Why Not Epistocracy (i fixed the PDF found on google)
Previusly mentioned, but its pretty good, and right to the topic.
Also, the Wiki page about meritocracy sucks.
The impact of genetic enhancement on equality found via another paper: The rhetoric and reality of gap closing—when the “have-nots” gain but the “haves” gain even more (Stephen J. Ceci and Paul B. Papierno), which i was reading becus i was reading varius papers on Linda Gottfredson’s homepage.
There apparently is a genuine possibility that genetic and non-
genetic mechanisms eventually will be able to significantly en-
hance human capabilities and traits generally. Examining
this prospect from the standpoint of equality considerations is
one useful way to inquire into the effects of such enhancement
technologies. Because of the nature and limitations of compet-
ing ideas of equality, we are inevitably led to investigate a very
broad range of issues. This Article considers matters of distri-
bution and withholding of scarce enhancement resources and
links different versions of equality to different modes of distri-
bution. It briefly addresses the difficulties of defining “en-
hancement” and “trait” and links the idea of a “merit attribute”
to that of a “resource attractor.” The role of disorder-based jus-
tifications is related to equality considerations, as is the possi-
bility of the reduction or “objectification” of persons arising
from the use of enhancement resources. Risks of intensified
and more entrenched forms of social stratification are outlined.
The Article also considers whether the notion of merit can sur-
vive, and whether the stability of democratic institutions based
on a one-person, one-vote standard is threatened by attitude
shifts given the new technological prospects. It refers to John
Stuart Mill’s “plural voting” proposal to illustrate one chal-
lenge to equal-vote democracy.
Nevertheless, it is conceivable that, despite rigorous division of
labor, there may be political and social equality of a sort. Different
professions, trades, and occupations and the varying aptitudes un-
derlying them might be viewed as equally worthy. The “alphas”
may be held equal to the “betas,” though their augmentations (via
the germ line or the living body) and life-work differ. Perhaps
(paradoxically?) there will be an “equality of the enhanced” across
their categories of enhancement. But do not count on it.
sort of. at least one study showed that nootropics have greater effect the lower the intelligence of the population. so, in theory, it is possible that at some theoretical maximum M relative to drug D, the drug wud hav no effect. and everybody under that M wud be boosted to M, given adequate volumes of D.
i did come across another study with this IQ-drug interaction effect once, but apparently i didnt save it on my computer, and i cant seem to find it again. it is difficult to find papers about exactly this it seems.
below is a figure form the study i mentioned abov. it is about ritalin:
somthing similar seems to be the case with modafinil, another nootropic. it wud be interesting to see if ther is any drug-drug interaction between ritalin and modafinil, specifically, whether they stack or not.
here is the best study mentioned on Wikipedia: Cognitive effects of modafinil in student volunteers may depend on IQ
as for the topic of cognitiv enhancers in general, see this somewhat recent 2010 systematic overview. it appears that ritalin isnt a good cognitiv enhancer, but modafinil is promising for non-sleep deprived persons. Modafinil and methylphenidate for neuroenhancement in healthy individuals a systematic review
a. Enhancement and democratic theory: Millian plural voting
and the attenuation of democracy.
i. Kinds of democracy; is one-person, one-vote a defining char-
acteristic of democracy? Most persons now acknowledge that there
are stunning differences, both inborn and acquired, among individu-
als. Not everyone can be a physicist, novelist, grandmaster, astro-
naut, juggler, athlete, or model, at least without enhancement, and
those who can will vary sharply among themselves in abilities.
For better or worse, these differences make for serious social,
economic, and political inequalities. The question here is what ef-
fect these differences in human characteristics ought to have on
various matters of political governance. If we are not in fact equal
to each other in deliberative ability, judgment, and drive, why do we
all have equal voting power in the sense that, when casting ballots
in general elections, no one’s vote counts for more than another’s?
We are not equal in our knowledge of the issues, our abilities to as-
sess competing arguments, the nature and intensities of our prefer-
ences, our capacities to contribute to our social and economic sys-
tem, our stakes in the outcomes of particular government policies, or
even in our very interest in public affairs.
this topic was the primary reason i started reading this paper.
i also found som other papers dealing with Millian meritocracy, i suppose one cud call it. i came upon the idea individually, but was preceded by JS Mill with about 200 years.
his writing on the subject is here: John Stuart Mill – Considerations on Representative Government
another paper i found is this: Why Not Epistocracy
Found via the Seasteading Institute Blog.
“Establishment of autonomous ocean communities: current options and their future
Dissertation presented as a requirement to obtain a Doctoral Degree in Naval Architecture
and Ocean Engineering.
The idea of establishing floating cities in the oceans has been addressed in the past within the
ambition of both science and art, though rarely with rigor or detail.
The objective of this dissertation is to provide an orderly framework around this idea as to
why humanity has sought out to establish such cities. To this end, we have established a more
ample definition to the term “Oceanic Colonization” which we define as “The establishment of
autonomous communities in the oceans aboard artificial platforms”. Additionally, we distinguish
four forms of ocean colonization for four distinct purposes: 1) to expand landholdings; 2) to
provide mobile settlements; 3) to allow for semi-permanent mobile settlements in order to have
access to marine resources; 4) and for the creation of micronations. It is this fourth concept that
will serve as a departing point to review the whole idea of oceanic colonization.
