So I've been playing Nation-States and I was wondering...

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So I've been playing Nation-States and I was wondering...

Postby Shahriyar » Sat Jan 21, 2012 3:11 pm UTC

Why not make it so that citizens have to vote on issues, presented Nation-States style (of course, you get to suggest options), and the civil servants are beholden to carry them out and work out the details? Seems better than having to choose between prefabricated bundles in the shapes of parties, especially if there's only two of them for all practical purposes and they end up doing whatever they want regardless of their platforms. Plus, I feel like voting turnout would be bigger for "what do you think we should do about this problem" than "what candidate you feel like you can more-or-less trust to more-or-less do what you'd like them to do".

I dunno, it seems like a nation's people would be better-represented by this than by a party-based or candidate-based system.

Oh, and for those who haven't played the game,here's a list of the issues you get to decide on (you create a country and then you get to decide on what to do about one new issue every day).

Spoiler:
(How do I put url inside hypertext?)
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Re: So I've been playing Nation-States and I was wondering..

Postby Azrael » Sat Jan 21, 2012 4:50 pm UTC

That's called direct democracy. The shortest answer on why it doesn't really work full-scale is that it's entirely too cumbersome to hold an election on every decision.

Even in representative democracies, there are typical direct democracy mechanics: referendums, initiatives and recalls. While sensible use of those powers typically increases the quality of the representation, it can't be the entire basis of the government.

The problem you've identified is the existence of a two party system. That isn't solved by throwing out the representative legislature, it's solved by having multiple parties -- a feature more frequently seen in Parliamentarian legislatures, although not exclusively.


And regarding url tags: I'm rather certain you could have googled it in the time it took you to create the spoiler.
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Re: So I've been playing Nation-States and I was wondering..

Postby Deva » Sat Jan 21, 2012 4:57 pm UTC

No cheating!

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Re: So I've been playing Nation-States and I was wondering..

Postby Shahriyar » Sat Jan 21, 2012 5:43 pm UTC

^^ Well, the Swiss vote on a national scale like four times a year or something. With our current technology levels, I'm sure we could manage, even in a country as big as Russia or the USA or the CPR. Plus, a lot of those decisions don't need to be federal-scale stuff, they can be split by regions. Plus, you woudn't need to do that all the time. If you can choose one bunch of guys and trust them to follow a platform for four years, I'm sure voting a "national platform" for the next four years could be done just as easily, though it would be a long questionnaire (and you're free to dismiss questions you don't particularly care about... being allowed to vote against a certain option might also be an interesting innovation).

The problem with parliamentary systems, besides paralysis and breaking-down due to politicians not knowing when to compromise (oxymoronic, isn't it?) is that they tend to form a mandarinate of elites, an "establishment" that is more and more caught up in their byzantine little games, that are opaque to any outsider faction. The rich and powerful mingle with the rich and powerful only, the thick web of favors and alliances and handouts and golden parachutes just gets thicker and thicker, the media repeat their propaganda so much they themselves end up believing it... At that point, elections simply aren't enough to tie them up to the ebb and flow of what the people actually want anymore, estrangement happens, voting turnout diminishes, and, well, when crap heats the ventilation systems, you get angry protesters, populist outsider parties rising, people not believing in the state, nor trusting it... The sort of stuff the electoral system is supposed to prevent.

So, well, I like parlimentary systems more than presidential ones, but, ultimately, I think neither have proved to be satisfactory...
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Re: So I've been playing Nation-States and I was wondering..

Postby Azrael » Sat Jan 21, 2012 11:34 pm UTC

Shahriyar wrote:^^ Well, the Swiss vote on a national scale like four times a year or something. With our current technology levels, I'm sure we could manage, even in a country as big as Russia or the USA or the CPR. Plus, a lot of those decisions don't need to be federal-scale stuff, they can be split by regions. Plus, you woudn't need to do that all the time.

Ye olde internet tells me that something like 11,000 bills are introduced per US congressional session (year). You really think that can be handled without a representative legislature?
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Re: So I've been playing Nation-States and I was wondering..

