of Wood and James.

fwoan says

Hey Yoram,
Loved the James article! I really enjoyed the historical lessons and ideas borrowed from Greek democracy. I have it bookmarked and will end up using it in some discussions I have with friends about these sorts of things. Woods’ article is quite a bit longer so I haven’t fully gotten through it, but I am enjoying it as well.

Yoram Gat says

I am glad you liked the essay. If you find the ideas compelling, and if you have any ideas about how to promote sortition, I would like to collaborate on that.

I am currently in touch with a guy who is active in the Indignados movement in Spain (his website is here: http://www.partidoazar.com). He is very enthusiastic about producing video clips that lay out the idea of sortition. If you would like to take part in that or have any other ideas, please let me know.

Daniel says

“How is the fact that I am electing someone who elects someone who elects someone who elects someone better than electing that final someone?”

That’s not what I described, please read my comment more carefully and anyway it’s not what I’m advocating. If you’re saying participatory democracy is bureaucratic, I’d agree (and said as much above). My point was simply that I prefer the delegate model to the representative one.

“Really? So who gets to decide on where a bridge would be built or which factory to build? These decisions will impact much more than a single town. What about decisions about effectiveness of drugs or regulation of disposal of industrial waste? And so on and so on.”

I’m not going to go down the laundry list of “What ifs?” under horizontalism, because let’s be honest, you don’t have any concrete answer as to why centralized governing bodies are any better at making these decisions (and all real world evidence would point to the contrary). My position is a simple one: decisions, important and otherwise, are to be made by those affected. A bridge (and this is the last of your examples I’ll engage with pragmatically) presumably implies an agreement between two towns. Well, that sort of arrangement could easily be reached between the two decentralized decision-making bodies of each. Nothing about that necessitates an external “authority.” There’s no reason a horizonal, direct, participatory model couldn’t handle any decision a vertical, representative one would.

I really don’t see the wisdom of Sortition. Why is the response to illegitimate authority making unwise, biased and ill-influenced decisions for the masses that we instead give anyone and everyone the opportunity to be an authority making unwise, biased and ill-influenced decisions for the masses?

fwoan says

Hi Daniel!

“I really don’t see the wisdom of Sortition. Why is the response to illegitimate authority making unwise, biased and ill-influenced decisions for the masses that we instead give anyone and everyone the opportunity to be an authority making unwise, biased and ill-influenced decisions for the masses?”

Perhaps it’s why these individuals are currently making unwise, biased and ill-influenced decisions. I think you and I will basically agree that it is for wealth and power. They want wealth to maintain their power through reelection costs (among other things). A sortition/demarchy solution removes so many of these problems. No more reelection, no more campaign ads, no more career politicians, no more of the rule that only the wealthy can earn a position in governance.

If a random selection of us are placed in those positions for a limited, one-time-only post, the possibility for unwise, biased and ill-influenced decisions is not essentially removed, but so many of the reasons for those decisions that we currently endure are rendered irrelevant, I think. These people (us) don’t need to worry about reelection, don’t need to make campaign ads, wont ever have a career in politics, and will almost always not be wealthy. Instead we will have concerns for the communities and families we come from. We will want solutions to problems we actually experience, rather than personal jet laws and who’s oil to steal.

What do you think?

Daniel says

Hey FWOAN,

Oh no argument here. I think a sortition/demarchy is a vast improvement of this current disaster. When it comes to fucking up democracy, there’s true American exceptionalism. My point is that we’re still building institutions of authority. And my moral/philosophical objections to that aside, any institution of that nature is corruptible. For example, where we’ve gotten rid of the sort of legal bribing of our current electoral process, there’s still favor trading and outright illegal bribery. And, to corrupt a turn of phrase, “Moderate power corrupts moderately.” Even in fleeting positions of power, people will act in undesirably authoritarian manners. Hell, our current bumblefucks in office are in mostly temporary positions of power, what do you think Obama’s gonna do when he’s in a second term and has no more electioning to compromise his wisdom? Bring all the troops home, declare a jubilee on debt, and self-destruct the pentagon? By this logic he should be a vastly improved president. I’m not so optimistic.

Yoram Gat says

Daniel,

> My position is a simple one: decisions, important and otherwise, are to be made by those affected. A bridge (and this is the last of your examples I’ll engage with pragmatically) presumably implies an agreement between two towns. Well, that sort of arrangement could easily be reached between the two decentralized decision-making bodies of each. Nothing about that necessitates an external “authority.” There’s no reason a horizonal, direct, participatory model couldn’t handle any decision a vertical, representative one would.

A bridge affects many more people than those who live within close proximity to its endpoints. Roads need to be connected to the bridge, people can travel from miles away in order to use it. It could easily touch the lives of tens of thousands and even millions of people. Do they all get a say? If so, how? And who gets to determine who gets a say and what kind of say?

Sorry, I see your answers as too vague for comfort and your refusal to address specific questions as being deliberately evasive.

> we instead give anyone and everyone the opportunity to be an authority making unwise, biased and ill-influenced decisions for the masses?

This “anyone and everyone” is just another name for “the masses”. And why would they make unwise, biased and ill-influenced decisions? Aren’t you willing to trust your fellow citizens? This kind of suspicious mind-set is exactly the kind of mind-set reflects existing dominant competitive, hyper-individualistic, anti-social ideology. It is a mind set we need to resist and counter with a co-operative mind set.