Thus, the objective of this dissertation is to analyze all the possible options (both present and
future) permissible within the scope of Naval Architecture and Oceanic Engineering for the
establishment of autonomous offshore oceanic communities which would allow for the creation of
oceanic micronations. At the same time, we shall try to project the evolution of the other three
forms of oceanic colonization.
Sustainable Energy Production: wind, solar, photovoltaic, geothermic, tidal, marine currents,
OTEC (Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion, which produces fresh water as a by-product). These
sources can be located on the platform itself or on “satellite” platforms around the colony.
one annoying and recurring feature is that the author does not mention nuclear power. it is especially strange given that Russia is already building floating reactors – with excess energy production, not just using it for its own propulsion. nuclear energy is surely the future. the fuel can also be extracted from seawater (uranium, thorium).
Oasis of the Seas
This vessel was commissioned by Royal Caribbean international in February 2006 and
launched in late 2008. It set a new record, accommodating over 6,000 passengers. It is also the
first ship to incorporate the concept making a cruise ship with seven themed areas called
neighborhoods45, a concept similar to that used in the planning of theme parks, providing
passengers with a wide variety of experiences based on their personal preferences and styles. in
this sense, it is practical concrete application of a themed cruises, but in this case seven different
themes opposed to the single themed cruise ships mentioned earlier.
crazy. 6000 passengers?!
So, after posting the previus post i started reading about seasteading. its really interesting. here ar som mor links
useful overview, lots of links to sources
mainstream introduction to the subject
a pragmatic approach to seasteading. very much worth reading. about 25 pages.
a commerciel approach
the book about seasteading, currently in a beta. apparently only in web format, which makes it annoying to read.
much mor like it! a phd thesis that analyses seasteading. looks very promising. 300 pages.
from the thesis:
The idea surrounding floating cities is a topic that has been part of the collective
imagination since the nineteenth century. It has been addressed by diverse fields both in science
and in the arts (engineering, architecture and literature) particularly during the twentieth century,
when it was realized that the technology had been developed to take on such a challenge.
Nonetheless, in many instances, the proposals lacked realistic foundations, and appeared
to be motivated simply to seek media attention for their proponents.
This dissertation seeks to address this by providing a framework on the topic regarding the
concept of “floating cities” by questioning why it is that humanity has sought to establish such
We avoid the media-coined term “Floating Cities” and instead use a different term with a
wider context, “Oceanic Colonization”, which we have defined as “the establishment of offshore
autonomous communities aboard artificial platforms.”
Additionally, we have distinguished four types of oceanic colonization for four different and
1) expansion of landholdings; 2) mobile settlements; 3) semipermanent mobile settlements
to access marine resources; 4) and the creation of micronations.
It is this fourth category that will guide the review of the whole issue of ocean colonization.
The dissertation’s objective is to “analyze possible (current and future) options available to
the discipline of Naval and Oceanic Engineering for the establishment of offshore autonomous
communities that would allow for the creation of oceanic micronations.
At the same time, we shall attempt to explore the future evolution of the three other
objectives of oceanic colonization.
In Part I- State o f the Art, we seek to review the most ambitious oceanic colonization
projects espoused toward the creation of oceanic micronation (such as the Principality of Sealand)
as well as those proposed by professionals outside of the Naval and Oceanic disciplines with
apparently media-seeking proposals (such as the “Green Float” espoused by Shimizu Corporation).
We shall point out that these vain attempts have failed as they have not taken into account
a series of requirements which shall be examined in Part II of this dissertation.
In Part II, Set-up and Challenges, we develop four essential requirements that need to be
fulfilled by any oceanic settlement:
1) economic and commercial, 2) technical specifications surrounding the platforms, 3) legal
and external relations, and 4) self-government and internal relations.
These requirements are common to all four forms of oceanic colonization though the steps
to achieving them are distinct and different for each one.
The research behind this dissertation is focused on the technical and legal requirements
(requirements 2 and 3) to create a micronation in the oceans.
To this effect, we researched existing platforms.
Thus, in Part III-Results, we present the review performed on the various platforms used in
the three first forms of oceanic colonization identified and that best conform to the creation of
oceanic micronation including the legal nuances related to them.
The platform types reviewed included cruise ships and residential offshore and inshore
flotels; also those termed as Very Large Floating Structures or VLFS and the offshore concrete-
At the conclusion of this section, we shall analyze the legal and regulatory requirements of
oceanic colonization from the perspective of maritime law.
In Part IV- Results Analysis, we shall examine future trends of the four forms of oceanic
We allocate greater detail to the review of oceanic colonization to form micronations
based on the various platforms reviewed, and we provide a proposal of timelines and hypotheses
as to how we see this form of colonization evolving.
Lastly, in Part V- Conclusions, we shall conclude that the oceanic colonization and the
creation of micronations in the future is a result of the evolution of the other three forms of
1) expansion of land holdings, where the solution via VLFS appears to be a viable alternative,
2) mobile settlements (where the primary venue shall be cruise ships that will be converted into
mobile-floating-ship-cities and 3) the establishment of permanent oceanic settlements to access
marine resources that will require permanent floating cities in order to best extract them.
Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet ebook pdf download free
u really shud buy it if u want to read it, just to support Wikileaks. its priced at 10$ for a DRM-free PDF.
the summary is that its a rather short book, 170ish pages, which is based on a four way conversation between Julian Assange and three other interesting and influential computer ppl. it contains a lot of rather dystopian information about the future and present of surveillance. apparently, there is a lot more of it than i thought. certainly this gave me som more ideas that i will discuss with the pirate parties.
some quotes and comments
A 120-strong US Pentagon team called the WikiLeaks Task
Force, or WTF, was set up ahead of the release of the Iraq War Logs
and Cablegate, dedicated to “taking action” against WikiLeaks. Simi-
lar publicly declared task forces in the FBI, the CIA and the US State
Department are also still in operation.19
hilarious accidental use of internet slang? :D
The Obama administration warned federal employees that mate-
rials released by WikiLeaks remained classified—even though they
were being published by some of the world’s leading news organiza-
tions including the New York Times and the Guardian. Employees were
told that accessing the material, whether on WikiLeaks.org or in the
New York Times, would amount to a security violation.21
Government agencies such as the Library of Congress, the Commerce Department
and the US military blocked access to WikiLeaks materials over their
networks. The ban was not limited to the public sector. Employees from
the US government warned academic institutions that students hop-
ing to pursue a career in public service should stay clear of material
released by WikiLeaks in their research and in their online activity.
JULIAN: Andy, for years you’ve designed cryptographic telephones.
What sort of mass surveillance is occurring in relation to telecommu-
nications? Tell me what is the state of the art as far as the government
intelligence/bulk-surveillance industry is concerned?
ANDY: Mass storage—meaning storing all telecommunication, all voice
calls, all traffic data, any way groups consume the Short Message Service
(SMS), but also internet connections, in some situations at least limited
to email. If you compare the military budget to the cost of surveillance
and the cost of cyber warriors, normal weapon systems cost a lot of
money. Cyber warriors or mass surveillance are super-cheap compared
to just one aircraft. One military aircraft costs you between…
JULIAN: Around a hundred million.
ANDY: And storage gets cheaper every year. Actually, we made some
calculations in the Chaos Computer Club: you get decent voice-quality
storage of all German telephone calls in a year for about 30 million
euros including administrative overheads, so the pure storage is about
8 million euros.42
scary. it gets more scary when u think about the fact that most systems that i use to communicate with are american owned: skype, facebook, google. perhaps i shud get srs about this encryption thing. sooner rather than later.
JACOB: We can also tie this back to John Gilmore. One of John
Gilmore’s lawsuits about his ability to travel anonymously in the
United States resulted in the court literally saying, “Look, we’re
going to consult with the law, which is secret. We will read it and
we will find out when we read this secret law whether or not you
are allowed to do the thing that you are allowed to do.” And they
found when they read the secret law that, in fact, he was allowed
to do it, because what the secret law said did not restrict him. He
never learned what the secret law was at all and later they changed
the US Transportation Security Administration and Department
of Homeland Security policies in response to him winning his law-
suit, because it turns out the secret law was not restrictive enough
in this way.115
dafuq. the reference is:
Jacob is referring to Gilmore v. Gonzales, 435 F.3d 1125 (9th Cir.
2006). John Gilmore, an original cypherpunk, took a case as far as the
US Supreme Court to disclose the contents of a secret law—a Security
Directive—restricting citizens’ rights to travel on an airplane without
identification. Besides challenging the constitutionality of such a provi-
sion, Gilmore was challenging the fact that the provision itself was secret
and could not be disclosed, even though it has binding effects on US
citizens. The court consulted the Security Directive in camera, and ruled
against Gilmore on the Directive’s constitutionality. The contents of the
law were, however, never disclosed during the course of the proceedings.
gilmore/facts.html (accessed October 22, 2012).
ANDY: I totally agree that we need to ensure that the internet is
understood as a universal network with free flow of information;
that we need to not only define that very well, but also to name those
companies and those service providers who provide something they
call internet which is actually something totally different. But I think
we have not answered the key question beyond this filtering thing.
I want to give you an example of what I think we need to answer.
Some years ago, about ten years ago, we protested against Siemens
providing so-called smart filter software. Siemens is one of the big-
gest telcos in Germany and a provider of intelligence software. And
they actually sold this filtering system to companies so that, for exam-
ple, employees couldn’t look at the site of the trade unions to inform
themselves of their labor rights and so on. But they also blocked the
Chaos Computer Club site which made us upset. They designated
it as “criminal content” or something, for which we brought legal
action. But at an exhibition we decided to have a huge protest meet-
ing and to surround Siemens’ booths and filter the people coming
in and out. The funny thing was that we announced it on our site
to attract as many people as possible through the internet, and the
people in the Siemens booth had no fucking clue because they also
used the filter software so they couldn’t read the warning that was
obviously out there.
JULIAN: The Pentagon set up a filtering system so that any email sent
to the Pentagon with the word WikiLeaks in it would be filtered. And
so in the case of Bradley Manning, the prosecution, in attempting to
prosecute the case, of course, was mailing people outside the mili-
tary about “WikiLeaks,” but they never saw the replies because they
had the word “WikiLeaks” in them.118 The national security state
may eat itself yet.
oh god retards
JÉRÉMIE: This debate about full disclosure makes me think of the
group known as LulzSec, who released 70 million records from
Sony—all the users’ data from Sony—and you could see all the
addresses, email addresses and passwords. I think there were even
credit card details from 70 million users. As a fundamental rights
activist I thought, “Wow, there is something wrong here if to prove
your point or to have fun you disclose people’s personal data.”