Postby Shahriyar » Sat Jan 21, 2012 11:46 pm UTC

I'm not saying everyone vote on fire prevention norms or stuff like that, I'm talking about the big, controversial stuff. Like abortion and stem cells and electoral law and curfew and gay rights and SOPA and the PATRIOT ACT and going to war and lobbying and national health-care and unions and bailouts and the environment and taxation and dams and oil drills and religion funding/taxing and teaching evolution at school and the like. The stuff that people keep obsessing about for months or even entire electoral terms at a time and then the politicians still do whatever the hell they want that they think they can get away with.

Plus, really, do you think congresspeople or parliamentarians are that much more qualified or interested than the average citizen to choose this stuff? Usually they just turn up to vote on something that's already decided intra-muros, and the debates are just formalities. Their specialty is power jockeying, not legislating. They probably don't even read a fraction of the stuff they vote in. I mean, humanly, how could they? Yet everyone acts like they know what they're doing...
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Re: So I've been playing Nation-States and I was wondering..

Postby lutzj » Sun Jan 22, 2012 12:09 am UTC

Shahriyar wrote:I'm not saying everyone vote on fire prevention norms or stuff like that, I'm talking about the big, controversial stuff. Like abortion and stem cells and electoral law and curfew and gay rights and SOPA and the PATRIOT ACT and going to war and lobbying and national health-care and unions and bailouts and the environment and taxation and dams and oil drills and religion funding/taxing and teaching evolution at school and the like. The stuff that people keep obsessing about for months or even entire electoral terms at a time and then the politicians still do whatever the hell they want that they think they can get away with.

Plus, really, do you think congresspeople or parliamentarians are that much more qualified or interested than the average citizen to choose this stuff? Usually they just turn up to vote on something that's already decided intra-muros, and the debates are just formalities. Their specialty is power jockeying, not legislating. They probably don't even read a fraction of the stuff they vote in. I mean, humanly, how could they? Yet everyone acts like they know what they're doing...


A problem with emotional, controversial issues like that is that people's opinions can change quickly and because of silly factors, a problem that is mitigated somewhat by the drawn-out, deliberate proceedings of a legislature. You don't want a law getting passed or because it rained on referendum day and [demographic] is less likely to go to the polls on that day.

There's also the fact that, on average, voters are going to have even less understanding than politicians of the laws they are passing. At least most politicians have advisers.
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Re: So I've been playing Nation-States and I was wondering..

Postby Shahriyar » Sun Jan 22, 2012 12:21 am UTC

At least most politicians have advisers.


You mean lobbyists XD. Hm, so, consensus is that the people is not ready to be trusted with this, it's not an efficient system, public opinion is fickle, etc. Well, every step of the growth of democracy has been met with roughly the same arguments. Sometimes they were right, people actually weren't ready, and disaster stroke. Sometimes things turned out fine. So, what we're saying is, the system as it is now is not discredited enough, not broken enough, that we need to take such a gamble? I can live with that.
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Re: So I've been playing Nation-States and I was wondering..

Postby Game_boy » Sun Jan 22, 2012 1:23 am UTC

The problem is the financial decisions. People would just vote for more funding for everything, and less taxation, and then complain when there is a large deficit. In theory, electing politicians for 5 years should make them care about the 5-year returns on their actions, whereas people may vote how they feel in the moment.

I think this happened in California, where many new propositions passed requiring funding but people collectively shot down any new attempt at revenue raising, thus California ended up in huge debt.

I trust "people" to make the right choices, but not the difficult ones.
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Re: So I've been playing Nation-States and I was wondering..

Postby Shahriyar » Sun Jan 22, 2012 2:17 am UTC

I trust "people" to make the right choices, but not the difficult ones.


Well, certainly some cultural change should happen before we're ready for anything like that. "Socialist" states in particular are plagued by the problem of people asking for stuff indiscriminately and then expecting the government to decide with prayers to answer, if you get my drift. So, yeah, people should be ready to make sacrifices, it's just a matter of which sacrifices, since the call for austerity can be easily used as a demagogic tool to justify the stupidest things, especially in times of recession or war.
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Re: So I've been playing Nation-States and I was wondering..

Postby Djehutynakht » Sun Jan 22, 2012 8:40 am UTC

One clear problem is that direct democracy results in outright majority rule. While, on the surface, this seems swell, it isn't always quite so good. Imagine if it was a 60%-40% vote on abortion... nearly half the nation will still be furious and unhappy.

