Category Archives: Collective Action

Five rules of voluntary collective action

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.

The misdirection in the ‘elites’ discourse.

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.

Dark Money for all – a Universal Basic Income (UBI) for democracy

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.


Final script sent to print

Yesterday, in what was a big milestone for me, I handed in the final copy of the text of my book, which is provisionally titled ‘Save Democracy – Abolish Voting’.

It will be published at some point over the next month or so (date tbc) by The Democratic Society. It’s their first publication in a series entitled “Ideas of Democracy”, and I hope, the first of many.

In advance of the launch (you will be able to buy it in print or as an e-book), I’ll be posting a few samples here, but in the meantime, here’s the draft blurb from the back cover to give you a flavour of what to expect:

draft book blurb

Picture Credit – featured image: Bookbinding – from here.

Principled politics: a paradox

If you are voting out of principle, you may, paradoxically, find that you have a greater duty to be pragmatic.

Let’s imagine (for the sake of argument) that all voters only voted out of self-interest. If that were the case, the government they elect should end up offering a compromise package that does enough to offer the largest electoral minority (depending on the electoral system) the least-worst electoral option.

It should be a much bigger deal, though, if you say that your personal views are largely driven by altruism and you (and lots of other voters that share your views) believe that your votes are being cast in the interests of the less-fortunate-than-you. In that case, you also have quite a strong moral duty to accept something instead of nothing.

A lot more of a moral duty than the purely self-interested voter. Continue reading

Your opinions annoy everyone else

G20_crowdThe other day, I promised to start answering the question of how I think it can be possible to be a principled politician while avoiding the career-ending pitfalls of principle. This post won’t do it, but it will help build to the answer. I’ll need to make this point on the way.

Imagine we were building a democracy from scratch, after some kind of apocalypse? All property rights would be void, all power-relations would be gone and we’d be working on a blank sheet of paper.

There are all sorts of logistical and logical problems we’d have to solve, but one of the most interesting ones would be the points at which human nature – however you want to define it – reject democracy and work against it. Continue reading