I was very uncomfortable with seeing people’s email addresses on
the record. In a way, I thought those people were having fun with
computer security, and what they were demonstrating is that a
company as notorious and powerful as Sony wasn’t able to keep its
users’ secrets secret, and having those 70 million users search in
a search engine for their email address or for their name and find
this record would make them instantly realize, “Oh wow, what did
I do when I disclosed this data to Sony? What does it mean to give
personal data to a company?”
JACOB: Then they shoot the messenger.
interesting angle on the LulzSec disclosure
Just as foot voting can be expanded all the way down to the local level, there is also a strong case for extending it “all the way up” to the international level. The potential gains from freer international foot voting in some respects dwarf those that can be achieved domestically. 3 Moreover, for people living under authoritarian regimes, foot voting through international migration is often their only means of exercising political choice.
this wud seem already to be the case somewhat with the massiv migration from shitty countries to western countries.
In modern states, the ballot box is the main mechanism for popular political choice. If the public disapproves of government policy, they can vote to “throw the bastards” out and elect a new set of bastards who will, hopefully, do better. There is no doubt that the ballot box does indeed enhance political choice. Most importantly, it effectively incentivizes political leaders to avoid large and obvious disasters. It is, significant, for example, that no modern democracy has ever had a mass famine within its territory, 8 even though such famines are all too common in dictatorships. Democratic electorates also have some success in forcing government policy to conform to majority public opinion. 9
the only famines in democracies are those that are war related, and thus arguably due to either non-normal functioning or due to another non-democratic power, that is, soviet russia, nazi germany, or japan.
of what significance is this fact? well, perhaps nothing more than democracies are good at food production. perhaps becus food is such a vital commodity that any government that failed to hav food produced wud be strongly selected against.
Low Probability of Decisiveness
In all but the very smallest elections, the individual voter has only a vanishingly small chance of making a difference to the outcome. In an American presidential election, the probability of casting a decisive vote is roughly 1 in 60 million. 11 The odds are better in elections with smaller numbers of voters, but are still extremely low. The low probability of decisiveness surely diminishes the extent to which ballot box voting is a meaningful exercise of political freedom.
This may seem a counterintuitive conclusion, since citizens of democratic states have long been taught to view voting as an important exercise of individual freedom. We implicitly assume that the individual enjoys political freedom if he or she can effectively influence the government as part of a much larger group. But in most other contexts, we would not say that a person is truly free to make a particular decision if he or she in fact has only a miniscule chance of actually determining the outcome. For example, a person who has only a 1 in 60 million chance of being able to decide what to say has only a very attenuated degree of freedom of speech. A person with only a 1 in 60 million chance of being able to decide what religion to practice surely lacks meaningful freedom of religion. A worker who has only a 1 in 60 million chance of being able to decide whether to quit her job is not a free laborer, but a serf. In each of these cases, the person would not be considered truly free merely because they could say what they want, practice their religion freely, or change jobs if they first persuade a majority of a much larger group to give them permission. The same can be said for most if not all other valuable freedoms. Similarly, a person with only a miniscule chance of affecting the nature of the government they live under has only a very attenuated degree of political freedom.
he doesnt take it far enuf. in the US situation, there is only a choice between two non-chosen options. a better analogy with the case of religion is that the person has some 1 in 6e70 chance of deciding whether to be a protestant or a catholic. both shitty options, exactly like in the US case.
B. Advantages of Foot Voting.
Foot voting has important advantages over ballot box voting on all three of the dimensions considered here. Foot voting is usually decisive, it allows for a greater degree of choice over basic structure, and it creates superior incentives to acquire and rationally evaluate information. Individual decisiveness is the most obvious advantage of foot voting over ballot box voting. A person who chooses which jurisdiction to live in usually has an extremely high probability of being able to implement her decision. In many cases, of course, the individual might be constrained by the desires of a spouse or other family members. But even in these situations, he generally has a much higher probability of influencing the final result than does a ballot box voter. One vote out of, say, ten, in a large family is far more likely to be influential than one vote out of ten million or even one vote out of ten thousand in an election.
Foot voting in a federal system also allows greater choice over basic structure. A person who can choose between multiple state and local governments can potentially choose between other limitations as well. For example, it only applies in a narrow range of circumstances. See Ilya Somin, “Revitalizing Consent,” Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy 23 (2000): 753- 805, 795-97. 12 jurisdictions with very different systems of governance. For example, they might have divergent state constitutions, electoral systems, basic social welfare policies, and so on. Obviously, the range of choice here is far from unlimited. The choices are limited to those available in the given federal system. 34 Moreover, foot voters generally are unable to control the basic structure of the federal system itself, such as the determination of how many different jurisdictions will exist, and what their boundaries will be. Nonetheless, especially in a sizable nation with many different jurisdictions, the range of choice is likely to be substantially greater than that available through ballot box voting in a unitary state.
the recent legalization of cannabis comes to mind as a great reason to move to another state within the US.
Very interesting two papers by Somin! I will definitely check out his other stuff when i have time. I just took the time off reading papers before i start reading book #2 on patents (Against Intellectual Monopoly).
ABSTRACT: Advocates of ‘‘deliberative democracy’’ want citizens to actively
participate in serious dialogue over political issues, not merely go to the polls every
few years. Unfortunately, these ideals don’t take into account widespread political
ignorance and irrationality. Most voters neither attain the level of knowledge
needed to make deliberative democracy work, nor do they rationally evaluate the
political information they do possess. The vast size and complexity of modern
government make it unlikely that most citizens can ever reach the levels of
knowledge and rationality required by deliberative democracy, even if they were
better informed than they are at present.
