Thursday 6 September 2012

The modern belief in the virtue of voting is psychotic


Reading about the scale of voter fraud among US Leftists just hammers home our bizarre, nay psychotic, cultural belief that however it is manufactured the results of a vote are not just legally binding, but morally binding - that voting is the only just way to make decisions, and that justice is whatever is the result of a vote.

This is, I guess, simply one of those bizarre aspects of human psychology - that on the one hand someone can engage in fraud: intimidation, bribery, threats and promises, direct fakery of returns and miscounts, mob rhetoric... pretty much anything... and yet at the same time genuinely believe that democracy is morally superior to all other forms of government; and indeed that any other form of government is evil and must be sought-out and stamped-out at any price, anywhere in the world and in every form of group or organization.

And in organizations that personal authority is intrinsically corrupt (which of course it is, since humans are intrinsically corrupt) but that a decision made by a committee is intrinsically superior to individual authority: that somehow committees and voting remove (or significantly diminish) the corruption of the individuals of which they are composed...

So people personally manufacture a result, or personally experience a manufactured result imposed on them; and then these same people believe that the result was objective, and correct, and virtuous...

This is what people believe - and because there is no reason for this belief, the belief is impervious to experience - which is to say it is psychotic (false, irrefutable, yet dominating); and because this psychotic belief is morally-driven, even to think about it or challenge it makes one a moral outcast (to at least some extent).

What a mess...



dearieme said...

Just two generations ago I'd have had three votes in a general election.

So the question is: are you arguing that irrespective of the detail of the franchise, voting is of itself over-rated? I think you need to distinguish between the pragmatic approval of voting - i.e. if it helps to settle matters without violence, it's better than other methods - and the romantic, quasi-religious, moralistic approval, which serves to persuade me that people who hold such views should ideally be excluded from the franchise.

dearieme said...

Come to think of it, presumably in God's Kirk the elders of the Kirk Session settled matters with a vote.

Bruce Charlton said...

@d - " are you arguing that irrespective of the detail of the franchise, voting is of itself over-rated?"

No, not over-rated: evil.

(because an intrinsic denial of personal responsibility which means a denial of responsibility which means amoral which means immoral)

Expediency does not change this - if something evil is done for reasons of expedience, then this ust be acknowledged and repented: not built into the state and supported by vast propaganda which claims it is intrinsically good.

JP said...

Justice is whatever is the result of a vote -- so long as the result is what the Left wants. If the result is not what the Left wants, then the result is illegitimate and should be overridden by the courts. Thus, democracy plus control of the courts means the country inexorably moves to the Left.

Gabe Ruth said...

This post reminds me of Mencius' thoughts on futarchy and decision markets.

While I would fight against the USG for the rightful king of, say, Long Island, I'm not clear on how voting is inherently a denial of responsibility. It's a serious problem when people think voting satisfies the full extent of their public duty, and that is pretty much the common understanding now, but I don't think it's inherently evil.

Bruce Charlton said...

@GR - but have you really thought about it, and what it implies?

Would a vote be the correct way to make any really serious decision in your own life? Well, why in national life?

What possible grounds are there for assuming that voting is good or leads to correct answers? - and these *are* the assumptions being made.

And if these assumptions are false, then voting must be evil (it can't be neutral).

If you search 'voting' on this blog, you'll see whether my previous posts on the topic are more persuasive.

Gabe Ruth said...

I'm not saying anything about the merits of democracy, I'm talking about the act of voting in a democracy that exists already.

It's not evil to vote if it's how national decisions are being made, with or without you.

Now, in the case where there are no good choices and all candidates represent bad decisions, I've lately come to the conclusion that voting for a lesser evil is still evil and so should not be done. I'm organizing my thoughts on that subject in an effort to help people I love stop doing that.

CorkyAgain said...

Lewis's "progressive element" manipulated the outcome of Bracton College committee meetings, to the extent that the actual vote was a foregone conclusion.

There are numerous techniques for manufacturing consensus. Google "Delphi Technique" for some of them. I saw those techniques practiced many times during my time as a manager at Microsoft, and I see many of the same things in local and national politics.

By appearing to let opponents have their say, "facilitators" create the illusion that those opponents are being given a chance to influence the result.

But of course the votes are already lined up, and the discussion is carefully managed to blunt the impact of anything the opponents might say against the pre-ordained plan.

What the facilitator is working to achieve isn't a true consensus -- as you might expect when actual adults reason together about the issues -- but rather the group's "buy-in" to whatever it is the facilitator's sponsor wants it to do.

In the Delphi Technique, and I think also in democratic elections, this "buy-in" occurs because the decision seems to be one that the group itself made, after carefully considering all the options. It seems to be a rational consensus. But that's an illusion, one that has conjured up by the phony "discussion" and subsequent vote.

gallitzin said...

Great comment Corky. Those methods are used in all sorts of arenas, but aren't well known.

Nixon famously said he never entered a meeting without knowing the outcome beforehand.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Corky - yes, I've seen this too (I was a govt bureaucrat 2 days a week for about 18 months in a health authority of the NHS.

So, as well as institutionalizing irrationality and irresponsibility, we see that voting methods of decision making are psychologically manipulative.

CorkyAgain said...

I take your point, however, Bruce: even if the vote isn't rigged by the use of one or the other of these manipulative techniques, it's still a poor way to make decisions.

And, as you say, an immoral one.

The question you are raising, as I see it, is about authority. Voting appeals to the adolescent mindset that says "you're not the boss of me." People who can not or will not recognize the true and rightful king, and therefore refuse to submit to his rule, insist on asserting their own will -- no matter how provably incompetent or corrupted they are.

JP said...

"Would a vote be the correct way to make any really serious decision in your own life?"

