RT @pwang

Voting is not a great way to surface the “best ideas” from a group.

The primary purpose of voting is to maintain legitimacy of the regime in the minds of the losing cadre; you get their “buy in” bc they were part of the “process”

It’s not a tool for collective sense-making; it’s a tool for popular control.
Always has been, always will.

If, somehow, some general sense of “the collective will of the people” can emerge from a voting process, it’s a nice side benefit.


(the following is my own. not pwang's)

1. i had never considered that voting was a tool for legitimacy, instead of how its usually presented as a tool for discovering and implementing the will of the people

2. this kinda makes sense though. we've had plenty of corrupt votes here and no one could dare challenge the government for it. absurdity is a feature of authoritarian regimes, not a bug. 2 + 2 = 5 and no one dares challenge it, dont stick your neck out

3. if voting is a tool for gaining legitimacy, then what other ways could we build that legitimacy. e.g. building it based on religion or monarchy or whatever

4. what counts as legitimacy anyways? lack of opposition? willingness to obey and coordinate? faith in leadership?

5. i feel like this stuff should be in a political science 101 book. but at the same time what little political books ive found seem to want to push a square peg through a round hole. forcing a theory instead of looking at the data

my impression of history books is that they try to tell a story. they dont compare between different events

True Believer by Eric Hoffer is a good example of the type of book i want to read. talks about social movements and brings several historical case studies

@AbstractFairy No, voting is because it approximates who would win a fight (the side with more people). It cashes out straight in revolution

@ajvermillion @AbstractFairy

This is correct framing imo, voting is an efficient way to approximate a fight.

Voting and arguments are way better than actually fighting so it rarely goes there, but the underlying threat is the grounding truth of legitamacy

@ajvermillion so voting is good because it prevents fights is what you're saying?

in that case would it be fair to say that if you cannot get a vote on something you need, that violence is a good option?

(i disagree that you'd win a fight simply by headcount, but thats besides the point)

@AbstractFairy No, not quite because it prevents fights. More like "it's the system which needs no fight".

@AbstractFairy And yeah, if one guy has more worldpower, they usually get more votingpower


"God made all mankind, but Samual Colt to make them equal"

@ajvermillion i like and can support this goal ("the system which needs no fight")

@ajvermillion still curious about this question though

> would it be fair to say that if you cannot get a vote on something you need, that violence is a good option?

and more broadly what are your views on violence.

100% against it? only in self-defense? only under certain circumstances?

do you think most people avoid it out of fear?

(i'm not endorsing violence, but i think people completely disregard it and outsource it)

@AbstractFairy I mean, opposition underpins the system, so it's needed somewhere, but more rational agents (on both sides) would literally never let it get there. You're starting at poor tradeoffs, so it's to you how you want to tiebreak

@AbstractFairy There's probably less resistance than is appropriate, given people's goals

@AbstractFairy Have you heard of The Dictator's Handbook? IIRC it's like a primer on selectorate theory. I suggest following it with "Why Nations Fail."

That said, no one else nails the aphoristic style of Hoffer.

@cosmiccitizen Hoffer's writing is poetry!!! and its sharp af. took me over a year to finish reading True Believer because it was too intense

haven't read The Dictator's Handbook, but i did watch CGP Grey's video of it. read a bit of Why Nations Fail

i'd love to hear more recommendations!

@AbstractFairy well FWIW I think it's worth investigating the polar opposite of Hoffer: rah-rah political theory about democracy that's written terribly.

John Dewey has a gazillion essays about the pragmatic value of democracy (not in an idealized state, but in the muddle) and they're all written TERRIBLY. People say Dewey's writing is like wading through oatmeal, or a subway ride to Infinity.

I'd recommend starting with the essay Creative Democracy for a preview of his schtick.

@AbstractFairy I hate this take, it's a classically technocratic perspectives the world isn't screwed because we can't find the right thing to do, it's screwed because decisions are taken in favour of the few not the many. So critiquing voting on technocratic grounds is totally missing the point, sure from the point of view of a ruler(s) it's a concession/compromise to maintain power, but from the perspective of the whole system it's power sharing.

@AbstractFairy there's a theory of economic development in foreign aid that uses a Dutch war to argue that nations decentralising power is inevitable because it allows borrowing at lower rates which is required to win wars, but I think that's more a case of needing to align political power with de facto (economic) power, and decentralisation of economic power is not inevitable

@zimablue yeah you cant finance large projects / wars without getting people/investors/countries backing you

i've studied fiinance so its easy to find examples

but this doesnt translate to helping the masses

e.g. the IMF provides loans and economicc reforms to states. these reforms will help the state in international trade in the long run, but in the sgirt term harm the masses

also they have a history of working w dictators who misuse loans & leave the state in more debt w a worse economy

@zimablue my problem w voting is that mobs can be manipulated w fear mongering and lies. and that most people (incl. myself) are not educated well enough to properly understand how the gov is doing, how to organize, etc.

also government staff is not voted in. but they still have a critical role in gov

@AbstractFairy there are alternatives like better voting systems (than fptp), direct democracy, sortitions which I think would be steps in the right direction. As a kind of utilitarian humanist I don't think we should try to lock people out of power, we just have to try and improve our culture, education, institutions in step with empowerment.

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