Why would I want to spend my spare time and effort learning about, say, the fine points of building a bridge and the pros and cons of putting it at one point rather than another, and which technology is best suited for our purposes, and many other fine details of many other important questions, only in order to have my vote be counted as one among tens of thousands and possibly millions of other votes? I’d much rather have a random sample of people – who share the ideas and interests of me and my neighbors – be authorized to make the decision for me, trusting that since they would have the time, resources and motivation they would make an informed and considered decision.

Daniel says

Well this is exactly why I’m not going down that tedious road. Historically, roads and bridges are built by local communities all the time independent of a central national government. I don’t find it problematic leaving it to the locals because the people most affected are the people who have identified and addressed the need. Yes, people who might one day drive over that bridge will be affected by its construction, but that’s a wildly generous and unreasonable interpretation of what I meant. I’m not being evasive, but I’m not going to have an answer for all these questions and if I did it wouldn’t exactly be a horizontal model (“Everyone’s free to adhere to my rigid organizational structure!”), would it? Part of making these decisions in a participatory manner is participating in deciding the decision-making process. As long as these mechanisms are inclusive and accessible, I don’t have an issue.

But let’s turn that laundry list around on you, explain to me the wisdom of each and every one of these examples:

1. A hundred or so randomly plucked individuals from fuck all America are empowered to tell local communities where they can build a bridge to meet their needs. For some reason, these arbitrary grouping of people know what’s best for your community’s local commerce and transportation.
2. Random individuals empowered to legislate drug laws, Marge has a cousin whose daughter once smoked pot and now she’s got inappropriate piercings, so it’s 20 years in jail for minor possession. What, don’t you trust your fellow citizen?!
3. THE POWER TO DECLARE WAR. Entrusted to whoever drew the lottery numbers to exercise all their hidden xenophobic desires. Fuck yeah!

So get on giving me detailed explanations on how these would not totally backfire, and when you come back I’ll have a dozen more ready.

“Aren’t you willing to trust your fellow citizens? This kind of suspicious mind-set is exactly the kind of mind-set reflects existing dominant competitive, hyper-individualistic, anti-social ideology. It is a mind set we need to resist and counter with a co-operative mind set.”

I’m very trusting of my fellow citizens when we’re in an actual co-operative relationship. I’m more than happy to overlook Marge’s kooky views on Mary Jane when we share gardening tips, for example. But the government and the governed is not a co-operative relationship. One party has exclusive right to force, imprison, legislate, and exploit the other. The sooner you realize this, the better off you’ll be.

Yoram Gat says

> I don’t find it problematic leaving it to the locals because the people most affected are the people who have identified and addressed the need.

So all the decisions regarding a bridge that serves hundred of thousands of people every week would be made by a 2,000 people? (Assuming each “village” is made of 1,000 people, which stretches the size of a face-to-face community to its limit.) This seems like an extremely anti-democratic system. And what about the resources? How would 2,000 people be able to afford building a bridge? Or will they finance it through some sort of a banking system and then charge a toll for using it? And what if they decide they would prefer the bridge going elsewhere? Could they just prevent the building of the bridge in their vicinity even if it is useful for large numbers of people? This seems very close to asserting that they own the land they occupy. How is that materially different from a situation in which individuals own natural resources?

> I’m not going to have an answer for all these questions and if I did it wouldn’t exactly be a horizontal model (“Everyone’s free to adhere to my rigid organizational structure!”), would it?

Of course there is no expectation that you will provide a fully detailed program. But unless you provide enough of a general framework there is no way to tell if your proposal is any more than a pipe dream.

> For some reason, these arbitrary grouping of people know what’s best for your community’s local commerce and transportation.

No. These people have no special interests and no special world view (as elected politicians have) and would therefore approach the matter in a rational, open minded way. If they felt it is appropriate they would delegate the decision to a more local authority (also sortition-based). The national body, or the local body, would consult with experts (which they would pick and rely on as they see fit) and would solicit input from those affected. They would weigh the evidence and interests and balance them as they see fit based on their values and understanding. Needless to say, not everybody will be happy with the outcome, but there is every reason to believe that it will be a well-justified decision.

> Random individuals empowered to legislate drug laws, Marge has a cousin whose daughter once smoked pot and now she’s got inappropriate piercings, so it’s 20 years in jail for minor possession. What, don’t you trust your fellow citizen?!

Marge doesn’t get to legislate on her own. She is a member in a body of 200 or 300 people. If a majority of those people see fit to regulate certain substances, it is a democratic decision. It may be wrong, or I may disagree with it, but it is still the democratic decision. You can’t expect to always have things in a democracy go as you would have them.

> Entrusted to whoever drew the lottery numbers to exercise all their hidden xenophobic desires.

The proportion of xenophobes in the legislature would be the same as their proportion in the population. So, yes, if you are living in a xenophobic democratic society, you can expect to find your country involved in wars. Luckily, public opinion is usually rather averse to war, unless war fever is deliberately stoked by politicians and corporate media. One would hope that a democratic legislature would make sure that mass media is controlled in such a way that it does not allow interested parties to manipulate the public into pursuing aggressive wars.

