Welcome to a graduate class in political ethics

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This topic contains 29 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by  jakelafort 1 week, 5 days ago.

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  • #33470

    Unseen
    Participant

    So you say you believe in democracy.

    I’m pretty sure most of us are basically committed to democracy in some form: majority vote or some form of representative democracy, the latter being what we have in the United States.

    However, in practice, democracy doesn’t exactly work.

    Let’s simplify a hypothetical election down to just three issues which we’ll know by the tags A, B, and C.

    A, B, and C are distinct and discrete. There is no overlap between them. For example, one might be forbidding caesarean sections and another one might be tariffs on goat cheese.

    Let’s talk about voters now.

    Voter 1’s views are A+, B+, C+ (+ means in favor while – means against),
    Voter 2’s views are A+, B+, C-
    Voter 3’s views are A+, B-, C+
    Voter 4’s views are A-, B+, C+
    Voter 5’s views are A+, B-, C-
    Voter 6’s views are A-, B-, C+
    Voter 7’s views are A-, B+, C-
    Voter 8’s views are A-, B-, C-

    So you probably see the problem: Even when boiled down to something this simple, seven out of eight voters will be somewhat dissatisfied and two-thirds of one-issue voters are certain to be dissatisfied.

    Let’s get more practical now. You are a voter who really cares about an issue, be it LGBTQ rights, ethnic minority rights, or whatever your position is on abortion. You simply cannot be satisfied with losing on your issue.

    Suppose it becomes clear that there is no democratic path to satisfy you. The public is deluded by their belief system and clearly will not be changing anytime soon.

    That was all setup. Finally, here’s the question: Would you abandon a democracy that won’t give you what you feel is right anytime soon, or would you prefer an autocratic solution that simply imposes your view on an unwilling general public?

    To put it another way: How committed are you to democracy

    #33472

    jakelafort
    Participant

    Democracy never existed. Whatever semblance of democracy the USA possesses is deteriorating. Capitalism coupled with human nature causes the deterioration.

    The greater the homogeneity of the electorate the easier it is to swallow the disparate views. However it is better to preserve a bastardized democracy than it is to descend into the orange swamp monster’s dictatorship. And for a significant minority of the population the issues are secondary to the cult of personality.

    #33473

    Unseen
    Participant

    Democracy never existed. Whatever semblance of democracy the USA possesses is deteriorating. Capitalism coupled with human nature causes the deterioration. The greater the homogeneity of the electorate the easier it is to swallow the disparate views. However it is better to preserve a bastardized democracy than it is to descend into the orange swamp monster’s dictatorship. And for a significant minority of the population the issues are secondary to the cult of personality.

    So, what’s YOUR answer? Let’s say your main issue is complete equality for (name the group) but the majority of people see them as anathema. Do you just say that’s the way it is and live with your group being disenfranchised outsiders or do you get behind an autocrat who will be a benevolent dictator and simply force the people to do what’s right basically with a gun to their head?

    #33474

    PopeBeanie
    Moderator

    Forgive me for not really understanding the question.

    Are the A, B, and C wrapped into one proposition we’re supposed to vote on? Then the proposition needs to be rewritten.

    Or are you just pointing out how most people can’t get everything they want? E.g. taken to its extreme, we could be talking about a dozen issues A through L, and using the same math we’re approaching a ridiculously hideous percentage of people who can never be totally happy by some kind of arbitrary (albeit realistic) definition.

    #33475

    jakelafort
    Participant

    I would never back a dictator. Even an enlightened dictator is temporary while the return to normalcy in autocracy means a return to one of the worst forms of governance.

    Disenfranchised groups require a change in mores and often an economic boon. The government irrespective of its form can not legislate mores-if the majority despise x group that won’t change just because Nancy Reagan says just say no. Nor will a racist stop hating Blacks cuz of the BLM movement. Nor will the endless scapegoating of Jews end because racism is denounced and the conspiracy theories are discredited by academicians.