The US government, for one, is designed in part to protect from majority rule, because it's recognized that the majority cannot always be found responsible to make decisions. Would this have fared well for, say, the slavery issue?

And, on simple terms, even with our technology, it's still a big, expensive mess to have everyone vote.
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Re: So I've been playing Nation-States and I was wondering..

Postby Shahriyar » Sun Jan 22, 2012 12:08 pm UTC

Well, the Swiss, who do referendums about nearly everything, took their sweet time giving women the vote: the last region to concede it did so around 1990! So, yeah, I completely hear ya. Plus, if we take the example of Athens, normal citizens having to deal with politics all the time resulted in a cynical, disillsioned city after a few decades. All politicians are crooks, but if you make every citizen a politician, all citizens become crooks.

Although I'm pretty sure there must be a cultural way around this...
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Re: So I've been playing Nation-States and I was wondering..

Postby lalop » Sun Jan 22, 2012 10:51 pm UTC

Djehutynakht wrote:One clear problem is that direct democracy results in outright majority rule. While, on the surface, this seems swell, it isn't always quite so good. Imagine if it was a 60%-40% vote on abortion... nearly half the nation will still be furious and unhappy.


The exact same problem arises in a representative democracy, however. Worse: if 60% of the senate likes it, then 40% are unhappy, but now the decision is no longer representative of how many people outside the senate would actually support it.

If you're referring specifically to contemporary laws requiring a 2/3rds majority in the senate, then just import that law back into the direct democracy. (Sure, it would make it harder to pass stuff, but why be in such a rush to pass stuff that very few people have the time to actually read?)

Djehutynakht wrote:And, on simple terms, even with our technology, it's still a big, expensive mess to have everyone vote.


It could be as simple as having a website (albeit a complicated and well-maintained website). You'd have to provide universal internet access for the functioning of government, but this is already considered a right in some nations so it's hardly impractical.
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Re: So I've been playing Nation-States and I was wondering..

Postby Djehutynakht » Mon Jan 23, 2012 3:03 am UTC

lalop wrote:
Djehutynakht wrote:One clear problem is that direct democracy results in outright majority rule. While, on the surface, this seems swell, it isn't always quite so good. Imagine if it was a 60%-40% vote on abortion... nearly half the nation will still be furious and unhappy.


The exact same problem arises in a representative democracy, however. Worse: if 60% of the senate likes it, then 40% are unhappy, but now the decision is no longer representative of how many people outside the senate would actually support it.

If you're referring specifically to contemporary laws requiring a 2/3rds majority in the senate, then just import that law back into the direct democracy. (Sure, it would make it harder to pass stuff, but why be in such a rush to pass stuff that very few people have the time to actually read?)

Djehutynakht wrote:And, on simple terms, even with our technology, it's still a big, expensive mess to have everyone vote.


It could be as simple as having a website (albeit a complicated and well-maintained website). You'd have to provide universal internet access for the functioning of government, but this is already considered a right in some nations so it's hardly impractical.



Getting everyone to vote is also a hassle.

Another problem too is information. When you have 535 congressmen, only those 535 need to have an in-depth knowledgeable understanding of the issue. If you have...say ~250 million eligible voters, it would be impossible to get all 250 million to be informed enough to responsibly vote on the issue on a regular basis. The public can very easily be manipulated to be misinformed more easily than a congressman.


Our people (US) don't turn out to vote for most of our elections as it is... Presidential Elections? A big amount, but usually not even 2/3 of eligible voters. Congressional Elections? Less. State elections? Less. The smaller and less publicized it is, the less people will vote for it.

It's very hard to keep track and vote for everything while well-informed if it isn't your job.
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Re: So I've been playing Nation-States and I was wondering..

Postby Shahriyar » Mon Jan 23, 2012 11:46 am UTC

Another problem too is information. When you have 535 congressmen, only those 535 need to have an in-depth knowledgeable understanding of the issue. If you have...say ~250 million eligible voters, it would be impossible to get all 250 million to be informed enough to responsibly vote on the issue on a regular basis. The public can very easily be manipulated to be misinformed more easily than a congressman.


That's a bit of a non-sequitur for me... How does that follow?

