Voting is not the answer. Voting is the problem.


19 Responses

  1. While there is a role for catchy (and misleading) slogans in political campaigns, I prefer argument.


  2. It is quite evident, Keith, that you value logical argumentation highly. Otherwise you wouldn’t be so economical in its use.

    Seriously, though, I disagree: unlike you, I believe manipulation should not “have a role” in political campaigns. I offer this cartoon because I think that it captures a solid and fundamental point.


  3. >I believe manipulation should not “have a role” in political campaigns.

    People will always seek to persuade others according to their beliefs and interests, that’s why the Greeks and Romans invented the (currently unfashionable) art of rhetoric (jaw-jaw being an improvement on war-war). Switching the method of election from voting to allotment will not remove this problem, the only way is to ensure that the (attempted) manipulation is a) even handed and b) well informed.


  4. The problem is not with persuasion – that’s not only legitimate, it’s the only legitimate way to change policy. The problem is with manipulation. Manipulation is much easier in the mass political setting than it is in the small group setting. In fact, on most issues, manipulation is inevitable in the mass political setting.


  5. >Manipulation is much easier in the mass political setting than it is in the small group setting.

    Not so. There is a continuum between persuasion and manipulation and it comes in many forms, not just the disproportionate influence of the rich and powerful via concentrated media ownership and campaign contributions. You don’t need to be a social psychologist to appreciate that in any group a few people will assume a leadership role, based on their rhetorical skills, personality traits, knowledge or perceived social status, at which point the group ceases to be a statistically-representative microcosm (as some people will be considerably more persuasive than others).


  6. Yes, yes – I’ve heard your story many times before about that small cabal of people who exist in every group and who manage to mesmerize the silent majority due to their superior intellect and character, and how the poor infinitely manipulable majority will find its champion and salvation in the person of some elite advocate or candidate.

    Let me refer you to one of many previous incarnations of this discussion instead of rehashing the whole thing here again:


  7. I refuse to believe that there is a definitive answer to every argument that can just be archived and referenced. Unlike you, I listen to what people say and move on accordingly. Andre has convinced me regarding a number of issues, but you seem to believe that once you have made a pronouncement on an issue then it’s done and dusted and not worth revisiting. If everyone held this perspective then deliberative democracy would be a complete waste of time.


  8. A little over a year ago some evolutionary neurologists published a paper theorizing that human rational thought evolved to its present level not as a means of finding the truth, or best conclusions, but rather as a means of winning arguments (and detecting weak arguments from others). I think you are both exhibiting this tendency (I know I exhibit it all the time and it dominates most Internet political “discussions”) to be invested in a conclusion and then finding how logic and the evidence can fit. You probably both genuinely believe you are open to persuasion by compelling logic, but once any of us have some sort of emotional investment in some conclusion, we tend to want to stick to our current beliefs. The value of these Yoram and Keith Blog posts is NOT in persuading each other, but rather that OTHERS who are NOT yet invested in a conclusion may benefit.


  9. >The value of these Yoram and Keith Blog posts is NOT in persuading each other, but rather that OTHERS who are NOT yet invested in a conclusion may benefit.

    Absolutely. Yoram and myself are both passionate advocates for our causes and don’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of persuading each other. Our job is to persuade the “jury” — ie normal non-geeks — who have no entrenched views on the issue. Terry’s post is the best example that I’ve seen to date demonstrating how essential it is to keep advocacy and judgment completely separate — with the former being well balanced and well informed and the latter function left in the hands of a representative microcosm without any particular axe to grind. The danger with a full-mandate AC is that a random sample might well include a Sutherland but not a Gat (or vice versa) and will be anything but well-balanced (and well informed).


  10. As always, Keith, I’d be happy to reopen any discussion if you advance a new argument. Until you do that, reopening old discussions simply results in repeating old discussions, which is useless.

    Regarding the possibility of being irrationally obstinate – by definition, this possibility is not falsifiable. It may be true but even if not, it cannot be refuted. However, repeating old discussions serves no useful purpose either way.


