Use democracy to assess what matters

In modern world, there is a reverence toward democracy as an optimal form of government. The justification is that the people choose the government they will live under. However, in modern practice, the democratic process is in terms of choosing a side such as a political party and then supporting whoever the party offers in elections. In some cases, the people will pick a candidate from the party the voter normally opposes. In either case, the democratic process is to pick a person who when elected will be granted powers of ruling over everyone. Between elections, the rule itself is completely at the discretion of the elected officials.

The democratic process works through a process of population conditioning over many generations where a super majority of the population accepts the outcomes of elections, even those decided on thin margins. People of the losing party accept the results either with the confidence that the cycle of political preference will soon favor them, or they realize the consequences of the election are not that troubling. The remarkable trait of modern elections is that the losing party does not reject the results. Most elections are decided at very near parity in votes, leaving far more on losing side than that necessary to successfully overthrow the government through revolt, especially if the remaining population is reasonably apathetic to defending the establishment. I assume that this is a result of multiple generations of conditioning to believe in the wisdom of the government structure, such as a constitution, itself.

I expect at some point there will be a triggering event where a revolt would occur resulting in widespread and sustained disruptions of economy or destruction of infrastructure and institutions. Whenever that will happen, it will fall upon the supporters of the government to defend the government to the point of allowing the government to forcefully end the rebellion, and possibly with shocking brutality. A threatening revolt may involve as little as a tenth of the population, but that does not mean that the remaining 90% will automatically support the use of brutal force to subdue the rebellion. It may be that only a small minority will support the reactionary response. Lacking supermajority support of a strong reactionary response, the government could quickly collapse as the middle ground changes their sympathies to the rebellious group.

A possible outcome would be that a revolt of a small minority would succeed in toppling a government that fails to secure supermajority support for forceful suppression of that rebellion. If such an event would occur, it could immediately shatter the stability of any concept of this form of democracy that until then has always enjoyed peaceful change in power following a relatively simple election of individuals who have party affiliations. The winning rebellious group would need to find a different form of government, at least for the first generation, because the population’s trust and believe in democratic elections for individuals to occupy various offices of the various branches. Any attempt at an election would immediately trigger a revolt of the losing side because they know from example that this will work.

In my opinion, modern democracies, in the form of democratically electing representatives in a republic, are very fragile. The recent multiple-generation history of relative stability of this government gives a confidence that the stability is inherent in the form of government, or in the strength to prevail over rebellion such as what happened in the Civil War. The government may be stable because an organized rebellion of sufficient size has not been attempted in a long time.

The reason our democracies have been peacefully stable in modern times may be more due to luck rather than design. The luck is in the properly indoctrinated population of all ages to believe individually that this is the proper form of government for themselves. They have no experience of the government stability failing.

The modern population is very different from the population that started this country with the Revolutionary War, or who felt compelled to organize in rebellious armies during the Civil War. I do not doubt this population can become violent. Recent years demonstrated both the population’s capability of riotous behavior and the government’s relative inability to control or to stop that behavior. The rioters have generally rallied under the concept of anarchy. It is possible they may succeed and get their wish.

This is not the same as what happened during the earlier parts of our history where the rebellion had ideas of replacing the government with one of a similar nature but with different principles or organizational structures. I don’t see the modern population being able to produce a sufficient minority who would agree on a single concept for what an alternative government would look like. In the modern mindset, the only feasible construct is a system involving periodic elections of individuals to represent the population during the periods between elections.

In this blog, I have described an alternative form of government that is based on data and urgency. I have a particular concept that I named a dedomenocracy. In this government, computer algorithms decide all policies and enforceable laws. The algorithms will take into account the fullest extent of all available observational data about the world and each of its inhabitants. To be clear, this is exclusive rule by machine. Humans have no role in deciding the policies, and no role in consent or veto of the policies. Instead, the population’s role is to decide a period has sufficient urgency to trigger the production of a new policy that will have a built-in expiration date in the not too distant future. The population also has a role in collecting data, including deploying and validating sufficient sensors to collect sufficient information to make good decisions. Most critically, the population has a role to select the algorithm itself, and in particular the kind of outcomes the population most wants to achieve when some future urgency arises.

To some extent, the recent experience with government’s response to a declaration of a pandemic mimics what my imagined dedomenocracy would do. The initial and on-going actions are primarily following predefined plans for what should occur when a pandemic would occur. The plans themselves were prepared long ago, long before we knew the pandemic would occur. Also like my democracy, the mechanisms introduced these policies in such a way that all of the elected leaders were obligated to follow the policies. The elected leaders did not have the authority to override the policies, although in this case the population did not permit their leaders to lead when automated policies were offered.

My objection is that these operational plans were prepared mostly in secret and outside of public debate. The operational plans that we are currently following are far from democratic. The people who prepared the plans were not even elected representatives, and they did not open their deliberations to public scrutiny.