And I think low voter turnout is more due to how inconvenient it is. If you could do it through a website, at home...
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Re: So I've been playing Nation-States and I was wondering..

Postby Zamfir » Mon Jan 23, 2012 1:56 pm UTC

Shariyar, representatives have far more time to study issues, they are experienced and skilled in understanding political issues, they have a staff to support them, the authority to request relevant information from involved parties, they are organized in parties that allow them divide issues under themselves.

The result is that:
A. Representatives are very informed of the issues at play, more than nearly all members of the general public
And also:
B. They are still nowhere near informed enough. On every individual issue, there are specialists who understand that issue far better yet.

That computer game is designed to be roughly understandable by an individual player. That's not how the real world works, it's far too complex for that. In the OP, you write:
lus, I feel like voting turnout would be bigger for "what do you think we should do about this problem" than "what candidate you feel like you can more-or-less trust to more-or-less do what you'd like them to do".

This is simply unavoidable. It's impossible to have an informed opinion on every problem for anyone, and even less for unpaid normal people with other things on their minds. So you choose candidates who you more-or-less trust, who in turn will employ a staff and will consult experts who they more-or-less trust, and they will appoint heads of departments who they more-or-less trust. The staffers and experts have to listen to relevant others, who they more-or-less trust, and the heads of departments appoint lower ranks who they more-or-less trust.

It's "more-or-less trust" all the way down. The challenge is to construct a system of governance where that "more or less" is good enough. That's hard, it's perhaps the most important and most difficult aspect of the modern world. It's not a computer game.
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Re: So I've been playing Nation-States and I was wondering..

Postby Shahriyar » Mon Jan 23, 2012 2:48 pm UTC

Well that wasn't condescending. But, see, there's one thing you're overlooking: full-time politicians tend to lose sight of the reality on the streets. They can eat all the numbers they want, have all the advisors they want, they still will end up forgetting how normal people live and what their concerns are, if they ever knew that in the first place. In the end, it's more about power-jockeying, manipulation, cajoling, and diversion, than about solving problems. If that kind-of-trust was near enough, more people would bother to vote. And what is certain is that that a path being difficult doesn't mean it's smart, nor wise.
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Re: So I've been playing Nation-States and I was wondering..

Postby Zamfir » Mon Jan 23, 2012 3:19 pm UTC

Come on, don't whine. You are proposing to overhaul the basic system of governance of the arguably best-governed countries in the world, with a computer game as example. You have to admit, that's fairly arrogant.
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Re: So I've been playing Nation-States and I was wondering..

Postby liveboy21 » Mon Jan 23, 2012 3:35 pm UTC

I have no idea what Nation-states is and so I'm just guessing based on what has been said on the thread so this issue might already be prevented somehow.

In this system, who decides on the questions that the population is intending to vote on? I would think that with such a system, the question is almost as important as the answer itself. How do you prevent weighted questions like "Should we take the side of the terrorists?"
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Re: So I've been playing Nation-States and I was wondering..

Postby Azrael » Mon Jan 23, 2012 4:00 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:Come on, don't whine. You are proposing to overhaul the basic system of governance of the arguably best-governed countries in the world, with a computer game as example. You have to admit, that's fairly arrogant.


And based on a poor understanding of both systems, to boot:

Shahriyar wrote:And I think low voter turnout is more due to how inconvenient it is. If you could do it through a website, at home...
It's not the perfect measure, but Lower House federal election voter turn-out rates between the US (48%) and Switzerland (54%) aren't that different. Even when you include that the Swiss vote on weekends and the majority by mail.
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Re: So I've been playing Nation-States and I was wondering..

Postby Yakk » Mon Jan 23, 2012 4:04 pm UTC

So, lets take a look at what a minister has backing her.

Suppose that minister is invited to a meeting, and the minister's staff think that the minister might actually consider attending. Before that invitation is even communicated to that minister, you'll have a task flying down the civil service to a set of analysts who will study up on what kind of issues might come up at the meeting, what the minister needs to know about the meeting, what the minister needs to know about the other people at the meeting, issues to avoid talking about at the meeting, policies that should be kept in mind at the meeting. This is then cross checked with other analysis who make sure that the first analyst didn't make any mistakes.

