Slightly Skew Systems Of Government

[Related To: Legal Systems Very Different From Ours Because I Just Made Them Up, List Of Fictional Drugs Banned By The FDA]


Clamzoria is an acausal democracy.

The problem with democracy is that elections happen before the winning candidate takes office. If somebody’s never been President, how are you supposed to judge how good a President they’d be? Clamzoria realized this was dumb, and moved elections to the last day of an official’s term.

When the outgoing President left office, the country would hold an election. It was run by approval voting: you could either approve or disapprove of the candidate who had just held power. The results were tabulated, announced, and then nobody ever thought about them again.

Clamzoria chose its officials through a prediction market. The Central Bank released bonds for each candidate, which paid out X dollars at term’s end, where X was the percent of voters who voted Approve. Traders could provisionally buy and sell these bonds. On the first day of the term, whichever candidate’s bonds were trading at the highest value was inaugurated as the new President; everyone else’s bonds were retroactively cancelled and their traders refunded. The President would spend a term in office, the election would be held, and the bondholders would be reimbursed the appropriate amount.

The Clamzorians argued this protected against demagoguery. It’s easy for a candidate to promise the sun and moon before an election, but by the end of their term, voters know if the country is doing well or not. Instead of running on a platform of popular (but doomed) ideas, candidates are encouraged to run on a platform of unpopular ideas, as long as those unpopular ideas will genuinely make the country richer, safer, stronger, and all the other things that lead people to approve of a President’s term after the fact. Of course, you’re still limited by bond traders’ ability to predict which policies will work, but bond traders are usually more sober than the general electorate.

This system worked wonderfully for several decades, until Lord Bloodholme’s administration. He ran for President on an unconventional platform: if elected, he would declare himself Dictator-For-Life, replace democracy with sham elections, and kill all who opposed him. Based on his personality, all the bond traders found this completely believable. But that meant that in the end-of-term election, he would get 100% approval. His bond shot up to be worth nearly $100, the highest any bond had ever gone, and he won in a landslide. Alas, Lord Bloodholme was as good as his word, and – after a single sham election to ensure the bondholders got what they were due – that was the end of Clamzoria’s acausal democracy.


Cognito is a constitutional mobocracy.

It used to be a regular mobocracy. It had a weak central government, radicals would protest whenever they didn’t like its decisions, the protests would shut down major cities, and the government would cave. Then people on the other side would protest, and that would also shut down major cities, and the government would backtrack. Eventually they realized they needed a better way, made a virtue out of necessity, and wrote the whole system into their constitution.

The Executive Branch is a president elected by some voting system that basically ensures a bland moderate. They have limited power to make decrees that enforce the will of the legislature. The legislature is the mob. One proposes a bill by having a protest in favor of it. If the protest attracts enough people – the most recent number is 43,617, but it changes every year based on the population and a few other factors – then the bill is considered up for review. Anyone can propose amendments (by having a protest demanding amendments) or vote against it – (by having a protest larger than the original protest demanding that the bill not be passed). After everyone has had a fair chance to protest, the text of the bill supported by the largest protest becomes law (unless the largest protest was against any change, in which case there is no change).

The Cognitans appreciate their system because protests are peaceful and nondisruptive. The government has a specific Protesting Square in every city with a nice grid that lets them count how many protesters there are, and all protests involve going into the Protesting Square, standing still for a few minutes to let neutral observers count people up, and then going home. It’s silly to protest beyond this; your protest wouldn’t be legally binding!

There’s been some concern recently that corprorations pay protesters to protest for things they want. Several consumer watchdog organizations are trying to organize mobs in favor of a bill to stop this.


Yyphrostikoth is a meta-republic.

Every form of government has its own advantages and disadvantages, and the goal is to create a system of checks and balances where each can watch over the others. The Yyphrostikoth Governing Council has twelve members:

The Representative For Monarchy is a hereditary position.

The Representative For Democracy is elected.

The Representative For Plutocracy is the richest person in the country.

The Representative For Technocracy is chosen by lot from among the country’s Nobel Prize winners.

The Representative For Meritocracy is whoever gets the highest score on a standardized test of general knowledge and reasoning ability.

The Representative For Military Dictatorship is the top general in the army.

The Representative For Communism is the leader of the largest labor union.

The Representative For Futarchy is whoever has the best record on the local version of Metaculus.

The Representative For Gerontocracy is supposedly the oldest person in the country who is medically fit and willing to serve, but this has been so hard to sort out that in practice they are selected by the national retirees’ special interest group from the pool of willing candidates above age 90.

The Representative For Minarchy is an honorary position usually bestowed upon a respected libertarian philosopher or activist. It doesn’t really matter who holds it, because their only job is to vote “no” on everything, except things that are sneakily phrased so that “no” means more government, in which case they can vote “yes”. If a Representative For Minarchy wants to vote their conscience, they may break this rule once, after which they must resign and be replaced by a new Representative.

The Representative For Republicanism is selected by the other eleven members of the council.

The Representative For Theocracy is the leader of the Governing Council, and gets not only her own vote but a special vote to break any ties. She is chosen at random from a lottery of all adult citizens, on the grounds that God may pick whoever He pleases to represent Himself.

Long ago, the twelfth Councilor was the Representative For Kratocracy (rule by the strongest). The Representative For Kratocracy was whoever was sitting in the Representative For Kratocracy’s chair when a vote took place. This usually involved a lot of firefights and hostage situations, which was fine in principle – that was the whole point – except that the rest of the Governing Council kept getting caught in the crossfire. During the Nehanian Restoration, the Representative For Kratocracy’s chair was moved to a remote uninhabited island, with the Representative permitted to vote by video-link, but environmentalist groups complained that the constant militia battles there were harming migratory birds. Finally, a petition was sent to the Oracle of Yaanek, asking what to do. The God recommended that the position be eliminated, and offered to decide who filled the newly vacated seat Himself; thus the beginning of the Representative For Theocracy.

The Constitution was never fully amended, so technically the position is still the Representative For Kratocracy, and technically anyone who kills the Representative For Theocracy can still take his seat and gain immense power. But for some reason everyone who tries this dies of completely natural causes just before their plan comes to fruition. Must be one of those coincidences.

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190 Responses to Slightly Skew Systems Of Government

  1. Eli says:

    Cognito is basically a mix of how the DSA actually works, and Bookchinism scaled up.

  2. RC-cola-and-a-moon-pie says:

    Tangent, but I’ve gone through my whole life not knowing that “skew” is an adjective. I would have used “skewed” or “askew,” and this usage jumped out at me. But sure I enough, I looked it up and there it is. My bad.

  3. Donald Hobson says:

    The small island nation of East Renfrew was founded when a shipment of programmers were stranded on a deserted island.
    The most notable feature of their government is the use of algorithmic referendums.
    A government can declare an algorithmic referendum about various issues, and an algorithmic referendum happens every 5 years on income tax, amongst other issues.
    First, the government decides on the allowed inputs, in the case of income tax, this might be your before tax income (Int), your charitable donations (Int) and your marital status (Bool) or whatever. The result of the algorithmic referendum will be a computer program that is the new tax code, it takes in these inputs and calculates tax owed. A programming language is chosen for the code to be written in. This will be a simple language, with strong typing and an easily parse-able syntax. Then every voter can write a program (in any of the many supported programming languages) that takes in a proposed tax program, and return an integer (1,0 or -1) indicating approval, disapproval or no vote. (Voters can also specify whether to default to Approve, disapprove or no vote in the event of their program crashing, taking too long to run or outputing something other than a valid integer.)

    Then anyone can propose a new tax code. The no-hopers are ruled out on a random sampling of vote program’s, (to save compute) but all the serious contenders are fed into all the vote programs. The computer programs written by the voters then approval vote on the new tax codes. The winner is the program with the best ratio of approve to disapprove. (There are usually thousands of serious contenders, too many to vote for in person, also knowing what the other contenders are were would make it easier to vote strategically, which is considered cheating) The person who made the winning tax code gets a substantial prize, with several runner up prizes as well. (To encourage plenty of submissions) All previous voter programs are publicly available.

    Some voter programs just evaluate the tax code at a few points, sometimes just the tax details of the voter, and make a decision based on that. Some attempt differentiation, polynomial approximation, root finding and all manor of interesting algorithms. Some attempt to prove monotonicity or continuity or whatever.
    This usually has a result of producing a relatively simple taxcode, as the complicated taxcodes make many of the static analysis algorithms break, and disapprove by default.

    For those citizens that can’t code, or are too busy, there are plenty of people saying “just use my program, it does X”.

    • 10240 says:

      Because of the difficulty (in the general sense impossibility) of evaluating semantic properties of programs, I don’t see this as working well. If programs just evaluate the tax code programs in a few points, it’s easy to smuggle in loopholes like “if you make exactly $69420, no tax is owed”. The only way I see around it is to only approve a small set of known formats, which defeats the purpose of allowing arbitrary algorithms to be submitted. (Unless the parameter space is small enough that a program can evaluate the tax code program in all possible inputs.)