> One party has exclusive right to force, imprison, legislate, and exploit the other. The sooner you realize this, the better off you’ll be.

I doubt that a legislature that is selected at random for a period of a few years (and, just as importantly, a judiciary that empowers randomly selected jurors) would adopt a world view that it is their right to oppress their fellow citizens. Such a world view is cultivated over a long period of time by the convoluted forces that operate in our society and especially in the electoral system. You are misdirecting your perfectly justified suspicions of the ruling elites into a phobia of any kind of organization.

Daniel says

Oh I think my model is far, far more democratic than yours. You have a problem with the 2,000-3,000 people most affected deciding, but think a random selection of 200-300 (few of which will be directly affected) making it is true democracy, and even if that decision is wrong it should be abided by? Sorry, fuck that.

“You are misdirecting your perfectly justified suspicions of the ruling elites into a phobia of any kind of organization.”

Not any kind of organization, top-down organization. I’m very much in favor of horizontal organization. It’s a dangerous mindset that thinks organization is derived from authority.

Yoram Gat says

> You have a problem with the 2,000-3,000 people most affected deciding

Who gets to say who is most affected? The owners of a factory say that they should make all decisions in a factory since they are most affected by its success or failure.

> but think a random selection of 200-300 (few of which will be directly affected) making it is true democracy

The difference is that the random sample represents all interests and points of view involved, not only those of a privileged minority.

> even if that decision is wrong it should be abided by? Sorry, fuck that.

Who is to say that the decision is wrong? You? Even if you are in the minority? It seems your approach is that any decision that you are unhappy with is illegitimate.

Daniel says

“Who gets to say who is most affected?”

It tends to be a self-selective process determined by who’s willing to engage in the meeting. As long as it’s accessible and transparent, participants in participatory democracy will be those who have a stake in the outcome.

“Who is to say that the decision is wrong?”

No one. No one is going to say what’s wrong for you. Stop looking to imagined authority to validate your moral agency.

Yoram Gat says

> It tends to be a self-selective process determined by who’s willing to engage in the meeting.

Self-selection within large groups produces elitism. Those with more resources and with special interests exert disproportional influence. This is, in fact, the system we have today – politicians are a self-selected group, and they are supported by power-structures that are populated with self-selected people.

> Stop looking to imagined authority to validate your moral agency.

I am not looking for moral validation. I am looking for a democratic decision-making process that does not rely on pretending that conflicts of interests and differences of opinions do not occur and do not need to be resolved.

Daniel says

It’s a strange, twisted mindset that calls the process that allows everyone to participate elitist and the model that randomly elevates people to positions of authority over the masses democratic.

Yoram Gat says

As I already point out, the current electoral process “allows everyone to participate”. You are allowed to vote, run for office, talk to your neighbors, distribute flyers, etc. As in your proposal, you are formally on the same political footing as everyone else. Nominally you have the same political influence as a high-powered lobbyist or a wealthy donor or a media magnate.

A political system that puts a large number of people on a formally equal footing has the superficial appearance of political equality – this is the reason for the superficial appeal of the Western electoral ["democratic"] system. However, in reality such a system puts power in the hands of those few who are able to translate some distinctive attribute (wealth, fame, atypical circumstances or interests, charisma, strength, etc.) into political advantage.

It is true that this situation appears paradoxical ["strange, twisted"], but both empirical observation and theoretical analysis show that this is in fact how such systems work. Denying this reality is a major obstacle toward a meaningful reform.

Daniel says

Electing representatives is not participatory, just the opposite. You’re acquiescing your autonomy to a representative who can tell you what to do and, fingers crosses, they tell you to do something you agree with. You seem willfully obstinate to this fact.

Yoram Gat says

As I pointed out above, under the current system you are can “participate” in many ways, not only through voting. Why do so few people run for office, or participate in organized political activities in any other way?

Daniel says

Well, not speaking for others, but I don’t because I don’t want to tell other people what to do. That conviction would remain under sortition. In fact, it’d deepen because I’d see even less consent of the governed. You seem more comfortable with this arrangement.

Listen, we’re not getting anywhere, but lemme ask you this, what would the nature of enforcement look like under sortition? Are those randomly selected and rotated as well? I’ll be honest, everything you’re talking about is irrelevant to me otherwise.

Yoram Gat says

> I don’t because I don’t want to tell other people what to do.

Deciding on how and where to build (or not build) a bridge that others will use (or won’t), is also “telling them what to do”. There is no way around making decisions that influence other people. Pretense to the contrary is counter-productive.

Regarding enforcement: I think that judicial decisions should also be made by citizens selected at random. I don’t think there is a way to avoid having the police being a professional organization, but, like all professional organizations, it should be closely supervised by allotted bodies – including control over promotions, hiring and firing.

Daniel says

“Deciding on how and where to build (or not build) a bridge that others will use (or won’t), is also “telling them what to do”.”

No it isn’t if you understand what words like “telling” and “do” mean. Autonomous individuals, groups, or communities making decisions that may someday affect you in some broad cosmic sense is not “telling you what to do.” This is exactly the flaw of vertical arrangements of society that various horizontal models are structured to correct. This is exactly what horizontalism means, it’s the central philosophical axiom on which its advocates work from. I don’t know how to say this any clearer. I’m saying “A is A” and you keep coming back saying “of course we all know A is not A,” with a staggering degree of intellectual confidence. Genuinely at a loss here.

