Here are five rules that I’ve drafted that I believe apply to voluntary collective action.
#1: Consensuses are usually weaker than you think.
When people want to change something for the better, they make the mistake of thinking there is a strong consensus around the nature of the problem.
They will also overestimate how much everyone else cares, how much they are motivated to act, and how much everyone else wants the same solution.
Read more here.
There are respectable ways of knowing how things are run and who the beneficiaries are. Over-indulged misdirection about ‘elites’ isn’t one of them.
If you’re looking for good answers to the big old questions around “who runs things around here, and who do they aim to serve?”, then Anthony Downs’ work on ‘rational ignorance’, or Mancur Olson’s on productivity and the logic of collective action from the 1960s and ’70s is a great place to start. Continue reading here.
We can probably agree that, if someone can exert power without responsibility or legitimacy, we have a moral duty to take it from them in any way we can.
If not, please stop reading now.
Continue reading here.
Often, when I see points that are made supposedly from a ‘pro-liberal democracy’ viewpoint, I’m reinforced in the view that liberal democracy is not really understood by many of its supposed defenders.
(Yes — this post is prompted by developments in Ukraine).
Liberal democracy has an essential motor that runs it: Representation.
The key is to defend the independence of editors from all of their enemies. And those enemies are not all in The Woke Mob.
Maureen Lipman is the latest in a long line of artists and writers to complain about the chilling effect Cancel Culture can have on the arts. I have some sympathy with her view. Don’t risk sophisticated witticisms. Appease that lowest common denominator that has a bad-faith agenda, or an inability to process irony.
This was published in openDemocracy recently. The only thing I’d change to the idea is that I’d change this from “it could be 100% tax-deductible, or claimable from welfare payments” to “it could be 100% tax-deductible from VAT, because everyone pays at least £50 a year in VAT, right?”
(The average household generates around £4,700 in VAT income to the treasury).
Reading Martin Nowak & Roger Highfield’s verygood ‘Super Cooperators’, there’s this observation:
“There’s a telling joke among scientists that every new theory has to pass though three phases of “acceptance”: first, it is completely ignored; second, it is obviously wrong; and third, it is obviously right, but everyone knew that anyway.” (p63 of the 2011 Canongate edition).
Sir Matthew Hale
I was reading Tom Bingham’s ‘The Rule of Law’ and found Sir Matthew Hale’s resolutions. I was quite taken aback that I’d not heard of this before and even more surprised that – when I searched online – I struggled to locate it.
So, finally, having found it here, I thought I’d copy it here (below) so that I won’t forget it.
I’m struggling to think of an equivalent set of resolutions that elected representatives could adopt – and struggling even harder to understand (read this post here to interpret it easily) why I can’t recall any examples of one of them attempting to do this.
Things Necessary to be Continually had in Remembrance.
- That in the Alministration of Justice, I am intrusted for God, the King and Country; and therefore,
- That it be done, 1. Uprightly, 2. Deliberately, 3. Resolutely.
- That I rest not upon my own Understanding or Strength, but implore and rest upon the Direction and Strength of God.
- That in the Execution of Justice, I carefully lay aside my own Passions, and not give way to them, however provoked.
- That I be wholly intent upon the Business I am about, remitting all other Cares and Thoughts, as unseasonable and Interruptions.
- That I suffer not myself to be prepossessed with any Judgment at all, till the whole Business and both Parties be beard.
- That I never engage my self in the beginning of any Cause, but reserve my self unprejudiced till the whole be heard.
- That in Business Capital, though my Nature prompt me to Pity; yet to consider, that there is also a Pity due to the Country.
- That I be not too Rigid in Matters purely Conscientious, where all the barm is Diversity of Judgment.
- That I be not byassed with Compassion to the Poor, or favour to the Rich, in point of Justice.
- That Popular, or Court-Applause, or Distaste, have no Influence into any thing I do in point of Distribution of Justice.
- Not to be sollicitous what Men will say or think, so long as I keep my self exactly according to the Rule of Justice.
- If in criminals it be a measuring cast, to incline to Mercy and Acquittal.
- In Criminals that consist merely in Words, when no more ensues, Moderation is no Injustice.
- In Criminals of Blood, if the Fact be Evident, Severity is Justice.
- To abhor all private Sollicitations, of what kind soever, and by whom soever, in matters Depending.
- To charge my Servants, 1. Not to interpose in any Business whatsoever, 2. Not to take more than their known Fees, 3. Not to give any undue precedence to Causes, 4. Not to recommend Council.
- To be short and sparing at Meals, that I may be the fitter for Business.
Electoral politics is hugely distorted by the fact that it designed to serve the interests of the political donors, hobbyists and cranks that have the time and energy to dominate the civic space. It doesn’t need to be this way.
As a Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts (FRSA) I was invited to give a lunchtime talk about this at the Royal Society of the Arts on 17th January 2020. A quick outline is here. I will publish the full text of the talk in due course.
I’m on the Partly Political Broadcast podcast talking to comedian Tiernan Douieb about Think Tank Funding and the Who Funds You website, along with a few observations on democracy in general.
This is the ‘pull quote’ – from about 39 mins in:
“It is a gross error to think that opaquely funded think-tanks increase the diversity of opinions that are available to us.”
Listen to the whole thing – but for reference, I’m on from about 20mins 45secs to 44mins 30secs, and again on 48mins to the end.