Even if the policy development would have been more properly democratic, I object to the specificity of the policies. The policies were specific responses to specific scenarios. The reaction to a pandemic was constrained to addressing the pandemic itself. The policies were to produce a new normal where the pandemic could be controlled.

In my alternative dedomenocracy, the democratic process would not work out specific operational plans for specific scenarios. Instead, the population would decide on the overall objectives of what the population most desires for the future and what they most want to avoid. The government responds to new crises by assessing the current risks and opportunities available given all available data, not just data about the crisis itself. The algorithm would weight various options in terms of maximizing the population’s desires and minimizing the potential calamities the population wants to avoid. In a dedomenocracy, the algorithm could decide the completely ignore the pandemic because doing so will, in the long run, benefit the survivors both in their numbers and their prosperity.

The current pandemic presents some very important information that are ignored by the operational plans we are following. Even from the start, the evidence was strong that the most vulnerable had few remaining life years remaining, or who were very unhealthy. In addition, the evidence is that the worldwide supply chains required highly productive economy to continue at both ends: producing and consuming. A more dispassionate approach to the situation could have assessed that the optimal solution for the best prosperity of the younger generations is to allow full freedom of the younger, less vulnerable population. This would accept the losses of the ones who are closer to the end of their lives. But, it would also place a priority on getting people healthier, especially in term of reducing obesity, increasing exercise, and improving nutrition especially in terms of vitamins and nutrients most needed by the immune system. Such policies would have been completely opposite of what we did.

Now, a year into this situation, we are told of the great number of deaths from this pandemic. The algorithms of a democracy could have predicted this in advance, and more significantly would not be embarrassed by this result. The fact is that those people are now departed and their welfare are no longer a factor in governance. What matters before the policies started is what matters right now. What matters the prosperity of the survivors. The better policies would be the ones that maximized the benefits available to the survivors, and maximized the proportion of survivors to access those benefits. We chose differently.

A dedomenocracy such as what I describe offers a new innovation to the concept of democracy. Instead of using the mechanisms of democracies to pick individuals who will rule according to their personal whims and apparent impotence against operational plans, we could have a government that canvases the populations for what objectives they desire for the future, and what calamities they want to avoid. We could also collect the public’s priorities of these goals and fears. The algorithmic government would be constrained to select policies that optimize this public expression of what they want for the future.

This is very different from the government we have now where the population picks people who behave completely differently than how they campaigned and the population is powerless until the next election, that will be too late, and that will likely present no better alternative individual. The current practice does not honor the population’s wishes.

Throughout the entire pandemic response, there never was a proper request for the public’s opinions about how they want things to turn out. The presumption, seemingly obvious, is that we must avoid large number of deaths. Through the experience of the 20th century, we identified a particular measure merit for governments by counting the number of deaths they caused. Good governments or policies lose fewer lives the bad governments or policies.

This measure is distorted because it ignores the demographics of those lost. For example, the current pandemic is sometimes described as having the highest number of lives lost since the 1918-1919 flu. The numbers in terms of proportion of population of this season is far smaller than that earlier example. More significantly, this season is affecting populations near the end of their lives while the earlier example had a much higher impact on the younger generations. Many of the people affected in today’s pandemic survived until now through medical inventions unavailable a century ago. Many of today’s casualties would not have even been in the population to be infected during the 1918 pandemic.

At the start of this pandemic, we missed the opportunity to poll the population for what kind of outcome did they want from the response policies. Questions could include the following.

  1. What is the acceptable cost for remaining life years saved.
  2. What is an acceptable value for life expectancy our policies should strive for.
  3. How important is developing our younger generation’s future prospects whether it is in education, profession, or building social networks and families
  4. How important is the economic opportunities for the younger generations to enjoy and to finance support of the pensioner population when this is all over.
  5. To what extent are we comfortable to allow medical policies compliance up to and including compelled medical procedures.
  6. To the extent vaccination is used, do healthy people need it, and especially if the concept of vaccination requires periodic reinjections
  7. What are the acceptable consequence of prophylactic measures such as vaccine injuries or opportunity costs of lock downs on otherwise healthy and high vitality individuals
  8. When judging the government’s response to pandemics, is it saved lives, life-years, future life opportunities, or something else?

The failure of the modern democratic governments is that none of these fundamental perspectives of the population were debated democratically. The irony is that the democratic government of elected officials presiding over unelected bureaucrats imposed these answers on the population. Instead of assessing the population’s sentiments on these questions, the democratic government cajoled the population into following the science, and to listen to the doctors. The science may be correct, and the doctors may be wise, but they might be answering the wrong questions.

One thought on “Use democracy to assess what matters

  1. Pingback: data wars in dedomenocracy | Hypothesis Discovery

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