Too Dumb To Vote, Part VIII – New Shit Hitting The Fan

At a guess, I’d say that most people who read my suggestions for tweaking democracy will have some ‘little quibbles’, hmm?

Well that’s good, because I had a few of my own.  Might give those of you who thought I was 100% brilliant a pause for thought. Go ahead, criticise me!

1.) His argument is rubbish!
Yeah, awkward.
You may see more, but these are the argument points that look vulnerable to attack:


“P2, electorate not acting with its best interests at heart.–>Democracy is favoured erroneously”
Despite my general points on voting psychology, you can probably marshal multiple examples of electorates largely acting decisively and ‘rationally’. I don’t know if this undermines my general point, but it certainly weakens it if you argue that electorates largely operate effectively, and that the dislocation of effecting my changes would therefore be negative in the short term, which would outweigh small potential longterm improvements.

“C: The political class should examine, debate and experiment with such new systems that attempt to improve on modern democracy.”
Again, you could make a case that previous attempts to ‘build on’ democracy have met with little success, the conclusion is flawed. This is difficult, because I hedged my bets language-wise, and it’s pretty hard to disagree with the segments ‘examine’ and ‘debate’.

2.) His proposals are evil!

(Doesn’t really affect proposal 1.)

The good doctor.

The good people of the University of Central Lancashire focused on this one – largely that points 2 & 3, which both limit the franchise to those who can pass an exam, are anti-democratic/classist. I completely understandthis criticism, but given that my proposal includes considerable effort in freely educating anyone who wants to pass said exam, I don’t see it as especially as classist, and given that it is explicitly designed to cut out the flaws in democracy, I don’t see ‘anti-democratic’ as a criticism. Just a description. Ho-humm.

3.) Some elements of government require interpersonal skills (e.g. foreign diplomacy, dealing with the civil service), so our leaders must be eloquent and persuasive in a face-to-face setting, meaning ‘charisma’ is a valid facet to elections.
(Doesn’t affect proposals 1. or 3.)  

Yes. True. Although in an ideal world, I’d like all countries, and the international system to work in my ‘logical format’, but assuming I can’t, this problem is soluble. Note – if you do credit this point of opposition, you might still concede that the current Western election model is not ideal for finding the best ‘interpersonal persuader’. I probably should have put this as a kind of caveat in the main proposals, but oh well:
– Beyond the current Foreign Corps, picking good ‘interpersonal persuaders’ would probably be best achieved by having a big debating competition. In which the contestants had to argue motions they disagreed with. And were judge by the public. Yay.
These master rhetoricians can be ‘figureheads’ of the government, taking policy direction on (for example) the country’s International Relations aims by this mechanism. Any agreements of treaties these figureheads make would need to be ratified by the blindly-elected representatives.

4.) You don’t mention the queen?
Yeah, you’re right. I didn’t want to make it more contentious than it was. I don’t see the queen’s existence as that important, compared to virtually any other issue, especially given how difficult it is to calculate the income from tourismetc. derived from her existence. But since you’re hypothetically pressing me, OK:

I want to ride my bicycle

I would strip the queen of all constitutional power, what little she has left, but allow her to remain symbolic figurehead and perform ceremonial functions. I would attempt to codify an essentially republican constitution, which would also create total cleavage between the government (not Her Majesty’s Government) and the C of E.

5.) This is impossible to implement
(Probably applies more to each proposition)

Yeah, I recon it would be pretty tricky. It would certainly not be something to rush into. I haven’t set out how I’d pay for the extra (~different) education and public service provisions, or the technology parliament and polling stations would need. I haven’t taken into account the considerable opposition all main parties would likely mount, and the electoral unpopularity of suggesting the electorate should be limited.

All true.

I think supporters of my thinking would have to play the long game. Highlight all the mental shittitudes, and push just for proposition #1, better voter education. Few parties could oppose that, in honesty. At least, if they do, they’d be labelled the “Ignorant Bastards and Liars Party” (or similar). There’s a fair chance that blocs such as the scientific community, intelligentsia and educational establishments could get behind it. And those communities are moderately important, since they influence both the future middle class and the media. So who knows? Proposition #1 could come fairly quickly. At least advocating it would spark a good debate, and greater public awareness about human shittitude.
With a bit of education, there is a palpable chance that support for candidate-exams and even franchise-exams grows concurrently. Presumably people sympathetic with my argument will be disproportionately represented within the current ‘political class’, so will have a disproportionate sway. If an opposition arises from those previous politically apathetic, then there will be more people meaningfully engaging in politics, which was my goal all along. Hooray!