  4. Jameson Quinn says:

    The problem of futarchy in general, including Clamzoria in particular, isn’t just “redefining terms post-hoc” as in the Bloodholme exploit. The bigger problem is that sampling from a high-dimensional posterior is exponentially hard (to do a good job at), unless you have a smart proposal distribution to start from. Clamzoria might work* for a few cycles if they had a good proportional voting method for up-front “primary elections” to determine which candidates’ bonds even go on the market; but without that, it would inevitably suffer market failure on the very first “election” they ran.

    * Actually, of course, another problem is that no system you could possibly define in 5 paragraphs is going to work. It only takes one security hole for the whole system to come crashing down, and I can count 4 holes in the original Clamzoria proposal without even trying. My point above about high-dimensional posteriors is not the biggest such hole, just the one I think is hardest to fix with a superficial patch. This isn’t really a criticism of fun speculation like the OP, just a warning that it’s dangerous to take it too seriously.

    • Ryan Beren says:

      It only takes one security hole for the whole system to come crashing down

      In what sense? Did you mean in reference to futarchy and financialized systems specifically, where people will be directly rewarded for taking advantage of the security holes — or for systems in general?

      I’d be inclined to interpret it as the latter, since people also take advantage of badly defined rules to acquire power (and then wealth) even without direct monetary mis-feedback. But on the other hand, our present government design is mostly holes, and yet it’s stuck around for quite a while.

  5. Null42 says:

    Between the time when the oceans drank Miami and the rise of the sons of AI, there was an age undreamed of. And unto this, Conan, destined to wear the badge of the Representative for Kratocracy of Yyphrostikoth upon a troubled dress shirt…

  6. alext says:

    Draconia: Normal democratic elections, but all candidates must also submit the punishment that they agree to receive *if they screw up*. Screwing up is decided by popular vote at the end of their mandate. There are no limits of any kind on the punishments. Campaign slogans range from “I’ll increase GDP by 1% or pay the difference out of my pocket!” to“I’ll make Draconia great again, or you can skin me alive!”.

    Entrustia: direct democracy with vote forwarding. All citizens can (electronically, secretly) assign their vote to someone else that they trust. Vote forwarding can be either restricted to a specific issue (eg about a particular law) or for a specified time interval, or simply until the citizen changes his mind. The amount of votes each individual is entrusted with is public knowledge, but not who those votes came from.

    Conservatoria: direct democracy, where votes for the status quo are worth twice the votes for change. Any new law (or change to a current law) needs twice as many YAYs as NAYs. Elected officials (including the president) are replaced when a challenger requests (and pays for) elections and receives twice as many votes as the incumbent. The constitution changes only if at least 2/3 of all citizens vote in favor of the change.

    • alchemy29 says:

      Conservatoria is almost the US. Incumbents are almost always re-eelcted (House re-election rates are over 90% and Senate re-election rates are about 85%). New legislation requires 60/100 votes in the Senate, half the votes in the house and the president to sign off. That’s probably a higher bar than a a single legislative body with 66% threshold. The US process for amending the constitution is a much higher bar than a 2/3 popular vote.

      The rule change for elections would make elected officials pretty much lifetime positions. I could only find one incumbent who lost by a 2:1 margin – this guy. Not counting people who were appointed then lost.

      • alext says:

        The rule change for elections would make elected officials pretty much lifetime positions.

        Sure, and that’s a good thing (in their view). Experience builds up and the diminished constant dread of the next elections lets the official actually take a few risks and plan in the longer term. But if he screws up and annoys everybody, a challenger will pounce on the occasion, call an election and oust him.

      • No One In Particular says:

        New legislation requires 60/100 votes in the Senate

        Cite? I think you’re confusing cloture with passage.

    • Entrustia is pretty much liquid democracy, a system which some people seriously advocate for.

    • No One In Particular says:

      A variant of Entrustia would be where the top, say, five vote-getters from each district is admitted to the legislature. Anyone who didn’t vote for one of the five has their vote assigned to one of the five (STV). A When there’s a vote in the legislature, the each side’s vote total is the sum, over all the legislators that vote that way, of how many votes the legislators got. It gets proportional representation without being dependent on parties. Candidates could still organize themselves into parties, but parties wouldn’t decide what the slates are, there would be no party primary one has to win to get on the ballot, etc. And it significantly reduces the benefit for gerrymandering (on the margins, you might be able to shift who gets into the fifth slot, but the effect is going to be small).

  7. sustrik says:

    >> Do the parties just get together, agree to a certain allotment and it’s just a very strongly held norm among parliamentarians to follow that allotment?

    > I think that’s exactly what they do. A coalition of parties with a majority could shut the other parties out of the Federal Council entirely, and the only thing stopping them is the norm to not do that. I get the impression that Swiss parties get along much better than American or British parties.

    It’s called “concordance system”:

    In essence, the entire political systems is finely tuned so that parties and politicians are strongly incentivised to cooperate and do the decisions by consensus.

  8. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Long ago, the twelfth Councilor was the Representative For Kratocracy (rule by the strongest). The Representative For Kratocracy was whoever was sitting in the Representative For Kratocracy’s chair when a vote took place. This usually involved a lot of firefights and hostage situations, which was fine in principle – that was the whole point – except that the rest of the Governing Council kept getting caught in the crossfire. During the Nehanian Restoration, the Representative For Kratocracy’s chair was moved to a remote uninhabited island, with the Representative permitted to vote by video-link, but environmentalist groups complained that the constant militia battles there were harming migratory birds.

    No, wrong. It’s on the mainland near Lake Nemi.

  9. CptDrMoreno says:

    Yyphrostikoth should have an antidemocratic seat.
    Every person can vote to preclude one person from office, the system will tell you if someone has already been precluded, so you don’t waste your vote, but you can still vote for someone already precluded, just to dunk on them.
    How they choose among the remaining population doesn’t matter, lots, regular votes, more anti-vote rounds where the least precluded wins, you already guarantee almost nobody will disagree with the outcome.

  10. Sorghum says:

    I have an idea which is less esoteric than any of these but still unlikely to actually be implemented. One of the main problems with democracy is that the masses inevitably vote themselves an ever-larger share of the wealth of the productive minority. In the long term, taxes and spending only ever trend upwards.

    To fix this I propose an overhauled bicameral parliament. The lower house is the House of Representatives and behaves in the usual way, with representatives chosen geographically. But the upper house is the House of Taxpayers and is selected by a process where an individual’s voting power is proportional to how much tax they have paid over the past five years. First you order every taxpayer in the country by total tax burden, then you split them into a hundred or so chunks with equal tax burden so that one representative is elected by a small number of the most taxed people, the next by a slightly larger set of slightly less taxed people, and so on downwards.

    As in an ordinary bicameral legislature, both houses would need to agree on any bill to pass it, so there is a natural tension between the people who are affected by a new law (everyone equally) and those who have to pay for it (everyone, vastly unequally).

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      Tax burden: total amount of taxes paid, or proportion of income/wealth paid in taxes?

      41 And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. 42 And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. 43 And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: 44 For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.
      Mark 12:41-44

      Because I could easily see this going bad if it is the first option and the wealthier citizens decide to make the poorest pay draconian levels of taxes (like through a 100% VAT on groceries).

      I assume this system would only count federal taxes? That would make sense, but if the system was implemented on a state level as well then they’d have to find a way to properly attribute sales taxes to each citizen. Would fees count as well, or just taxes?

      And would this apply to citizen taxpayers, or non-citizen taxpayers as well?

    • bullseye says:

      This reminds me of the Roman Tribal Assembly and Centuriate Assembly. Both consisted of all adult male citizens, but the latter gave more voting power to the rich.

    • Hoopdawg says:

      Ah, the old Prussian class system. (They had only three brackets, though.)

      “When the Gentry Party was in power, it established Nobility Diet, a monthly reward to every adult member of the country’s aristocracy for their important services to the community. While the diets are high, they’re taxed at 99.9%, so their burden on state’s finances is minimal. Even so, the very idea behind it has numerous enemies among the commoner parties. However, attempts to abolish this law somehow never pass the House of Taxpayers.”

      That was an extreme example (though, hopefully, uncontroversial in the sense of not being offensive to the resident libertarian community), but I hope it points to a wider problem with the very idea of treating money as a measure of productivity, and taxes as measure of contribution to the state – it overlooks the humongous influence the state has in determining who gets to earn and possess money in the first place.

    • Gwythyr says:

      There is one fantasy\sci-fi\weirdnesss example (mentioned only in passing, so it was not explained thoroughly) had the vote based on wealth with two caveats. First, you must deposit money on your “voting account” which earns no interest, so you’re providing the state with a free credit (and to prevent shenanigans voting power is calculated based on the amount of money in the voting account a week before the vote – no depositing and withdrawing within an hour). Second, voting power is less than linear – three “wealthy merchants” (ambiguous term but definitely no worse than a top 1%) can outvote the wealthiest man in the world.

