*10% Less Democracy*

The author is Garett Jones and the subtitle is Why You Should Trust Elites a Little More and the Masses A Little Less, coming soon to a theater near you, early 2020.

If you believe in judicial independence, you do not believe in complete democracy.

If you do not think we should elect judges, sheriffs, and dog catchers, you do not believe in complete democracy.

If you believe in those European proportional representation systems, with post-election bargaining, you do not believe in complete democracy.

If you are a fan of the EU…etc.

Here is an excerpt from Garett’s excellent book:

Some cities in California appoint their treasurers and others elect their treasurers.  Cities can have elections to decide whether the city treasurer should be appointed by the city government; the default is that they’re elected.  Whalley checks to see which kinds of cities have lower borrowing costs: ones with appointed treasurers or elected ones.  The interest rate paid on a city’s debt is a useful index of how well the city is running its finances…So Whalley’s overall question is this: Do cities with appointed treasurers pay lower interest rates on their debt?

…Over the period Whalley examined, 1992 to 2008, forty-three cities held referenda to ask whether they should switch to appointed treasurers.  He’s therefore able to look at the before-and-after differences of these elections…

[there is] an even bigger benefit of appointed treasurers: seven-tenths of a percent lower interest rates every year.  The average city has $30 million in debt, so that comes out to a savings of $210,000 per year.

Do I hear eleven percent anybody?  Though twenty percent I do not wish to hazard, not at all.

You can pre-order the book here.

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Democracy isn't so much about the franchise as free speech, freedom of religion, right to keep and bear arms, etc. If you don't have these rights, you aren't all equal even if you can all vote for your representatives.

…Over the period Whalley examined, 1992 to 2008, forty-three cities held referenda to ask whether they should switch to appointed treasurers. He’s therefore able to look at the before-and-after differences of these elections…

Of course, a city having a referendum on whether to appoint a treasurer is completely unrelated to how the city finances were run by the elected treasurer. These are unrelated events. That's why it makes sense to compare before-and-after and expect to obtain a useful measure of relative performance.
/sarc

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I'd settle for 10% less cucks.

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'you do not believe in complete democracy'

Of course not, few people are stupid enough to believe in what can also be called mob rule or anarchy. Constitutional democracy, however is something that has proven itself truly worthy to believe in. And worth defending against from people interested in 'complete democracy.'

All the rest of the examples seem at par with the first one. And really, since when has representational democracy been considered inferior to whatever undefined chimera 'complete democracy' is?

The problem is that as the parties move further away from the center, both sides would like to rig the rules of the game in their favor.

Socialists aren’t such huge fans of representative democracy, especially the federalist republic brand practiced in the USA. It would be easier for them to chuck the electoral college, lower the status and importance of the Supreme Court and the senate, centralize much more power within the executive branch and House of Representatives, and radically reduce the importance of states rights.

For conservatives and libertarians, the trick is to do exactly the opposite and weaponize the constitution to enshrine their policy desires. It’s much easier to achieve limited government through the Supreme Court, than it is through the legislative and executive branch.

'The problem is that as the parties move further away from the center, both sides would like to rig the rules of the game in their favor.'

A distinct disadvantge in a two party state, one that can be mitigated (but never eliminated) by 'those European proportional representation systems.''

'Socialists aren’t such huge fans of representative democracy'

Social democrats, on the other hand are huge fans of representative democracy.

'and weaponize the constitution'

That is a disgusting perspective, though you are entitled to have that opinion, though for how long after the 1st Amendment is 'weaponized' is open to debate. Or not open to debate, as the case may be.

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I don't know which socialists you have been talking to, but the ones I know find the US system not representative enough: In practice, finding the current electoral system being all about how big your state's city population is, and leaving a high percentage of the population pretty much unrepresented because of it, on either side. Rural voters in CA are as supressed as urban voters in Kansas. They'll also argue that if we must be federalist that states should not be set in stone, and their creation, or fusion, cannot be vetoed by people that will lose politically if that was allowed to happen.

"Rural voters in CA are as supressed as urban voters in Kansas. "

Bob, I'm from Kings County, California. Please tell me how the inhabitants of Kings County are suppressed.

Because gang members in LA county shoot each other and innocent bystanders YOU have your gun rights restricted by legislators who are elected by the larger population centers.

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The vast majority of socialists would be more than happy with a very powerful executive branch and House of Representatives. The Senate, Supreme Court, and state governments can go pound salt.

Why? Because it’s easier to enact a bunch of regulation, new tax laws, welfare transfers etc when less branches and layers of government exist.

States rights, constitutionality, checks and balances etc are usually phrases synonymous with conservatism.