    But democracies can give legal protection to disenfranchised groups. Democracies can give opportunities to disenfranchised groups. In the matter of racism/bigotry against Blacks the people themselves can decide what is of value. If earning on par or greater than the majority becomes the paramount objective then ultimately Blacks will earn respect even if not viewed by others as equals. Nigerians come to the US and do quite well in spite of the barriers. So it stands to reason that American Blacks can as well.

    #33476

    Unseen
    Participant

    Forgive me for not really understanding the question. Are the A, B, and C wrapped into one proposition we’re supposed to vote on? Then the proposition needs to be rewritten. Or are you just pointing out how most people can’t get everything they want? E.g. taken to its extreme, we could be talking about a dozen issues A through L, and using the same math we’re approaching a ridiculously hideous percentage of people who can never be totally happy by some kind of arbitrary (albeit realistic) definition.

    Suppose you have a do-or-die issue. Say, you are gay and it becomes clear to you that your society will never treat gays right if you have to depend on democracy to do it, but there is a movement talking about taking over the government and imposing a pro-gay regime among their other policies (some of which you may dislike but as much as you favor improving things for gays). Should you walk away from the democratic majority rule sort of model, or do you put your support behind a beneficial authoritarianism?

    Is a benign dictatorship better than an oppressive (from your POV) democracy?

    #33477

    Unseen
    Participant

    But democracies can give legal protection to disenfranchised groups. Democracies can give opportunities to disenfranchised groups. In the matter of racism/bigotry against Blacks the people themselves can decide what is of value.

    Come on. Obviously, my hypothetical is about a situation where that isn’t going to happen. Where there’s no real hope of that happening.

    Suppose you are sympathetic to pedophiles, for example. You’re not all in on buggering children, but you believe that pedophiles are either born that way or are turned into pedophiles by pedophilic abusers, and that treating them like anathema, scum, and common criminals is a travesty of justice. Suppose you really care about this because your brother is a pedophile who claims to have been that way as long as he can remember having sexual urges. He’s in prison rather than treatment where he’s abused by other prisoners and when he gets out, his life will become a hell of hurdles and embarrassment as he not only has to register with police as a child abuser, but has to make the rounds in his neighborhood telling his neighbors about his affliction. You know there’s a more enlightened and humane way, but the public isn’t interested in enlightenment.

    But there’s hope. There’s an armed movement threatening to overthrow the democratic government and install an enlightened leadership. One that wants to rid the world of old-fashioned, often religion-based notions and prejudices.

    Do you abandon an unenlightened democracy in favor of an authoritarian enlightened government that you think has the right values, even if they differ from the values of the majority?

    Look around you. Today we have right-wing militias threatening to take over duly elected state governments in order to institute what they see as better values.

    Choices like the one we are or should be discussing are being made today. I have a pro-life relative who’d take an anti-abortion dictatorship in a heartbeat over a pro-choice government favored by the majority.

    This is not just a hypothetical question, but I’m asking for us to discuss it like one. As you would in a graduate-level philosophy class.

    #33478

    jakelafort
    Participant

    Unseen, it is only an ideologue who will assess a government on the basis of one issue.

    Even in a failing democracy there are civil rights to consider. In an authoritarian government those rights are or can be modified or eliminated. The greater the exercise of individual or institutional authority the greater the oppression and abuse. It is pure folly to discard a shitty democracy in favor of an authoritarian gov. solely because of one’s distaste for disposition of an issue. Authoritarian governments impose without the vital checks and balances and are always subject to worsening governance. Conversely in a democracy there is the prospect of public sentiment changing sufficiently so that legislators come around. For instance not long ago marijuana was illegal but now it is available in many states. Authoritarian governance can become more draconian or spartan with new leaders as we see in N. Korea.

    Democracy will reflect the power structures and the electorate which may be ill-informed. Negatives for sure.. But the alternative is not something i can subscribe to unless and until benevolent AI is calling the shots.