Look, let’s take the bridge scenario one more time and walk through it step by step against my own better judgment. Being an autonomous individual you’re free to build that bridge wherever you like most convenient to your particular commute (assuming it’s construction isn’t directly over other individuals autonomous space). But chances are you don’t have the resources all by your lonesome. You’re therefor obliged to enter into a collaborative relationship with others and consider their needs sometimes at the expense of your own. But the fundamental nature of your partnership remain on non-hierarchical terms. No one gets to pull “rank” and though there might not be an enthusiastic agreement on all the specifics a general consensus is formed so that no one feels outright trampled on. If needed resources are so greatthat your co-opt requires investment from a broader population (as any major installation would) then you’ll presumably want some kind of fronted capital (in the form of currency, credit, or even a loose gift economy) most conveniently from other people who would potentially use the bridge. Given their needed involvement, it would behoove the co-opt to solicit their input as to where the bridge would be most useful, thereby maximizing fronted capital from the populace. This remains throughout a horizontal process, and what I’ve been describing in previous comments are merely structures to facilitate such a process that is already extremely organic and natural to how we relate to each other. What isn’t natural are arbitrary authority figures that may or may not be involved in construction and may or may not actually use the bridge telling all involved parties what to build and where to build it.

Anyway, so these allotted bodies would be random citizens? Basically a civilian complaint board but with actual teeth?

Yoram Gat says

Your description of the “horizontal” relationships sounds very much like the standard description of a “free market”. The free market advocates also argue that the market regulates human interaction in a way that naturally resolves conflicts and it clearly fair and efficient. Needless to say, I find these claims completely baseless.

Beyond having the usual problems of a “free market” (persistent inequalities in resources and power), you are also missing any mechanism for resolving disputes. Say that a certain person or community wants to build a bridge on “their” land and manages to get the resources needed to do it. Another community feels that the resulting traffic would destroy its way of life. The bridge-building person or community feels that this is not a concern that justifies cancelling the bridge project. How is the decision of whether or not to go ahead with the bridge arrived at? And what happens if the people who are against the bridge building decide to physically stop the project?

By the way, could anyone leave and join communities at will?

> Anyway, so these allotted bodies would be random citizens? Basically a civilian complaint board but with actual teeth?

Yes – random citizens. I would not call this a complaint board, however, since they are not expected to merely respond to complaints from other citizens but to be proactive in exercising control.

Daniel says

“Your description of the “horizontal” relationships sounds very much like the standard description of a “free market”.”

I’m firmly anti-capitalist, though not necessarily opposed to “free” markets. I mean I could get behind free markets in the sense that I get behind a free society, whereby the participants are free from institutional force, coercion and exploitation. Needless to say, capitalism is based on exploitation via vertical arrangements of management illegitimately profiting off other people’s labor. This is the source of those persistent inequalities in resources and power you’re talking about, obviously. I’m sympathetic to just about any other economic model: mutualism, socialism, communism, parecon. I’m fairly opposed to dogmatic economic theory. Economies should only be tools of efficiency.

The situation you’re describing of conflict is exactly what the structural decision models I previously described sought to address. You don’t seem to be absorbing what I’ve said and we’re moving backwards in this conversation. As the bridge building of one community infringes on the autonomy of another, a cooperative solution has to be met to avoid just the type of stand-off you describe. General Assemblies, Spokes Councils, any number of horizontal models can be used to reach such a decision. Congratulations, we’re now back at my original comment.

“By the way, could anyone leave and join communities at will?”

Yes, of course. What free society wouldn’t allow such a thing?

Yoram Gat says

> General Assemblies, Spokes Councils, any number of horizontal models can be used to reach such a decision. Congratulations, we’re now back at my original comment.

Right – I guess you are right that we are not really making any progress here.

We keep moving in circles because you insist on pretending that somehow all conflicts of interest and differences of opinions will be resolved to everybody’s satisfaction by using amorphously described “horizontal models”. At the same time your descriptions of these models seem like a combination of procedures, institutions and ideas that are already common (and with which we are not particularly happy) and procedures, institutions and ideas that are just vague wishful thinking.

Daniel says

There exist very specific models, but I’m not advocating any particular one. One sort of decision may be appropriate for General Assembly, another for Spokes Councils. One for simple majority vote, another for consensus. You can research these processes if you like, they can get fairly wonkish. I’m giving you broad strokes just as you have in your models. And I can promise you there’s nothing “wishful” about them, they exist in a variety of societies already on a variety of different scales. In Catalonia, Spain during the Civil War, the short-lived Paris Commune, intentional communities that exist to this day in the United States, and the many worker co-ops recently springing up in Argentina, to name just a few real world examples of horizontal decision making in action.

Yoram Gat says

The small scale is irrelevant for our discussion – creating a democratic system at the small scale is well understood. As for the large scale examples, the two you name – Catalonia and the Paris Commune – are the stock examples. But both were too short lived to be able allow careful examination, so it is unclear both how democratic they really were (or could have been) and if they were, what political arrangements were responsible for this success. Lenin, for example, claims that the crucial elements in the democratic politics of the Paris Commune were the recall and the “workman’s wages” of delegates. I think it is very clear that neither of these devices is powerful enough to make any material difference.