      It’s not clear whether there is a lower limit on wealth deposited or you can deposit 1 [unit of currency} and have at least 1/100th of the “wealthy merchant” voting power. Also not sure whether it is possible (or even desirable) to fix the systems’ preference for cash money over real estate, factories etc.

    • DocKaon says:

      I have an idea which is less esoteric than any of these but still unlikely to actually be implemented. One of the main problems with democracy is that the masses inevitably vote themselves an ever-larger share of the wealth of the productive minority. In the long term, taxes and spending only ever trend upwards.

      I always hear this, but I can’t think of an example where this has happened, at least to the point where it becomes a significant issue. Can you provide an actual historical example?

      • Ryan Beren says:

        It might be from a 1948 op-ed, but presumably it was put into the zeitgeist by Reagan.

        I spent a little while googling and reading descriptions of democracies that have failed. The most common failure mode is electing a dictator. It seems there are none that have failed due to excessive taxation. Now granted, “failure” might be too rigorous an endpoint; maybe the intent of the idea is merely a soft sense that taxes go up over the long term. I think in Reagan’s era that could seem true of the U.S., but it’s certainly been falsified by the last 40 years. And it’s similarly untrue of a wide variety of other democracies.

    • No One In Particular says:

      The masses have the advantage of numbers, but the rich have the advantage of being rich. I don’t think that the rich not having their voice heard is a major problem.

  11. Campion says:

    Other potential members of the Yyphrostikoth Governing Council:
    The Representative for Globalism is selected by lot from the ambassadors of all nations with which Yyphrostikoth has diplomatic relations.
    The Representative for Imperialism is the ambassador for the nation Yyphrostikoth has diplomatic relations with that has the largest military.
    The Representative for Localism is the mayor of the town where the Governing Council is meeting. This location changes on a regular basis.
    The Representative for Conservatism always votes against any proposal for change. The Representative for Progressivism always votes for any proposal for change. Together, they have no effect on the Council’s decision at all.
    The Representative for Constitutionalism is not a person but a series of rules on how to vote on particular topics; whenever a vote is held, the vote of the Representative for Constitutionalism is counted as having voted for whatever side these rules dictate it should take. A two-thirds majority of the Council is required to change the rules for how the Representative for Constitutionalism votes.
    The Representative for Kritarchy was originally the Chief Justice of the High Court of Yyphrostikoth (who resigned that job on taking the post), but anyone may become the Representative for Kritarchy by filing a suit before the High Court claiming they should have the job. If they convince the court, they become the new representative. If the Representative for Kritarchy dies on the job, the position is disposed of in his will, but this disposal may, of course, be contested in court by anyone who claims it should have been left to him instead.
    The Representative for Kleptocracy is whoever shows up to the council meeting with the ID badge of the Representative for Kleptocracy.
    The Representative for Real Communism has not yet been appointed.
    The Representative for Thalassocracy is the sea.

    • Sorghum says:

      The representative for Meta-Meta-Republicanism is held by some wiseass whose natural instinct upon seeing a a Meta-Republic is to say “But couldn’t you have a meta-meta-Republic made up of representatives from different types of meta-Republic?”

      Their job is to consider carefully what sort of decision would have been made by all possible combinations of infinite stacks of meta-Republics, and then just vote that way.

  12. thasvaddef says:

    Ultra-white nationalism:

    The white supremacist group that took power in Beloalbion believes that white is right. Only white people can hold any kind of position of power. However, they don’t believe in predestination, so they support large government subsidies for skin-whitening makeup and surgery. The legislative assembly is selected by choosing the whitest candidate in each county. The electoral official shines a light on a random patch of each candidate’s skin, and a light sensor is held at a random angle from the skin. Whoever gives the highest reading on the sensor is selected. The randomisation was introduced in response to candidates winning by simply grafting mirrors to their foreheads. The “vote” on legislation is performed by shining a white light on the representatives in favour, and comparing the reflected light to the light from the dissenting representatives. The issue is thus determined by a combination of the number for and against, as well as the size of representatives, their arrangement, and the whiteness of their skin (representatives are of course required to vote naked).

  13. Ryan Beren says:

    Is Clamzoria really acausal, or just a riff on futarchy? A few years back I was a big fan of futarchy and wrote up a variation that (1) avoids using money, as some prediction market features don’t fit well into ordinary ideas about what democracy entails, and (2) is explicitly geared toward classical utilitarianism.

    … The key elements that create the positive feedback loop are polls and predictions. The polls ask voters how satisfied they are on several topics, and people try to predict what the answers will be. The predictions then are used to pass the bills that will make people the most satisfied. Then the consequences of the passed bills affect how satisfied people are, and the new polls are used to evaluate the accuracy of the predictions. …

    I never built the suggested mobile app because I moved on to other projects that actually pay. 🙂 And moreover, I now think that the only reforms that can actually succeed are very simple ones that almost everyone can understand. Approval voting, like you mentioned the Clamzorians using, is indeed one of the very best!

  14. Frederic Mari says:

    but by the end of their term, voters know if the country is doing well or not.

    A pretty big weakness.

    As we can see in our modern world, complexity and multi factors causes defeat the ability of voters of knowing exactly that.

    Not to mention that voters may well vote their values, against their material interests and thus whether the country is richer isn’t the main point for many voters…

  15. James Green says:

    Republicanism isn’t a form of government.

    It essentially indicates who theoretically owns a country, in the case of a republic the that would be the whole population. In the case of a typical monarchy the monarch owns the country. In my own country of New Zealand the Queen owns the country but the government is decided by democracy.

    • Sorghum says:

      The Queen doesn’t own New Zealand (nor any of her other realms) in any sense; not in a practical sense of course but also not even in some airy-fairy technically legal sense.

      • James Green says:

        She does. What do think “The Crown” means in all those legal documents? It doesn’t mean “we the people” that’s for sure, even though in a practical sense the people do in fact hold the power on paper they don’t.

        You can have a republic that is a dictatorship (DPR Korea) and a monarchy that is a democracy (New Zealand), this shows that monarchy and republic aren’t really forms of government but forms of state instead.

        Also, Wikipedia says:

        A republic (Latin: res publica, meaning “public affair”) is a form of government in which the country is considered a “public matter”, not the private concern or property of the rulers. The primary positions of power within a republic are attained, through democracy, oligarchy, or a mix thereof, rather than being unalterably occupied. It has become the opposing form of government to a monarchy and has therefore no monarch as head of state.

        • “The Crown” doens’t mean the monarch as a person, either, though,

          Whilst the Crown frequently refers to the monarch, this reference is to the monarch in his or her capacity as monarch, and does not refer to that individual in his or her totality of ownership interests and actions. The monarch can act in an official capacity (as the Crown) and in a private capacity. This duality of characterization can be illustrated in several ways. In property ownership for example, although both are royal residences, Buckingham Palace is the property of the Crown via the Crown Estate (an organ of government) whilst Balmoral Castle is the property of Elizabeth II personally, and not of the Crown.

  16. Forlorn Hopes says:

    Surely in Clamzoria a candidate could promise a wealth of tax-cuts and public spending in their last year of office to pump up their approval rating.

  17. Trofim_Lysenko says:

    Errr…I’d actually sort of like to see the Meta-Republican model experimented with. Maybe it’s just because I’ve seen the creation of better systems of government to be the exercise of balancing opposing interests against each other and structuring the incentives, checks, and balances right, but it appeals to me.

  18. 10240 says:

    The Representative For Theocracy is the leader of the Governing Council, and gets not only her own vote but a special vote to break any ties. She is chosen at random from a lottery of all adult citizens, on the grounds that God may pick whoever He pleases to represent Himself.

    Incidentally, she is also the representative for sortition, which sort of justifies her double vote.

  19. sustrik says:

    The republic of Upper Keratonia had a rule that the winning party is, after election, forcefully split into two parties. The two strongest leaders of the original party headed the new parties. This led to bitter intra-party conflict. The leader of the strongest party was trying to subvert his own party so that it scored second in the elections. The second strongest member of the party was secretly trying to make the party win.

    This led to almost universal strategic voting and utter unpredictability of the election results.

    In mid XX. century, Upper Keratonians decided to simplify the system and replace it by choosing the officials at random.

    • bullseye says:

      The system in your last paragraph is called “sortition”, and actually saw some use in Ancient Greece. It was considered more democratic than popular elections, because it tended to pick regular guys instead of skilled public speakers.

      • B_Epstein says:

        They even paid people who were chosen at random for their participation, so that poor people would not be penalized by losing a work’s day. Some used this as a source of potential income, trying to get early into the candidate lists (and were then mocked by Aristophanes).

  20. Eric Rall says:

    The Metaconstitutional Republic of Jeffersonia was founded on a stringent interpretation of Social Contract theory. The fundamental document underlying the country’s government, the Metaconstitution, provides that laws will be enacted and executed by a government operating under a constitution written by a popular convention and ratified by a majority of all adult citizens. It further provides that all laws automatically sunset once it becomes the case that a majority of current citizens had been ineligible to vote in the elections that lead to the law’s ratification. This principle also extends to constitutions: the entire constition and all laws and offices under it become void automatically if a majority of the population hadn’t been eligible to vote in the last constitutional referedum. Governments generally acted to avoid an interregnum by organizing a new convention and ratification vote a few years in advance of when the Metaconstitution would force a dissolution of the old Constitution.