How very depressing in relation to liquid democracy/feedback!
Deliberative democracy is one of the most influential ideas in modern
political thought. Advocates want citizens to actively participate in the
democratic process by seriously deliberating over important issues, not
merely voting for or against candidates put forward by political parties.
They hope that voters will not only develop a solid factual understanding
of political issues, but will also debate the moral principles at stake in a
rational and sophisticated fashion. Deliberative democrats expect more of
voters than merely acting to ‘‘throw the bums out’’ if things seem to be
These high aspirations are admirable and appealing. Unfortunately,
they run afoul of the reality of widespread voter ignorance and
irrationality. Moreover, even if voters were significantly better informed
and more rational than most are today, the vast size and complexity of
modern government would prevent them from acquiring enough
knowledge and sophistication to deliberate over more than a small
fraction of the full range of issues currently decided by government. Such
difficulties become even more acute in light of the fact that many
deliberative democrats want the political process to control even more of
society than is already the case. Previous scholarship has only tentatively
considered the implications of widespread voter ignorance and irration-
ality for deliberative democracy.1
This article is intended to close the gap
in the literature more fully. My analysis focuses on theories of
deliberative democracy that require deliberation by ordinary citizens. I
do not consider the distinct question of deliberation by legislators or
Parts IV#VI consider three proposals to increase political knowledge
that have been advanced by deliberative democrats. These include using
education to raise the level of political knowledge, increasing knowledge
by having voters engage in structured deliberation, and transferring
authority to lower levels of government where individual voters might
have stronger incentives to acquire information. Finally, I will briefly
suggest that deliberative ideals might be more effectively advanced by
limiting the role of government in society.
Deliberative democracy is a normative ideal, not an attempt to explain
present-day reality. However, an attractive normative ideal must be
feasible. The problem of political ignorance casts serious doubt on the
feasibility of deliberative democracy. Moreover, some proposals put
forward by deliberative democrats, if implemented, may well cause more
harm than good.
The second proposal was my idea as well. It better work, otherwise liquid feedback might be very bad indeed.
Decades of public opinion research show that most voters are very far
from meeting the knowledge prerequisites of deliberative democracy. To
Somin • Political Ignorance & Deliberative Democracy 257the contrary, they are often ignorant even of very basic political information.
In 2009, the Obama administration and congressional Democrats put
forward ambitious plans to restructure the U.S. health-care system and
impose a ‘‘cap and trade’’ system to restrict carbon emissions and combat
global warming. Both plans were widely discussed in the media and
elsewhere. Yet a September 2009 survey found that only 37 percent of
Americans claimed to ‘‘understand’’ the health care plan, a figure that
likely overestimates the true level of understanding.7 A May 2009 poll
showed that only 24 percent of Americans realized that the important
‘‘cap and trade’’ proposal recently passed by the House of Representa-
tives as an effort to combat global warming addressed ‘‘environmental
issues.’’ Some 46 percent believed that it was either a ‘‘health-care
reform’’ or a ‘‘regulatory reform for Wall Street.’’8
Until the Obama health-care reform passed in March 2010, the largest
new federal domestic program enacted in the previous 40 years had been
the Bush Administration’s prescription-drug entitlement, enacted in
2003. Yet a December 2003 poll showed that almost 70 percent of
Americans did not even know that Congress had passed the law (Somin
Public ignorance is not limited to information about specific policies.
It also extends to knowledge of political parties, ideologies, and the basic
structure and institutions of government (Delli Carpini and Keeter 1996;
Somin 1998 and 2004c). For example, a majority of voters are ignorant
of such fundamentals of the U.S. political system as who has the power
to declare war, the respective functions of the three branches of
government, and who controls monetary policy (Delli Carpini and
Keeter 1996, 70#71). A 2006 Zogby poll found that only 42 percent of
Americans could even name the three branches of the federal
government (Somin 2010, ch. 2). Another 2006 survey revealed that
only 28 percent could name two or more of the five rights guaranteed by
the First Amendment to the Constitution (ibid.). A 2002 Columbia
University study found that 35 percent believed that Karl Marx’s dictum
‘‘From each according to his ability to each according to his need’’ is
enshrined the Constitution; 34 percent said they did not know if it was,
and only 31 percent correctly answered that it was not (Dorf 2002).
Similarly, years of survey data show that most of the public has little
understanding of the basic differences between liberalism and con-
servatism (RePass 2008; Somin 2010, ch. 2). They are often also
confused about the differences between the policy positions of the two
major parties (e.g., Somin 2004a).
Widespread political ignorance has persisted over time, despite
massive increases in education and the availability of information through
new technologies such as the internet.9 It seems unlikely to diminish
substantially in the foreseeable future.
Holy shit. Wud be very interesting to see cross-national data on some of these things. One cud use something like the separation of power as a question. Even tho the countries differ in how they do that, most of them do it in some way, and it is thus possible to ask and see whether people know how their country does it.
