I’ve been thinking about politics a lot lately. Mostly, I’ve thought that the people in power don’t really represent me and is there a way to fix that? I’m not alone. 53% of the American people think that their politicians don’t represent them. 90 million Americans didn’t bother to vote last year, mostly because they thought it made no difference.
Now, I’ll start by saying I don’t favor not voting. There are plenty of places in the world where people would kill for the right to vote and I don’t throw that right away easily even if I can’t achieve all of my goals through it. I read an article in the Economist earlier describing North Korea. A young woman who managed to get out of that rat turd of a country and safely into South Korea recalls being picked up by the fashion police for wearing a hat that said New York. Be thankful for the little voice that you have and treat it as such. That said, it doesn’t mean that we should accept the erosion of our rights and values. We have to fight for all the power we can get our hands on.
I’ve tried to think about this problem in new ways. How can we really change things? I’ve come up with two ideas. One is based on stuff we have tried in the past, one has never been tried. Both are fairly radical solutions. By radical I don’t mean armed conflict or violent activism. Historically, when people want to change things, they do one of two things. They rise up and fight or they commit random acts of violence. For random acts of violence see the news with people like ex-cop Dorner and his one man war against the LAPD or the Joker in the Aurora theater or 9/11. For revolutions, see the American Revolution, the French Revolution, the Arab Spring and a million other examples.
It’s safe to say that random acts of violence never change things for the better. It just hardens and empowers the powers that be to take more of our rights under the guise of “security.” They suddenly find the need to restrict our freedoms and take away due process so that they can fight the shadows. As for revolutions, they rarely work. In fact, as far as I can tell they have only worked a few times. Mostly, revolutions lead to the same type of people taking power. One tyranny replaces another. I wrote another article that breaks down why so many revolutions have not produced a better government for their people, so I won’t go into that too much here. America was unique for a number of reasons. There was new land. An army had to come over the sea at a great expense to fight us. We had the backing of the second major super power in the world. The problem now is that there is no more new land, at least until we push out into space. Every government in the world has the advantage of a standing army fighting on their home turf. They also have a serious advantage in weapons tech. Due to “progressive” thinking that we just don’t need our guns, the people are never fighting with the same weapons as their governments, even when they get help.
So how do we fix this fucking thing without breaking out the AK’s or AR-15s and battling the powers that be? The first idea is to get rid of all representatives all together. This is a concept I’ve written about in my sci-fi work. The idea is simple: forget having representatives. Build a distributed voting system that allows instant feedback from voters regarding major issues. This would be incredibly challenging to build, as it would require massive computer systems that are open and verifiably trusted. There are ways to build this, but it would take time and the right direction. It may even require the computers to make some minor decisions that most people would never vote on. We may not be able to build it at all, at least not right now. This system would have to be introduced incrementally, until it takes over. Start building it as a trojan horse. Build it, so people can have their voice heard on minor issues at first. Once people taste that power it will expand or the politicians will attempt to crush it. Either way, eventually you have no representatives, you are simply representing yourself. Then again, it’s highly unlikely we will see this in our lifetime and it might just take a revolution or pushing out into the new frontiers of space to make it happen.
There are a number of problems with this system, as well as a number of advantages. Both are the subject of my next sci-fi novel, which details the rise and fall and rise again of such a system in China. The advantages are manifold. First, the reason most democracies decay is because of simple time and the accretion of useless laws. This is similar to the decay of religions over time. The original message is good, but everyone who comes along after feels the need to “do something” to add their take on the good book, or to add their laws to the great experiment of democracy. Eventually, you have a mess of contradictory and unworkable laws. No representative ever gets to power and realizes that the best thing he can do is stop passing new laws or just simply reform old ones. They all have to do something. This is human nature. It’s also the reason things fall apart.
The major challenge with this system is that it is prone to the collective madness of crowds. At least in theory, it’s prone to that. The conventional wisdom is that crowds make bad decisions in times of crisis. This may be true in the macrocosm as it is true in the microcosm. We saw sweeping un-American legislation pass in the wake of 9/11, but would people make the same decisions as their representatives who have a vested interest in keeping their power? Maybe. Maybe not. Some of the modern thinking around crowds is proving some of the conventional wisdom wrong. Take a look at the book called “The Wisdom of Crowds” by James Surowiecki, which details the rise of crowd-sourcing and the collective power of a gazillion neurons working together. It talks about how groups of people can form networks of trust without a central system controlling their behavior or directly enforcing their compliance.
The second major issue is that people might just not want to worry about all the various decisions that need to be made, so they don’t vote. To me that action may be a more serious problem. Inertia is a powerful force. As successive generations inherit the power of making their own decisions, they may come to see it as something they just have that’s not that important. People tend to forget the value of the things as they have them for longer and longer periods. Young people who never had their freedom taken away don’t know what it is like to lose it and may assume that freedom is just the way of all things.
Either way, over time, I feel that it’s inevitable that someone will try and make this system and we will see whether it works in reality. At this point, we just don’t know.