The result of the research then goes up the chain, getting pared down, mixed with other analyst's reports, and approved. While this is going on, the minister is merely deciding if she wants to attend the meeting. If the minister says no, the resulting document is stored for later use in the case that a similar meeting with similar issues comes up.

The minister of a government department has this huge "external brain" of analysts and civil servants who are tearing apart each problem that the minister might run into, and feeding that intelligence up to the minister.

Why does this happen? Because running a government is hard. No human being can be expected to be an expert on all of the executive decisions that one ministry of a government has to make in a month.

When a minister wants some ways to solve a particular problem -- an oil pipeline, a new energy policy, criminal law changes -- a similar kind of operation occurs. Constraints are passed down, the civil servants analyze the problem, and options are passed back up as being feasible solutions (with notes saying what kind of complications that might occur). The civil servants in question aren't (before hand) always experts on the subject -- but trained researchers with more time than a minister can drum up a lot of information from pre-existing experts and knowledge bases given a modest time budget.

We could create a system whereby civil servants are "told" to do things via referendum -- but how are the civil servants held accountable? And how do we set up a system whereby the civil service goes off and researches an issue and comes up with feasible alternatives to decide between? Do we hold referendums to fire branches of the civil service that don't do what the referendum told them to do? That is how we run the executive of the government: we give the executive a certain number of years to execute what the population told them to do (or, what they promised to do), and then fire them if they don't measure up. They, in turn, have the power to rebuild the civil service (but, for the most part, keep it continuous because the knowledge there is valuable). Their power over said service is more fine grained than a periodic referendum, which is important when you don't actually want to have to fire all of them every few years.

I suppose a private-sector driven system, where private "think tanks" come up with proposals that are then put forward in a referendum, might work.
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Re: So I've been playing Nation-States and I was wondering..

Postby omgryebread » Mon Jan 23, 2012 5:08 pm UTC

It certainly wouldn't reduce the influence of lobbyists. It means we'd spend less on nice lunches, and I wouldn't have to make 10 cups of coffee every time a politician brings his staff in. We'd switch from lobbying individual politicians (which we often do by saying "this will win you tons of votes!" or "if you do this, you'll get lets of money to win tons of votes!") and start lobbying people directly, who are probably easier to manipulate than politicians. California has an incredibly professional industry revolving around getting signatures for referendums and influencing the vote on them. Even in Maryland, the firm I work for specializes in pressuring politicians by building up popular support for the political positions of our clients. Would be perhaps even easier if politicians were cut out.
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Re: So I've been playing Nation-States and I was wondering..

Postby Zamfir » Mon Jan 23, 2012 5:16 pm UTC

Or lobbying would focus more on civil servants, who now have far more freedom to trace their own path
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Re: So I've been playing Nation-States and I was wondering..

Postby Shahriyar » Mon Jan 23, 2012 8:21 pm UTC

So, lets take a look at what a minister has backing her.



The bit that follows is the most frightening thing I have read in a long time. The impression I got was that of a huge steamroller, the sort that's bogger than a building, hard to brake, hard to steer, that runs at a breakneck speed, that is full of complicated machinery that no-one fully understands, least of all the pilot.

... The potential for abuse. It's staggering. It's all committees, and analysts, and experts... people who care more about keeping their positions (or getting promoted) than about getting the right information to the right people. If they manage to find the right information in the frightfully short time given.

Do you know at what point I stopped trusting representative democracy? When the European Constitutional Treaty got passed, by parliaments against the will of the population, and by the EU against the will of some of the countries where the referendum resulted in a NO, by changing its name and hushing the affair.

You know, on that thing, a europolitician was quoted (I'm sorry that despite my searches I can't find a source, it's an old article from Le Monde Diplomatique, probably 2006) "We don't know who's negotiating what in the name of whom".

When things get out of control like that, I feel like we're one of those ants species that (if I remember right) build up in a big ball and just roll on, having no idea where they are going. While the Queen and her court, at the center, are the safest, but even them will be in danger, if and when the living snowball crashes. What the hell are we doing?

Zamfir wrote:Come on, don't whine. You are proposing to overhaul the basic system of governance of the arguably best-governed countries in the world, with a computer game as example. You have to admit, that's fairly arrogant.