[I’ll add to this as more counterarguments arise. Go on. You know you want to.]

5 thoughts on “Too Dumb To Vote, Part VIII – New Shit Hitting The Fan

  1. Pingback: You’re Shit And You’re Doing Nothing About It [Part I - Introduction] | Haywire Thought

  2. So I do have a few issues and some of them you have touched on. The first is the practicality of educating and vetting the population of this country. Giving people lessons in logic and critical thinking at school would be brilliant, and not that hard to implement. However, making them good and making them listen would be a whole new issue. At my school we had lessons in critical thinking in sixth form and they were a complete joke, and noone learnt anything, and that was in a private school of nice goody-two-shoes kids. They were lumped in with General Studies, another nice idea but silly reality of a qualification.

    However, as you point out, school children cant vote and once people have left school it is increasingly difficult to control them or force them to learn anything. Most people do not have that large an interest in politics or in voting and I think those that do vote are quite relieved it only happens every few years. Further that it only takes a few minutes to vote. Remember the saga a couple of years ago when there were issues and long queues at some polling stations (I cant remember why). People were outraged at having their vote taken away but had often only turned up with 30 min of voting time left when polls are open usually for about 15 hours. If people had to pass a test for each election (or are you proposing a one off test of non-shititude) and then have to fill in multiple questions on multiple policy points – and have learnt about and made an educated decision on each of these – the time it would take would be enormous. I have a pretty high level of interest in politics but still only cherry pick policy areas of interest to me. As you pointed out, to fully understand the issues of EU membership would take hours and very few people have the luxury of the time to do that – or the desire. Or the academic background and intelligence for that matter (this is not an area that I even try to understand). That is the point of having elected cabinets that do understand these issues (theoretically) and have the time to come to informed decisions.

    I think a better way to educate people equally about politics would be through TV or radio. I think that any leaflet that came through the door, at least 50% of people wouldnt read. And certainly wouldnt travel to libraries to read. I think broadcast debates are the best way forward but I definitely agree that rhetoric, false logic and outright lying are too common for my liking. I think the idea of a Which (which Olly mentioned) would be good. Or potentially, a real time fact checker during the debates, that would interrupt and correct the politicians. Certainly in the current american election this would be very interesting. Mitt Romney is taking the biscuit but Im sure that Obama takes liberties as well. Im not sure how much you could do about rhetoric. Perhaps you could have other people deliver their speeches (not much of a debate) or have them vetted for emotional language and orders of lists etc.

    Im waffling but finally, would you do anything about the contradictions between what politicians say to get elected and what they do once they are in office? On a similar point to yours over Obama and the drone strikes/Guantanamo, I remember my mum saying the same thing over David Cameron and Iraq. He swore that our troops would withdraw the minute he took office and sure enough he about turned. She said she thought there must be a wealth of information that is not publicly available that changed his mind. Whilst I think that is true, I also think it was naive and cynical of him to try to make that promise. Same with Obama, I think there probably are badasses in Guantanamo that he doesnt think can be released. I dont have access to that information but Im damn sure there will be some. And the famous pledge of Nick Clegg. I think that was the cynical move of someone pretty certain that they would not be taking power and trying to increase their number of seats and their profile. Worse what about Ill cut the deficit, not the NHS or Ill never harm a disabled child, or I wont cut EMA. All complete lies. I would have voted for the party on the lines they spewed (not really), but they havent been that party in power.

    I think in an ideal world, an increase in education for everyone would be great. And a fairer, less deceitful political system would do a lot of good for this country.
    (Sorry for the lack of apostrophes, Im using a Japanese keyboard and I dont think they have them.)

    • Hi Jo, I’d been wondering why I got a spike of views from Japan.
      I agree, teaching CT would be difficult. However, I think motivation/respect would be greater when it is associated (however formally) with one’s right to vote; especially if parents are also learning and discussing the same stuff, or if it is explicitly required for voting. Driving theory tests are essentially legal exams, which are both boring and hard, but plenty of kids do them (some 5+ times) to be able to drive. The ‘franchise test’ wouldn’t be nearly as hard…

      The proposals wouldn’t force adults to learn anything. They would require the adults to prove understanding of voting before they voted. If adults don’t want to vote, they need not learn.