The second choice is a bit more conventional. We need a third party. I call it the Choice Party because it focuses on the idea that anything that takes away our choices is bad. Our current parties are entrenched with old ways of thinking. Now stop right there you think, creating a third party never works and you are just throwing your vote away. While that is often true in America, other countries have multiple parties quite effectively, like Germany. And it has worked here before too. How many of you still vote for the Whig party? Do any of you vote for the Federalists anymore?
The focus on choice is the key to correcting our thinking on how to make our lives better. If you look at how society develops, it is always a battle between the forces that want more freedoms and those who want to control everything. I’ve clarified my thinking to the point that I am a proponent of choice every time. I believe people always have the right to make their own decisions and live with the consequences of those decisions. Of course the problem of choice is messy. It has some bad side effects. People die. Accidents happen. Markets crash. But I argue that the side effects of control are always worse. Can anyone actually say they’d like to live in North Korea or China, when the information that they get is strictly controlled coupled with the fact that you can be picked up for any made-up infraction at a moment’s notice? I doubt it, unless you’re fucking delusional.
In order to build a party that favors choice over everything, we need to adjust our thinking, or learn to think more carefully about what we have an opinion on. Often times we want to have opinions without bothering to go through the pain of thinking it through and adjusting our thinking as new information comes in. So what is favoring choice and why doesn’t either of the parties in power today live up to that? On one side you have the Republicans who rightly favor freedom in terms of markets and personal defenses. However, they look to control our actions at the social level. They want to restrict abortion or control what can and can’t be seen on TV. On the other side, you have the Democrats who are more open on the social side, but who want to control and restrict the markets. First off, favoring choice over everything else is not tantamount to never allowing any controls or restrictions in general. So what does favoring choice look like?
Let’s examine some current controversial issues of the day to illustrate my point. I guarantee that if you’ve lived most of your life in the pre-proscribed categories of Democrat or Republican, then you will disagree with some of my ideas, at least at first. This is because a lot of us are not aware of the problems that control creates for us. They think they can control one area of life and in others allow freedom. They think that as long as they have social freedom, it’s perfectly fine to restrict personal defense and force the markets to do our collective will. On the other side, they think the markets should do what they want, but that their own personal values should be forced on everyone else. But freedoms are intertwined. Every freedom that is taken away diminishes the whole of our freedoms. If I mandate that one religion is allowed to be enshrined, then I am restricting other religions. If I take away your weapons, then I take away your ability to defend yourself against bad people who will get them anyway. Every freedom that is taken away makes it easier for people to think that they can take away more of our rights. If I can get an abortion, but I can’t defend my family, than I am only partially free. If I can defend my family, but I can’t consume whatever media I want, then I am only partially free. In the end it should always boil down to the decisions made by the individual. They should make the choice and live with the consequences.
Let’s take a look at a law that passed in Southern California as an example. An overwhelming majority of people passed a law that says porn actors have to wear condoms on shoots, pardon the pun. The argument for this law was that these people couldn’t take care of themselves; they are spreading disease. Of course, there have been relatively few examples of porn actors actually getting a sexual communicable disease in recent years, but that obscures the point and is basically a Red Herring. This may sound harsh, but it doesn’t actually matter if any or all of the porn actors die of AIDS or get herpes. You may say that they were forced to make their decision, or they are not in their right minds because who would ever choose that profession, or that they are just too stupid which is why they are selling their bodes for money. These are all judgment calls on your part. These opinions at their best are inaccurate and at their worst they are downright insulting.
Let’s start with force. We can rule out force right away. This is because if anyone is forced to do anything, then those who forced them should be punished, period. So let’s assume that the majority of porn actors were not forced. They made their own decisions. You may not like the decisions. You may not approve of their decisions and their life style, but does that give you the right to make their decisions for them? That kind of thinking is the single biggest reason our freedoms get restricted. You don’t think other people are capable of making their own decisions, so you have to do it for them. This is always dangerous thinking. Who are you to judge? In fact, I guarantee that there are large groups of people who don’t agree with your decisions. They never will. They would argue that you are delusional in fact. For every idea there is a counter idea. This is not speculation. There are people who think you have no idea how to make up your own mind, that if you favor abortion or abortion control or gun control or gun rights, then you are wrong and are in fact crazy and should be suppressed. In Democracies, we have the right to disagree. And because of that, we have to allow people to make their own choices, so they can live their own lives, as they see fit. The only way we can do that, is if we allow people to make their own choices. If we call everyone crazy and say they can’t decide for themselves, then eventually we have no freedoms. An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.
Let’s take another controversial decision: abortion. Abortion is not great in many respects. It has terrible psychological effects on the mother. Anyone who has had an abortion or known a woman, who has, knows that. However, people need to be able to decide for themselves whether or not to have one and live with the consequences. If it’s against your belief structure, because you believe the fetus is a life, then as long as abortion is legal, you can choose to stand against it and not have one. But if you restrict someone else’s ability to make that decision for themselves, then you are arguing that your ideas are simply superior, that you should dictate the actions of others and that they can’t make decisions for themselves. The point is, it is not your call. It’s not your soul. Their decision is between themselves and God and their conscience.
As long as we live with the idea that we shouldn’t be making choices for other people, we can build a truly free society. Unfortunately, I’m guessing that you’d also need a society of Ubermench to make any of this happen. It’s all a bit of a pipe dream, but one worth having.