There is nothing inherently objectionable about people who acquire
political information for reasons other than becoming a better voter. It is
perfectly understandable if people wish to follow politics for any number
of reasons. Problems arise, however, when these motives conflict with
the goal of rational evaluation of information for the purpose of making
informed political decisions. To take one such case, people who acquire
information for the purpose of cheering on their political ‘‘team’’ or
confirming their existing views are likely to overvalue information that
confirms those views and undervalue or ignore anything that cuts against
them. Extensive evidence suggests that this is in fact the way most
committed partisans evaluate political information.14 Experiments show
that political partisans not only reject new information casting doubt on
their beliefs, but sometimes actually respond by believing in them even
more fervently (Bullock 2006; Nyhan and Reifler 2009). Thus, a recent
study found that conservatives presented with evidence showing that
U.S. forces failed to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq were
actually strengthened in their pre-existing view thatWMDs were present
(Nyhan and Reifler 2009, 11#15). Similarly, liberals confronted with
evidence that 2004 Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry had
incorrectly claimed that the Bush Administration had ‘‘banned’’ stem-
cell research persisted in their pre-existing view that the charge was
accurate (ibid., 23#24). Similarly, most people discuss political issues only
with those who agree with them (Mutz 2006, 29#41). This tendency is
most pronounced among ‘‘those most knowledgeable about and
interested in politics’’ (ibid., 37), which implies that those who seek
out political knowledge the most are not motivated primarily by truth-
seeking. If they were, it would make sense to sample a wide variety of
sources, possibly placing particular emphasis on those with viewpoints
opposed to one’s own. The latter are more likely to expose the truth-
seeker to facts and analysis that he has not already considered. As John
Stuart Mill ( 1975, 35#51) famously emphasized in On Liberty, we
are more likely to discover the truth if we consider opposing viewpoints,
not merely those that we already agree with.
Wow. Good thing im primarily a filosofer with truth as the goal, and not party politics. Impartial truth-seekers are perhaps the best politicians then? If so, then thats sad since they are the ones least likely to become politicians in todays system.
In addition to processing information in ways that provide internal
psychological gratification, people also often try to express opinions that
conform to social expectations and seek to avoid negative reactions from
other members of the community (Kuran 1995; Sunstein 2003). For
example, people in a socially conservative community may hesitate to
express approval of gay marriage for fear of alienating antigay friends,
family members, and neighbors. Those in politically liberal settings such
as university campuses often hesitate to criticize liberal policies such as
affirmative action (Kuran 1995, 310#25). Even in a relatively tolerant
liberal democratic society, dissenters often hesitate to openly endorse
unpopular views; they instead find it easier to pretend to agree with the
majority. Such ‘‘preference falsification’’16 can easily lead people to reject
powerful arguments against socially approved positions, or even to
refrain from voicing them in the first place.
Preference falsification can infect many kinds of political processes.
But it is an especially serious danger in a deliberative democracy, where
citizens have to engage in open dialogue on political issues and therefore
take positions (or refrain from doing so) in a setting where other
members of the community can observe them. Under ‘‘aggregative’’
democracy, by contrast, voters usually make decisions and access
information in more private settings and therefore may face less pressure
To combat this problem, liquid feedback systems shud have anonymization in various ways. Perhaps by allowing users to go under many different names, but only allow them to vote once.
IV. CAN EDUCATION SAVE DEMOCRACY?
Is it possible not to love this guy? :D
If political ignorance is rational and most voters choose not to learn
much about politics for that reason, widespread ignorance is a phenom-
enon that democracies will probably have to live with for the foresee-
able future. The challenge for democracy is to ﬁnd a way to minimize
the harm that political ignorance can cause.
Assuming that we shud keep a democratic government form, then yes, this is correct. Altho, giving people more power shud, according to this theory, also result in them taking more time to educate themselves. That’s an interesting and optimistic implication.
Here, I want to emphasize a different shortcoming of shortcuts, one
that was partly anticipated in Converse’ s #$%! paper. Both empirical ev-
idence and the theory of rational ignorance suggest that most voters
acquire political knowledge not primarily for the purpose of casting a
more informed vote, but for entertainment purposes or to satisfy other
psychological needs. If this is so, the shortcuts they use might likewise
be chosen to serve nonvoting purposes rather than to cast a “better”
ballot. Such voters could rationally choose not to evaluate the political
information they have in an objective way: a form of “rational irra-
tionality” (Caplan &””#). Again, such a choice need not involve precise,
conscious calculations about the costs and beneﬁts of evaluating politi-
cal information objectively . As with the decision to vote and the deci-
sion not to spend much time acquiring political information, the
choice not to put much effort into analyzing political information ob-
jectively could simply be the result of an intuitive sense that there is lit-
tle or no beneﬁt to engaging in such analysis.On the other hand, voters
can easily recognize that extensive knowledge acquisition imposes sub-
stantial potential costs in terms of time and emotional stress.Thus, a de-
cision not to analyze political information rigorously could be an ex-
ample of “satisﬁcing” behavior (Simon #$)’), where individuals make
rational decisions but do not necessarily engage in rigorous calculation.
Such dynamics might often lead voters to use shortcuts that mislead
rather than inform. For example, the use of party-label and ideological
shortcuts led both voters and even many sophisticated political elites to
misperceive President Richard Nixon’ s policies as conservative (Hoff
#$$!). Nixon presided over an unprecedented expansion of the welfare
state, established afﬁrmative action, created the Environmental Protec-
tion Agency , proposed a guaranteed annual income and national health
insurance, and established closer relations with communist China and
the USSR. But he was still widely perceived as a right-winger. Simi-
larly , liberals rallied around President Bill Clinton, while conservatives
rushed to condemn him, despite his endorsement of conservative poli-
cies on free trade, welfare reform, crime control, and other important
issues. Liberals defended Clinton and conservatives attacked him in
large part because of what he represented on a symbolic level as a “draft
dodger” and philanderer, rather than on the basis of his substantive
policies (Posner #$$$). In both the Nixon and Clinton cases, the desire
of liberal and conservative “fans” to rally around their leader or con-
demn a perceived ideological adversary blinded them to important as-
pects of the president’s policies—despite the fact that information
about these policies was readily available.
