followup on Fair Vote Canada and "New Ideas"

I have been preoccupied with other things and have not gotten around to replying to this until now. You should be able to get it from the content that I do not want any response to this from B or from S.

I am going to talk about why e-mail discussion lists are generally so useless and what the solution is. I am going into a little philosophy about how knowledge develops and gets applied. As well, about the problem on the net of constant attempts at cognitive control by various agencies of uncertain motivation.

I will go on about what the useful topics of discussion would be on this list, and finally about the need to get beyond merely regurgitating about proportional representation.

cognitive control

I threw B out to Saturn? I thought he was already there. I get tired of electronic discussions, and quite a few live discussions, where somebody is there only to freeze the discussion or move it out into orbit.

A lot of this comes from basement genius types, or the more sophisticated types of troll, but I can see a more organized effort to manage people's perceptions. A lot of other people see it, too. There is talk these days of state security agencies commissioning software that enables "cognitive controllers" to create and manage dozens of internet identities, even in the same forums.

The signature of the cognitive pests is that every time somebody tries to move the ball into a more productive topic, he/she/it is right there to boot it back into the weeds, and will do so over and over and over again. The only antidote for this is tough moderators who are aware of the cognitive manipulations and understand how a proper discussion is supposed to unfold.

A good example of what can be done is the progressive economics forum, which can be found at http://www.progressive-economics.ca/relentless/ . The right to post is limited to people who have some knowledge of the forum's area of discussion, do not have hobby horses they want to ride around the forum, and who can express themselves in a coherent, thought out, way. Comments have to actually add something to the original post, not just try to "cross" it. Such a forum is of real value. Is it possible that the format of this forum can be changed to copy that of relentlessly progressive economics blog?

Otherwise, I believe a lot of people will look into this forum, wanting to know what voting reform is about, and after awhile get tired of hearing the same thing over and over. I believe people are often intimidated from putting out worthwhile ideas because they do not want to make the effort only to have the cognitive controller hop on them and turn the subject back to the same old dreck. Odd how the people who want every donkey to be able to waste everybody else's time without restriction because a "new idea" might come out of it, stomp on every real "new idea" that is laid on the forum table.


All these "new ideas" never happen. Human knowledge does not grow from abstract speculations. It comes from actual problems requiring solutions. A problem has to be correctly defined before a search for solutions will be fruitful. The Mom's basement genius does not get this; he is a solution looking for a problem.

Once a problem is defined and a set of solutions found, they tend strongly to stand the test of time. However, a solution to one problem tends to give rise to one or more new problems requiring its own definition and solution. The people who claim that settled knowledge is always found to be wrong, that somebody is always coming up with some new innovation that discredits it or renders it obsolete, are failing to understand this. New ideas come from new problems, not old ones.

An example of this is the people who think nuclear physics somehow falsifies Newton. What Bohr and Heisenberg came up with was answers to a totally different set of problems which had nothing to do with Newtonian physics.

real topics

Similarly, proportional voting is a pretty much settled issue. It has solved the problems of representational democracy as far as they can be solved. The only way to get a better democracy is to take it to the next higher level. Like representative democracy was the answer to the limitations of consultative democracy, participatory democracy is the answer to the limitations of representative democracy.

How to make a participatory democracy (PD) work in modern times is still an open issue and that is where the innovations will be found, which will advance the development of democracy. Of course, PD is not a new idea; it goes as far back as recorded history.

So what is it about the development of more effective democracy that proponents of crank voting systems do not like, such that they try to freeze discussion in this way? As well, to preempt what is still open to debate, about how to devise a proportional system for Canada's unique situation?

Canada's system

As for devising a PR system for Canada, the last thing we need is somebody who wants to try out some new innovation, assuming there was a serious one. If you want the public to accept PR, which means taking a risk with something that could fail, you show them what is tried and tested elsewhere. I am puzzled why there is no real discussion in this forum of a working model of PR for Canada which can be sold to the public.

The big problem with voting reform in Canada is the federal system. You have a province with 108 seats and a province with two seats. You have a province which is constitutionally mandated to have 25% of the seats regardless of population. Here are real problems, needing definitions and solutions, and they seem to be too hard for all these geniuses to take on.

forcing PR

There is also the problem of operationalizing voting reform. The politicians have to be forced to do it, somehow. You will not get anywhere federally for four years, but opportunity for voting reformers is opening up in Ontario. A situation like the previous five years of federal politics is developing, where a minority government wants to govern without engaging in a coalition.

The voting reform movement failed to capitalize on this situation federally. Perhaps it can do better provincially. Perhaps these politicians have learned something from the example of the "Ignatieff corner". Perhaps voting reformers can help the voters to see just who it is who is preventing government from working by refusing to work with one other party. I do not read any innovative strategizing on this forum, with all these people in love with innovative ideas.

beyond PR

I am sure I will read no brilliantly innovative ideas on this forum about PD. We may get some of these iDingbells who think everyone should vote about every little detail of government from their iPad. While PD entails a distrust of experts, it does not mean that everyone is involved in everything.

In the various examples of a real PD that are available, the basic building block is neighborhood assemblies small enough that everyone can assemble in one place. Participation means face to face participation. That way everyone can get to know who it is they are voting for, and who is reporting back to them.

The FairVote fans of voting systems should begin to conceive that having to vote at all means a failure of consensus. Participation means moving away from not just majoritarianism but with partisan politics altogether. The best way to get money influence out of politics is to make politics as local as possible.

The best way to elect members of a legislature may be to not elect them at all, but to have local governance councils appoint them. The best way for a legislature to work may not be by coalitions, but by consensus. All politics is local and a real democracy is built from the neighborhood council up.


But as I said, really innovative ideas like this, while based on experience, are likely too much to sell to cautious Canadians at this time. We can work on applying them in local government first. We need to focus on ending elective dictatorship first.

However, I am less sure than I was about PR's effectiveness at preventing elective dictatorships and constitutional coups. Greece and Italy both have highly proportional voting systems and coalition government. The international banksters have easily pushed the elected governments of these countries aside and installed their minions in power to administer a "structural adjustment" and feudalizing of their economies.

To conclude, the weakness of FairVote is a focus on voting reform as though that alone will solve the problems for which voting reform is posed as the solution. Methods of election are only one part of it. It is really about protecting and advancing democracy.

Discussions on this forum, like true democracy, cannot be merely about every flake and baloney head getting up and shooting his/her face off, wasting everyone else's time, making more sensible people not want to be involved. In all examples of a real PD, such types are dealt with shortly, and sometimes quite harshly.

Democracy should be kind of cognitive process toward a solution to the real problems facing the particular social unit. This means first identifying and defining the problem and then zeroing in on the optimal solution. Like all good thinking, it is about quickly drawing figure from ground, signal from noise, relevant from irrelevant.

I can see the movement toward voting reform growing stronger in Canada and starting to see beyond voting reform to democratic reform. Fair Vote largely started this movement but if it does not start to get away from mere voting systems it is going to start to be irrelevant and to wither away. To hit it again, the key is to forget about voting systems except for what has been tested and proved, and to focus on strategizing to actually bring about voting reform.

Voting systems by themselves do not bring about democracy or protect democracy and cannot be considered in isolation from everything else impacting democratic development. Lets have a more useful discussion, one that can attract the people Fair Vote needs to attract, by keeping focussed on the real problem that needs a real solution. Lets do this by pruning those who tend to prevent us from doing it.