    Jeffersonia eventually collapsed into a decades-long civil war after an outgoing government refused to step down on the grounds that the Framers of the Metaconstitution were all long dead, and thus by its own logic the Metaconstitution was now void.

  21. John Schilling says:

    Kobyashimaruistan is nominally a representative democracy, but the election system is carefully designed so that no valid vote can ever be cast for any candidate.

    • TeMPOraL says:

      Whoever gets the most valid votes becomes the president (ties are solved by random selection), and the cabinet is selected from among the people who’ve somehow managed to cast a valid vote.

    • No One In Particular says:

      Unless you hack the voting machine.

  22. VampyFlameo says:

    The nation of Jestadad never has a majority in Parliament. Each election cycle, a given district is required to send three individuals to Parliament, all belonging to a different party. As a result, the largest a party can ever get is one third of Parliament, and if they ever decide to pass legislation, they must cooperate with another party to get it passed. The first Prime Minister was selected by lot, and was allowed to hold his office for 10 years maximum, followed by a Prime Minister from a different party, decided by which party in Parliament had gone the longest without holding the office. This precedent in their history meant that from then on, the longest a party can hold the office is 10 years. When he selects his cabinet, the Prime Minister must pick the members in proportion to the makeup of Parliament, which means that the largest hold of the cabinet a party can get is one third, plus the Prime Minister.

    For decades, Jestadad had a vibrant culture of debating different ideas, until slowly the country’s political culture turned into a three party system. The largest and third largest parties decided to agree on all legislation, effectively cutting out the second largest party, since all parties had a third of Parliament, and two thirds majority was sufficient to pass all legislation. This lasted for two decades, until Neville No-Nonsense of the second party took the Prime Minister’s office and sought to pass groundbreaking legislation. When neither of the other parties wanted to lose their power and voted down the legislation, No-Nonsense led a military coup, and added one amendment to the constitution, wherein any two parties that agree on legislation at least 80% of the time must become a united party at the beginning of the next term, and new members of Parliament would take their place.

    Unfortunately, for No-Nonsense’s first term, the first and third parties wanted to hold onto their power, and introduced meaningless legislation about changing the names of streets, both parties “disagreeing” about what to do with the bill, and the bill either passing or not depending on the second party. This resulted in enough meaningless legislation to be passed that the first and third parties could maintain their hold of Parliament, while also wasting enough time to not be forced to give up their seats.

    No-Nonsense, tired of all the nonsense, led another military coup at the beginning of his second term, and decided to limit the percentage of allowed agreement to “important legislation”, which would take a supermajority to recognize as important. This meant that, in theory, the second party could now have a say in what Jestadad’s Parliament could actually pass, and hampered the first and third parties’ ability to control the government. And yet, the first and third parties voted all the legislation they actually wanted to pass as “unimportant”, and the two parties could then proceed to pass what they wanted unencumbered. Since a Prime Minister’s term is 5 years long, Neville No-Nonsense had to retire from office, and the third party took control.

    Twenty years later, Neville’s son, Ronald Really-Means-No-Nonsense, became the Prime Minister of Jestadad as part of the second party, and led yet another coup, requiring that all legislation must be passed with a majority proportionate to the makeup of Parliament, with a 10% margin of error allowed when perfect proportionality could not happen. This ended the half-century rule of the first and third parties, known in Jestadad as the “Reign of Redundancy”, since the second party fell into redundancy and fought for 50 years to be a relevant part of Parliament.

    • sustrik says:

      This is, to some extent, how it works in Switzerland:

      • Protagoras says:

        Wait a minute. Both the page on the magic formula and the page on the federal council say there are 7 members, but the photographs on both pages show 8 people. Conspiracy!

        • Mabuse7 says:

          If the Swiss Federal Council is a board of directors, then the Chancellor is the Company Secretary.

          I’m more peeved that in all of the descriptions of the Swiss Federal Council and the Magic Formula I’ve seen, none actually explain how the Swiss Parliament elects the Councillors or how the Formula is determined and maintained.

          • bullseye says:

            After watching this video, I get the impression that there isn’t actually a mathematical formula; just an ad hoc feeling that it’s about fair for certain parties to get two seats each and certain others one.

          • sustrik says:

            They are elected by the parliament. It thus sometimes happens that a moderate, more acceptable member of a party is chosen even though the party in question would prefer a different candidate.

          • Mabuse7 says:

            Yes, but how do the parties enforce the Formula? If they can’t dictate what candidate from a party is elected by the Parliament then how are they ensuring that each major party gets so many Council seats? Do the parties just get together, agree to a certain allotment and it’s just a very strongly held norm among parliamentarians to follow that allotment?

          • bullseye says:

            Do the parties just get together, agree to a certain allotment and it’s just a very strongly held norm among parliamentarians to follow that allotment?

            I think that’s exactly what they do. A coalition of parties with a majority could shut the other parties out of the Federal Council entirely, and the only thing stopping them is the norm to not do that. I get the impression that Swiss parties get along much better than American or British parties.

          • Mabuse7 says:

            Makes me wonder how a Magic Formula-style system could be constitutionally codified, perhaps a mechanism whereby the proportional size of a party’s presence in parliament determines the maximum number of council seats they can occupy?

          • sustrik says:

            It’s called “concordance system”:

            In essence, the entire political systems is finely tuned so that parties and politicians are strongly incentivised to cooperate and do the decisions by consensus.

            As for constitutional codification, Magic Formula is not codified, but there have been some talk about codifying it. Example.

            In any case, my impression is that in a similar way how majority voting system provides incentives to form a two party system, direct democracy incentivises power sharing systems, such as e.g. Magic Formula.

          • 10240 says:

            A coalition of parties with a majority could shut the other parties out of the Federal Council entirely, and the only thing stopping them is the norm to not do that.

            Somewhere I’ve read that the reason the concordance system is maintained is that it’s easy to force a referendum on any issue, and referendums are common. If a coalition of parties with, say, 55% of the seats attempted to form a government (as is common in other countries), then if the popularity of the coalition ever dropped below 50% (which happens to most governments with slim majorities at some point), people could defeat all their initiatives in referendums, making it impossible to govern.

          • sustrik says:

            It’s somehow more complex.

            In the broad sense “concordance” means pulling the largest possible number of actors (parties, associations, minorities, social groups) into the political process. Given that anybody can challenge any law in referendum (and there’s no quorum, so even small minorities can block a law) there’s a real effort being expended to consult new laws with all the stakeholders.

            However, referenda are always about laws, never about execution, and so, seemingly, the executive branch has no strong incentive to take part in any power sharing arrangements.

            But the concordance still somehow leaks through. But it happens very slowly: 1848 – modern Switzerland is established. 1891 – first time a member of opposition gets a seat in government. 1959 – magic formula introduced. 2003 – the formula is modified for the first time, to reflect shifting political landscape. 2020 – possibility of turning the formula into an actual algorithm is discussed.

  23. Rusty says:

    It seems vaguely relevant so I’ll mention here that I did a podcast with David Friedman on his book Legal Systems Very Different from Ours.

  24. Ninety-Three says:

    I was expecting Clamzoria to fall when its citizens realized there was no incentive for them to connect their vote to their actual opinion of the official and it all turned into some kind of elaborate fraud scheme to maximize bond payouts.

  25. teneditica says:

    Another problem with the acausal democracy is that demagogoues would start railing against that system, organizing revolutions, riots, etc.., rather then trying get their share of the loot within it.

  26. TheMidniteWolf says:

    The Representative for Minarchy only makes sense if it’s countered by a Representative for Totalitarianism that votes “yes” on anything that increases government power. Since totalitarian philosophers are hard to come by, it would probably just be filled by a SocDem who enjoys spiting libertarians.

    • Ttar says:

      totalitarian philosophers are hard to come by

      This is why there is no Representative for Totalitarianism, only for Minarchy.

    • John Richards says:

      Create an opportunity for a job as a political leader, and you’ll soon see a rise in numbers of totalitarian philosophers.

    • Jerden says:

      I’d assume that the council is in favour of more power by default, so a representative to counter that seems reasonable.

    • eric23 says:

      No point in having two representatives whose votes will always offset each other.

    • PhaedrusV says:

      There are plenty of totalitarian philosophers. Plato comes to mind.

  27. Donald Hobson says:

    Compuvaria is a Recursive Representative democracy. They decided that representative democracy was all very well, but who chooses the candidates?
    The entire voting population is grouped into level 1 counsels based on local area. Each counsel consists of about 5 to 7 people. The counsel votes on one of their members to be a level 1 representative.
    Around 5 to 7 level one counsels are grouped into a level 2 counsel based on area. The level 1 representatives vote on a level 2 representative from among their number. The process is repeated until a single level 9 representative is chosen. It used to be a level 8 representative, fortunately the constitution was written with population growth in mind. All representatives are paid about £10 per year for each person they represent directly and each layer of indirection halves that.