    #33479

    Davis
    Participant

    Two problems with your original statement:

    You live in a country with two party rule (almost zero history of coalition ruling except rarely at a state level). In governments that have proportional representation smaller parties form and they almost invariably must rule together through compromise. That means a small party with a single issue can force their policy through as long as they compromise about other things (where things can be a lot more nuanced than just A, B and C as you put it). It happens in Europe ALL the time and you’ll notice a lot of progressive issues originate and are passed there a lot quicker than they do in the US.

    Second: the greatest benefit of democracy is not so much about representing the will of the majority (though it is CERTAINLY a benefit) it is the ability to remove bad governments. Outside of democracy the only way to get rid of a bad government is violent revolution or the luck of a benevolent leader holding a coup. Imagine how bad things could have gotten with Trump without the ability to elect him out of office.

    Jake has already addressed everything else quite well. If a single issue matters to you then activism and patience is the name of the game in democracy. People who don’t get their way and lack patience for the democratic system to get around to passing things do stupid shit (as you saw in Michigan this week). And people who inevitably get their wish (an autocratic system) regret it unless they form part of the privileged elite). There is no such thing as something “never happening” unless you are talking about something universally viewed as vile, abusive and oppressive (like pedophilia). And in your grotesque example of a pedophile dreaming of a state where pedophilia is allowed, it is hard to imagine an autocratic leader allowing it unless you are a key player in the new government and can force their hand. Otherwise you risk losing your other freedoms and prosperity. Better yet, seek medical help and learn to suppress your pedo-urges.  Even if you don’t get your way for a quite a while you will certainly benefit from a democratic system that represents your other soft interests, protects your human rights (especially if you are a marginalized person like LGTBQ+). Can you think of a non-democratic country that respects LGTBQ+ rights at all? If you are a country that relies on one major resource then democracy is literally the ONLY way to protect you from the tyranny of a bad leader which, having access to tons of oil or diamond or whatever will use all those resources to satisfy those who keep him (always a him) in power, barely develop the country’s infrastructure for ordinary people and keep the people’s discontent from ever showing. It’s the only way a non democratic leader in such a country could ever stay in power.

    • This reply was modified 2 weeks, 1 day ago by  Davis.
    • This reply was modified 2 weeks, 1 day ago by  Davis.
    #33486

    Unseen
    Participant

    Unseen, it is only an ideologue who will assess a government on the basis of one issue.

    That’s a tautology. A one-issue voter is always an ideolog. You continue to not answer the question. I’m asking you to be an ideolog for the sake of argument.

    #33487

    Unseen
    Participant

    Two problems with your original statement: You live in a country with two party rule (almost zero history of coalition ruling except rarely at a state level). In governments that have proportional representation smaller parties form and they almost invariably must rule together through compromise. That means a small party with a single issue can force their policy through as long as they compromise about other things (where things can be a lot more nuanced than just A, B and C as you put it). It happens in Europe ALL the time and you’ll notice a lot of progressive issues originate and are passed there a lot quicker than they do in the US.

    a) I think if a third party were viable in the U.S., we’d have one. We have third parties (the Green Party, the Libertarian Party, for example). They aren’t viable. So, what does the voter do if they feel their issue needs to be set aright now?

    Second: the greatest benefit of democracy is not so much about representing the will of the majority (though it is CERTAINLY a benefit) it is the ability to remove bad governments. Outside of democracy the only way to get rid of a bad government is violent revolution or the luck of a benevolent leader holding a coup. Imagine how bad things could have gotten with Trump without the ability to elect him out of office.

    None of that really matters to the one-issue voter. There are plenty of voters in America who will vote for Trump solely on the hope that he will continue to take steps to quash abortion rights not only in America but the world aw well, because saving unborn children from murder is more important than anything else to them.

    As for democracy being good for getting rid of bad governments, you may soon be witness to Trump getting a second term while literally losing both the popular vote and, initially, the Electoral College vote, by using the courts to toss out mailed ballots and by a few state legislatures under Republican control ordering their electors to vote for Trump and, finally, by possibly churning things so long that the conservative Supreme Court has to settle it. Then, it becomes a case of whether the more conservative justices resent Trump talking about the court as they are his bitch.