In the US-case, where the place is becoming more socialist or at the very least more.....rule-happy, I think it's not because the other branches have suddenly died off, just that with the increasing complexity that the whole system creates, the executive branch can get its will done the easiest. It can just act and ask for forgiveness later. If anyone even notices that something questionable has been done, it is usually too late.

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The Bill of Rights is profoundly undemocratic.

+1, The Bill or Rights is about protecting the individuals and minority from the state and the majority.

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Sure, but its even more profoundly anti-elitist. It may be a check on the majority's power over the minority, but more so the minority (of governors) over the majority (of the governed).

Not exactly "why you should trust elites more and the masses less"!

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Right.

That entire list of "Ifs" at the beginning of the OP is just a gang of straw men.

I suppose it's intended to be shockingly iconoclastic, but it's just sophomoric.

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Today's left and right parties want 10% more authoritarianism. Let's not encourage them with these ideas now.

"Both sides do it" is a mindworm that rots the brain.

One party is authoritarian today, and that should provide easy answers for 2020.

(And lol, don't tell me how afraid you are of freshman congresswomen. We have decades to sort that out before they have any serious power.)

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If you want a good sign that a party has not fallen to authoritarianism and cult of personality, it might be having 20 candidates for President.

We all remember how many Republican candidates there were in the 2016 primaries, and we all know which party rigs its primary races. You aren't scoring any points here by throwing fake slogans around.

I don't remember literally 20 person televised debates in 2015.

And what fake slogan?

Is there a Democrat demanding personal loyalty from their party? Let alone from the Attorney General or the head of the FBI?

Comey was one of the bad guys in the Russia Collusion coup attempt.

Its' OK! The End Justifies The Means. Whatever It Takes.

If you or I did what Comey did we would be in Leavenworth.

Question for AG Barr, Why is Comey not charged?

In fact, the IG’s investigation report (and recommendation for prosecution) revealed: As part of the coup d'état FBI Director Comey illegally kept a private, separate record system in a desk drawer. He also took home most of those official records. He unlawfully leaked records to the press after he was justly fired.

“He lied to the President, lied about lying to the President, leaked government information to cover up his lying, and lied to the public about his lying.” William A Jacobson

You never fail to disappoint.

This is sad, but it is certainly on topic.

Comey broke standard procedures to tell us that our democracy was at risk, that the president demanded personal loyalty, and sought to obstruct justice.

Anyone fully in the cult of personality will indeed be offended by Comey, and not Trump. If you are really far gone, you might see that defense of the Constitution as "a coup."

I hope the bulk of conservatives are not really that far gone.

Neil Cavuto:

Well, I think the President watches Fox. I also think he is getting sick of Fox, which is weird because I think he gets pretty fair coverage at Fox. But the President making clear to fact check him is to be old but dead to him. And his legion of supporters who let me know in no uncertain terms, I am either within totally or I am a never Trump or fully. There are no grays, no middle ground, you're either all in or you're just out, loyal on everything or not to be trusted on anything. Which could explain the President himself this week bashing fox news yet again, urging his supporters to stop watching the channel to quote tweet, "Fox isn't working for us anymore". Well, first of all, Mr. President, we don't work for you. I don't work for you.

Dick, What Comey should have done is to have gone to the second branch of government responsible for oversight and reported to the ranking majority and minority members of the Senate and House Judiciary Committee. You can't have the Executive oversee itself, nor should you use the newspapers for that either.

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"Comey broke standard procedures" He broke the law for partisan purposes, helping only his side and weakening democracy. POS need jail time.

We know what's really going on. Those within the cult of personality believe Comey should have taken the secret of the loyalty request, and the attempts at obstruction, to his grave.

Your whole argument is that a president should be free to break the law, and knowledge of that should be squashed.

How is that not pure antidemocractic authoritarianism?

And yet we find the accusers are the obstructionists. No one should be free to break the law - as I said, Comey needs jail time.

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It isn't necessary to demand party loyalty when the party is working behind the scenes to ensure your victory.

And obviously, yes, I do believe that the machinery of the state should be responsive to the will of the people, via their elected officials. That's the definition of democracy.

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You cite 20 candidates, who are falling over themselves in promoting more federal control of our lives, as proof of NON authoritarianism? Let's just say you've made better arguments.

Don't you mean socialist?

Sad joke.

And very sad if you really cannot distinguish between representative democracy, laws passed by a legislature, and arbitrary expansion of executive power.

You guys who worried about Obama nibbling at the edges sure are giving it up for Trump, and setting dangerous precedents for the next Democrat.

Don't you worry at all that tariffs and spending are just now "normal emergencies?"