    Some issues are decided by the highest level representative, whereas others are decided more locally by representatives or by votes of lower level counsels. All powers reside with the head counsel until delegated to lower layers. But they don’t want to make every little decision, so they delegate to lower level counsels. (The constitution limits their ability to delegate to anyone other than a lower counsel)

    While Compuvaria has a separate investigative system to decide on the facts of a criminal case. Counsels can vote to excuse people of crimes if they feel that the legal penalty is unfairly harsh in a particular case, or that there are extenuating circumstances. Minor crimes might face level 2 counsels, while more serious crimes face level 3 or even 4. Criminals always face the counsel that contains their representative.

    • There is a medieval Muslim story along those lines, I think in al Tanukhi. It involves a new ruler somewhere in India who wants an opinion from the people on his rule.

      Each village selects its wisest man. The ten wisest men from each ten villages select the wisest of them. It goes on until there are a total of ten wisest men. They, with ten courtiers, go in to advise the king.

    • 10240 says:

      Some dictatorships (e.g. China) have had rigged versions of this system (albeit with fewer levels). It makes it easy for one party to be in total control, even with a moderate amount of rigging: even if people occasionally manage to vote an opposition candidate or two into the lowest level councils, they typically won’t have the majority, so the second level will be 100% or near 100% pro-government; the third level even more so.

      • No One In Particular says:

        To expand on that, to win the popular vote in the US, you have to get 51% of the vote. To win the electoral vote, you need 51% of the vote in states that make up 51% of the electoral votes, so theoretically you could win with slightly more than one fourth of the popular vote. Each layer you add halves the percentage needed. With ten levels, it’s theoretically possibly to win with just 0.1% of the vote.

    • Brendan.Furneaux says:

      Minor crimes might face level 2 counsels

      If I understand correctly, a level 2 council represents a district of 25-49 people. That’s not even the size of my apartment building. What is Compuvaria criminalizing that can be appropriately pardoned by such a small group? Even a parking violation or noise complaint would have impacts on people beyond the “district”.

      • PhaedrusV says:

        The districts wouldn’t even necessarily be geographically determined. The point is that when Alice gets a noise complaint with her crazy partying her level 2 representative Cindy’s council is the one that has to deal with the hassle. Cindy will likely delegate punishment to Betilda, who is the most popular person in Alice’s circle of 5 friends.

        It doesn’t matter if Alice’s noise complaint was filed by Albert, in a completely different council sequence until level 5, who happens to be her next door neighbor. That’s the norm with level 2-4 cases, and some cases as high as level 7. Since most councils spend most of their time dealing with mis-behaviors of their members which affect members of other councils, a general consensus of over-punishment emerges in order to not be ‘that council’.

        Peer pressure within a council layer and desire to rise up to the next higher level pushes each representative to crack down hard on subordinates who misbehave. Soon, spitting on the sidewalk is punishable by public caning. Alice is sent to Siberia. Cindy gets selected as her council’s representative on level 3.

    • Doesntliketocomment says:

      Yes, but does this go far enough? Let us take it to the logical conclusion, the binariocracy.

      For the binariocracy, the election process is a multi-step affair, with numerous individual rounds called “binaries”. At the beginning of our election season, all eligible citizens are put in pairs and tasked to determine which of the two would be the better leader for the country. They have an hour. If they cannot agree, a third person is brought in at random from another group to break the tie. In the next step, two pairs are brought together and the two citizens not chosen to lead decide which of the two who were is the best. deadlocks are again resolved by a random individual. This continues on through each level, with those selected pairing off and being voted for by those not.

      At the end of the series, the top ranked choice is given executive power. The second-ranked is given the lead of the judiciary. The third ranked (two individuals) are given control of the legislature, with the one who was paired against the eventual winner declared the senior leader. The fourth and fifth ranks (twelve individuals) serve as the top judiciary, and ranks six though ten form a 496 person legislature. (there was some talk at one point of forming upper and lower houses by splitting at rank nine, but this was scrapped as there was no real cause for distinction)

      People who were binaried against the eventual top ranked choice in earlier rounds are often given attention by the media and the public, especially if the binary was a close one, as they might have otherwise finished at a high rank. They have no official status, but the notoriety tends to serve them well in later elections.

      As the number of the electorate is never an exact power of 2, the remainder are distributed by expanding the initial pairs into groups of three, in such a way that they are as evenly distributed as possible for later rounds. If the total count of the electorate is odd, one person at random is chosen to sit out. They will be the final tiebreaker in the unlikely case that the final binary is a tie, and are thrown a parade in honor of their civic commitment.

  28. pjiq says:

    How about, as maybe the opposite of clamzoria, “no $$ or parties democracy?”

    -donating to politicians/ receiving donations as a politician is illegal/ treated like getting bribes/ bribing a cop. No political ads/ parties.

    – anyone who wants to run for office registers on a special “democracy” website after getting, say, 100 friends to publicly back his or her campaign. You can only back 1 person, and if you run you can’t back anyone, so max # candidates n/101.

    – candidates running have to answer, say, 20 questions regarding policy and present themselves in a 5 minute video clip (edited for content, of course)- where they say who they are.

    – to narrow down the potentially massive list of candidates, the first round of voting simply consists of voting citizens being shown 2 candidates profiles randomly, and they have to choose which one they prefer. Those candidates in the bottom 20% of this process are eliminated then the process goes again. Repeat till down to, say, 25 candidates.

    – then have debates, then use ranked choice voting to narrow down the field to 2 candidates.

    – more debates, then people vote between these 2 candidates. Still no advertisements, billboards, fliers, etc.

    – so I guess basically still representative democracy but hoping to get rid of some of the circus/ corruption involved. Under the umbrella of “democracy, free speech, and human rights” there are many options, hopefully some of which are more ideal/ admirable than the current US political landscape.

    • sharper13 says:

      So in practice, the first portion selects for candidates with the best pollsters, writers, and video directors, while the second portion selects for the best debaters.

      Why would you want to select a leader based on those particular criteria?

      I mean, I look forward to the presidency of Ben Shapiro, but others may not…

      • pjiq says:

        Good point about videography, I should have clarified that the video blurb was simply a one take interview, not some heavily edited masterpiece of film.

        But it seems that you’re basically trolling me. Yes, it would preselect for people who can present themselves well and argue for their positions- more so than our current system. But isn’t that the sort of person you want leading/ interacting with the rulers of other nations? And it’s only exclusively about that skill set (rather than the candidates philosophy/ policy stance) if you assume persuasion is 100% about presentation and 0% about content. Anyone who believes in democracy/ free speech/ capitalism obviously thinks that content plays a part as well. And the point of my idea is to make the presentation style somewhat standardized, so the content of candidates can more clearly shine through.

    • No One In Particular says:

      So as soon as someone registers as a candidate, talking about them is felony? And you think this falls under the umbrella of free speech and human rights?

  29. Donald Hobson says:

    The country of Aviolletta is a autodevolved Statistical microdemocracy. Every government position is elected, down to every last small town librarian. But in practice, the cost of having every person in the country vote on who should be the librarian in a small town is huge, so instead, they asked a randomly selected subset of the population.
    In practice, every government position was written on a big list. Slips of paper listing every voter in the country were put into a big hat. For each government position, several voters were picked from the hat. These are the voters who get to choose a candidate for that position. The more important positions in government naturally have more people voting on them.
    In practice, this means that half a dozen people across the country got to select a librarian for a particular town, out of a list of everyone who applied for the job. If that librarian resigns or dies, then those half a dozen people got to choose a new one.

    Of course, this means that the government can’t increase in size without a new election.

    The downside of this is that a lot of people were voting on positions about which they knew little and cared less.

    Then they made it so that people can choose the position that they get to vote on. If I know a lot about books and libraries, and really want to elect a new librarian, I can do so. Of course, more people want to vote on candidates for the more important positions, but the more voters get to influence a position, the less influence each voter gets, so it all balances out. You can have a big influence on who the town librarian is, or a small influence on who the minister of health is. The problem with that is that if you have a bunch of friends, you can get yourself elected to positions that you are totally unsuitable for, and the people who notice this and want to use their vote to fix it have to wait until the next election.
    Now they operate on a system of continuous voting. Which is like casting the same vote again and again, every second. Anyone can change who they vote for and what position they are voting on at any time. All vote counts are public. To stop leadership constantly flipfloping on close fought positions, a new candidate must be ahead by at least squareroot(number of voters on that position) to push out the incumbent. The incumbent has 4 weeks to regain the largest number of votes before they are ousted. Sure this incentivizes switching around, constantly putting your vote onto the nearly tied positions, but not too much, and you probably want more politically active people to have a bit more influence anyway.

