The REDSTAR2000 Papers

Listen to the worm of doubt, for it speaks truth. - Leftist Discussion

Further Notes on Demarchy January 7, 2004 by RedStar2000

This consists of only a few posts; perhaps I will add to it later if and when the subject arises again.

I hope it does arise again; it's a damn good idea.



The only problem with that, you might end up with a bunch of people who don't have a clue as to what they're doing in charge.

That's always a non-zero probability in demarchy--it "could happen."

But I think it's a very low probability event. Here's why...

1. The reason that you would "put your name in the hat" for a particular "function group" is that you are "presumably" interested in the particular function that group carries out.

For example, let's say one of my personal interests for a long time has been passenger rail service. I've read some books on the subject and have ridden a lot of trains. I already have some "clues"...though I'm very far from being "expert".

My name is one of those picked from the hat and I'm now one of six new members of the "People's Rail Transit Agency" (there are six members who've already served one year of their two-year terms)--our job is to "manage" rail transit.

More specifically, we can change schedules, change the passenger capacity of existing trains, add new trains or abolish existing trains, add or subtract services on trains, create completely new routes or change existing routes, etc.

We don't act "in isolation". For one thing, everything we do needs at least the passive approval of the railroad workers' collectives...and we will interview railroad workers at some length to get their views.

We will do a lot of passenger surveys...find out what people like and don't like about the trains.

We will interview engineering & track-maintenance collectives...what needs up-grading, what could be abandoned with no real loss, would an entirely new set of tracks on a new route "make sense"?

We will order new passenger cars and decide on their design...after extensive consultation with collectives of passenger-car manufacturing workers, experienced engineers, etc. (Hint: passenger comfort will be a big priority with me!)

We will become "quasi-experts" ourselves...because we want to.

If we do a good job, more people will ride the trains and our "status" in society will "go up".

And even after our "term of office" is over, we will continue to "nag" the new board if we think they're missing something important...just as former members of the board will "nag" us. With the passing of decades, a substantial number of "ordinary people" will have first-hand experience of managing rail transit...and the thousands of other complicated tasks of a modern society--but without ever developing the "mystique" of "manager"...of some sort of "innate superiority" that "entitles" one to rule.

2. But suppose we do something really stupid? I don't mean a mistake--something that takes time to reveal. I mean something so grossly inept that railroad workers, engineers, and even much of the general public perceives at once to be outstandingly idiotic.

The outcome under demarchy suggests that people will (or at least should) simply refuse to implement the obviously stupid decision and await the selection of new members of the function group. The high-speed rail link between Chickenfeed, Arkansas and Pigdirt, North Dakota will not be built...because co-operation will be refused by all other sensible function groups as well as working people generally.

No doubt we'd defend our stupidity in the public media and try to create some public support for our decision...but probably to no avail. And we're not allowed to "ram it down people's throats". We can't call on an army or police to "make" people build our rail link whether they want to or not.

There is no central army or police to call.
First posted at Che-Lives on December 29, 2003


But hypothetically, would you be able to put your name into the same "hat" more than once? Because if you were, you might end up with some undesirable people in charge.

I would imagine it would be one entry per person. Something like the computers that now handle state lotteries should have the capacity to record your identity, six random numbers assigned to your "candidacy" only, etc. Then a "goose" (that's what the machine that blows the ping-pong balls into the slot is called) starts picking six-digit random numbers until all the positions are filled (with perhaps two or three non-voting alternates to pull in should there be illness or death of one of the "winners").

Come to think of it, six digits is too many. Three digits would probably be sufficient...or four at the most.

The terms need not be two years, of course. For some less technical function groups, one year might be fine (with new members every six months). Others could be 4-year or even 6-year terms...where there is an enormous amount of technical material to be mastered.

And there's this. I shouldn't be allowed to serve consecutive terms--so my name can't go in the hat when my term is up. But once others have served a full term--two or four or six years later--I can put my name back in the hat again if I had such a good experience that I want to repeat it.


I think the first set of 6 shouldn't be chosen at random, but picked out of a group of experts who would for their two year term set stuff up and make it manageable for people who weren't experts.

If they too are chosen at random, I see no problem with that.

One of the most interesting things about demarchy is that it is inherently "flexible". You can have different "pools" of "candidates" arranged to suit any social criteria that you wish.

Consider my Rail Passenger Agency: there could be two seats drawn from a "pool" consisting only of actual railroad workers; or two seats "reserved" for passengers only (they have no other connection with railroads); or two seats "reserved" for people with engineering degrees, etc.