Socialist or authoritarian, is there a difference? Obama did very little nibbling, he took whole bites when it came to taking power. We had treaties not confirmed by the Senate because he knew they wouldn't, and pallets with billions of dollars shipped in the middle of the night because even Congress knew it was foolish. 'Normal' emergencies were made normal largely because of Obama. Democrats have a knack for changing long held norms and rules for their short sighted benefit, only to have those changes bite them in the ass a couple of years later.

Lol

https://www.factcheck.org/2019/03/obama-didnt-give-iran-150-billion-in-cash/

This is correct.

They never released the actual amount of assets held. $150 billion was one estimate.

And it wasn’t mostly cash. It was digital cash.

Basically Obama ordered the treasury department to lift sanctions on financial institutions’ Ability to conduct transactions with Iran. Iran then recovered assets that had been sitting in European and American financial institutions for years.

Whether that’s functionally equivalent to TMC’s statement is largely dependent on your partisan lens.

To anonymous it’s an abhorrent lie that only a deplorable would believe.

To TMC the specific details on where the assets were stored, whether it was $70 or $150 billion, and whether it was literal boxes of cash or 1’s and 0’s are probably irrelevant.

So 1.5 to 2 billion in actual hard currency and 79-150 billion in digital. I'm calling myself the winner here as I didn't specify beyond 'billions'. Kudos to anonymous who once again posts links that undermine his own position and proves the opposite.

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Laws passed by a democratically elected legislature can still be authoritarian. Command and control is command and control whatever its source.

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The UK's government isn't a fan of the EU, does that make them 10% less democratic? China, on the other hand, could use 80% more democracy.

You've got it backwards. He's saying we need less democracy, because with less democracy we get things he considers good, like the EU and the governance of Italy. Leaving the EU makes the UK more democratic, under this theory, but he would say it's not worth the cost.

Note too that judges in the UK are not independent but are subordinate to the political authority of Parliament. The UK is this that much more democratic than we are. And their undemocratically-secured constitutional rights are accordingly somewhat narrower than ours. Tyler's certainly correct that there's a trade-off here.

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I wish we could appoint the president

Technically, under the electoral college, the President is elected by electors who are appointed by the state and expected to faithfully select the candidate that receives the most popular votes. So indirection upon indirection on indirection. See the recent Constitutional controversy over faithless electors that will make its way to the Supreme Court:

https://reason.com/2019/08/28/the-return-of-the-faithless-elector/

Personally I'm not a fan of this style of complication just to be, as the title puts it, a little less democratic. I prefer simplicity in my elections the same way I prefer simplicity in the tax code. Indirection and complexity invites corruption and in the age of norm-breakers like Donald Trump or Boris Johnson taking the helm don't be surprised if more faithless electors appear with all of its oligarchic implications.

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In theory representative democracy gives us all an equal right to appoint the president. As Larry says, there are some complications. The other big one is money. Some might have some ready hand-waving for why billionaires(*) are really improving democracy, but I think obviously not.

If we want real representative democracy, we should stay close to the ideal that all of us are equal deciders.

Publicly funded campaigns, now more than ever.

* - and foreigners using that NRA pipeline to domestic PACs.

The problem with us all being equal deciders is that we don't all have equal decision-making faculties.

The problem with us being un-equal deciders is that we all think we deserve more.

The revolt against the elites is not that the elites are wrong most of the time, but they are as capable of corruption as the rest of us when it comes to their collective self-interest.

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I always think that this has it the wrong way around: democracy isn't so much about who chooses who leads, or how accurately the wishes of the people are represented in government.

It's about being able to GET RID OF leaders who haven't delivered. i.e. accountability.

+1!

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I like "self-determination" for the broader idea that people are getting what they want. Democracy is one mechanism for getting there.

In theory, a good despot with an ear to the ground could provide self-determination, and a bad democracy could fail, for any number of reasons.

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Accountability and protection of personal rights are independent of a democratic government.

The United States has tens of millions of gun owners who can enforce the basis of American political culture regardless of whether they are voting for their leaders or not.

The only way to neutralize this force is to demographically strangle it which not coincidentally is exactly what our (democratically elected) leaders are doing.

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+1 for democracy as a tool to remove under performing leaders.
I would add that it is also a way we transfer power from leaders who want to retire, or when the universe retires. Succession.

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I have resided in counties with a strong appointed county manager and weak part time county commissioners and in counties with strong full time elected county commissioners and weak or no county manager. There was no comparison: the strong appointed county manager with weak part time county commissioners was far superior. Having a professional county manager in charge avoided much of the pettiness and outside influences of the alternative. My experience confirms the findings of this study and the implications suggested by Cowen. It also supports having full time professional regulators administering our laws, but I don't believe that's what Cowen intended.