    Jake has already addressed everything else quite well. If a single issue matters to you then activism and patience is the name of the game in democracy. People who don’t get their way and lack patience for the democratic system to get around to passing things do stupid shit (as you saw in Michigan this week). And people who inevitably get their wish (an autocratic system) regret it unless they form part of the privileged elite). There is no such thing as something “never happening” unless you are talking about something universally viewed as vile, abusive and oppressive (like pedophilia). And in your grotesque example of a pedophile dreaming of a state where pedophilia is allowed, it is hard to imagine an autocratic leader allowing it unless you are a key player in the new government and can force their hand. Otherwise you risk losing your other freedoms and prosperity. Better yet, seek medical help and learn to suppress your pedo-urges. Even if you don’t get your way for a quite a while you will certainly benefit from a democratic system that represents your other soft interests, protects your human rights (especially if you are a marginalized person like LGTBQ+). Can you think of a non-democratic country that respects LGTBQ+ rights at all? If you are a country that relies on one major resource then democracy is literally the ONLY way to protect you from the tyranny of a bad leader which, having access to tons of oil or diamond or whatever will use all those resources to satisfy those who keep him (always a him) in power, barely develop the country’s infrastructure for ordinary people and keep the people’s discontent from ever showing. It’s the only way a non democratic leader in such a country could ever stay in power.

    In a philosophy class, you don’t answer hypotheticals with a practical workaround. That’s only slightly better than invoking a miracle. LOL

    You’re reading more into my hypothetical about the guy with the pedophile brother than is actually there. He isn’t dreaming of a state where pedophilia is okay, he wants a state where it’s treated more like alcoholism, which was also at one time viewed as a moral failing not a disease.

     

    #33490

    Davis
    Participant

    Unseen the United States cannot have a third party without proportional representation which you don’t have. That and the stupid electoral college could be changed with constitutional amendments which, until that happens, you’ll have to do with your imperfect system. In any case, its certainly a LOT easier to get rid of a bad government needing a bit more than a majority than with a tyrant. Way to avoid my broad answer by pointing out little difficulties that only apply in some countries in exceptional circumstances. But then…you always do that kind of thing.

    You’d do better getting the kind of answer you’re looking for by being clearer with your questions (you know one of the central lessons a first year philosophy student learns…LOL). You’ve presented several problems but are looking for one single solution which is a ridiculous expectation.

    If you really want the answer for a super specific kind of single issue voter who cares only and absolutely for the outcome of that one issue and could care less about anything else (we now have an extremely specific specimen here representing a fraction of actual voters but at least we are being clear) AND the issue is one that is EXTREMELY unlikely to happen through democratic means then it is more than reasonable enough to look at all options, some of which are more realistic than others. Probably the best option is: move to a place where your issue has been realized. If that is impossible then find a way to not be so obsessed with that single issue. If that seems insurmountable then you have to weigh your options: participate in a movement to overthrow the democratic government in search of a tyrant and take the extreme risk of 1. Getting caught and punished for treason/sedition. 2. It succeeding and the tyrant never actually instituting the change you want and being stuck with a high degree of fewer freedoms. 3. Getting the change you were looking for but facing serious problems that comes along with the tyrant including limited freedoms, economic stagnation, legal uncertainly, lack of safety and general instability.

    If you are that obsessed about this one single issue and willing to risk the highly likely unfavorable outcomes, then yeah…by all means join a militia or work with a foreign power to help overthrow your government. I guess this person’s hysterical obsession has driven them to get what they want by any means so yeah…seems like their best solution.