Yes, those odd #”¤(“)# symbols seem to be a bug in the OCR’ing of the paper. Apparently, the OCR misinterprets numerals. Odd. Perhaps deliberate?
Recent evidence conﬁrms the possibility that even the most knowl-
edgeable ideologues might systematically pick ideological shortcuts that
mislead more than they inform. A study of experts in politics and in-
ternational relations ﬁnds that their predictions of political events are
usually no more accurate than would be produced by random chance
(Tetlock &””(). Of greater interest for present purposes is the ﬁnding
that the most inaccurate experts are those that tend to make their pre-
dictions on the basis of broad generalizations—that is, experts who rely
the most on ideological shortcuts (ibid., chs. *–().7 This result could be
interpreted as an indication that the experts in question are irrational.
However, most social-science experts are rewarded not for the accuracy
of their predictions but on the basis of the originality and apparent so-
phistication of their scholarship. Similarly, pundits and other public in-
tellectuals are rewarded for their popularity with readers and viewers,
not their prescience (Posner &””&). Few, if any, Conversean “ideo-
logues” can increase either their incomes or their professional standing
by improving the accuracy of the ideological shortcuts they use. As a
result, they , like ordinary voters, often have little incentive to use short-
cuts effectively , and considerable incentive to stick with shortcuts that
are often inaccurate.
Interesting. Also reminds me that i really shud get around to reading the book Wrong: Why experts* keep failing us–and how to know when not to trust them, of which i unfortunately do not have an electronic copy… which means that i likely wont be reading it any time soon. Time has a review of it here.
In addition to arguing for the utility of shortcuts, defenders of the view
that widespread political ignorance is not a serious problem have main-
tained that information problems can be overcome by means of the so-
called “miracle of aggregation” (Converse #$$”; Page and Shapiro #$$&;
Wittman #$$(). According to this theory , if ignorant voters’ errors are
randomly distributed, then the “incorrect” ballots cast for candidate A
will be canceled out by similar mistakes in favor of Candidate B, and
the votes of the relatively well informed will determine electoral out-
This argument has a number of flaws, including the fact that the
well-informed minority that determines electoral outcomes in this sce-
nario is likely to be highly unrepresentative of the electorate as a whole
(Delli Carpini and Keeter #$$%; Somin #$$)). On the other side of the
ledger, the danger that voters may rationally rely on inaccurate and mis-
leading shortcuts suggests a particularly powerful reason why their er-
rors are unlikely to be random. On many issues, ignorance shows sys-
tematic patterns of bias in one direction or another (see, e.g., Delli
Carpini and Keeter #$$%; Caplan &””&; and Althaus &””*). This is to be
expected if voters, including even many relatively knowledgeable “ide-
ologues, ” are relying on opinion leaders, ideologies, and other shortcuts
that have been selected for reasons other than accuracy.
Recent research suggests that even the most sophisticated and highly
rational voters may rely on shortcuts that have little relevance to politi-
cal candidates’ likely performance in ofﬁce. For example, a recent study
of elections for the presidency of the American Economics Association
shows that the relative physical attractiveness of the rival candidates is a
powerful predictor of which candidate prevails in the voting (Hamer-
mesh &””(). The AEA electorate consists of academic economists who
are presumably knowledgeable about the functions of the AEA—and
presumably more committed to rational, maximizing behavior than is
the average voter in ordinary elections. If such voters nonetheless rely
on dubious information shortcuts, it is likely that voters in other elec-
tions are at least equally likely to do so.8
Interesting argument. Reminded my of wisdom of the crowds.
As for the influence of fysical attractiveness. Yeah.. I have for a long time been playing with the idea the politicians shud be anonymous for voting purposes. The idea is to get rid of such effects. I dont know how feasible that idea is. However, certainly, some improvements to the current situation can be made. For instance, outlawing election posters. They use the same effect/bias that ads also use, namely, the mere exposure effect. More rational TV-debates are also possible.
An important implication of the rational-ignorance hypothesis is that
voter knowledge is unlikely to increase very much merely as a result of
the greater availability of information. Even if information is readily
available at low cost, rationally ignorant voters have little or no incentive
to spend time learning it and weighing its implications. This inference is
borne out by empirical evidence showing little or no change in political
$knowledge levels over the last (” years, despite greatly increased educa-
tion levels and a parallel increase in the availability of information
through electronic and other media (e.g., Bennett #$)) and #$$%; Smith
#$)$; Delli Carpini and Keeter #$$%; and Althaus &””*). Thus, advocates
of ambitious theories of democratic participation cannot expect most
voters to reach the knowledge levels their theories require anytime soon.