      I hadn’t worked out the exact mechanics of the franchise test, but I wouldn’t have it before each election. Perhaps once upon leaving school and then again every 15 years? Again, driver’s licence analogy.

      Viz time commitments, I agree that the multiple-choice model would take lots of time. However I still favour it, in that it only allows informed choices. Perhaps voters should ‘opt out’ of registering their stance on policy issues in which that voter accepts they don’t know the full complexity. Viz cabinets, your putting ‘theoretically’ in brackets says most of my opinion on the matter. Would you at least accept a test for candidates?

      Your TV musings really highlight the issues here – there’s a tension between politics being interesting, and being ‘rational’. My original thinking was that, if voting was a privilege (and an important one), voters should look into it regardless. However, measures such as a Which? Guide would certainly be a great step in the right direction. Fact checkers able to interrupt debates/speeches would be cool too, and would probably make them more watchable (I’d personally love to see someone repeatedly wagging a finger at Paul Ryan). That wouldn’t, however, address the problems I identify with appearance, tone, or speech-which-isn’t-lying-but-nonetheless-affects-your-thinking (see parts II – IV). The vetting for emotional language and lists I cover in my proposals 🙂

      The political u-turn question is really interesting. I don’t think I’d “do” anything specific to hold pollys to their manifestoes. I hope, however, that having a quantifiably informed electorate would stop pollys making such silly promises, or would at least stop people blindly voting for very rosy soundbites.

      I’m quite sympathetic to Cleggo. He’s only got 57 seats to play with, in a tricky coalition and an equally tricky deficit/recession. If he’d refused a coalition, no LD policies would be enacted. Now he has, he’s moderating Tory excesses and getting some LD measures in (or at least debated.) But this is for another day..
      Thanks so much for such a considered reply, and enjoy Japan!

      • Hey, sorry there isn’t a more exciting explanation like a brand new japanese fan! I agree about Nick Clegg. I think he has got a rough ride, I think more it was a foolish promise to make. But he has apologised this/last week. Interesting to see, I think that it is incredibly rare to see a politician do something that can then be pointed to and say You Lied, Categorically. Will wait and see what effect it has.

        Essentially, I think I’m just whining that it seems unrealistic and difficult to implement formal systems of education. You can force people to pass a test but you can’t force them to care and investigate before voting. I think you are being a bit naive about how much people care about politics. I don’t think it is practical, even having given people these skills, to expect them to put them into practice everyday. I dont know how we fix that. There is a general belief, it feels, that politicians are awful. There has been a lot of glee during the Leveson of the idea that their world might come crashing down, a lot of people are convinced that what politicians say before and after elections are entirely detached and that most of what we hear are lies.

        Yet at the same time, people trust them quite a lot too. If on the 47th page of the Labour manifesto, it suggested rounding up blond people and sending them out of the country, or something else equally strange, very few people would see it if it was left to them. Sure we have debates and a belief that someone else has probably read through their manifestos and would have reported something. But a large majority of the population do little to nothing to educate themselves before each general election. And yet we consider it a right to vote. Deep down, I find myself seriously resisting your suggestion that we could possibly prevent some people from having the opportunity to vote. I really struggle with it, even if I believe that if you are unwilling to learn anything about what your vote means then why should you be allowed to have one.

        In this way, I certainly agree that voting by policy would help, but the magnitude of what you would be asking would be huge. Say you allow even broad questions – EU, foreign policy, tax, university, welfare, green credentials, energy policy, justice policy, transport, government research, treasury, schools, libraries, health… Ill stop just writing a list but Im not sure how you could phrase questions which would allow people to really make a judgement call. And if there were more detailed questions then any one person couldnt expect to be knowledgable on more than a couple of areas without a huge time investment. More so, by the time people have been voting in a few elections I think that they realise the sweeping plans of the different parties remain the same and I think they barely pay attention to the race, or the candidate. And as life moves on, people dont think its a good use of their spare time to read a lot of information to reach the same conclusion. You mentioned removing bias or loyalty to a party by having them vote on policy points, I dont think that it would do very much to remove bias. For instance, someone who is very rich and believes in the free market will vote conservative, and by policy would probably vote for welfare cuts, tax breaks and deregulation (Im making him a mean rich person), and that is what he would tell his children over dinner and that is what they would vote for. By a single name or by policy name.

