I went on Boogaloo Radio with my old friend Ann Scanlon. No droning on about democracy for a change. Just music, and pubs, and reminiscences.
On Sunday 13th May, I will be speaking about my book “Save Democracy – Abolish Voting” at Conway Hall in central London. This is part of the “Thinking on Sunday” series of talks.
This has just been published:
“A brilliant new book by Paul Evans, ‘Save Democracy – Abolish Voting’…says
“If we wanted to design a system in a way that helps wealthy and charismatic people con everyone easily, we could barely design anything better than electoral politics.”
Although this is a slim volume, it poses some deep questions which deserve far more attention than they’re getting.
…even if you think Paul has the wrong solution, he is at least asking the right question. And given that so few are doing even this, he’s done a massive public service.
— Chris Dillow (@CJFDillow) December 8, 2017
You can feel belief in democracy draining away – me in the Spectator https://t.co/cMEr5JKOXd
— Nick Cohen (@NickCohen4) November 28, 2017
“Paul Evans’s important pamphlet Save Democracy – Abolish Voting is disturbing, and therefore worth reading, because he shows the supposed enemies of corporate power are no less elitist.
…… Drawing on the work of Mancur Olson, Evans says that the inchoate mass of people with poorly expressed concerns have little and, on most occasions, no lobbying power to match them. Laws and regulations are changed by active minorities, who either have money (lobbyists) or the time (activists) to take up politics as a hobby, whether as the highly unrepresentative groups of party members who select candidates and elect party leaders, propagandists for causes on social media, or the supporters of single-issue campaigns.
… What make Evans’s pamphlet compelling is that traditional remedies fail to answer the problems he highlights.
… Evans’s modest proposal, presented with a touch of Swiftian irony, is that rather than give every citizen the vote, the state should give each citizen an equal sum of money to spend on politics. They could then form consortiums of like-minded people to sponsor not just politicians but everyone involved in the political process – civil servants, journalists, lobbyists and so on. Only ‘players’ who secured broad support would then be able to play the game.
….Descriptions of the failures of democracy feel alive and true in the present age. Evans’s polemic is no exception. Proposals for reform, by contrast, seem a waste of breath”
A ballot paper is supposed to send a message to the government, telling it how it should behave. There are plenty of signalling mechanisms that would do the job a lot better, and it’s a mystery why the vote has been allowed to be fetishised as it has.
There are so many different ways of making decisions. Academics decide what they know using the peer review system, or by conducting clinical trials. Judges use a jury to decide what happened so that the law can be applied. Market mechanisms are used to make decisions about production and prices.
Bookmakers, actuaries and stock markets help to decide whether something is likely to happen, so everyone can allocate their risk accordingly. Artificial intelligence makes decisions that affect everyone, and it is beginning to transform the way that professions work, and to influence the decisions that are made.
This is an extract from my forthcoming book “Save Democracy?—?Abolish Voting”. It is taken from the Introduction to the book.
The bug in democracy’s code
The variety of liberal democracy used in Europe and North America has created untold growth, prosperity and inter-democracy peace. It has been a fantastically successful experiment and no generation of humanity is as lucky as ours.
Its continuing positive development is not assured, however. One of its fatal flaws is that politicians are stuck in something that looks a lot like the prisoner’s dilemma where, in a climate of distrust, their default setting is to accuse each other, however opaquely, of being liars and thieves. Because of this, politicians fail to defend the idea of democratic governance itself.
Now that my book has definitely been completed, this is probably the last time that these books will be in one place, so I thought I’d get a pic for posterity.
It’s not the definitive pile and others have already been scattered around the house, but it’s a representative cross-section.
Its been a very satisfying, if occasionally lonely and patience-straining process.
Using these titles is not necessarily an endorsement of their contents -particularly the Arriaga book…
Sovereignty is not about what we want to achieve. It is about what is possible. If a king degrees that the waves should retreat, or a parliament decides that the moon should shift it’s orbit, no sovereignty will be exercised.
Sovereignty is about a capacity to do things, and not just a desire.
This is a short post that is intended to introduce a theme. I won’t develop it too much here (though I’ve filled it with links to posts that I, and others, have written that flesh out specific parts of the argument). I will be publishing something a lot more substantial on this shortly.
We are going through a period of political polarisation at the moment. The organised left may think that this is a good thing, but I have argued previously that this is a game that we are always going to lose at.