Thursday, March 15, 2012

Are We Smart Enough for Democracy?

Are we smart enough for democracy? Check out this article from Yahoo! News:

"People Aren't Smart Enough for Democracy to Flourish, Scientists Say" by Natalie Wolchover

"The democratic process relies on the assumption that citizens (the majority of them, at least) can recognize the best political candidate, or best policy idea, when they see it. But a growing body of research has revealed an unfortunate aspect of the human psyche that would seem to disprove this notion, and imply instead that democratic elections produce mediocre leadership and policies."

"The research, led by David Dunning, a psychologist at Cornell University, shows that incompetent people are inherently unable to judge the competence of other people, or the quality of those people's ideas. For example, if people lack expertise on tax reform, it is very difficult for them to identify the candidates who are actual experts. They simply lack the mental tools needed to make meaningful judgments."

And that is why, in my opinion, it is so critically important to elect people with strong beliefs. People who won't compromise those beliefs. People like Bill Clinton, George Bush, and Barrack Obama are perfect examples of people who DON'T have any core beliefs. They just want power, and will say anything to get it.

"As a result, no amount of information or facts about political candidates can override the inherent inability of many voters to accurately evaluate them. On top of that, 'very smart ideas are going to be hard for people to adopt, because most people don’t have the sophistication to recognize how good an idea is,' Dunning told Life's Little Mysteries."

I would suggest that ending the Federal Reserve would be an example of such an idea. Fiat money, subject to manipulation by government, is doomed to failure.

"Mato Nagel, a sociologist in Germany, recently implemented Dunning and Kruger's theories by computer-simulating a democratic election. In his mathematical model of the election, he assumed that voters' own leadership skills were distributed on a bell curve — some were really good leaders, some, really bad, but most were mediocre — and that each voter was incapable of recognizing the leadership skills of a political candidate as being better than his or her own. When such an election was simulated, candidates whose leadership skills were only slightly better than average always won."

"Nagel concluded that democracies rarely or never elect the best leaders. Their advantage over dictatorships or other forms of government is merely that they 'effectively prevent lower-than-average candidates from becoming leaders.'"

Wow, I'm so inspired (not). We truly get the (crappy) government we deserve.

And from
"Democracy May Depend on the Ignorant" by Joseph Castro

This article is a little more technical than the previous one.

"Strongly opinionated members can determine a group's consensus decision, even when they make up only a small minority. New research of animal behavior shows, however, that adding ignorant or uninformed members to the group can counteract the minority’s powerful influence and promote a more democratic outcome."

"When the strength of the two packs' preferences was equal, the group was much more likely to follow the majority. But when the minority had stronger feelings than the rest of the group about its direction, it was able to control the decision."

"'It's very counterintuitive,' said Iain Couzin, an evolutionary biologist at Princeton University ... 'We previously assumed that uninformed individuals promote extremism by being easily exploited by the [strong] minority.'"

I wish I could say I was surprised. But I'm not. Lots of sheep among us.