  11. Although, for rhetorical reasons, I’m prepared to acknowledge that we are equally obstinate, I could equally well point to the enormous shifts in my own views as a result, in part, of the conversations on this forum. The fact that I had to rewrite my book (and give it a new title) and will need to write it again after completing my PhD is good evidence of my willingness to listen to the arguments of others.

    Can you let us all know in what respects your own thinking has been modified?


  12. > Can you let us all know in what respects your own thinking has been modified?

    Do you really need to ask? Like most people in our day and age I used to be an uncritical believer in the classical doctrine of democracy with all its attendant cliches. Thus, my current rejection of the entire complex as mere propaganda represents a rather radical change.

    FWIW I have not seen any significant shift in your positions since you started writing here – care to offer an example of one of those enormous shifts you mention?

    In any case, a record of shifting ideas may be a matter of lack of critical thought or of opportunism just as much as a matter of openness to rational argumentation. So such a record, by itself, is neither a badge of honor nor a mark of shame.


  13. I was referring to changes since you underwent your original political metanoia and, more specifically, for any evidence that you have listened to the arguments on this blog that sortition is not a magic bullet to end the domination of the rich ‘n powerful.

    In my first (2004) book I argued, with the zeal of the recent convert, that the (political) Party was Over. I then attended a panel on sortition at the Manchester Political Theory Workshop (in 2006 or thereabouts) and was persuaded of the ongoing need for elections to set the policy agenda. Since then, members of this forum have convinced me that online petitions and other forms of direct democracy can fulfil this role better. Terry Bouricius has convinced me (albeit reluctantly) that randomly-selected policy panels might play an equivalent role at the early stage of the legislative process. I have also been persuaded by pretty much all of Andre’s arguments, with one exception: that random selection can come into play for actions that are not open to statistical aggregation without breaching the descriptive-representation mandate.

    How about you sir?


  14. Not that it matters one way or another, but I am not surprised to find out that what you referred to as “enormous changes” are really minor adjustments. The major ideas (“the rich n’ powerful” set the political agenda and the menu of possible policies, while the allotted bodies are restricted to selection from that menu) have remained fixed.

    If these are the most extreme examples you can offer of changing your mind then you have lived a life of pretty unwavering opinions, for better or for worse.


  15. Needless to say I dispute your claim that an open petition system limits the policy agenda to the rich ‘n powerful, and I still insist that the agenda should be subject to democratic constraints. I haven’t yet heard a convincing argument that sortition has a role in a field that is not open to aggregation, so my view on this remains unchanged. Statistical representation presupposes aggregation, anything else is mere randomness — the sort of arationality advocated by Dowlen and Stone.

    But you haven’t answered my question, so I’ll repeat it: What changes — major or minor — have your views undergone as a consequence of the exchanges on this forum? Your insistence on substituting fresh argument with links to earlier exchanges would suggest a “life of pretty unwavering opinions”.


  16. > a “life of pretty unwavering opinions”.

    Again, I consider my abandonment of the classical electoral doctrine as representing a significant change of opinion. Again, there is nothing inherently wrong with unwavering opinions.

    As for opinion changes following discussions here, nothing comes to mind. There may have been minor changes – I don’t keep score. For the most part, the impact of discussions here has been to prompt me to explore issues I haven’t considered before and go into further details of issues I considered previously.


  17. >As for opinion changes following discussions here, nothing comes to mind.

    Thank you. That certainly confirms my own impression regarding your unwavering opinions. It also confirms my scepticism regarding the value of deliberative democracy for those with deeply-held convictions (who tend to be less open to the foreceless force of the better argument) and the overriding necessity for the separation of advocacy and judgment. Those with unwavering opinions are the most likely to seek to persuade/manipulate others and, as such, institutional mechanisms are necessary in order to ensure balanced information and advocacy (as opposed to leaving it to happenstance).


  18. > confirms my scepticism regarding the value of deliberative democracy for those with deeply-held convictions

    If you ever find someone who believes that deeply held convictions are easily changed don’t forget to mention this case study. It is bound to change their opinions on this matter.


  19. […] just created T-shirts with the “voting is the problem” cartoon that I made some time ago. Feel free to buy those shirts for yourself or for your […]


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