Sunday, April 11, 2010

A definition of democracy?

I've been chewing something over in my mind over recent days. How far we are responsible for the actions of our governments? How far people who didn't vote for the party that won (or even people who don't live in the constituency of and vote for a governing MP) are implicated in the actions of the nation as a whole?

One aspect of this is game theory. When politicians indulge in inelegant behaviour that damages the standing of representative democracy for short term benefits, (not being candid during election campaigns, personalising politics, acting in ways that not focusing on the ishoos, misrepresenting evidence, simplifying, grandstanding, scapegoating etc).

I'd argue that - in doing so - they are acting rationally. You'll probably be familiar with the Prisoner's Dilemma, and that's my argument in this case. Make of that argument what you will, but it raises a question for me. What is democracy for?

In my book, it is to provide us with a government that obeys The General Will. This doesn't mean that it does exactly what we want on most issues (not possible) but that uses its best powers of perception to spot what is in the public interest, and does everything within its powers to meet those expectations.

For me, questions of proportional voting, the structure of the Parliament or the executive, and other constitutional questions are subordinate to that imperative.

Agree with me so far? OK. Now go back to that question of the Prisoners Dilemma. We, collectively, have put politicians in a position where it is rational for them to displease us and behave badly. We then get all self-righteous on their asses and blame them.

This is not fair or rational, surely? And let's take that one step further. Is the best form of democracy one where we - the people - game our government into serving The General Will?

1 comment:

ondaroad said...

To strike or not to strike.which side should one take? Nobody can decide anymore. What art the objectives? Who is the enemy? For whom does one speak ? Those geigercounters used by the unions , political parties , and action groups for measuring the combativity of the masses is close to going haywire. Your game theory and politics relationship to it is f***** when a ten year sentance is as light as a sambuca chaser to a 14 year old !