Again, until it is explained how decisions are made in a democratic manner on issues that involve many people, there is little reason to believe that a proposed system is democratic. Vague promises of “horizontal structures” or “free association” do not inspire confidence both on a theoretical level due to the vagueness, and on a practical level because the historical record of such promises is poor.

Daniel says

These aren’t small scale, intentional communities are town sized, what I’ve been advocating. Catalonia lasted three years before it was squashed by totalitarians with the complicity of republicans. Similar story for the Ukranian Free State. That’s a cracker jack argument for statism if I’ve ever heard it. Go ahead and list for me the successful large scale sortition states in modern history. I’ll help: 0.

I’ve already explained multiple examples of horizontal structures, (more in the way of tangibles than your demarchy) take your pick. General Assembly: Town Hall meeting in which someone brings a proposal, people are free to ask clarifying questions, voice concerns, and offer friendly amendments. After which point there is a check for blocks (assuming this is a consensus process and not an up or down vote). A block is a major ethical or safety concern so great that you’d consider leaving the community should this proposal pass. Blockers are given another opportunity to offer friendly amendments or perhaps be required to meet with the proposers over a given amount of time and offer a counter proposal. No blocks = consensus and decision reached. Other decision may require a simple majority vote and others still some kind of supermajority. My feeling is they ought to be proportional to the degree to which people are affected by the decision. Community agreements, for example, would necessarily need full consent of the community, given that your asking individuals to adjust their own behavior. Choosing a precise bridge location may only require a simple straw poll. Basically before making any decisions, a community should decide on what types of decisions need to be made and what degree of input is required.

Spokes Council: Similar process, only groups are clustered into affinity groups, perhaps in the bridge scenario you have a worker cluster, environmental accountability cluster, commuters cluster, etc. Each cluster has a single spoke that conveys to the larger group the diversity of opinions within the cluster and ultimately the votes or blocks within their cluster as the process requires. Should the Spoke fail to accurately convey their cluster’s opinions/votes/blocks, they can be immediately removed and replaced by another spoke (though experience shows it rarely comes to this). This is an effective way to involve large amounts of people via delegates in a horizontal model.

I’m giving you a couple very specific process and structure, because you keep insisting on it. But again I’m not advocating this particular one and I always favor experimentation as what may be right for one community isn’t right for another. Ultimately what’s important to me is that the process is instituted by and has the consensus of its participants.

Yoram Gat says

> Catalonia lasted three years

I doubt that this is long enough to allow determination of whether the society was in fact democratic, but if you are aware of a good text describing and/or analyzing the Catalonian political system I’d be interested to have a look.

> General Assembly …

Your description sounds far from promising. “Someone brings a proposal” – what if there are 100 people with proposals on various issues? How does everybody get the time to propose? How will the selection process work? What if there are hundreds of people with comments and proposed amendments? Are you claiming that as long as someone is not threatening to leave the community over some issue then their objection does not count? Will such a process take place for any decision, no matter how trivial or routine? Is there no delegation of authority at all within the community? Who enforces decisions? Or are we to assume that no need for enforcement will ever arise?

In any case, this is still a small scale proposal – dealing with groups of hundreds of people, not millions.

> Should the Spoke fail to accurately convey their cluster’s opinions/votes/blocks, they can be immediately removed and replaced by another spoke

How is this different from the recall process of the Oregon System? If people were able to identify representative delegates and track them effectively the existing electoral system would have been quite democratic.

> This is an effective way to involve large amounts of people via delegates in a horizontal model.

Except for the liberal use of the adjective “horizontal” I don’t see how this is different from the existing electoral model. How is the fact that people are partitioned according to “affinity groups” rather than by location make a material difference?

> Ultimately what’s important to me is that the process is instituted by and has the consensus of its participants.

Why do think such a situation is possible? What if some people insist upon an amendment to the process to which the majority objects? Does this mean that a consensus no longer exists? And if so, what happens until such a time in which a new consensus emerges?

[By the way, I have heard similar descriptions many times before (Lenin's "state and revolution" is a typical example) - they are all the rage now within the Occupy movement, it seems - and the problems that I described are simply ignored rather than addressed.]

Daniel says

I’m not aware of anyone going through the tedious task of laying out the Catalonian workers/peasants decision-making process, but I know they used the Spokes Council model. As far as what that period was like, there’s no better book than Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia.

As far as proposal vetting, there are a number of options. For one you have facilitators who run meetings. But before your inevitable misinterpretation, they don’t “run” things in the sense of any decision-making authority, simply keep the meeting on process. I’ve heard of facilitators vetting proposals that aren’t “ready,” though I could easily see this as an abuse of horizontalism. The simplest option is lining up proposals in the order they’re presented with emergency proposals getting priority (emergency defined as having previously unknowable, external deadlines). Meetings should have a set amount of time, probably not exceeding a couple hours. Any proposals that aren’t gotten to get pushed to the beginning of the next meeting. This is, you know, how these things work in vertical models, too. In fact most of these questions you ask could just as easily be asked of any vertical model.

