Politics (2) Democracy

Democracy is such a misunderstood term. Almost nobody in the world has experienced true democracy and almost never on a large scale. Many of us live in countries that have implemented representative democracies, specifically republics. Yet such a small proportion of those who live in republics understand how republics work, specifically how voting works in a republic.

An Unrestricted Analyst could debunk many of the popular misconceptions about voting in a republic. One such misconception is that a vote reveals what is wanted by the voter.

  1. Anyone who has ever held a paper ballot knows that there is no where near enough space on it to hold a complete and unambiguous express of what is wanted.
  2. Anyone who has ever tried to express any requirement or specification knows that the space to present it is the least of the problems (issues of completeness and ambiguity are overwhelming).
  3. One does not have to scratch deeply into the study of decision making by organisations to find that a huge portion of influence is exerted by the framer of the question(s) (as are being asked on the ballot).
  4. If the answer to the question is other than “yes” or “no”, then there is no general algorithm for combining answers from multiple ballots into a single answer from the election, referendum, or plebiscite — as in there are multiple algorithms where few if any give the same result as another.

Given these easily observed limitations (and there are plenty more beyond them), it is hard to justify the view held by so many that they should be able to express what they want on the ballot. Given their failure to understand the tool they are using, it is not hard to see why so many voters are so angry that the results of elections never seem to reflect what they want.  And for too many, the misconceptions about ballots and democracy is but the tip of the iceberg that is the failure of their education.

Author: protin

A futurologist (madman) using systems analysis techniques to try to be prepared.

3 thoughts on “Politics (2) Democracy”

  1. Ballot choices are generally of the multiple-choice variety – Yes-No or True-False are multiple choices where the multiple is two.

    The problem on many of these choices is that the answer the voter really desires is “none of the above” – which is not offered. Not voting does not really have the same meaning as a positive vote for none of the above.

    1. I hear many different things in your comment. Rather than try to answer each possible interpretation, I will reiterate my original claim with some emphasis. Representative democracy is not an event (nor can it be), it is not only a lifetime process but the lifetime is that of the organization, such as the government of the nation. Due to the limitations of algorithms to combine the collection of ballots cast into a single result and also due to the general need to have a single result, ballots are generally designed to use only two state questions (at least the better ones are). Furthermore, I contend that in general if you want “none of the above” you are already much too late in the process to constructively contribute to the public discussion.

      Regrettably, proper engagement requires the ability to see how one’s current actions shape the set of options that one will get in the future, and so few people learn how to do even the crudest analysis of that relationship.

    2. Further in reply to Aaron Grosky: To claim that the vote desires “none of the above” is confirm my claim that the voter is unprepared to deal with the ballot given. A ballot is not a device for a voter to use to perfectly convey arbitrary desires; it is a device to express the bare minimum and that is all it can ever be. Failing to understand this fundamental limit is to guarantee dissatisfaction.

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