Azrael wrote: And based on a poor understanding of both systems, to boot:


Are mods on this board in the habit of flaming their contributors? You know, it shouldn't be me telling you to keep things civil. The term you're looking for is naive. I'm not the one who's talking down to people and calling them names. Also, judging the quality of an idea by its origin is fallacious thinking, and, as for the well-run part, I think every single person you ask will tell you that they could be run better. Of course, if you're content being the one-eyed kings of the blind, suit yourself, but don't lash out at me for speculating about dangerous surgeries and implants, or ask me to become an MD to earn the right to speak. "Better" can indeed be the ruin of "good", but I for one think the questions "Can we do better, how could we do it, and should we" are worth asking.

I have no idea what Nation-states is


There's a link right on the opening post. Please follow it. Worst case scenario, you'll discover a fun game.

It certainly wouldn't reduce the influence of lobbyists. It means we'd spend less on nice lunches, and I wouldn't have to make 10 cups of coffee every time a politician brings his staff in. We'd switch from lobbying individual politicians (which we often do by saying "this will win you tons of votes!" or "if you do this, you'll get lets of money to win tons of votes!") and start lobbying people directly, who are probably easier to manipulate than politicians. California has an incredibly professional industry revolving around getting signatures for referendums and influencing the vote on them. Even in Maryland, the firm I work for specializes in pressuring politicians by building up popular support for the political positions of our clients. Would be perhaps even easier if politicians were cut out.


That's a frightening point your bring up (except for the lunches). On principle, I'd say "let the voters be idiots: the idiocy would be theirs at least", but my guts are telling me that that would be stupid. All I can say is, I notice that I am confused. So I'd love to hear more about your California and Maryland lobbies and the way they operate. The floor is yours.
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Re: So I've been playing Nation-States and I was wondering..

Postby Yakk » Mon Jan 23, 2012 8:38 pm UTC

That is how you read my post?

You have some skewed perception, kid. Because that isn't what my words said. And I'd rather not be quoted as saying such words, thank you very much.
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Re: So I've been playing Nation-States and I was wondering..

Postby Shahriyar » Mon Jan 23, 2012 9:28 pm UTC

Here, fixed. I thought the brackets made it clear that it was my own perception, but I see no harm in erring to the side of caution.

Give me more data, and the keys to interpret it. Simply calling my pereptions "squewed" isn't very helpful: I can't see the world though any other eyes than mine, with any other previous notions than those I have. If you think I am looking at things wrong, feel free to correct me (without belittling or patronizing me, thank you very much).
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Re: So I've been playing Nation-States and I was wondering..

Postby Yakk » Mon Jan 23, 2012 9:51 pm UTC

Of course nobody fully understands an organization as large as a government. People simply are not that smart. This has to do with the scale of the organization, and not so much the nature. The fact that nobody can fully understand an organization larger than a few dozen people doesn't mean it is the boogeyman you make it out to be. And you did make it out to be a boogeyman -- "I don't understand it, and it does things I do not want it to, thus it is unstoppable and scary/evil/bad" is a fair paraphrase of what you read into my post.

Sure, human society (or sub-societies) on a scale larger than a few people in a room is ridiculously powerful and impossible to understand personally. To have a hope, you'll need a society of your own backing you. Which... you will then find scary, right?
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Re: So I've been playing Nation-States and I was wondering..

Postby Shahriyar » Mon Jan 23, 2012 10:10 pm UTC

You've summed it up pretty well. So my fear is irrational? I should just trust the invisible hand, the checks and balances, the electoral system, and the press? Things will run along nicely?

You know, I'm thankful. You made me reconsider a lot of things today. Go, civilization! Wherever it is you're going...
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Re: So I've been playing Nation-States and I was wondering..

Postby Yakk » Mon Jan 23, 2012 10:25 pm UTC

No, your fear isn't irrational -- there is plenty to fear about the awesome size of human civilization. Your fear is, however, inevitable. You have to live with your fear -- and a simple solution like "let everyone vote for everything" will either have some organization that seeks to understand everything running things, or will behave directionlessly, or both.

With a democracy that elects a government, at least the organization that seems to run things is (theoretically) in the open.
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Re: So I've been playing Nation-States and I was wondering..