“Are you claiming that as long as someone is not threatening to leave the community over some issue then their objection does not count? Will such a process take place for any decision, no matter how trivial or routine?”

No, I was pretty clear on that above, but I’ll repeat: I think there are types of decisions where simple voting is appropriate and others where consensus is appropriate. There’s a whole lot to consensus process that I’m not sure we want to get into, and it’s very tricky for people like yourself who only understand voting in a formal process. But of course you practice consensus informally every day and it’s much more true to our natural decision making tendencies than voting. When you decide on a restaurant to go to with your friends, you’re not likely to take a vote, you all find a consensus. That is to say you might not go to the restaurant where the most people most want to go, but you’ll be sure not to go to the restaurant where one party absolutely refuses to go (perhaps because of some dietary restriction or just some intense dislike). So in formalizing that process you don’t have “for” and “against,” you have “consent” and “blocks.” You can consent to something you don’t personally like, but if that objection rises to the level of a serious ethical or safety concern you would voice a block. I don’t think one needs to leave the community over a block, I was just saying that to illustrate the severity. It’s a method of avoiding tyranny of the majority.

“Will such a process take place for any decision, no matter how trivial or routine? Is there no delegation of authority at all within the community? Who enforces decisions? Or are we to assume that no need for enforcement will ever arise?”

Decisions necessitate themselves, just as they do in vertical models. Actually, hierarchies make far more trivial and routine decisions necessary given their proclivity toward bureaucracy. There are reasonable delegations of authority in any community (a specialist performing surgery). What’s illegitimate is delegations of authority over blanketed aspects of other people’s lives that exist in hierarchies. There’s no good reason why that same surgeon should have say over the nurse’s schedule for example, that authority is beyond his expertise. I don’t support the need for enforcement in the sense of a police force, but would be sympathetic to community enforcement with an emphasis on deescalation over incarceration.

“How is this different from the recall process of the Oregon System? Except for the liberal use of the adjective “horizontal” I don’t see how this is different from the existing electoral model. How is the fact that people are partitioned according to “affinity groups” rather than by location make a material difference? ”

Second verse, same as the first. Again, not representatives, delegates. They’re not independently making decisions, they’re filling a role to simply repeat what was discussed in the smaller group in condensed form. Think of a court stenographer, is that an authoritative role? This is what makes it horizontal. Affinity groups don’t, I think, make a material difference in the outcome of the decision, but it streamlines the process of having like-interested, like-minded people form a more coherent voice that can be expressed to the larger group as one. I’m not opposed to grouping people by location, that could be one of those variations I said as to why I’m not advocating this specific model.

“What if some people insist upon an amendment to the process to which the majority objects?”

Then the amendment is tabled and the process continues as it has. Again, this is not dissimilar to how vertical models operate. Failure to move the status quo means the status quo remains.

“By the way, I have heard similar descriptions many times before (Lenin’s “state and revolution” is a typical example)”

Oh good, well do let me know when you’ve decided if I’m a Leninist or a free market fundamentalist (you only left out crypto-fascist) – substantive critiques by aesthetic association, I’m sure.

Yoram Gat says

> no better book than Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia.

I have read this book. It doesn’t deal much with the issues we are discussing. The events it describes, however, do not give support to the idea that a democratic system was in place. As Orwell describes things, decisions of crucial importance took place in mysterious, unaccountable ways, leading eventually to the power grab by the Communists.

> I don’t support the need for enforcement in the sense of a police force, but would be sympathetic to community enforcement with an emphasis on deescalation over incarceration.

What is the practical difference between a police force and “community enforcement”? Will there be no professional police officers? Will there be ad-hoc association of citizens to carry out enforcement?

> They’re not independently making decisions, they’re filling a role to simply repeat what was discussed in the smaller group in condensed form. Think of a court stenographer, is that an authoritative role?

A stenographer repeats word-for-word what was said – there is no “condensing”. There is no mechanical or automatic way to condense the ideas of very many people into the actions of a single person. Again, except for using the term “delegate” instead of “representative”, nothing seems different from the current system.

> if I’m a Leninist or a free market fundamentalist

Well, you do express ideas that are quite similar to both ideologies, which is not that surprising since those ideologies do have important common ground – namely the notion that relationships between people can (and should) be regulated in some distributed, a-political way through a natural, mechanical mechanism.

Daniel says

“What is the practical difference between a police force and “community enforcement”? Will there be no professional police officers? Will there be ad-hoc association of citizens to carry out enforcement?”

Yes, pretty much. We already have things like community watch groups, but as I said it would probably require greater training in deescalation techniques. I’m not overly familiar with them myself.

“Again, except for using the term “delegate” instead of “representative”, nothing seems different from the current system.”

Third time around, they are not free to make independent decisions, are you being deliberately obstinate? a decision is reached within the group on each and every matter and one person is either randomly selected or volunteers to communicate that decision to the larger body. The condense it in the sense that if there are people voicing the same questions/concerns, as would be likely in an affinity group, you only need to say it once, saving time. How is this in any way similar to our current system?

“namely the notion that relationships between people can (and should) be regulated in some distributed, a-political way through a natural, mechanical mechanism.”

