Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Flaw...

...with representative democracy is demonstrated by the following, from a news article:

"While many national polls have shown Republicans catching up to Democrats on a 'generic' congressional ballot, the numbers are different when voters are asked if they will vote for their actual representative or another candidate. CQ Politics rates about three-quarters of all 435 seats as safe."

As it's said "People hate Congress, but love their congressman"...because
their congressman represents them and their interests specifically.

As I was saying in my recent post about exploitation in world trade, one problem with US democracy is that the politicians only represent US citizens, and thus have no particularly strong incentive to considering the common good of the rest of humanity. Because who, then, would they exploit for their
own constituents' interests? If everyone was their constituent? What outsiders would be left to exploit?

Well, as the quote above demonstrates, a similar collective action problem exists with Congress even just domestically. The congressman all represent individual districts, so they are all willing to backstab other districts to get an advantage, to fight for the narrow interests of their own constituency rather than for the common good. So many people hate Congress as a whole, but loves their individual congressman.

Before people start to peg me as some sort of crazy monarchist or something based on what I'm about to say, please look back at my post on Politics where I tried to present all these issues in a level-headed and balanced way. But, I have to say, this problem of special-interests inherent in having specific separate constituencies...seems a pretty fatal flaw in representative democracy. A recipe for conflict and exploitation and stalemates.

However, if representatives were elected At Large instead of in local districts, this problem probably wouldn't exist (as the quote suggests). Then they'd truly have to work for the common good to get re-elected.

Combining the two related ideas, I have to say right now that it seems a good government for humanity would be a relatively small council of leaders elected At Large from the Whole World who would represent Everyone without distinction, and could lose their office only if Everyone (as opposed to a more local/special interest) was mad.

Of course, do they really need to be elected at that point? Surely if a majority of the world's population was mad, they would be easily deposed even if their office was hereditary. And, conversely, surely if they had such control over the military that such a deposition was impossible...they'd be able to pull something to stay in power whether they were "elected" or not.

I'm starting to think more that I learn about the exploitative methods of the world economy that Dante was right about some of the arguments he made in De Monarchia, which previously seemed a bit unrealistic to me:
as a part stands in relation to the whole, so the order in a part stands to the order in the whole. A part stands in relation to the whole as to its end and perfection: therefore the order in a part stands to the order in the whole as to its end and perfection. From this it can be deduced that the goodness of the order in a part does not exceed the goodness of the order in the whole, but rather the reverse.
It doesn't work if the parts are not ordered towards the good of the whole by some final unitive agency. This capitalist notion that everyone acting independently according to their own self-interest will somehow make the most Just situation magically demonstrably untrue. Dante points out why:
Now wherever there can be conflict there must be judgment to resolve it, otherwise there would be an imperfection without its proper corrective; and this is impossible, since God and nature never fail in their provision of what is necessary.

There is always the possibility of conflict between two rulers where one is not subject to the other's control; such conflict may come about either through their own fault or the fault of their subjects (the point is self-evident); therefore there must be judgment between them.

And since neither can judge the other (since neither is under the other's control, and an equal has no power over an equal) there must be a third party of wider jurisdiction who rules over both of them by right.

And this person will either be the monarch or not. If he is, then our point is proved; if he is not, he in his turn will have an equal who is outside the sphere of his jurisdiction, and then it will once again be necessary to have recourse to a third party.

And so either this procedure will continue ad infinitum, which is not possible, or else we must come to a first and supreme judge, whose judgment resolves all disputes either directly or indirectly; and this man will be the monarch or emperor. Thus monarchy is necessary to the world.

And Aristotle saw the force of this argument when he said: "Things do not wish to be badly ordered; a plurality of reigns is bad; therefore let there be one ruler".
Because if there is not some final authority in that regard, you wind up with the two competing rulers fighting for each of their self interests, without regard for the good of the other side. And so it becomes just a question of who has more strength, and that person can then take what they want:
To clarify the first of these it must be noted that the thing most contrary to justice is greed, as Aristotle states in the fifth book of the Ethics. When greed is entirely eliminated, nothing remains which is opposed to justice; hence Aristotle's opinion that those things which can be resolved by law should in no way be left to the judge's discretion. And it is fear of greed which makes this necessary, for greed easily leads men's minds astray. But where there is nothing which can be coveted, it is impossible for greed to exist, for emotions cannot exist where their objects have been destroyed.