Postby Shahriyar » Tue Jan 24, 2012 1:36 am UTC

Yup, awesome is the word, in the true, original sense (not the Team Fortress 3 Has Been Released sense). We're a geological era all by ourselves, you know?
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Re: So I've been playing Nation-States and I was wondering..

Postby Kisama » Thu Jan 26, 2012 9:34 am UTC

Shahriyar, I have had a similar idea for a while now - that a more direct democracy would be (at least in some important ways) superior to a representative one. People in this thread have raised some valid criticisms (and some not-so-valid criticisms), and I do think that for such a thing to work there would be some prior requirements, viz:
  • A minimalist government (because (a) less government intervention -> less to vote on -> less cumbersome system, and (b) reduces the potential for abuse by any majority. Point (b) applies in general - all government should have limited power.)
  • A transparent government (the public would be to the government as the shareholders are to a corporation - therefore they require and are entitled to all information)
  • A well educated public (because I don't want to put power in the hands of the ignorant)
  • A well informed public (meaning that for any issue up for vote, all relevant information should be made readily available to all voters)
I could expand on it if anyone wants me to, but the most important thing is that the government's power and scope be extremely limited, thus nullifying complaints that the system is too big/complex for the average voter. For the most part votes would not involve passing new laws/bills/whatever, but simply be about deciding how to allocate the budget. And obviously including checks and balances such that they can't do something completely stupid like allocate more money than the government has actually raised in revenue...
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Re: So I've been playing Nation-States and I was wondering..

Postby Shahriyar » Thu Jan 26, 2012 10:27 am UTC

something completely stupid like allocate more money than the government has actually raised in revenue...


Actually governments actually do that: it's called deficit.
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Re: So I've been playing Nation-States and I was wondering..

Postby curtis95112 » Thu Jan 26, 2012 10:34 am UTC

Kisama wrote:
  • A minimalist government (because (a) less government intervention -> less to vote on -> less cumbersome system, and (b) reduces the potential for abuse by any majority. Point (b) applies in general - all government should have limited power.)
  • A transparent government (the public would be to the government as the shareholders are to a corporation - therefore they require and are entitled to all information)
  • A well educated public (because I don't want to put power in the hands of the ignorant)
  • A well informed public (meaning that for any issue up for vote, all relevant information should be made readily available to all voters)

You forgot one.

  • A public that cares

A lot of people simply don't.
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Re: So I've been playing Nation-States and I was wondering..

Postby Kisama » Thu Jan 26, 2012 11:33 am UTC

curtis95112 wrote:You forgot one.
  • A public that cares
A lot of people simply don't.
I don't really see that as a problem. They can abstain every vote while the people who do care about the way their taxes are spent can have their say. Although I am a little skeptical about your claim that a significant number of people don't care what happens to the large chunk of their salary that gets taken away every month..?

Shahriyar wrote:
something completely stupid like allocate more money than the government has actually raised in revenue...

Actually governments actually do that: it's called deficit.
And it is actually completely stupid.
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Re: So I've been playing Nation-States and I was wondering..

Postby Chen » Thu Jan 26, 2012 1:27 pm UTC

Kisama wrote:I don't really see that as a problem. They can abstain every vote while the people who do care about the way their taxes are spent can have their say. Although I am a little skeptical about your claim that a significant number of people don't care what happens to the large chunk of their salary that gets taken away every month..?


A lot of people care about monetary issues. If you're talking about changing tax rates and such sure people will care. If its whether or not I want to pay for X highway or Y highway and I use neither of them, is it really an issue I'm going to waste time on? This can become more problematic when its an issue like say gay marriage (or another controversial issue). This clearly affects a minority of people (gay people who want to be married). If it doesn't really affect me and I'm fairly indifferent on the issue, I may not go and vote for it. Especially if its not a singular vote and instead its many smaller ones. This is why we elect representatives. I can get their general stance on an issue (for or against gay marriage, continuing the same example) and let them deal with all the minutiae that is needed before a final "vote for or against gay marriage" thing comes up. People are fairly selfish overall. Issues that don't directly affect them (or worse, that they don't realize affects them) are probably not going to be a big concern to them, especially not enough of one to make them have to actively do something about.
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Re: So I've been playing Nation-States and I was wondering..