I don’t know what the fuck this means. Are you saying relationships should be regulated through some unnatural “mechanical mechanism”? That really the position you’re taking? Second, I don’t think there’s anything natural about a “dictatorship of the proletariat” or wielding control over workers’ livelihood through control of capital.

Yoram Gat says

> between a police force and “community enforcement”? Will there be no professional police officers? Will there be ad-hoc association of citizens to carry out enforcement?” Yes, pretty much.

This seems like a pretty dangerous situation, both because a non-professional force would not be able to deal with a determined, organized group breaking the law, and because such ad-hoc associations have the potential to become unaccountable.

> a decision is reached within the group on each and every matter and one person is either randomly selected or volunteers to communicate that decision to the larger body

So it seems it is enough to send a video clip or a transcript of the group meeting. And then what? If the delegate is not authorized to do anything except for reading out a transcript, how does the association of groups reach decisions?

> Are you saying relationships should be regulated through some unnatural “mechanical mechanism”? That really the position you’re taking?

My claim is that relationships are always regulated through a mechanism that is political – there is nothing natural or automatic about the “free market” mechanism, or any other mechanism that regulates human relationships. In addition, good government requires a significant degree of centralization.

> Second, I don’t think there’s anything natural about a “dictatorship of the proletariat” or wielding control over workers’ livelihood through control of capital.

In “state and revolution” Lenin describes the “dictatorship of the proletariat” in terms that are very similar to those you are using. You might find it quite illuminating.

Daniel says

“This seems like a pretty dangerous situation, both because a non-professional force would not be able to deal with a determined, organized group breaking the law, and because such ad-hoc associations have the potential to become unaccountable.”

Organized crime? Well that’s a fair point, it’s not like our professional police force and sortition-style juries haven’t had a loooooooooong historical problem of enforcement against organized crime. All institutions are corruptible, pretense that it’s a unique problem to horizontal models is insincere. For what it’s worth I think organized crime is a fair argument to move away from fungible currency. I have little interest in economic theory, but it’s one of the things that gives me pause on the use of money, though it’s a question completely irrelevant to the legitimacy of centralized governments.

“So it seems it is enough to send a video clip or a transcript of the group meeting. And then what? If the delegate is not authorized to do anything except for reading out a transcript, how does the association of groups reach decisions?”

It’s not a terrible method, though I don’t think it saves time the way simply selecting a member to summarize questions and concerns would. As to how the association of groups reach a decision, well it would depend on the nature of the decision. If it’s a vote – the group communicates the final tally and a facilitator adds them all up. If it’s consensus, the selected delegate relays any blocks in the group.

“My claim is that relationships are always regulated through a mechanism that is political”

Except of course when they aren’t, which is fairly frequent. In fact, most human interaction is anarchic both as a convention of nature and a matter of practicality. In any sort of social situation when there’s a decision that needs to be made or a task to be completed, you self regulate. If someone’s more knowledgeable you might instinctively give their opinion greater consideration, but you don’t give them absolute authority over you. The African Bushmen have gotten along for around 10,000 years without a political system of any kind, as have a number of Native American tribes.

“In addition, good government requires a significant degree of centralization.”

Yes I think Mussolini said that.

“In “state and revolution” Lenin describes the “dictatorship of the proletariat” in terms that are very similar to those you are using.”

I read it in college, don’t recall anything resembling what I’ve discussed. I do remember reading about a great purging of left-communists who opposed the centralized, totalitarian interpretation of Marx by Lenin and the Bolsheviks after the revolution was over.

Yoram Gat says

> If it’s a vote – the group communicates the final tally and a facilitator adds them all up.

In that case, what’s the difference between this process and an Oregon System proposition? In both cases you just tally all the votes. Also, this leaves unanswered the question of how to set the agenda. How do you get all the groups voting on the same proposal?

> The African Bushmen have gotten along for around 10,000 years without a political system of any kind

Of course they have a political system. They set agendas, they discuss and they reach decisions. There is nothing automatic or mechanical about this process. The major difference between this system and the ones that we are discussing is scale. What works well within a small group making decisions about resources it controls and that primarily affect that small group does not work well for a system where decisions affect many more people.

> Yes I think Mussolini said that.

Sloganeering is not useful tool towards knowledge.

> I read it in college, don’t recall anything resembling what I’ve discussed.

Have another look – it is available online.

Daniel says

“In that case, what’s the difference between this process and an Oregon System proposition? In both cases you just tally all the votes. Also, this leaves unanswered the question of how to set the agenda. How do you get all the groups voting on the same proposal?”

I’m not very familiar with the Oregon System, and I’m not sure why you keep bringing it up or why it should matter if there’s similarities. If I understand it correctly to be a ballot/referendum model, then the difference is the participation in participatory direct democracy. Checking a box is a very passive act that requires little to no engagement with the actual issue. The models I’ve described are built around a process of face to face clarification from proposers, responding to criticisms, and greater opportunity for modification. I’ve already answered the other questions several times above with multiple, specific options and I’m very tired of repeating myself, so I won’t anymore.

“They set agendas, they discuss and they reach decisions.”

Yes, in a horizontal fashion. If this is how we’re going to define political systems (contrary to how it’s historically understood), fine, I’m advocating a political system. And if red is blue than the sky is red. Conceptual linguistics is fun.