    The odds of actually getting their way way: successfully pulling off a revolution without getting killed or face loss in the process, have the change you are looking for actually instituted and maintain the things you consider important in life with minimal disruption is…extreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeemely small. So if the person is just a smidge under the level of crazy nutcase… and if there is really no chance of some law change permitting some outrageous law in your lifetime then by far the wiser thing to do is move somewhere where your dreams could be realize or better yet get counseling. I’d say seeking therapy is far less lunacy than wasting your life and resources trying to get pedophilia laws changed. Or did you just want an either or answer as opposed to alternative answers that bust your expectations? Seeking therapy is not an unreasonable solution and is not the equivalent of a “miracle” as you say. Limiting the kind of answers to a problem is not philosophy.

    As for the case of multiple voters mostly ending up unhappy: proportional representation as is done in most of the civilized world and works in say, 95% of those countries quite well. I’d say pulling off electoral reform in the US is more likely than a successful government overthrow.

    #33491

    PopeBeanie
    Moderator

    Thanks for helping me understand the question. Maybe I also didn’t consider authoritarianism as a reasonable option, on its surface. (I still don’t.)

    Faith. Bad word in most cases here at AZ, and yet don’t people need to have faith in their leaders? Whether democratic or dictatorial. As Davis points out, the chances of getting the leadership we’re looking for are much greater in a democracy/republic (and even in an electoral-college) system than after any “beneficent” authoritarianist system has aged to more inevitably become a corrupt, self-interested dictatorial system.

    I understood the example of how to change the way we treat pedophiles, and happen to feel that we need to 1) detect their potentially damaging behavior as soon as possible and 2) engage psychiatric/psychological intervention for treatments rather than wait for offenses, arrests, and convictions to occur and send them to a prison that can’t even rehabilitate them. And perhaps in some cases, an authoritarian would have their own method of rooting these guys out and “eliminating” them from the system, which in some cases would be preferable to our current system of letting them slip through?

    Most importantly, no man-made system or idealism can ever be expected to work perfectly. Such perfection is good to strive for, but have we ever seen one that can be perfect and remain perfect for long? Corruption in one form or another tends to creep in, and some kind of dynamic understanding and correction is inevitably required to reboot or make viable corrections. How could one ever expect an authoritarian system to remain beneficent for long?

    (And before anyone jumps in and says that AI could help us with this, I feel the need to keep saying that imo, AI outcomes will depend much more on who designs, builds, and owns it than on some human’s idealist notions of how AI will somehow automatically/always remain focused on its overall benefit to humanity and/or the world.)

    #33492

    Unseen
    Participant

    Davis, if you want a clearer and simpler hypothetical. Imagine you have to deal with a current government which is refuses to face up to the fact of global warming. The government’s policies reflect the views of a clear majority of the public. This is hypothetical because that doesn’t describe the situation in America or Europe.

    Now a political faction comes along, according to this hypothetical, which if it takes over by nondemocratic means (let’s call it a revolution) is clear about addressing climate change to save the planet. They sound oppressive in other ways, but none of their other policies risk the planet. Imagine a modern equivalent of the French Revolution, perhaps. I can imagine the arrest, trial, and imprisonment and sometimes execution of the opposition deemed to be anti-environmental.

    Do you participate in democracy or throw your support to the revolutionary group.

    I’m wondering is there a limit to one’s commitment to democracy, or is it an unassailable ideal?

    #33493

    Unseen
    Participant

    Clearly, there’s an almost irresistible tendency to want to do an end run around the philosophical issue by thinking in practical terms (AI, coalition democracy) but then it’s no longer a philosophical discuss and this a graduate class in philosophy but more of a course in political (for the lack of a better word) engineering.

    This philosophical problem has real world ramifications. A few days ago, some political outsiders tossed democracy out the window and were on the verge of kidnapping the Governor of Michigan in order to try her and possibly execute her. They were also prepared to take over Michigan’s state government and institute a militarily-installed government of their choice.

    Quasi-military militias are common in the United States. There is no state that doesn’t have several of them. And they overlap to varying degrees with local law enforcement, with some cops working both for government and yet belonging to a militia.

    These militias are almost invariably racist, misogynistic (yearning  to go back to pure paternalism), and prepared to engage in violence. The FBI clearly views them as the nation’s #1 terror threat.

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