How to be a democrat

How to be a dictator isn’t just about politics — or rather it is about politics, everywhere: “It doesn’t matter whether you are a dictator, a democratic leader, head of a charity or a sports organisation, the same things go on.”

The article ends with:

Dictators already know how to be dictators—they are very good at it. We want to point out how they do it so that it’s possible to think about reforms that can actually have meaningful consequences.

I don’t know what if any reforms the authors propose in their book, The Dictator’s Handbook: Why Bad Behavior is Almost Always Good Politics, but good on them encouraging a thinking in terms of meaningful consequences.

I see no hope for consequential progress against dictatorship in the United States. In 2007 I scored Obama and Biden very highly on their responses to a survey on executive power. Despite this, once in power, their administration has been a disaster, as Glenn Greenwald painstakingly and painfully documents.

I haven’t bothered scoring a 2011 candidates survey on executive power. I’m glad the NYT got responses from some of the candidates, but it seemed less interesting than four years ago, perhaps because only the Republican nomination is contested. My quick read: Paul’s answers seem acceptable, all others worship executive power. Huntsman’s answers seem a little more nuanced than the rest, but pointing in the same direction. Romney’s are in the middle of a very tight pack. In addition to evincing power worship, too many of Perry’s answers start with the exact same sentence, reinforcing the impression he’s not smart. Gingrich’s answers are the most brazen.

Other than envious destruction of power (the relevant definition and causes of which being tenuous, making effective action much harder) and gradual construction of alternatives, how can one be a democrat? I suspect more accurate information and more randomness are important — I’ll sometimes express this very specifically as enthusiasm for futarchy and sortition — but I’m also interested in whatever small increases in accurate information and randomness might be feasible, at every scale and granularity — global governance to small organizations, event probabilities to empirically validated practices.

Along the lines of the last, one of the few business books I’ve ever enjoyed is Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths And Total Nonsense: Profiting From Evidence-Based Management, much of which cuts against leadership cult myths. Coincidentally, one of that book’s co-authors recently blogged about evidence that random selection of leaders can enhance group performance.

3 Responses

  1. […] Near exclusive focus on supplication before 535 [Update: 536] ultra-powerful individuals is kinda disgusting. But it needs to be done, as effectively as […]

  2. […] of executive power (thus my preference for calling the U.S. presidency a temporary dictatorship)? Abuse and non-reform thereof has been my biggest disappointment with the Obama administration. I can only recall an indirect […]

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