Having said this, I would also say that I would never be the full time appointed county manager. Why? His life is miserable, with constant criticism and meddling from the county commissioners. I became good friends with the county manager (although he was much older than me at the time), so I was acutely aware of the toll it had on him, a man with uncommon personal skills and good humor. I suppose that's why strong appointed county managers move often. As for the voters, they were clueless, more often than not taking cues from the elected county commissioners who were jealous of the authority of the county manager and constantly criticized him. Voters were constantly seeking a change in the county charter to rid the county of the county manager and giver power back to the people. Clueless.

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There was a spectacular event in California in 1994 involving the Orange County treasurer Robert Citron, who bankrupted the prosperous county by plunging into complex investments. He'd been re-elected 7 times.

So I guess that one data point (but a big one) supports Garett's argument.

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Interestingly, Julián Castro reached Presidential Timberhood by being mayor of San Antonio, despite that being a symbolic office only paid $20 per city council meeting. San Antonio is actually run by a City Manager, a lady who gets paid around $400k annually.

San Antonio is interesting. The power-sharing elite is Mexican and German. It is a far better-run city than Austin.

Austin had a 7-member council - I think it was 7, including the mayor - all elected at-large. It attracted a mix of the colorful and the earnest; the development community usually had a representative. The Boomer ethos of environmentalism was well-represented. Grown-ups were few, as is true of this town generally, but somehow the deeply-imperfect result was yet the best one could hope for - they weren't people you wanted to do a whole lot of governing, and sort of by slacker accident, they didn't. There was always an African-American seat. In the new millennium, the Hispanics were knocking on the door of that seat, as they had not been party to the so-called gentleman's agreement (and Hispanics and blacks get along so well in this city that each must have its own city diversity/equity department). Maybe it was that, maybe it was the feeling of "more council, more flags, more fun," but liberal Boomer central-city voters got together for one last sit-in, or rather shoot-in: they collectively shot themselves in the foot and changed to a crazy-mapped system of ten districts, plus mayor.

The result has been disastrous. The environment no longer has a single champion on the council. Though supposedly a "weak mayor city," we have a clueless ideologue of a mayor who sort of forgot, or neglected, to hire a new city manager for 2 or three years. During that time he was thus able to indulge, unfettered, his passion for micromanaging alternate modes of transportation like rideshare and scooters; and enter into an expensive (and admittedly needed) code rewrite that absorbed two years of city time and treasure before going up in smoke with nothing to show for it. After that was over, he finally ended the "search" and engaged a city manager he found sympatico (this is a city where, if you don't want to do something, you will find the Process extremely obliging). That fellow not overlong after starting the job went on gay paternity leave, but not before setting in motion the mayor's messianic dream of nudging backwater Austin toward its destiny - becoming the peer of other famously progressive big cities like Seattle, Portland, LA, or SF by inviting the world to come and camp anywhere and all over. Because never-paid vagrancy fines are the main thing standing between people and success, accumulating wealth, etc. And he who is tired of stepping through needles and human waste to walk to the store, is patently tired of life. Greater love hath no man than that he let his K2-overdosing friend lay down his life on the sidewalk.

Sorry for the irrelevant rant, but it quieted my mind. As for that 10% less democracy ... I'm sure the masses will go back to being geniuses after Trump (whom they didn't elect, anyway, right?); no need to worry about it too much one way or the other.

peri,

Not only is your rant ittelevant, it looks downright stupid. Austin has gone over the last half century from having about 200,000 people to having about 900,000 people. Is this the sign of a badly managed city? Oh, I know those bunglers could not keep all those darned people out!

I think it's a combination of weather, a university wealthier than more than a hundred countries, an open border, and being the seat of a metastasizing state government - but YMMV. No doubt your explanation is likelier.

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I live in Austin. It has been an outrageously successful city. Local governance can't take all the credit but they didn't do anything horrible to stop the success. I sincerely credit local governance with much less regulations against development than similar cities. State government also deserves lots of credit for providing a low tax, low regulation, pro-business environment.

All of Texas has grown incredibly. Houston even more so. I found peri's post to be interesting, and relevant.

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Great rant! Spot on!

Same thing happened to our little coastal city in CA. It used to be run by a conservative city council and mayor and conservative county supervisors. I hated them at the time as I was on the left. I was young and dumb.

Anyway. The demographics changed and the city and county is 100% "progressive". Now we are ground zero for homelessness and free needles. The needles can be found everywhere. Peter pan politics. It is now a sh*thole, and an expensive one at that.

We both considered what he said for a couple seconds. Every item had a tag with delicate and sensible handwriting. For two months I had turned over tag after tag for a look at a number. They were horse hairs.