    • AlexOfUrals says:

      The problem came from a totally unexpected and unforeseen fact that the amount of people genuinely caring about professional qualities of government officials on all but the highest levels is negligible compared to the amount of people worried about some political agenda. So the major parties started to motivate their followers to vote on as many lower level positions as physically possible, wanting to get the control of the local government or at least prevent the opponents from doing so. Which of course lead to the situation where only the candidates supported by one of the two major parties could have any position at all. Because sure the entire population of your 5k people town may vote for you to be the local librarian because of how good you are at that. But the Yellow Party has a million supporters across the country who would click on every candidate on the list as fast as their can, and so does the Black party. And the fact that every position is all-or-nothing vote ensured that any vote for a smaller party is wasted. So the main determinant of who holds a given post on a given time became the random fluctuations in the number of voters these two parties can muster – with maybe the exception of a few high ranking officials, for which the entire country wanted to vote.

      This resulted in a peculiar dynamic in the citizens’ voting behavior. Since all voting is public and the parties spared no effort to convince their supporters to vote as much as they can, voting was expected to be a full-time job, or at least a major part of their lifestyle for any politically active citizen. On the other hand, the majority of people not concerned with partisan politics saw no sense in voting for anyone but the highest ranking officials, since their vote won’t affect anything. So the two politically active tribes devoted more and more resources for voting while everyone else just ignored the whole fuzz and went on with their lives.

      On the elected officials side, things quickly degraded to a complete chaos. Since any clerk can be voted out of their position at any second, why bother to do any work? Especially since you were voted here not because of any professional qualities but because you’re a loyal party member. And as such you may often hold more positions than you can remember, let alone manage. This lead to essential collapse of all governmental organizations – sure, higher ranking officials may still be kind of competent and giving orders and laws, but everyone below is far too disorganized to execute them. After a tough but short period of nothing working, private companies popped up to fill in the niche. Not for free of course, but people had spare money since nobody bothered to pay taxes which none was collecting or counting. Replacing post service and libraries with private companies was trivial, medicine and currency emission took more work, but eventually the sophisticated solutions were developed to make even law enforcement and national defense managed by private organizations. At the end everything worked out quite well, with a politically active minority firmly preoccupied with fighting for now-nominal positions and having no effect on anything of importance, and everyone else just minding they own business.

      One of the unsolved problems remained that of the national symbols – they are something that is almost by definition decided by the government officials or voting, so they kept changing unpredictably. But the other countries still needed something stable to represent Aviolletta in user interfaces and atlases and such. Eventually everyone just ended up using a simple flag in the colors of two major parties locked in their eternal senseless competition – a flag of yellow and black.

      • taxevasion says:

        Did you make that entire post solely for that joke?

      • Donald Hobson says:

        You misunderstand the system. You can only vote on one position at a time. If you decide to vote on the town librarian, you can’t vote on anything else. You have a limited amount of voting power. A politically motivated person can have a bit more effect by shopping around for near ties, but not that much.

  30. Bugmaster says:

    I’m actually curious about plutocracy. Let’s say I really did want to set up a government where leadership positions are sold on an open auction. How would I go about doing that ? For example, who holds the auction, and why would anyone trust them not to game the system or skim too much off the top ?

    • Jerden says:

      If you’re worried the Plutocracy will be corrupt, then why create a Plutocracy at all? The assumption is that the Plutocrats will create policy designed to enrich themselves further, which will be good for the economy as a whole.

      I think this is a stupid assumption.
      It would certainly be interesting.

    • silver_swift says:

      The same people that organize elections in our system and for the same reason we trust them in our system?

    • Gwythyr says:

      Some sort of auctioning the offices was proposed at least semi-seriously in conjunction with semi-post-scarcity (AKA significant Universal basic income or equivalent). Also science fiction writers at least tried to write about it. “The Four Thousand, the Eight Hundred” (a short but interesting read) has it. There is at least one other instance described somewhere (Singularity Sky?).

    • Furslid says:

      Each dollar paid in taxes gets one vote. Any company or individual that contracts or works for the government must sequester that income, and does not earn votes from it.

      The plutocratic market is in buying the votes from tax dollars, so if someone corruptly benefits themselves out of taxes they are simultaneously funding their opposition.

  31. ManyCookies says:

    Relevant Goblinpunch

    The Representative For Minarchy is an honorary position usually bestowed upon a respected libertarian philosopher or activist. It doesn’t really matter who holds it, because their only job is to vote “no” on everything, except things that are sneakily phrased so that “no” means more government, in which case they can vote “yes”.

    That actually sounds like a decidedly nontrivial office, much harder than an honorary figurehead spamming a novelty oversized No button. How do they vote on a compromise bill that expands one department but contracts another? A bill that broadly refactors the tax system? A bill ending some economic regulations that may or may not lead to expanding the social security net? Which candidate do they back for that Republican seat?

    • eric23 says:

      They don’t have to be perfect to be effective.

      Of course, even a perfect office-holder probably wouldn’t be effect at 1 out of 12 seats.

    • No One In Particular says:

      That actually sounds like a decidedly nontrivial office, much harder than an honorary figurehead spamming a novelty oversized No button.

      No, it’s not.

  32. thasvaddef says:

    I propose penentatsalinocracy.

    Rule is by a council of fifty members who are chosen on the basis of being genetically identical clones of former Soviet general secretary Joseph Stalin. Each year, 5 clones are produced by the National Cloning Laboratory. For maximum stalinity, the clones are sent to Georgia to be raised in poverty. On their 16th birthday, the clones are informed of their destiny and given 4 years to eliminate the other clones of their year group and to present themselves at the Council of Stalins building. Only one clone is admitted to the council each year. Elder Stalins are expected to retire at the age of 70, although due to deaths of serving council members this rarely happens in practice.

    All executive, judicial and legislative power is given over to the council of Stalins, as well as complete control over the media, military, economy and the actions and opinions of all citizens. Any disagreement among the Stalins is dealt with amongst themselves as they see fit.

    The concentration of power in the hands of the council ensures peace and tranquility compared to the constant protests and disputes in other systems. The command economy guarantees prosperity for all. The uniform age distribution of the council ensures that all age groups in society are represented, as opposed to most other systems which are often led exclusively by old men. There is no racial or gender discrimination, although in practice, males of the Georgian ethnicity tends to predominate.

    I know Scott thought of disadvantages to each of his systems, but I can’t think of any for penentatsalinocracy.

    • The Pachyderminator says:

      I really, really want to see this movie.

    • Exetali Do says:

      While of course this form of government is, in a limited sense, ideal, there *is* one disadvantage to this intermediate description – it’s non-stable. Surely you agree that a government of 51 Stalins is strictly better than a government of 50 Stalins? And of course, that government would eventually be replaced by one of 52 Stalins. Eventually this will result in the creation of a Stalin-derived Friendly AI to re-organize the energy and matter of this universe into the maximum number of Stalins possible. (Or perhaps some other wonderful Stalin-based system that my limited non-Stalin perceptions are incapable of comprehending.)

    • John Schilling says:

      Coming soon to a theater near you: “Death of Stalin XLVII: This Time It’s Kind of Boring Really”

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      This is reminding me of _A Confusion of Princes_ by Garth Nix. The ruler is the winner from a large number of optimized-from-birth candidates. It’s about a character fighting off his chosen one status.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:


    • PhaedrusV says:

      I know Scott thought of disadvantages to each of his systems, but I can’t think of any for penentatsalinocracy.

      Penentatsalinocracy will be gamed by the older Stalins. In order to retain a larger share of power, they will regularly kill all the clones being raised in poverty in Georgia, well before the clones are aware that they’re a target or capable of defending themselves.

      One clone will be hidden by his adoptive mother in a basket of reeds, and plucked from the waters by the daughter of one of the Stalins, and raised as her own, until he comes of age and seeks his birthright.

      • thasvaddef says:

        It comes down to whether each Stalin acts for his own benefit, or whether he recognises the other Stalins as part of himself. Selfish gene theory would predict that the Stalins would cooperate, but selfish Stalin theory predicts the opposite.

        In the end we would end up with either one supreme Stalin, or Stalins tending to infinity as Exetali Do above reasons.

        • No One In Particular says:

          As the Stalin genotype did not evolve in an environment of Stalin clones, there would be little for reason it to contain a “cooperate with other Stalin” gene.

    • alext says:

      IIRC, the Early Ottoman Empire had something similar. The Sultan had lots of kids, each got sent to rule a province or city to train in leadership. When Daddy dies, the first prince to reach the capital is the new Sultan and has to kill all his brothers. He doesn’t have a choice, it’s just how the system works, pity doesn’t come into it.

      The prince would win who could a) be assigned near the capital and b) build up a competent secret network of agents to ensure he got the news before his brothers. This ensured a level of ruthlessness and competence in the rulers. Went pretty good, while it lasted (conquered lots of Europe and Asia).

      Arguably, when they switched to a more humane system, it all started going downhill, the empire became the Sick Man etc.

  33. JulieK says:

    The Clamzorian system reminds me of Lewis Carroll’s take on academic tenure:

    “Am I right in thinking that in your Universities, though a man may reside some thirty or forty years, you examine him, once for all, at the end of the first three or four?”