Postby Zamfir » Thu Jan 26, 2012 1:35 pm UTC

Kisama wrote:
Shahriyar wrote:
something completely stupid like allocate more money than the government has actually raised in revenue...

Actually governments actually do that: it's called deficit.
And it is actually completely stupid.

That's why we have democracy to work out such differences of opinion, instead of ironclad laws that lay down one version
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Re: So I've been playing Nation-States and I was wondering..

Postby Azrael » Thu Jan 26, 2012 3:46 pm UTC

Kisama wrote:
Shahriyar wrote:
something completely stupid like allocate more money than the government has actually raised in revenue...

Actually governments actually do that: it's called deficit.
And it is actually completely stupid.

Actually, it's not. Just ask any expert who truly understands economics. The general concept is that your economy can grow more than the interest payments. The easiest real-world household example is how one can actually profit by not over-paying on low interest loans: The money that would have used to pay them off early can be invested elsewhere at a higher return. That being said, there are plenty of risks, limits and caveats that many (most?) governments haven't been managing appropriately.

Furthermore, short term deficits are crucial to paying for large or "one time" expenses that a government wants to undertake, like a war, recession spending or focused scientific R&D. Again, there's an analog in the average person's life: Mortgages, college loans, car loans. As well all know, this too can be (and frequently is) poorly managed.

Anyhow, outright stating the deficit spending is 'stupid' is both uninformed and over-simplistic.
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Re: So I've been playing Nation-States and I was wondering..

Postby Shahriyar » Thu Jan 26, 2012 9:34 pm UTC

I have to agree with the purple people on this one.

So, yeah, obviously if people were smart enough to understand the big lines of an issue, and unselfish enough to care about it even if it doesn't affect them, this more direct system would work better. One would hope that education and communication would serve this purpose.
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And I don't precisely mean the press: being owned by the Government or by private conglomerates, these dying media work more like tools of social engineering than of information and though-provocation: even Internet fora can do this job better. In fact, it can be quite jarring, after having gotten used to debating issues with intelligent, well-learned individuals with instant access to their sources, to go back to the sourceless, self-indulgent and oftentimes patronizing works of some news reporters and opinion pundits, unless you go out of your way to look for intelligent journalism. Even then, the journalist isn't arguing with you: at best they're informing you (perhaps with some embedded bias), at worst they're teaching you, talking down to you, telling you what to think.


Also, another way to make this workable, according to some, would be to diminish the scale of the State into something that can be understood (or at least fathomed) by a single individual.
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I fear that dividing humanity into sovereign nations of that size would result in paralysis (customs! money exchange! different market regulations!), warfare (the most militaristic states are bound to try to invade and assimilate their neighbors, and we'll be back to square one), and starvation (feeding the sorts of populations the world carries nowadays is done mostly though trade, and if trade gets paralyzed...). Of course, one way to avert this would be inter-country treaties, but isn't that just going back to bignationing again?
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Re: So I've been playing Nation-States and I was wondering..

Postby Djehutynakht » Fri Jan 27, 2012 1:53 am UTC

I'm not typing a lot, so this may not seem the best argument either... but in terms of pure government handling.... there are just some things the public at large can't vote on. Congresses and Parliaments deal with many secrets, which it would be harmful for the public to know (National security relies on spying. If we hold votes on spying, it sort of loses it's effectiveness).

The normal person, honestly, cannot be trusted to understand a bill well enough to vote on it. I may not have been supporting SOPA or PIPA.... but do you realize how many lies about it were spread all over the internet? Do you realize how wrong people would be when voting on stuff, just because of a successful television campaign by supporters or quickly spread rumors on the Internet?

People don't know what's going on half the time. They're too busy. I wouldn't trust people who can't even name their own congressmen/ministers to take those congressmen's/minister's jobs into their own hands.
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Re: So I've been playing Nation-States and I was wondering..

Postby lutzj » Fri Jan 27, 2012 3:22 am UTC

Djehutynakht wrote:People don't know what's going on half the time. They're too busy.


This is another issue. It doesn't really make economic sense to expect the entire population to hours each week keeping up with current events and policy ramifications when we can have a tiny portion do it instead. You run into severe diminishing returns when you have more than a few dozen people contemplating a given issue.
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