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Can anybody explain how college dropout Marcie Frost wound up in charge of California's giant pension fund CalPERS?

http://www.unz.com/isteve/smart-chinese-guy-reports-to-dumb-american-lady-managing-350-billion-california-pension-fund-what-could-go-wrong/

No one is obligated to explain anything to you at all-figure it out yourself and MAKE AN ARGUMENT! Self-linking is for losers.

MAKE AN ARGUMENT about the question!!

Would you happen to be James Robert Cooter, btw? Oh wait, my argument is: yes.

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I always thought that 'winner takes it all'-systems like in the US are less democratic than proportional systems where a (often enough) post-election coalition needs to at least get more than 50 percent of the votes.
Democracy means "rule of the people" and not "rule of the faction with the most votes" or "rule of the people who narrowly won a popularity contest and now rule over all the other loosing people", does it not?
Only because the voters of a minority party or one that happens to have fallen out of fashion, did not see their party come out ahead of all others, does not mean, that their preference is not still an important aspect of this imagined ideal of the "will of the people".
If a party manages to get 5% of the vote, it should about have a 5% say in the government. If it manages to get 10% in the next election, it should have twice as much say.
If that is not happening, the will of the people is badly misunderstood. The will of the people is never unified or simple and this rounding up process of having a "winner" instead of a "major partner" in a coalition silences almost half of the people's voices. Some democracy that is....

I put it to you, that if you believe in 'complete democracy', that proportional representation is much closer to it than not having proportional representation.
The idea of 'democracy' being a contest between two popular parties and there being a clear winner and a clear loser, even though each time they are almost equally popular is rather the deviation from the concept.

How does the role of the parties not in the governing coalition provide representation for those who elected them? This reads like distinction without difference.

Now, you could write the rules of the parliamentary body to require a large supermajority to conduct business, and in so doing make a grand coalition the only possible government after many elections. But let's be generous to this proposal and assume the polity that has it as a strong norm towards forming that grand coalition because the alternative is impasse. The grand coalition requires cooperation between the leadership of the largest center-left and center-right parties. Moderates rejoice. But it also means that a shift in voter sentiment from 60-40 to 40-60 on an issue, which we'd otherwise consider decisively seismic, might be moot: government policy requires cooperation of the same two priniciples regardless of which one of them is the senior and junior partners of the coalition. So the "most of the voters have representation" case begins to have characteristics of one party rule.

Indeed, with one party rule, everyone has representation by what seems to be the definition of representation you are leaning toward. Choice, not so much, but we can't have everything.

point 1:
We consider a 60 to 40 flip 'seismic'. Those flips happen often enough, so that way too many things get done, that 40% don't feel okay with.
With "winning" being so easy it means that loosing is equally easy. But the cost of a loss weighs greater than the benefits of the victory.

point 2:
What you are describing is isomorphic (or close enough) to Hotelling's law, yes?
I do agree that this centrism setup is similar to a one-party rule and that that is not "will of the people"-maximizing.
I think that the US system has less product differentiation than most European systems. The two parties aren't that disimilar. These days they are trying to do more product differentiation again perhaps, but I think the winner-takes-all-system disincentives that. With two players they can easily model one another's behaviour and must do the societally harmful, but individually profitable to follow the principle of minimum differentiation.
If we have a system that leaves room for five or more larger political players, it is much harder for any party to do a Hotelling strategy.
Right, Left is nice, but if your system also allows for libertarians, greens, the religious and various extremists, you have a multidimensional spectrum.
And politics become so complicated, that most people stop caring.
So only weak mandates exist to ever do much and we have stability in part by political apathy of the people, and the demos can get on with the important things in life.
Also weaker players can push in and put up a fight for the disaffected and more or less annoyed 40%. (often annoyed by enthusiasm in their 60% of their countrymen)
Historically the libertarian FDP got to play swing vote in the past, giving the 10% who swing that way, their due.
E.g. the AFD in Germany can exert pressure on their behalf, even if they are not exactly a party suited for government.
Giving a voice to the general and naturally incoherent 'no, yeah maybe, definitely not like this though'-attitude in the immigration debate.
The Pirate Party..... I am sure did something.
The Green party made the country quite a bit greener, than perhaps it otherwise would have been.
The Left.... a reaction against the SPD becoming centrist-neoliberal abandoning their sizeable constituency and so on.

So sure we also have centrism, but our kind of centrism does not get shit done. Keeps our government much smaller than the American one.
(in size, scope and complexity, areas of concern, though arguably we have a bigger welfare state)

And there's no natural red-blue outgroup dynamic, because there's too many colors. Keeps us from going at each other's throats, cause..... who's the enemy, who's your friend?