“What works well within a small group making decisions about resources it controls and that primarily affect that small group does not work well for a system where decisions affect many more people.”

I think scale inherently complicates things for any model, and you’re arbitrarily determining this as a feature of horizontalism. Even a deeply flawed representative model is going to function far better on a smaller scale because it will be that much harder to act against the wishes of the group without being noticed and directly confronted. This is a healthy argument for keeping communities to as small a scale as possible.

Yoram Gat says

I keep bringing up the Oregon System because it is a system that is in operation today and whose effects are very far from profoundly democratic. Thus, any system that is but a minor variation on the Oregon System holds very little promise of being a real break from the existing oligarchical system.

> The models I’ve described are built around a process of face to face clarification from proposers, responding to criticisms, and greater opportunity for modification.

How will this work? If there are thousands of proposals (which is likely in a society of millions of people), will those proposers have to tours the country and get thousands of village-size groups to listen to those thousands of proposals? If the proposers respond to criticism and modify their proposals, won’t they have to go back to all those to whom they presented their proposals before and present the modified proposals? Won’t the process be dominated by those who have access to mass media – just like in the Oregon System?

> I’ve already answered the other questions several times above with multiple, specific options and I’m very tired of repeating myself, so I won’t anymore.

Up to you. I assure you that I am only asking question about things that I didn’t understand and that I think are of importance.

> I think scale inherently complicates things for any model

I completely agree. I think the question of scale is the fundamental problem we need to deal with.

> This is a healthy argument for keeping communities to as small a scale as possible.

No – this is just sticking our heads in the sand. Modern society is build upon interaction, in many ways, between large numbers of people. Pretending this isn’t the case, just because this fact makes the attainment of democratic government more difficult, is counter-productive. Recognizing the problem is a prerequisite for finding a solution. We need to find a democratic system that works for large scale societies, not to pretend that we live in small scale societies.

Daniel says

“Pretending this isn’t the case, just because this fact makes the attainment of democratic government more difficult, is counter-productive.”

No one’s pretending it isn’t the case, I’m questioning whether it should or must be. Both of us are talking about a major reorientation of our conception of things like society, community, democracy, etc. Mine happens to include questioning large-scale nation states, which you’ve yet to make a compelling argument in favor of (besides noting that, yes, they exist). In the grand scheme of human history, they’re but a blip, and in the most modern history (post-WWII) we see ourselves again pushing toward (relatively) smaller states and away from the large scale imperialism we all seem to acknowledge was a mistake. The only difference is I’m pushing the values of decentralization and community orientation to their logical conclusion.

Yoram Gat says

> Mine happens to include questioning large-scale nation states, which you’ve yet to make a compelling argument in favor

This is not a matter of large-scale nation states, it is a matter of large scale interaction. If large scale interaction exists, some way to regulate it needs to be in place. Are you really advocating a society which is made up of small groups (a few hundred people each) which are essentially disconnected? No complex machinary? No factories? No large scale power stations? No highways? No telecommunications? Theoretically possible, but rather far fetched, and not necessarily a good idea in my mind.

Daniel says

“Are you really advocating a society which is made up of small groups (a few hundred people each) which are essentially disconnected?”

A couple hundred? No, I have no idea where you got this number. I’m talking about existing communities we’ve already conceptualized – towns, neighborhoods. I don’t really have a number in mind, but we know roughly the size of the people we’re going to relate to directly in the course of our daily lives as being in “our community.” I’m saying when populations become the impersonal abstractions we see at nation state scale, we tend to care less about their interests and their suffering, so it’s undesirable to govern (via horizontal or vertical methods) at such a level, that’s all. All of the things you describe – factories, telecommunications (you realize the internet is a decentralized network of varying-sized communities, yes? at least for the time being), would still be possible and desirable.

Yoram Gat says

All-to-all communication is impossible in a group that is larger than a few hundred people. This is known as <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunbar%27s_number"Dunbar's Number. Any community that is significantly larger than that would necessarily have to be essentially an abstraction, in the sense that most people in the group will not be personally familiar with most people others.

In any case, a few hundred, or a few thousands, any such community would not be able to create computer factory by itself. It would have to deal with other communities, which means there would have to be a system for inter-community interaction. Such a system would have to be political, and its politics would be the politics of large numbers.

Daniel says

Sorry, been running out of energy on this discussion.

I didn’t say personal familiarity, I said communal relations. I don’t need to be on a first name basis with my local restaurateur to recognize his interest as it relates to my own. We all sort of have this “support local business” mentality, you know what I mean?

But since you bring it up, I think Dunbar’s Number is an excellent argument in favor of keeping society’s (self-managed or otherwise) to as small a number as possible in relation to how productive they can be. He showed that the further away from this number we get, the more authoritarian we tend to be.

Once again, I’m not against inter-community interaction, just the opposite. I’m in favor of a genuine globalization that puts all interacting communities on equal terms. And I’ve already described hypothetical systems of decision making that would deal with that. But you’re the one arguing in favor of the politics of numbers even larger than those it would concern, because we’re talking about the regulatory body of an entire country wading in over a decision only concerning a couple communities/factories. This is precisely what Dunbar warns against.

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