Re: Book on use of electronic networks for democracy [cr-95/10/25]


Sender: Mark Stahlman (via RadioMail) <•••@••.•••>

There are two types of people who are beating the drum for hyper-democracy
nowadays: very well connected scoundrels and very unconnected street
organizers with unknown moral character.  Larry Grossman (ex-head of NBC
News and of PBS), Alvin Toffler (guru to Gore and Gingrich), Jim Lehrer
(PBS newsguy), John Kennedy Jr. (prince-in-waiting), John Perry Barlow
(EFF's hype-master) and Ross Perot (scary dude) are just some of the
scoundrels.  And, you, I take it, are one of the purportedly pure-of-heart
street fellows.

Why do you think the street-types will win this one?  Why do you think that
your grassroots efforts won't be sucked up by the whirlwind the scoundrels
are organizing?  Why do you think that all or most of the street-types are
even pure-of-heart?

With a population that we both know to be easily swayed (no I'm not trying
to start another OJ jury debate so don't start in now) and zillion times
more bucks and celebrity cleavage on their side, it would take a mighty
dose of pixie dust to tip this battle towards the honest activists.  Plus,
these scoundrels already know how to rule -- a not insignificant skill set,
after all.  This is not a fair fight.  Not at all.

But, that's not the worst of it.  Even if the honest activists somehow
miraculously prevailed, we'd still be stuck with a technocratic regime.  As
we resolved in our extended dialogue earlier this year, the world is far
too complex for even the most thoughtful, dedicated citizen to fully
comprehend.  Therefore, some one else will *always* have to make most of
the tough decisions.  Either we elect (and unelect) 'em or we allow them to
appoint themselves (for life).  Either it's professional politicians or
it's professional "experts" -- the technocrats.  (Or, like today's system,
some sort of mixture of both.)

Every detailed plan for hyper-democracy that I've seen explicitly devolves
into a technocracy.  In Italy, they embraced technocrats (without the
hyper-democracy) because all the politicians were grossly corrupt.
Hopefully, we have not and will not sink so low in this republic.

I'm sorry that the distinction between opinion and judgement has escaped
you.  It's quite fundamental to this discussion.  Opinions are easy to come
by, need no logic or reason and are usually driven by peer group pressure.
Judgements are hard to form, must stand up to rational examination and
represent the best that humans can do when faced with difficult dilemmas.
These are two completely different animals.

Opinions, as they say, are like assh*les -- we all have them but it's not
polite to show them in public.  But, Talk TV, Talk Radio and
there-is-no-truth so-make-up-your-own educational curriculums (among other
modern cultural highlights) have exalted the posterior sphinter.  We have
taught our kids to not form judgements (being "judgemental" is right up
there with "racist" in modern value structures) at the same time that
everyone's idiotic, half-baked opinion is enshrined as personal
enlightenment.  We live in an age when people can publically denounce
science and proudly embrace magic, fer chrissakes.  Finding wisdom in the
land (or on the Internet for that matter) is a herculean task.

But, governing must be based on judgement -- not on opinion.  In fact,
whether it's a tribal council or a corporate board, governing is almost
always done in exactly this way.  Otherwise, things tend to fall apart very
quickly.  The trouble, you might rejoin, is that the wrong judgements that
favor the wrong people tend to win out in the current system.  Perhaps.

But, replacing (or even paralyzing) the consitutional representative
democracy we now live under with the "will of the people" is a bitter sham.
 It doesn't and cannot work that way.  Instead, you would be replacing one
groups judgements with another.  The inevitable result of hyper-democracy
would be manipulation of opinions by skilled opinion shapers to support
their particular collective judgements.  To be sure, a lot of this already
goes on; hyper-democracy would enshrine this destructive and cynically
manipulative social engineering propaganda game and hand over policy making
to the technocrats.

Call me a four-legged grass-munching methane factory if you wish, but the
burden of proof that I'm wrong is on your head.  You are the advocate here.
 I prefer our constitutional republic -- alas, with all of its
imperfections.  You are calling for the revolution, not I.  It's up to you
to show how the judgements which would prevail under your proposal would be
superior to the judgements which rule today.

Having been down that road with you and all the articulate hyper-folks you
could rally earlier this year, I'm not going to hold my breath.  No such
demonstration of better judgemental results can be constructed.  "It can't
get any worse" is about as thoughtful as the hyper-folks answers have
gotten to date.

Sorry, but it could get a whole lot worse.  In fact, in this place at this
time,  a dramatically worse fate for us all is virtually inevitable under
hyper-democracy.  Therefore, reasonable men and women have no choice but to
oppose hyper-democracy with all their hearts and minds.  No choice,

Mark Stahlman
New Media Associates
New York City

 Posted by Andrew Oram  - •••@••.••• - Moderator: CYBER-RIGHTS (CPSR)
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