Shopping for Government

Democracy divides. In order to get anything close to what you want in government, you must support a team. Democracy makes us stupid as well. Once on a team, you have an incentive to defend that team’s every action no matter how bad.

And so, the Sith Lord Moldbug finds grist for his condemnations of democracy, and rationale for monarchy. And if you ignore the War of the Roses, Czarist Russia, most ancient history, all of Central and South American Indian history, monarchy begins to look pretty good. Actually, what Moldbug is locking in on is a mix of competitive government, which the Holy Roman Empire had to a significant degree, and a slice of colonial history from when classical liberal values were popular. His data points are not representative of his thesis.

Competitive government provides better accountability than democracy, so radical federalism is one answer, even of some of the localities are run by a Boss Hogg. But today, state’s rights are not enough. The states are too big. California is a prime example. Split up the big states so that none are more populous than, say, Virginia, and we might get a taste of accountable government even under our current system.

But while accountability breaks down with size, other features of government scale up. Uniform laws over a large population provide bigger markets. Larger countries can field larger armies per mile of territorial border. Economic diversity stabilizes the tax base and reduces the impulse for mercantilism somewhat.

So I’ll stick with democratic republics until someone successfully field tests anarchocapitalism in a small country. But I do think we can and should make democracy less bad. To do so, let us look at the mechanisms by which democracy divides and dumnificates.

If you wish to reign in the rich, hand out largesse to the poor, stop global warming, keep abortion legal, and keep guns out of the hands of dangerous civilians, then the Democratic Party is your team. If you hate high taxes on the rich, despise regulations on business, like to own guns, and think abortion is murder, then the Republican Party is your team. If Democrats outnumber Republicans, then you get Democratic rule in that district and vice versa. No problem, if everyone fits into one of the teams. But they don’t.

Joe is a union member, distrusts big corporations, but he is also a God-fearing gun owner. Jane wants to stop global warming but she also thinks government is too big and complicated. Which teams should they join?

Enter the ugly battle for the swing voter. The Democrats need members of the tax paying elite to fatten its welfare-mooching coalition, so they pander to professors and push pretentious preachers on PBS. The Republicans need some blue collar voters to round out its coalition of golf-playing corporate overlords so they feature clowns and buffoons on talk radio and run presidential candidates of limited vocabulary.

Each side nitpicks away at the other, trying to convince the swing voters that the other side is less competent and more corrupt. Those who agree significantly more with one team, join said team and then bend their thinking to fit in. Each side has its echo chambers to exhort the faithful and drown out inconvenient truths with noise. Stupidity is amplified.

But what happens if we switch to Score Voting? Joe and Jane can safely give their highest scores to candidates they actually agree with. Candidates in general have less incentive to toe their party’s lines, since you could have more than one Democrat and/or Republican on the ticket in the general election. Groupthink provides fewer rewards; people can think issue by issue. Collective stupidity wanes.

If government becomes a bit less stupid, it might become a bit less bad. And if it becomes a bit less bad, it might become a bit less period. Government grows in response to crisis. Lazy libertarians would do well to ditch the Atlas Shrugged scenario and push for Score Voting and other incremental reforms. It’s cheaper and safer than living on a floating island, or turning Cuba into an experiment in anarchocapitalism.

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Bryan Caplan's view is that

Bryan Caplan's view is that the voters are to blame. They are already getting what they want from both parties, but are too stupid to realize that's causing all the problems in governance. The only part of the budget they're willing to cut is foreign aid (and maybe not even that if they knew which countries received the bulk of it), they want to increase spending on other things while also reducing taxes. Ed Glaeser has said that proportional representation means larger government, and I believe him. We should be grateful for the anti-democratic aspects of the U.S constitution that have given us a two-party system.

Not proportional representation

Score voting is not the same as proportional representation. Reweighted score voting can be used for proportional representation, but that is not what I am advocating. I favor district elections (with possibly some multi member districts for dense cities).

Standard proportional representation give you a mix of the partisan hacks from multiple parties, including fringe parties. Score voting by district would give multiple flavors of moderate. More David Stockmans, Bruce Bartletts and Al Gores, fewer Jesse Helmeses and Nancy Pelosis.

And if it becomes a bit less

And if it becomes a bit less bad, it might become a bit less period.

The governments usually considered the most efficient are the Scandinavian ones, "blue-eyed paradise" is I think Sailer's term. They are quite large. Governments considered inefficient & corrupt tend to take up a smaller portion of GDP (outside of communist countries, of course). I know I saw a post somewhere with data arguing that better governments are larger governments. You should look up that kind of research, since you're going out on a limb and making the argument.

Good point but

1. I said it might be a bit less. I didn't make a strong argument because I am uncertain.

2. We have plenty of experience with government growing in response to crises. This does tend to imply the converse. We have gotten government shrinkage after wars, for example.

Chose the system which will elect the least popular person?

Consider an election with 5 candidates. Depending upon the voting system any one of the 5 could win the election.

My church uses what I think is a silly system. We usually have 4 people running for 2 not numbered positions. The people are instructed to vote for 2 people. The winner must get a majority vote. Sometimes this takes 3 or more tries before someone is elected. If I want a particular person to be elected then I can only vote for one person because if I vote for 2 people in a close race of 4 people my votes will cancel out.