And I don't think we are ruled by elites much, either. Just look at our leaders and try to find a shared Ivy-league-style culture, there?
I think Tyler is bundling too many disparate things together. The EU is definitely a less representative democratic institution, agreed. If it grows in power, we might become more like America in undesirable ways. There's still resistance to it though, because we quite enjoy being more democratic. The United States are pretty much what a strong-EU, weak nation state-future could look like.
Elites running the show.
[epistemic status: democratic or not is not the right lense here I think, but centralization vs decentralization, eternal struggle of episteme vs metis, also incredibly fuzzy terms all around]

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David,

Apparently you are unfamiliar with US History. We are not a democracy, we are a republic, "if you can keep it" (Ben Franklin). The founders were worried about mob rule. In California we have the Democratic tools called "propositions". Cynical, well-funded special interests have figured out how to fool most of the people most of the time, so we end up addled with rediculous laws and policies chosen by the people. Dumb dumb dumb. Nowadays I pretty much vote against every proposition as I know they are likely bad. I do my best to read them carefully and try to understand them and the unintended consequences. The proponents of the propositions usually cover their tracks effectively. Welcome to LaLa Land!

Fifty percent of the population has a below average IQ, many of them well below average.

Perhaps you are unfamiliar with the history of the Federal Republic of Germany? Or that after the Roman republic, where there was some form of limited democracy, came the Roman Empire without it?

I think the difference you are trying to set up between "republic" and "democracy" is not terribly illuminating.

But I agree, that this is all a lot more complex when one considers how differently the states are running things. Not so in Germany. None of our states can decide to be the "direct democracy"-one or the " low tax, legal weed"-one. You are of course right, that this perhaps saves us from a lot of Californian nonsense. I don't think though, that we were saved by the elites here or that those elites even exist.

It all boils down to what one thinks the "will of the people" is and whether that should be considered democratic. I do not think that "will of the people" maps cleanly to Californian or Swiss attempts at direct democracy.
I'd rather say it translates to not having to think, fight or worry about what the people's will is these days.

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From a review of the Whalley quote:

" The cities he looked at were all quite small. Bigger cities generally have larger, more professionalized staffs--staffs capable of assisting with tasks like refinancing even if the treasurer lacks expertise."

Here is the link: https://www.governing.com/topics/mgmt/A-Vote-for-Appointed.html

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The average city in California is going be somewhere around 25,000 if we exclude the megacities. $10 per person per year is not the sort of pottage for which to sell your birthright. Even at 10,000 people we are still only talking about maybe one dinner out per year.

Frankly it is silliness like this that makes me ever more suspicious that elites are even more clueless than Brexit, Trump, Ford, Duerte, and the rest suggest. When you live in a small town the real value to you, the taxpayer, is not borrowing costs, it's time.

Doing the silly thing to just look at cash, median hourly wage in California are right around $20; ignoring the increased value for marginal work hours every minute you spend dealing with city hall is about 33 cents. This includes the time to drive there, the time to fill out forms, and the time on the phone with them. Depending on the services provided by city hall (e.g. trash collection, water & sewage, construction inspection, fire, EMS, public libraries), what sorts of fees and taxes they charge, and what sorts of forms they require filing you will very likely spend substantially more than 2.5 minutes per month dealing with the treasurer or processes they control.

So who does public choice theory tell us will be more responsive about petty hassles? An elected official who can easily be voted out of office by people who have to fill out one too many forms or have to come back one too many days because staff abscond at precisely 1600 ... or a professional manager whose salary is traditionally tied the number of staff overseen? I would submit that in my life I have wasted far more time dealing with petty municipal empire builders than I have ever seen with a marginally competent glad-hander who wants me to go away happy and tell my friends to re-elect them because they are so nice.

But the cash side of things is actually even smaller when it comes to local government in smaller towns. If you are a lifelong resident there will be some point in time when you are the uncommon soul who needs something big. Maybe you want to remodel the house and add on an in-law suit. Maybe the sewer main under your street breaks and starts leaking under your yard. Maybe you want a permit for your family reunion to reserve the town green and all the parking around it. Maybe you want to have a fireworks gender reveal celebration. Maybe you need to settle an inheritance. Maybe you need to clarify a deed and have to sort out unclear land titles. Maybe you want to divide your property to sell half to someone. Maybe you want to do something commercial on your property. Maybe you need to close a street for a day to repair flood damage. All of these typically run through a small number of local officials who have limited experience with each and who often just cribbed their rules from a conference. Having someone who responds to you makes it much easier to navigate these things; further it helps to have a relationship so city government works towards what you can accomplish rather than just trying to stymie you with a regulation set. Being unable to quickly rebuild after a house fire or some other catastrophe is worth massively more than borrowing costs.