It doesn't even scale up from one house to one street, if the stupid decisions of my homeowner's association are any guide.

Gabe Ruth said...

Great point Corky.

I think the deception is where the real evil of the system is demonstrated, the fake consensus that is wrong on its own terms.

FHL said...

post 1 of 2

Sorry to interrupt a somber and serious discussion, but it's time for another one of FHL's silly-but-true stories!

When I was in college I was in a fraternity (one of those drinking and partying fraternities... yes, yes... I know... I know... but I was a founding father of our local chapter, and we were extremely successful, out-competing any other group rapidly and decisively, so the memories always have a place in my heart, despite how silly that may sound to some of you...).

Well, actually, I'm still in college but I no longer correspond so much with my frat very much since our lifestyles and cares seemed to diverge, excepting the older members who are still my good friends.

But anyways, I served as Vice President of the chapter for two terms, a period of about a year. My best friend was the President during this time. Despite our close friendship, we often found ourselves in heated debates and arguments as to how to correctly govern the group. This led to a fallout that placed a divide between me and the fraternity and is also another reason why I have been distant from them.

I remember one time, at a time when we were going through a rough patch with many of our members having a severe lack of enthusiasm for the fraternity, that we got into an argument in front of the rest of the group, which is a social no-no, since we're supposed to be the “all strong and all wise Pres/VP and older wiser guys who never doubt or make mistakes” that everyone looks up to.

A fellow frat brother who had been selected by us (me and the Pres.) to be the Chair of the Social committee got into trouble during one of the meetings. Now our numbers were so small (about 30 members, average), that there was no actual committee, and most often the position of “Chair” corresponded to being the sole member of that committee with full responsibility.

We had decided to host a joint dinner with a small group of sorority girls who were new on campus. Each of the girls would be escorted for the night by one of our guys. The social chair responsible for seeing this through had decided to have the girls list their top three choices of who they wanted to be their date. It worked out fine, with each of the girls ended up with one of the guys who on their top three list. But the meeting fell into a fury, led on by the President: “What if we hadn't been able to work it out? This isn't the way we've done it before! We've never had the girls choose their top three before! We just assigned them someone!” But it worked out, replied the Social chair.

But then the poor Social chair's real crime emerged: “How could you do that without notifying us? Aren't we a group? Don't you care about what we think? How could you just go around doing whatever you please without consulting us?”

I interrupted: “But wait, when I was social chair, just one year ago ago, I had free reign over any project assigned to me. There was even a time when the Vice President and I disagreed about an issue and the President at that time told the VP off, saying the social chair is fully in charge of social events, and that once the appointment has been made then all decisions relating to the social events were decided completely by his authority. What on earth would be the point of being the Chair of Social Events if you don't get to decide how social events are run?”

“The point of the committee chairs is to generate ideas which are then brought up during in meeting, where we can all hear the ideas and vote on them!”

FHL said...

post 2 of 2

“So the Committee Chairs are mere idea generators? Why can't we all generate ideas? What is the point of assigning someone to generate ideas? And if that person is the only one who generates ideas, then what is the point of discussing things?”

“The committees do more than generate ideas! They also gather the supplies needed and that sort of stuff.”

“So they are like servants? Trusted only to do menial tasks? Just a week ago we sat down to determine whether brother [so-and-so] was a good fit for the position of Social chair. We took it very seriously. Did we select the Social chair on how well he could maneuver a shopping cart through the chips aisle at the local supermarket? If anything, I think the Social chair should decide on the plans and you, as well as all of us, should be the one to get him supplies!”

The President rebuts: “So what are you saying, that our concerns don't matter?”

I replied: “Of course our concerns matter, but you have to understand, that if we do not let the younger men, who we have deemed to be responsible by the very act of assigning them their positions, take charge over their responsibilities, then we will freeze all of our projects completely. Completely! People will become too afraid to move, fearful of any action not authorized by an official vote or an official meeting. Just last week, I recommended that brother [such-and-such] make certain corrections to the grammar of the recruiting invitation, and guess what he told me: that he wouldn't change anything that you had not signed off on and that he would bring it up next week to discuss at meeting. But a week was too far away, so guess what- he sent out the invitations, sh**** grammer and all! It will be like we are moving in slow motion, with everyone taking only one action towards their goal after we dismiss meeting and then having to wait another week for the next meeting to take another!”

“Well they have phones don't they? They could call everyone and get a vote!”

I started to lose it at this point: “It is ridiculous and beyond absurd, not to mention harmful and ungrateful, to your fraternity brothers that you despise them and do not trust their judgement when they attempt to fulfill the responsibilities that were assigned them! They are not like chess pieces, who must wait on us to make a call before they make a move!”

At this point the President laughs with contempt: “And so, what do you think we should. How would it be then if everyone just went around doing whatever they pleased whenever they pleased without asking us? What if everyone just went around doing everything never worrying about you thought? What would happen then?”

“Then perhaps things would actually get done around here!” The entire rooms breaks into laughter. “See, they agree, you all wonder why the new young guys are dealing with a lack of motivation, it is because you have killed it!”

Sorry to say, but despite the laughs, the President's views eventually won out, the committee chairs became mere errand-runners. And no-one took their position seriously and everything did indeed freeze up, just like I warned them it would, and the fraternity became a mere shadow of what it once was.

Thursday said...

All elites tend to become out of touch. There should be some sort of mechanism for the ruled to make their concerns known. Which is why some degree of democracy may not be a bad idea. Or perhaps this could be done by consciously vesting most authority at lower levels.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Th - Democracy is irrelevant to this. e.g. In Byzantium there were various power groups, the support of which was more-or-less necessary to the Empire - including the Church, the Military, the civil service (eunuchs), and the mob in the Hippodrome whose 'acclaim' was sought at the 'coronation'.