Members of the agency are randomly drawn from different "pools" the body is as representative as you want it to be.

(Let me insert here that I also think that future communist movements--when it becomes possible to organize them--should use demarchy as their organizational principle.)


Demarchy does seem to sound good, but does random selection really procure those best suited to a particular task, how would [it] prevent someone incapable for the job from applying without first having someone in authority to deem who's 'capable'?

Would someone truly "incapable" bother applying? Remember, this is real work...not any kind of honorary license to "act like a big shot". My guess is that if some dickhead threw his name in the hat "as a lark" and his name was drawn, he would respond by withdrawing immediately or certainly after his first eight-hour meeting. (!)

Gross incompetence may "pop up" from time to time...but it's unlikely that out of 12 people there will ever be more than one or maybe two such dolts.

Most people, given sufficiently accurate information, are competent to make informed choices. If they often seem "stupid" now, it's almost always because they've been lied to.


I would like to see it combined with some elements of direct democracy in that, though some randomly appointed individuals can formulate policies, they would need the support of the majority to implement them.

Well, that goes to the heart of the question of demarchy. Will the ordinary person have sufficient time and interest to learn enough about a particular proposal to cast an informed vote?

Nearly everyone can see that the "high-speed rail link" between Chickenfeed, Arkansas and Pigdirt, North Dakota is a really stupid idea. A popular referendum is one is going to do it, period.

But suppose the proposed changes are more "plausible"--a "high-speed rail link" between Chicago and a)Houston; b)New Orleans; c)Atlanta. The Rail Passenger Agency has really studied this stuff and concluded that New Orleans is the best choice...much to the outrage of some folks in Houston and Atlanta. In a popular referendum, the most "sensible" choice could lose...not for rational reasons but for something as trivial as "civic pride".

What demarchy as a mechanism is supposed to do is make "experts" (or at least quasi-experts) out of ordinary people...on the assumption that when they are fully informed, they will make decisions that are both sensible and representative of all ordinary people...who would make the same decisions if they were fully informed.

You see, what happens now in referendums? How many "take the time and trouble" to fully inform themselves (even assuming that that is possible--that relevant information hasn't been deliberately kept secret from the public)? Someone who is completely ignorant has the same weight in the outcome (one vote) as someone who is fully informed.

That is a good way to make very bad decisions. Some of the recent referendums in California illustrate that pretty clearly.

Referendums also suffer, in a less extreme way, from the problem inherent in representative "democracy" generally.

Who speaks for and against the proposition? If one side or the other manages to attract "public spokesmen" who are really good advocates, that's going to have a disproportionate impact on the outcome. A "Ronald-Reagan-type" could persuade an enormous number of people that "shit tastes good & is good for you"...and that is, in fact, what Reagan himself did accomplish.

If a Reagan-type is on the dummyvision arguing for that rail-link to Atlanta, New Orleans doesn't have a prayer. Rational arguments just go down the toilet.

Demarchy prevents that from happening...or at least makes it extremely difficult.
First posted at Che-Lives on December 29, 2003


Would demarchy have an elected leader, or would it be like a parliament, or would there be no leader at all?

Option 3: no leader at all.

It's a popular superstition that every form of political organization "must" have one guy (almost always it's a guy) who stands up in front of the public as a "symbol" of that organization.

I think that such an arrangement is not only unnecessary but probably a bad idea in and of itself. To the person selected, it tempts them to the insolence of office. To everyone else, it tempts them to passivity and "relying on daddy" to "watch over them".

Demarchic society would have no "parliament" or any other "political center of gravity". Function groups would be limited in their authority to specific functions.

There would even be a function group "in charge" of the selection procedures for selecting function groups...selected at random from the general population as a whole. That would be the group that would administer the "draws" for all the other groups (keeping everyone honest). They would also work with existing function groups on how to construct representative "pools" from which to draw.

Internally, function groups could decide matters by voting or by consensus or by some mixture of the two processes...though I would personally prefer they vote. It would probably be useful to have their deliberations publicly available on the net.

As you see, the whole demarchic process is almost completely opposite to what we have in class society.
First posted at Che-Lives on January 10, 2004


But if there was no class division in society, would this be necessary; isn't it still possible to select those most capable for the task, without them representing their own sectional interests and without any particular leader?

Well, first we have the problem of defining "most capable". What happens now is that those who have attained educational credentials which "certify" their "capability" then select others who are just like them.