Elite myopia always focuses on the things that are easy to measure. These are typically the least important things in life. After all, the easiest option for minimizing your tax bill is not to get better terms on interest; it is to eliminate services and salaries. What people actually value are convenience, freedom, protection, and a mess of other intangibles.

I would submit that the intangibles are what are most important for your local judges, sheriffs, and dogcatchers. Your sheriff does not get to change many laws, but he does have a large influence on what sort of policing occurs. Do you want your police force to enforce all the regulations on the book (federal, state, and local), or would you prefer they ignore things like fireworks bans, federal immigration law, marijuana prohibitions or what have you. Do you want them to go after everyone for petty crime in broken windows fashion, or do you want them to let the small stuff go and find better uses of their time. The things your police will "let" you do will have a vastly more profound impact on your life than what sort of administrative efficiency your police chief has, it will also likely have more of impact that even his ability to marginally deter or prosecute crime. After all, most of will never have criminal records. Only a small minority will ever be arrested. Our typical interactions with police will revolve around if they enforce speed limits at 15 over or 20.

And the same it goes for the dogcatcher. Do you want a town that enforces leash laws and rapidly acts to clear strays off the street. Or do you want someone who spends more effort trying to find the owner. Efficiency at catching dogs has only marginal differences; intangible impacts are going to dominate daily life.

I am far from a rank populist, but the metric of success for politics is not just some new measure of GDP; it is about enabling the electorate to lead the life they prefer. This is going to come down far more often to philosophical choices by officials than it will to their technical skill. The fact that we are invoking such petty measures is great evidence that we should continue to trust "elites" less.

Nicely put.

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Enabling people to live the life they prefer rather than tell them how they ought to live seems to be a good maxim for many professions. Particularly medical doctors.

The bias towards the measurable seems to be well observed; it seems the more indoctrinated in education the audience, the stronger the bias, presumably because it helps them win arguments, so is adaptive to that situation, despite being obviously maladaptive for society. I note on a daily basis how argument on Bre it (bread and butter in the UK for years) focus on relatively trivial but measurable matters, while excluding vast qualitative concerns. And the more one focuses on measurable, but trivial, detail, the more intelligent one is taken to be.

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Uh huh. Actually, the question at hand in this country is not and incremental adjustment in the quantum of democracy, but rather the capacity of elected legislators and executives to change policy at all.

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10%? Let's get to about 70% less democracy, then we'll talk.

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"those European proportional representation systems, with post-election bargaining"

Um, what? Those systems are more democratic than our two party system, resulting in voters being able to actually vote for the party they like most.

Instead of having to live thru no confidence votes and the aftermath, we have no confidence votes every 2 - 4 years.

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I don't tend to be impressed with Jones' stance in what "less democracy" means, from his twitter.

He seems to think it means opinion polls of elites answering "better" than the general public, and that this would lead to better "quality" of decisions.

When its really about offering an alternative to patronage and corruption and to civil war when the masses have no means to effect change and a means to raise a higher tax base - because tax is quite rightly conditional on representation and accountability.

He lavishes much fanboyism on what he appears to believe are technocratic East Asian regimes, but these are likely not stable in a longer historical context and in the case of Singapore extremely questionable in delievering benefits for their people (consumption relative to investment and foreign profits extremely low - living standards not very impressive, etc).

He seems to lack a political science framework about what democracy actually means.

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If you believe in The Bill of Rights, you do not believe in complete democracy.

Democracy expressed itself in the South as legal segregation.

Such a tedious topic.

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A recent example of a representative Jones tweet was, on observing another tweet that successful tax avoidance was correlated with understanding of the tax code, his response was "Tax the dumb, not the rich".

Leaving aside the equation of understanding the tax code with intelligence (probably some, not very much), the fact that there may be bad second order consequences to leaning into "Tax is for the stupid, little people" on governmental legitimacy and total tax base seems to have been rather lost on him.

I'd love to see him debate a guy like Peter Turchin, who actually studies the mechanisms where social cohesion, peace, polities of increasing scale, actually come from. I'd don't some of his simplifications like "Low corruption comes from high IQ populations" (hence, he would seem to argue, just worry about migrant IQ, not shared cultural traditions, etc) standing up too well.

Virtually all of the migrants invading the West come from nations with high levels of corruption. That's why they're migrants and that's how the left shames the West into accepting them. You may not like the conclusion but the empirical data suggests they are going to increase corruption in Western countries.

Sure, that may happen. My point was that Jones tends to trot out a simplified argument where national IQ is strongly causal on corruption, without other underlying factors, as if maintaining Rule of Law culture in the West, or bringing it into play in China (for example) is simply a matter of selection for IQ in the West, or an inevitability of Chinese high IQ scores in China (neither likely to be correct).