    “That is so, undoubtedly,” I admitted.

    “Practically, then, you examine a man at the beginning of his career!” the old man said to himself rather than to me. “And what guarantee have you that he retains the knowledge for which you have rewarded him—beforehand, as we should say?”

    “None,” I admitted, feeling a little puzzled at the drift of his remarks. “How do you secure that object?”

    “By examining him at the end of his thirty or forty years—not at the beginning,” he gently replied. “On an average, the knowledge then found is about one-fifth of what it was at first—the process of forgetting going on at a very steady uniform rate—and he, who forgets least, gets most honour, and most rewards.”

    “Then you give him the money when he needs it no longer? And you make him live most of his life on nothing!”

    “Hardly that. He gives his orders to the tradesmen: they supply him, for forty, sometimes fifty, years, at their own risk: then he gets his Fellowship—which pays him in one year as much as your Fellowships pay in fifty—and then he can easily pay all his bills, with interest.”

    “But suppose he fails to get his Fellowship? That must occasionally happen.”

    “That occasionally happens.” It was Mein Herr’s turn, now, to make admissions.

    “And what becomes of the tradesmen?”

    “They calculate accordingly. When a man appears to be getting alarmingly ignorant, or stupid, they will sometimes refuse to supply him any longer. You have no idea with what enthusiasm a man will begin to rub up his forgotten sciences or languages, when his butcher has cut off the supply of beef and mutton!”

    “And who are the Examiners?”

    “The young men who have just come, brimming over with knowledge. You would think it a curious sight,” he went on, “to see mere boys examining such old men. I have known a man set to examine his own grandfather. It was a little painful for both of them, no doubt. The old gentleman was as bald as a coot——”

    • Mabuse7 says:

      Speaking of Lewis Carroll, he proposed an interesting electoral system of his own whereby people would vote for their favoured candidates and then the candidates could trade votes among themselves in order to get more likeminded candidates over the line for admission to the legislature, the idea was to create a system which would have similar results as STV or other PR systems but wouldn’t require voters to preference a large number of candidates.

  34. IvanFyodorovich says:

    “environmentalist groups complained that the constant militia battles there were harming migratory birds”

    I just read this phrase over and over and laugh.

    On a more serious note, I’ve gotten to see mobocracy in action, sort of. I lived in Nepal for the better part of a year. Whenever a political faction was angry about something, they called a bandh. The word is typically translated as “general strike” but that makes it sound too voluntary. A faction would call its hoodlums onto the street, and if you opened your business or drove your car around they would smash it up. Pharmacies and restaurants attached to tourist hotels were exempt.

    Writing about it, it’s amazing how regulated the protests were in that regard. I think it’s because they were organized by political factions rather than being loose movements.

    Nepal was supposed to draft a new constitution in 2012 and in the run-up to the deadline, every faction took turns calling bandhs to show their strength. You really could tell the strength of the faction by the compliance. When the royalists called a bandh, some businesses ignored it. When the Newar (the main ethnic group in Kathmandu) interest group called a bandh, you couldn’t even ride a bicycle. Finally the deadline for the constitution passed without agreement and the international press talked about how there was a huge political crisis in Nepal. I found that hilarious. There was no crisis. For the first time in weeks life was back to normal!

  35. Alejandro says:

    Cognito’s “protests” remind me of the legislative assemblies of the Roman Republic.

    • DizzyParsley says:

      Cognito’s constitutional mobocracy reminds me of the “town meeting” form of government I grew up with in New England. There was a “moderator” who tended to be a “bland moderate” as in Cognito, and policy decisions were made based on voice votes (“all in favor, say aye” “AYE” “all opposed, say nay” “NAY.”) For big decisions (funding an expansion of the high school, e.g.) my dad would bring me to add to the shouting, which was fun because I got to stay up late on a school night and shout in public.

  36. JohnBuridan says:

    Mrs. JohnBuridan says that you would have to schedule the protests at 1pm so that people would arrive by 5.

  37. bullseye says:

    The acausal democracy amounts to rich people predicting the preferences of ordinary people. Rich people think that ordinary people are a pack of morons, so it comes to “Which candidate will be best able to con the suckers into thinking he did a good job?”

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Presumably it’s harder to con people into thinking you did a good job than into thinking you will do a good job, so it sounds like the remaining concern is that rich people might think ordinary people are more connable than they actually are. I’m not sure that’s true – usually rich people underestimate the chances of demagogues rather than the opposite.

      • silver_swift says:

        I’d be more worried about rich people just eating a loss to get their preferred candidate elected.

        • zero says:

          I think this is the usual complaint with prediction markets being used to drive policy, and the usual counter is “If there’s an obvious difference, there’s money to be made on the other side.” “Rich people just eating a loss to get their preferred candidate elected” requires a level of coordination among all rich people that is extremely fragile.

          • po8crg says:

            Or it expects rich people to have similar preferences.

            They certainly have an interest in common – which is that they are rich. So if one candidate has policies that favour rich people vis-a-vis the other, one can reasonably expect rich people to be more likely to prefer that candidate to the other.

            Obviously, not all rich people are utterly selfish and some will prefer a candidate who is hostile to wealth. But we can reasonably expect that to be a minority.

          • Mary says:

            Being rich is not an interest but an attribute. It’s also a general one, which can contain a lot of conflict.

            For instance, a rich person who can structure his riches so he does not have a lot of income has an interest in high taxes on incomes so that rich people who can’t do that can’t accumulate as much and so rival him.

            Likewise, the details of their richness will result in a lot of differences in regulations and finer details of taxes.

          • 10240 says:

            @po8crg It not only requires rich people to have similar preferences, it also requires them to cooperate. If the collective interest of rich people is to predict A (which justifies a policy that benefits the rich), but the likely outcome B, then each rich person individually has an interest in betting on B. (Except if someone owns such a wealth that his effect on policy outweighs any gain from betting on B.)

          • Yosarian2 says:

            It doesn’t require all rich people to do it. If a certain industry is quite large compared to the economy as a whole, and a politician promises to subside that industry, people in that industry might be able to take a loss in order to get their candidate elected. Especially if the industry has a small number of people running it. Google, Apple, and Amazon pooling their money to elect the guy who promises a lot of free goodies to the tech industry seems quite potentially profitable for them, even if they end up taking a loss in the bond market 4 years later.

          • No One In Particular says:

            If a rich person is not selfish, they won’t want a bad politician to win. If they are selfish, they aren’t going to want to take a loss just so the general category “rich people” benefit. There are some possibilities left, though. Such as having a group-specific altruism, or one person being affected enough for the policies individually for the loss to be worth it, etc.

      • Garrett says:

        Counterargument: many of the things which are responsible for doing “well” are outside of the control of the executive. Eg. the President could make things a lot worse (probably) by nuking Florida. But it’s really hard to make the economy do well. Or ensure that some random event doesn’t tank it (insert various good/bad references to current events here).

    • Reasoner says:

      Still seems like an improvement over “Which candidate is best able to con the suckers into thinking they will do a good job?” (our current system).

      • Frederic Mari says:

        Not really.

        We have re elections with the same politicians, we have same parties proposing similar policies for decades on end.

        It doesn’t matter. People vote their feelings every time and that’s pretty much the end of it. Data and facts are by and large irrelevant.

    • JulieK says:

      I wonder why the ordinary people would even bother voting. (Voting should probably be compulsory.)

      • Garrett says:

        I’m of the reverse view – you should only vote if you really, really care. That’s why I’m in-favor of a poll tax of something like $20.

        • Waffle says:

          This filters less for people who really really care, and more for people who can freely throw around $20.

          • alext says:

            How can influencing the future of the polity be equal to “throwing around” (ie wasting) money?

          • Waffle says:

            Consider two cases: A poor person with a strong interest in politics, and a rich person with little interest in politics.

            The poor person really really wants a certain candidate to win. However, they are already struggling to pay rent. They must balance the value of casting their one, singular vote (which they know, by itself, is unlikely to decide the outcome of the election) against being able to afford to eat tonight. Ultimately, they decide that voting is not worth $20.

            The rich person has a very very slight preference for one candidate. However, as $20 is a negligible expense, they vote anyway.

            The deciding factor in each case was not just the person’s interest in the outcome of he election, but primarily their personal wealth.

            Poll taxes have been implemented in the past, often with the deliberate (and successful) goal of weakening the political power of the poor.

          • alext says:

            They must balance the value of casting their one, singular vote […] against being able to afford to eat tonight

            Election dates are public knowledge many months in advance. I’ll submit that anyone who eats at all, can save a small amount over time.

            Consider two cases: A poor person with a strong interest in politics, and a rich person with little interest in politics.

            The uninterested rich man won’t bother voting anyway. His time is already far more valuable.

            Poll taxes have been implemented in the past

            When, where and how did it turn out? Honest question, I really don’t know.

          • Waffle says:

            Election dates are public knowledge many months in advance. I’ll submit that anyone who eats at all, can save a small amount over time.