Practiced on any significant scale for any significant period of time, this leads to a self-perpetuating elite...and one which, in fact, no longer even "needs" to be "capable" but can get by with bearing the official designation of "capable" without any objective evidence of capability being required at all. Consider the careers of many modern CEOs; they go from company to company, fucking up nearly everything they touch, and yet making more and more money and being placed in charge of bigger and bigger corporations...until they go to prison!

Presumably a sensible function group would consult with experts at some length, hold public hearings, accumulate often-conflicting "expert opinions" on the best decision to make, etc. From time to time, a fully-credentialed expert's name would be drawn from the hat. And so on.

But what we're trying to do here would be under-cut by allowing the function groups to simply be taken over by credentialed experts.

We're trying to destroy the mythology that only "special people" can run things. The "rationale" of class society is that there "must" be a "ruling class" of some kind...otherwise, human society "can't exist."

A "credentialed meritocracy" would, I suspect, become corrupt and lead in the long run to a restoration of classes. Sooner or later, ordinary people would be told that "you have no right to question our expert decisions". Once they can get people to swallow that crap, all they then need is a property law and a police force...and we're fucked!


Isn't it possible to incorporate elements of demarchy with other governmental means, such as referendums on major issues?

Yes, you can "dilute" the idea as much as you like...but, in doing so, you weaken its effect.

A vote in a referendum does not have to be the result of a thoughtful consideration of the merits of the issues. It can be the result of a mis-understanding, or the personal appeal of those who argue for one side, or even a passing whim.

People have lives and many demands on their attention. There's no known way of making people "quasi-expert" on everything. They don't have the time.

The function group, representative of ordinary people who happen to have an interest in this particular function, has the time and the incentive to become "quasi-expert" and thus to make informed decisions.

Referendums are a crap-shoot.
First posted at Che-Lives on January 11, 2004


However is it not possible to have any objective manner in which to ascertain who is 'best suited' to decide important decisions?

I frankly know of none...except a long track-record of good decisions.

I suppose it might be possible to develop an analogue of "pilot trainer simulators". This would be software that would create simulations of complex situations and invite the test-taker to come up with creative "solutions".

The problem, of course, is that real world situations are far more complex than flying an aircraft. The assumptions of the software writers would have to be even more complex than the test-takers account for all the multiple possible outcomes.

I hate to say that any technical achievement is "impossible"...but this one looks extremely difficult.


What I mean is that if there are no class divisions in society, why would it be necessary to implement a system designed to prevent the upper class ruling?

I think there are two problems here. At the beginning, there are significant differences between people...the most important of which is the idea that some people are "special" and the resulting temptation to "turn matters over to the experts"...who will quickly begin thinking of themselves as "leaders".

We don't want that to happen.

And, likewise, we want to keep it from happening in future times. As more and more ordinary people become "quasi-expert", the "aura" of "expertise" will decline...making it less and less probable that anyone will ever be able to use "expertise" as a rationale for rule.


...but I'd like to believe that its possible for absolute power not to corrupt absolutely. If no one person has any great power over a wide area, then is it not possible for them to concentrate on doing the best for their people rather than benefiting themselves?

Certainly it is "possible", but why leave matters to chance? We all might "like to believe" any number of things...but that's not a very responsible way to do things.


...however I feel that if [referendums are] used only to decide major issues then people would be informed, seeing as it's a major issue affecting them directly.

Well, one would certainly hope so!

And, to be fair, there might well be major and contentious issues for which only a referendum would serve to provide the necessary legitimacy--the demolition of religious architecture, for example.

But, in my opinion, demarchy would provide the best way to manage the "nuts and bolts" of a complex society without creating a class of "managers".

quote: would these function groups be accountable for their actions if they did do something wrong, would they simply be forced out of office?

Well, as I noted earlier, a really obviously bad decision would generate non-cooperation from related function groups and possibly from the general public as well.

I think the function group would otherwise continue to function...with new members selected "on schedule" and a fresh look at the problem.

If the function group has simply made a mistake--one that takes some time to be shown to be wrong--then the new members will presumably attempt to correct that mistake.

Should there be a formal procedure for completely recalling all the members of a function group and "starting fresh" with a new drawing?

I would hope that would not be necessary...but who knows? If there is such a procedure, it should certainly be used only under the most unusual of circumstances. If it were "too easy" to do, then function groups might well be paralyzed...which is not what we want to happen.


Hey, as soon as a classless society is attained, would the gov't be necessary?

Demarchy isn't a "government"--it has no "center". It's a way of running the machinery of administrating a complex society without bosses.
First posted at Che-Lives on January 11, 2004
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