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Democracy is not "elections". In its original definition democracy is when political power is dispersed among the citizens. In contrast with oligarchy when political power is concentrated in a political class and monarchy when the political power is further concentrated in a single household.

The US is, for example, a mixture of democracy, oligarchy and monarchy. Its oligarchic elements include the existence of a professional political class, which means the subset of the population that holds executive and legislative power is always very small, and the president is to a certain degree a monarch in practice given the enormous powers the president holds. Yes, elected by popular vote but still holding the powers of a monarch nevertheless.

In a pure democracy such as Ancient Athens, there were not "professional politicians", there were no "elected representatives". Instead, the people themselves meet in regular assemblies and made all political decisions: every citizen was a "congressman" and all government positions that demanded regular work hours were all filled through sorting among the citizen population.

Pure democracies are almost impossible to implement in large countries with millions of citizens. Switzerland has many elements of direct democracy and does not have a single "monarch" style figure such as the POTUS, though, so it is perhaps the country in our present that most closely approximates a pure democracy.

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Since we don't insist on definite meanings to political terms, and I'm not saying we can, it's hilarious to read arguments among people who are not quite on the same page definition wise. When Hayek was interviewed by two socialists about The Road To Serfdom. well. it speaks for itself...

"Hayek on Hayek: An Autobiographical Dialogue" by Leif Wenar...

"MR. MERRIAM: Is the Federal Reserve Bank on the road to serfdom? MR. HAYEK: They make mistakes. MR. MERRIAM: In principle, I mean? MR. HAYEK: No. That the monetary system must be under central control has never, to my mind, been denied by any sensible person. It is part of that framework within which competition can work. MR. MERRIAM: You did not hear the debate on the adoption of the Federal Reserve Bank Board bill. MR. HAYEK: I have studied the history of the Federal Reserve System in very great detail. MR. MERRIAM: You did not hear it denounced, then, as socialistic in character? MR. HAYEK: Do not make me responsible for all the nonsense which has ever been talked about by anybody."

"MR. HAYEK: I used the definition which, up to about five or ten years ago, all socialists I knew used and all socialists asserted could be put into effect under the democratic system. Now you and I have come to the conclusion that all their old conceptions of government-directed economy could not be achieved in a democratic system. I draw the conclusion that it applies to all socialism. You, in reaction, have now designed a new type of socialism which you think avoids it, and I am watching these experiments with the greatest interest. MR. MERRIAM: I do not see how you can be sure, then, that you cannot have democratic conditions under a system which you say has never been tried yet. MR. HAYEK: You may have entirely different controls. I am all in favor of development and experiment."

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I recently wrote my thesis making a similar argument. To wit:

"As the complexity and number of issues affecting the public sphere continues to grow, perhaps the possibility exists that we are entering an age in which a fundamental informational assumption of democracy – that the average citizen can, in a reasonable amount of time, acquire a working proficiency in a variety of subjects of public interest and make informed votes and choices in the matter – is not necessarily true any longer."

The thesis as a whole (https://shareok.org/handle/11244/316309) deals with GMO policy in the European Union, with the conflict between democracy and technical knowledge being a central point of discussion.

We do not have abortion-on-demand and homosexual pseudogamy imposed by judicial ukase because the issue is too complex. We did not have twenty years worth of catastrophic declines in public order because that issue is too 'complex' either.

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Nice try, but literally no one ever has advocated "complete democracy," and in fact the US Constitution was designed to avoid it.

Have you ever been to school, or lived in the USA, Tyler? I'm curious.

I think Tyler knows, but most people do not know we are a Republic.

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I think a "complete democracy" would be insufficiently democratic.

All current democracies only utilise 1 bit of information from each voter.

A complete democracy would utilise 1 bit of information from each voter on 100% of decisions.

But there are theoretical voting systems that efficiently collect vastly more information from voters such as Score Voting.

I contend that a democracy that utilise 100 bits of information from each voter on 10% of decisions would be more democratic than a complete democracy using current voting methods.

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And if you believe that any government employee or official, elected, appointed, or hired, should make any decision or take any action without a plebiscite, then you don't believe in complete democracy. Gosh, what an eye-opener! Next thing I'll be hearing is that the USA is a republic, not a (pure) democracy!

Bravo!

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We do not need democracy for Liberty. But it seems to work better than the rest. However, democracy can be subverted. We need term limits. We need an end to gerrymandering. We cannot prevent corruption but we can expose it. This used to be the job of the press but the press is now corrupt also. We have to end New York's monopoly on the news. When institutions, like the courts, no longer reflect human values, they should be abolished. Attorneys make lousy politicians but can be good advisers.

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All government units need independent auditors.

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