        I think that an easier area to start in would be creating a source of impartial facts about elections. For example, for the London mayoral election, the guardian only had bad things to say about Boris. How he hadnt fulfilled any of his election promises, how the numbers that he claimed were massaging the facts at best, taking credit for work done by Ken the previous term etc etc. But sure enough all the articles in the telegraph were about Ken and not really about his policy, for the most part, theirs weren’t really about policy but how Ken had avoided taxes and didnt like jews. The mayoral race was essentially a personality competition between Boris the buffoon and wanker Ken. It was noted that Boris stopped using the word Conservatives and that Labour stopped using the word Ken. A very intelligent friend of mine voted for Boris and said that she hadnt understood why there were two boxes on the paper (essentially AV) when theres only one mayor and when I explained it was for a second vote, she was horrified that she might have missed her opportunity to vote for boris twice. She just didnt care, at all. She hadnt heard of the candidates other than ken and boris, nor had anyone at my work, and had not read a single thing about policy. And the council booklet provided in the post was incredibly superficial, really only giving names and one policy statement. And some candidate websites were mainly testimonies and photo ops making it difficult to find their plans. I think there should be accessible, clear, detailed information which lay out the different parties’ plans, I remember watching Newsround with my mum before one of the elections (Tony’s last?) and it had speech bubbles, red blue and yellow, laying out the major policies in the main areas of each party. And my mum said it was the clearest information she had seen.

        To combat the personality and rhetoric why not do away with politicians? Or at least do away with electing them. Why don’t we have exams to choose ‘representatives’ (Im definitely for a test for candidates that you suggest) and general elections would vote only on policy. And they would vote on individual policies which would then be carried out without the need to combine and compromise. Americans are considering voting for the Republicans because they are promising different strategies to deal with the economy. However, for me, the idea of electing idiots who want to carry out gods word and ban abortions, gay marriage, probably being gay at all if they can, that would deny evolution, deny climate change etc cannot be wished away because you think they might deal with the economy better (which I dont think they would anyway).

        In principal, I love the idea of a better informed electorate and more precise politicians. In practice, I think what you are suggesting is impossible, I think you would exclude too much of the population or else would have to give everyone a week off before voting (which they still wouldnt use to do any research). It is also a little dangerous, as Sarah mentioned, because the people you would exclude would most likely disproportionately belong to certain racial, social or economic classes where it was not viewed as being so important and that isnt something which I think should be allowed to happen. I think the priority should be on getting voting rates up to 100% and improving the information provided, including attempting some measures to combat the problems of appearance, rhetoric and lying, then we can start discriminating between the well and poorly informed and between the realistic and politically blind.


      • Hi Jo
        I like your point about ‘the rich voter’ who will almost always vote Tory, having no need to know each election’s minutiae. However, with our current FPTP system (which is probably a problem for a different blog) then this consistent ‘rich voter’ isn’t really important in an election – the UK has only a few swing constituencies, just as America has battleground states. It’s these people, who apparently vote with near-open minds, who are the most important to educate, although of course I’d like everyone to know more – for example in our last election, many ‘Fat Cats’ should have voted Labour, either benefitting directly from stimulus money, or from the (projected) Keynesian bubble.
        Your London example is precisely what I’m arguing against, the process seems more a mockery of democratic principles than X-Factor. Interesting that the council booklets (presumably for adults) were ‘worse’ than Newsround – perhaps our WHICH?Politics could take a leaf or two out of Lizo’s book.
        Haha! I’m pleased to see that, in response to my rather nutty ideas, yours are a similar tenor. Do away with politicians! I’m quite close to you in that one of my latter proposals was ‘blind voting’, but your mechanisms is interesting. I will consult the oracle on it.
        I’m not sure if your Republican point is a response to my other blog? ( Either way, we’re in total agreement about that.
        “I think the priority should be on getting voting rates up to 100% and improving the information provided, including attempting some measures to combat the problems of appearance, rhetoric and lying, then we can start discriminating between the well and poorly informed and between the realistic and politically blind.”
        Well I clearly disagree with you on the voting percentage, at least until the other measures you suggest are in place. I can understand your/Sarah’s fear of excluding minorities by limiting the franchise, but I certainly would oppose mandatory voting if all that meant was a higher proportion of uninformed ‘boris or ken’ affairs.

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