Governments failing

Ideally, a governing system would be able to be replaced (or go out of business) easily. The genius of democracy was that it was supposed to allow the government to be replaced simply.

The reality of democracy is that it leads to a system in which the government cannot be replaced. Instead citizens are given the illusion of replacement, while the governing structure remains. Even after a momentous elections, only a small fraction of one percent of government employees are replaced. This is why solutions like repealing the 16th Amendment and re-operationalizing the 9th and 10th Amendments won’t work. Ultimately the problem – democracy – remains untouched. Change of governance would still be effectively impossible.

We should be seeking a system that allows for dramatic shifts in governance peacefully. This is why I support the free market solution to governance – companies dramatically change directions all the time, governments don’t seem to be able to without spilling blood.

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11 Responses to Governments failing

  1. sconzey says:

    I disagree! It is not necessary to have a government that may be replaced (though it may be sufficient); it is necessary to have a government who’s interests are aligned with those of the citizens.

    The problem with (pure) democracy was always its “winner takes all” nature. By winning an election the victorious party captures ALL the revenue of the state to distribute how they wish (i.e. to their supporters). This aligns the interest of the rulers with those who are good at winning elections or getting out large block votes. It’s not so good for the ordinary custy of the Sovereign.

    This “endless, gunless civil war over a giant pot of money and power” was ended by the innovation of the Permanent Civil Service. The problem with that again is not that the government doesn’t change hands at election time (in fact, that was the main improvement of the civil-service state!) but that a) the power of the State is fragmented across diverse agencies, quangos, etc. and b) it is more profitable for them to attempt to capture a larger share of the pie from a rival agency than for them to attempt to grow the pie.

    • sconzey says:

      The State as a profit-maximiser, ruled by the almighty Fnargl I will always have it’s interests aligned with those of the customers. Fnargl gains more wealth by encouraging economic growth and innovation and taxing this ever-growing-pie at the Laffer peak.

      The problem of aligning interests within the company is solved (in the absence of Fnargl) by the joyous JSC. (In fact, the JSC is a safer bet than Fnargl, as the interests and desires of the shareholders are diverse so they will wish to have their dividends paid in the medium of exchange. With just Fnargl there is a danger he may acquire a taste for one form of wealth in particular; human flesh maybe, or axe-heads, and thus be tempted to distort the balance of goods and services in the economy to maximise growth in his favoured sector, rather than overall).

    • Foseti says:

      Fair enough. I agree that aligning incentives is most important. But, a correction mechanism if things get out of line is certainly important

  2. tenkev says:

    You could replace a governement with democracy if you brought back the spoils system. Of course that brings a whole host of new problems with it.

  3. Steve Johnson says:

    “Ultimately the problem – democracy – remains untouched. Change of governance would still be effectively impossible.

    We should be seeking a system that allows for dramatic shifts in governance peacefully.”

    I think you’re conflating two issues; the first, as sconzey noted, is that democracy misaligns interests. The unrelated issue is that all institutions evolve into stable forms.

    Humans nature being what it is – interested in power and resources, people will scheme for their goals. Any governments that can be painlessly replaced will be subject to frequent upheaval. Our democracy is bad but at least it’s moderately stable. Why? Well, because the less stable (easier to replace) versions of it were replaced by more stable (more damaging to replace) versions.

    It’s not a new insight that government agencies dedicated to managing problems stick around forever basically creating and managing problems in about the same measure. This is a very stable set up. Any change will result in huge upheaval in the short term. Examples: the Federal Reserve and the banking system, Fannie and Freddie, the FDA, the State Department. I’m confident that all of these are a long term burden but eliminating any of these will be hugely painful.

    • Foseti says:

      I agree with everything you say. Maybe I still have too many vestiges of libertarianism left, but I still think you need to be able to make some changes – perhaps limited to replacing the leader – in a peaceful manner.

      • sconzey says:

        This corpo-state will be maintaining military superiority over the territory, so at the end of the day the demos only have power to remove the CEO in so far as the military permit them. Sovereignty is conserved.

        Would investors buy into a company where the customers have the power to — at any time and for any reason — remove the CEO that *they* have chosen, rule-of-law be damned?

        With that said, if you’re formalising an already-democratic country then you’re already going to have some measure of general share-issue to ease people into the idea of financially responsible government. Whether the shares you issue are voting or non-voting is personal taste.

  4. RS says:

    > I still think you need to be able to make some changes – perhaps limited to replacing the leader – in a peaceful manner.

    If you want to have a very cautious method for removing a leader, you could just make him removable by the people – but only a large supermajority of the people, like 75%. You can indoctrinate the army with all sorts of special virtues of this rule, so that they back it up, and call it treason if someone wants to reduce the indoctrination.

    Seems fine, at least in theory, as long as you have a method for saying who gets power next. That of course leads to a problem similar to the succession problem.

    I too consider it very important to be able to zap the bad egg. You need to send a Hitler packing, a Nero maybe, a Caligula. Nero was of course murdered – there are, to be sure, natural ways of dealing with these problems. But the natural ways failed in the case of Hitler, who re-condensed power twice during his rule, with big success – Long Knives, and a later event before the war where he sacked a bunch of people. Despite a rather large, long-running, very high-level conspiracy against his life, he and his inner circle lasted.

    • Steve Johnson says:

      I think you need to get rid of the bad eggs before they come to the throne*. Once they do come to the throne, it’s best if the king / dictator / emperor has total personal security. Less murder that way.

      * One reason why royal families are so effective; lots of people who have a good handle on the character of the future leader and who have a very strong interest in not letting a madman take the throne.

    • sconzey says:

      There already is a mechanism for “zapping” “bad eggs” — the military, ultimately, don’t answer to the CEO, but to the shareholders. If Germany, or Rome, paid dividends on their profits, I have no doubt they wouldn’t underneath Hitler or Caligula. War is only profitable if you win, and messing with the Rule of Law is never profitable.

      But yes, as Steve Johnson says: suppose the worst happened and a Bad Egg was appointed CEO and — for whatever reason — she retained the confidence of the shareholders. It is better that she have no incentive to attempt to manipulate public opinion, or suppress political activity, or imprison political opponents.

      Your supermajority idea is interesting — very democratic — but it would mean the Bad Egg only has to terrorize or imprison or otherwise win over only 26% of the customers.

      If the decision lies only with the shareholders — who are anonymous, and probably/possibly/definitely not in her jurisdiction — she has no incentive to imprison or unnecessarily terrorize anyone and every incentive not to as unnecessary terror is costly and will hurt the shareholders’ dividends.

    • sconzey says:

      Incidentally, I’m trying to think if there are any historical examples of autocrats who made their country lawful and profitable, whilst still being complete shits.

      Apartheid South Africa falls into this category, I think. Maybe Leopold’s Congo too.

      Although, it’s entirely within the realms of possibility that the shareholders may choose to remove a CEO, who — despite making massive profits — is a total shit. This is after all the age of CSR.

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