Karsten M. Self
Tue Feb 22 04:00:08 PST 2005
on Mon, Feb 21, 2005 at 11:19:26AM -0500, Aaron Sherman (firstname.lastname@example.org) wrote:
> On Mon, 2005-02-21 at 04:21 -0800, Karsten M. Self wrote:
> However, the conclusion for me is that MORE people should run for office
> on all (notice I did not say both) sides of the spectrum.
In the interest of keeping this at the theoretical rather than political
The problem with this is that it devolves to "last man / party / block
committing calls the shots". As you start either assembling a coalition
or forming a voter majority, power becomes disproportionately
concentrated in the last splinter group to commit one way or the other.
That group gets to call for political favors. There's a longstanding
criticism of introducing a multi-party system into US politics "bacause
we'd end up with Italian / Israeli / German / Canadian style politics",
in which multi-party coalitions must be formed to establish a voting
This is already somewhat the case in the US two-party system: each
party being composed of n > 2 different coalitions, some of which have
(or appear to have) disproportionate influence. In the Electoral
College system, a small number of borderline states get disproportionate
interest. Florida, Ohio, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, New Mexico (3
votes!), and Nevada (3 again!) anyone? Press on NPR in the past week
about possible FEMA abuse in Florida following last summers' hurricane
season possibly tied to political interests.
Gerrymandering electoral district boundaries predetermines most races,
putting control of Congress into a very few hands. While not subject to
this directly, note that the Senate switched GOP to split when VT
Senator Jeffords declared himself Independent.
Instant runoff voting changes this markedly, though in ways which aren't
yet fully clear.
There's a not-wholly-untruthful jibe that elections exist to preserve
the appearance of choice, while allowing for predetermined outcomes.
There's also some interesting academic work in economics showing how
outcomes can be determined by rearranging voting order (sequence in
which pairs of alternatives are compared). There's also a theorem by
IIRC Kenneth Arrow showing that it's impossible to meet all the
assumptions of democratic elections simultaneously (will dig for on
I've also been reading and ruminating on a number of works, including
some Neal Stephensen (_Snow Crash_ and _The Diamond Age_), Umberto Eco's
_Baudolino_, Rand's _Atlas Shrugged_ (trashy but fun), and a recalling
discussions in my last-quarter-at-college Comp Lit class in which we
(re)read the Odyssey (Greek) and the Aeneid (Roman). Plus a bit of
Lessig (mostly _Code_). And David Brin's _Transparent Society_.
Stephenson does a really interesting job of presenting an anarcho-
capitalist-feudal-tribal society, in which your affiliation to tribe,
and that tribe's influence over capital and resources, is primary.
Debian, incidentally, strikes me as a Stephensonian culture of sorts.
And not _just_ because he actually uses (or used) it.
_Baudolino_ (I've been picking at it for a couple of years -- IMO _The
Name Of The Rose_ and _Foucault's Pendulum_ were his best fiction works
-- so the already ambiguous story line is even more scattered) takes
place in Holy Roman Empire times, roughly 1150, very much a feudal
society. Quicksilver (Stephenson) is a slightly later variant on theme.
_Atlas Shrugged_ gives its "looters" (Jim Taggert, Ownen, etc.) a
political-economic foundation based on power and control, rather than
free competition. All of which point to an interpretation of economics
based rather less on free market principles than on how much influence,
obligation, or raw force you can exert on someone else (or they you).
Of the Oddysey & the Aeneid. Both are essentially the same story: guy
gets the wandering bug, travels the known universe, beams down, wups,
wrong series, goes through various lands, meets interesting and unusual
people, kills them, gets his groove on, and returns home. Odyssius,
however, does this largely on his own initiative. The Aneid, however,
is the story of the company man. Story's vague after these years, but
the travelling is on behalf of the Roman Empire.
Which then raises the interesting point that it seems it's the Italians
how have a reputation for being big on organization. Fraternal or
otherwise. Though they're most decidedly not the only (or most
successful) business culture. But it does make me think, partly 'coz
I'm wondering if I've got an organizational bone in my own body.
Lessig discusses the Internet, in _Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace_,
and specically what he sees as the myth that the Net is a fully
libertarian space, is immune to either government or corporate
influence. Basically, that how it is structured has a large influence
on what it is. Something I've been mulling as the telco industry
consolidates, VOIP is blocked (though apparently by smaller players),
and the Great Firewall of China is disussed (again, on NPR).
Brin: harder to tie in, but on or about page 180ish, he's talking about
openness and transparency within the workplace. His description of the
late 20th century emphasis on individuality and antiauthoritarianism,
countered by more typical social arrangements (highly stratified,
ritualistic, and authoritarian), seemed to crest a wave with the other
reading I'm going through, again, with themes of feudalism, power, and
The compelling part of this to me is that there seems to be a lot that
this approach explains about both economics and politics, though
(particularly in the former) it gets _minimal_ play in the academic
literature, and virtually nil in the business press.
I'm about 1002% positive I'm rambling aimlessly here, but I can't seem
to stop myself from doing it. My apologies.
1. No, silly, I *don't* suspect the GOP arranged to have four
hurricanes slam into a swing state on election year. I've got
*PROOF*, damnit! </not>
Karsten M. Self <email@example.com> http://kmself.home.netcom.com/
What Part of "Gestalt" don't you understand?
Vote with your head:
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