But there is nothing the monarch could covet, for his jurisdiction is bounded only by the ocean; whereas this is not the case with other rulers, whose sovereignty extends only as far as the neighbouring kingdom, as is the case, for instance, with the kings of Castille and of Aragon. From this it follows that of all men the monarch can be the purest embodiment of justice.
The multiplicity of leaders for a multiplicity of why there is War at all (civil war and coups are a somewhat different matter). Because Castille can covet what Aragon has, and go to war to get it if they are confident they are stronger, because Castille's government doesnt care whether Aragon has to suffer for it. Why should they, that's not their constituency. Their constituency, according to self-interest, would just want the wealth. But if Castille and Aragon had a government that answered to both of wouldn't be willing to plunder one to enrich the other, because that would get half of its constituency angry.

If there were only one government for the whole world...there could be no more separate nations to war against each other to preserve their own relative advantage. That's a bit of a pipe-dream still, though Pope Benedict seems to hint at in Caritas in Veritate in the part where he suggests, essentially, giving the UN more teeth, some real enforcement power.

One great place to first use such power, as suggested on the VagantePriest blog, would be in creating a worldwide minimum wage. Then US companies could no longer take advantage of the gradient of strong states vs. weak states in the world in the form of cheap labor in poor countries whose State mechanisms aren't powerful enough (or can't afford economically) to require such a thing themselves.

But, on a smaller scale, if congressmen were elected At Large instead of from specific districts, they would not wheel and deal to get something that advantaged their district over and above others, since they'd represent everyone collectively.

So my point is that, ironically, the most global of governments are the ones that distribute and diffuse power the most, since their are no "outsiders" of which to take advantage.

The only thing that I worry about would be how, then, to protect minority rights and opinions. For example, if China and India got together and pooled their votes and had a majority of the world's population (not currently true, this is just an example)...might there not still be a risk of them saying, "we 51% will exploit the 49%" even though that 49% are technically still the constituents of the world council being elected? But they could just ignore them because they know they have the 51% they need on their side? Though, I'm not sure what kind of system can ever prevent something like that; in the end, if the majority is willing to be evil like that, no "system" of institutions can stop them; they'll just dismantle the system. Yet this sort of exploitation by the majority seems to be why people cling so much to the idea of representation being specific and local instead of general and At Large.

Which is why it is so ironic that, for all that paranoia, the problem with modern democracy is not in fact "majoritarianism"...but rather the tyranny of special interests, the constant warring between the self-interests of the multiplicity of constituencies. People who believe that the best or most Just situation will somehow simply emerge from such competition, the broadest appeal for the broadest number...are crazy. In reality, you just get a lot of compromises that satisfy no one, and a lot of stalemates that reinforce the status quo.


Xoán-Wahn said...

You make some very interesting points, especially toward the end. This sort of system is certainly worth thinking about and is, in fact, the system that conspiracy theorists have been denouncing for quite some time. It seems like a good system (more just, etc) in theory but the problem you present at the end is almost enough to make anyone stop short of making it a reality.

A Sinner said...

Well, almost anyone in the rich countries. The poor countries would probably like it, would give them the voice they don't have on the world stage. They may all be equal in their domestic democracies, but their voice is not comparable to an American's on the world stage, because the American is represented by a stronger State.

But, yeah, people who are all for isolationism, nationalism, etc...usually are just afraid that embracing all humanity will lead to lowering their own quality of life (and, it might, somewhat...seeing as First World luxury is built on exploitation of the Third).

The ironic thing is that even the lower middle class in America seems to buy into this, when it isn't, in fact, their quality of life that would change at all. It would be the super-rich's.

That's the ironic thing about all these blue-collar types who are against the idea of socialism (not that I'm for it either)...they complain "They'd take our money and give it to other lazy people!"

But, in reality, most of these middle-class people complaining about that possibility...are actually BELOW the 50th percentile of income...meaning they would actually be on the RECEIVING end of such a re-distribution. No one would be taking anything from them, if anything, they'd be the ones receiving.