In most modern democracies, government spending accounts for at
least a third of GDP , and the regulatory activities of the state extend to
almost all areas of life. In the United States, federal spending accounts
for &”.) percent of GDP , and state and local governments spend an ad-
ditional #*.’ percent.13 And the growth of government spending over
the last century has been matched by a parallel expansion of regulation
Rationally ignorant voters are unable to keep track of more than a
tiny fraction of all this government activity. Indeed, they probably
would be unable to do so even with considerably greater knowledge
than most of them currently possess.Other things equal, the greater the
size and complexity of government, the greater the likelihood that
many of its activities will escape meaningful democratic control.14 This
result is troubling both for those scholars who regard democratic con-
trol of public policy as an intrinsic good (e.g., Pateman #$’” and Barber
#$)!), and those who value it for purely instrumental reasons such as
the need to curb abuses of power by political elites.
I agree with the last reason mentioned, that is, reason we need some kind of democracy is to avoid abuses of power i.e. nepotism and then like (read the link for many interesting examples).
In a federal system, citizens dissatisﬁed with government policy in their
state have the choice of either trying to use “voice” (traditional voting)
to address their grievances, or opting for “exit”: leaving for a jurisdic-
tion with more favorable policies (Hirschman #$’”).15 Those who
choose the exit option in effect “vote with their feet. ” Voice and exit
each have their respective strengths and weaknesses (ibid.). But one that
is largely ignored by most analysts is the comparative incentives they
create for knowledge acquisition.
The effectiveness of voice is signiﬁcantly constrained by rational ig-
norance. As we have seen, individual voters have little incentive to ac-
quire and effectively use relevant information about public policy . By
contrast, exit has the tremendous comparative advantage of creating
strong incentives for individuals to acquire the necessary information to
make decisions about where to live.16 A knowledgeable individual or
family can move to a more hospitable jurisdiction even if the neighbors
left behind remain ignorant. Thus, individuals are likely to put much
more effort into acquiring information about the best jurisdiction in
which to live than into acquiring knowledge about the right candidate
to vote for. Moreover, effective “foot voting” may require less detailed
information than ballot-box voting, since the former does not entail
knowing which ofﬁcials are responsible for which policies. It also obvi-
ates the need to be able to separate out the impact of multiple govern-
ment policies from each other, and from the effects of background so-
Empirical evidence shows that even severely oppressed populations
with very low education levels can often acquire remarkably accurate
information about differences in conditions between jurisdictions and
then make the decision to vote with their feet. For example, in the
early twentieth century , millions of poor African-Americans in the Jim
Crow-era South were able to determine that conditions were relatively
better for them in the North (and sometimes in other parts of the
South) and make the necessary moves (Henri #$’(; Cohen #$)$; Bern-
stein #$$), ‘)&–)(). This achievement stands in sharp contrast to the
failure of many of today’ s much better educated (and certainly less op-
pressed) voters to acquire basic political knowledge.
In order for foot voting to be effective, however, political power must
be at least partly decentralized. In a unitary state in which all or most
important policies are set by the central government, there is no exit
option other than the very difﬁcult and costly one of leaving the coun-
try entirely . Thus, the informational advantages of foot voting over bal-
lot-box voting provide an important argument in favor of political de-
Obviously , foot voting is not a panacea for all the shortcomings of
government policy. For example, it cannot protect immobile people and
assets, such as property rights in land. And it is far from the only con-
sideration that needs to be taken into account in determining the opti-
mal level of political decentralization.18 Nonetheless, the informational
advantages of foot voting deserve considerably greater attention from
students of federalism and institutional development.
Very interesting argument. So, we have been moving in the wrong direction in Denmark for some time now, it seems. Very interesting to wonder what wud happen if, for instance, drug laws were a matter of regional law not national. Certainly, this makes experimentation much easier. Experimentation obviously makes it easier to know what works, and what doesnt.
One note about such a form. Some central government is necessary (i suspect, havent done research), and it has the incentitive to try to acquire more power constantly by enacting new laws, precisely as we see it in the US.
One good thing tho. If we can avoid more centralization in the future, especially some kind of world government (basically, expanding the power of FN, EU and the like). Then, becus traveling costs becom progressivly smaller over time, foot voting will becom progressivly less costly. Yay, something to look forward to! When i talk with people living in the US, i often suggest to them that they simply MOVE out of the US. That country is beyond repair (its voting system is locked in a two party system, see various films by CCPGrey), and only a revolution can fix it.
It is no secret that majority opinion in the Arab world and in many
other Muslim countries is largely hostile to the United States. Some an-
alysts attribute this result to speciﬁc U.S. policies, such as support for Is-
rael and the Iraq War (e.g., Scheuer &””!), while others cite a “clash of
civilizations” between fundamentally opposed Western and Muslim
value systems (e.g., Huntington #$$)). Either or both of these explana-
tions may be valid. But it is also important to consider the possible con-
tribution of widespread political ignorance.
As the data in Table # show, a &””& Gallup Survey of public opinion
in Arab and Muslim nations found large majorities denying that the
September ## attacks were carried out by “groups of Arabs. ” For exam-
ple, )$ percent of Kuwaitis, ‘! percent of Indonesians, and )% percent
of Pakistanis were apparently ignorant of this basic fact. A &””& survey
conducted by the Egyptian newspaper Al Ahram (&””&) found that *$
percent of Egyptian respondents blamed the September ## attacks on
“Israeli intelligence/the Mossad, ” while only #$ percent said that “Al-
Qa’eda or other Islamic militants” were responsible.21 Both the Gallup
and Al Ahram polls were conducted well before the start of the Iraq
War, so the responses are not the products of anti-Americanism gener-
ated by that conﬂict.