            I’ll submit that a lot of people are living paycheck-to-paycheck, and may have sudden unexpected expenses (car breakdown, medical emergency, etc) that will consume whatever meager savings they have. It’s worth noting here that there already are costs to voting. You need to pay for transportation to a polling station, wait in line (often for ridiculous lengths of time), and you suffer the opportunity cost of not being able to work while you do so.

            The uninterested rich man won’t bother voting anyway. His time is already far more valuable.

            Actually, higher income is correlated with higher voter turnout

            When, where and how did it turn out? Honest question, I really don’t know.


            It’s a classic example of a Jim Crow law. I don’t know if you’re from the States or not, but I’m not, and even I learned about it in school. Frankly, I find it astonishing that you’ve never heard of it. Even more so that you’d advocate for such a policy without doing so much as a quick Google search to see if it had ever been implemented.

          • alext says:

            I’ll submit that a lot of people are living paycheck-to-paycheck

            You are saying that someone who owns a car and has a paycheck is a poor man and cannot save $1 per month. I’d say that person does not wish to save, and makes life choices accordingly. Nobody is able to save if they choose to live paycheck to paycheck, no matter how much they earn. I think we must agree to disagree here, but at least we know where the disagreement lies.

            The uninterested rich man won’t bother voting anyway. His time is already far more valuable.

            Actually, higher income is correlated with higher voter turnout

            That’s not what I said. You gave the example of a rich man who does not care. Your statistic correlates turnout with wealth, not with wealth and interest in politics. Those who don’t care, won’t go to vote – rich or poor. As you said, there’s a sizeable time cost involved, and rich people’s time costs more.

            I don’t know if you’re from the States or not, but I’m not, and even I learned about it in school. Frankly, I find it astonishing […]

            I’m frankly astonished by your frank astonishment. I’m not from the US and I haven’t learned about this in school – must have been the wrong kind of school. Also, I’m not “advocating”, just questioning the orthodoxy.

            Thanks for the link. The article doesn’t have any actual numbers on how turnout changed after poll taxes were abolished. Did I miss it?

          • Waffle says:

            choose to live paycheck to paycheck

            Poverty is not a choice. That is absurd. No one would choose to be poor. Poor people are well aware of the value of savings, but they are constantly forced to choose between savings and rent, or food, or fuel, or replacing the shitty shoes they bought just last month because they were the only ones they could afford. Some people make bad decisions and end up falling into poverty, but others are born and stuck there their entire lives. Some people commit suicide by walking into traffic, but surely you agree it would be insanity to label all vehicle-collision-related deaths as “choosing to be hit by a car”?

            That’s not what I said. You gave the example of a rich man who does not care. Those who don’t care, won’t go to vote – rich or poor.

            I gave an example of a rich person who cares the minimum amount required to vote. The proposed $20 charge for voting does not factor into their decision. Why would it? $20 is pocket change to them. The $20 does factor into the decision of the poor person (as $20 is a not-insignificant amount of money to them). Thus, the tax lowers poor voter turnout, but has no effect on rich voter turnout. Surely I don’t need to explain why this is a bad thing.

            As you said, there’s a sizeable time cost involved, and rich people’s time costs more.

            First of all, this is assuming that the rich person is actively working, and not simply someone with a rich family and a competent accountant.

            Secondly, who gains more utility from receiving $1’000’000? the man with $0, or the man with $1’000’000’000? The answer is very obviously the man with nothing. Money has decreasing marginal utility. The more of it you have, the less value you gain from getting more.

            While the rich person earns a higher amount of money per hour, the actual utility that that money gains them is likely less than the utility gained by the poor person working minimum wage. When going to vote, the rich person likely will not even think about their drop in income. The poor person, as mentioned, may be giving up their dinner.

            This is all backed up by the statistic I provided, showing that rich people emprically, inarguably, do consider it worth their time to vote, more so than poor people do.

            Thanks for the link. The article doesn’t have any actual numbers on how turnout changed after poll taxes were abolished. Did I miss it?

            I’m sure it wouldn’t be hard to Google.

          • alext says:

            Poverty is not a choice.

            That’s not what I said. Kindly stop putting words in my mouth.

            Low income is not the same as living paycheck-to-paycheck. I know, personally, people who earn very good money and take payday loans every month. I also know people, and have been one myself, who earn little more than minimum wage, and yet manage to set something aside. It’s a matter of life choices and discipline, not income. Where you live and work, what you eat and drink (and where, and when), what you wear, what you drive (and where, and how, and how much, or not at all), etc etc etc

            First of all, this is assuming that the rich person is actively working, and not simply someone with a rich family and a competent accountant. […] Money has decreasing marginal utility. The more of it you have, the less value you gain from getting more.

            Time cost is not equal to one’s hourly wage. First, work is worth more than the time spent, because jobs require effort, and most also require skill and experience. Voting requires none of these things, only a (usually small) amount of time. Second, there are people (rich and poor) who don’t hold a job, but their time is a finite resource and thus valuable. So, hourly wage is not that relevant – even if there is one at all.

            The value of time is better defined as the amount a person is willing to pay to save that amount of time. The wealthier one is, the more likely one is to spend (lots of) money to save time. The (undisputed) fact that the rich vote more isn’t because their time is cheaper – it isn’t. Turns out, they see voting as valuable although it costs them more. If anything, adding a poll tax would go towards equalizing the burden.

            I’m sure it wouldn’t be hard to Google.

            Pointing towards the data that proves your point is your responsibility. If you invoke it, show it. If you can’t, don’t.

    • Jameson Quinn says:

      My problem is that it’s a market, subject to bubbles and crashes. That is, people might buy the bonds not because they think the person was going to have a high approval, but because they expect to be able to sell the bonds to someone who does think so.

      Other, bigger problem: there would inevitably be candidates for whom the market was thin, and it’s not obvious how to avoid such a candidate winning by a fluke blip in price.

  38. danarmak says:

    > On the first day of the term, whichever candidate’s bonds were trading at the highest value was inaugurated as the new President; holders of everyone else’s bonds were reimbursed at their current cost.

    Suppose, the day before, everyone agrees candidate A has lost the race; his bonds trade at $1. I’m holding some of his bonds. I offer to buy everyone else’s A bonds at $2, twice the market price, but still far below the leading candidate; everyone gladly sells, and the market price becomes $2.

    The next day, A officially loses the race, and I am reimbursed at $2 per bond. I’ve broken even on the bonds I bought yesterday – but I’ve made money on the ones I held before that, which I bought at closer to $1!

    So traders are incentivized to raise the price of all candidate bonds to slightly below the market leader, increasing the total government payout to everyone who holds losing-candidate bonds. Reducing the gap between candidates makes the race less certain, and the market a worse predictor.

    What am I missing?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      You’re right – what’s the standard way for having a conditional prediction market?

      • jonathanpaulson says:

        Refund all trades in the losing candidates.

      • tmk18 says:

        I think it has to be done with two levels of markets. The first one is: who will get the nomination. You can only participate in the second level if you have bonds from the market in the first level. So, say you have bonds for candidate A. With these bonds you can buy bonds in a level-2 market (at an exchange rate that is determined by that market). These second-layer bonds correspond to the approval rate that candidate A would get if they won. Each candidate has their own level-2 market. This scheme allows us to read off the conditional probabilities easily. In case candidate A is not in fact chosen, all level-1 bonds corresponding to that candidate expire worthlessly (and so the corresponding level-2 market becomes useless). Because of this risk, most trading in level 2 will happen for the candidates which are most promising. The level-1 bonds of the winning candidate are evaluated on the day of the election. As it gets closer to the day when the president is chosen, trading will concentrate on one market. But traders still have to be careful; the selection of the president is based on the conditional probability, so even a candidate with a low-volume level-2 market could win.

        Disclaimer: I haven’t thought that long about this. There might be problems I haven’t considered.

        EDIT: thinking about it more: the evaluation on election day has to be done based on the second level market of the winning candidate. That market can just continue trading until election day. Makes it easier for people to participate who don’t want to wait 4 years until they get their money back.

      • Algon33 says:

        Just get rid of the guaranteed buyback when the president is elected, since it is the root of the problem.

        Or base it on some other market which doesn’t have a buyback, kinda like tmk18’s proposal.

        Or just force people to put in a certain amount of their savings into the election to get enough volume to prevent this stuff.

        Or base it off some sum/lottery over the bonds and futures contracts to get enough volume.

      • Donald Hobson says:

        Firstly, you create bonds that pay off if candidate X does well, and an equal number of antibonds. You auction these off. When the time comes to refund, the government offers to pay $1 for every bond, antibond pair. You refund your bonds by selling them to someone with antibonds, or buying the antibonds yourself. Because of this promise, the bonds and antibonds, which they can auction off in pairs as well, sell for about $0.99

        The antibond pays off based on the number of dissatisfied voters.

        • Gurkenglas says:

          Why should people sell bonds at one cent if the only way for someone with an antibond to get their money back is to buy a bond? By symmetry, each could sell for 50 cents, though in practice all prices are consistent and the price may be decided by who is more patient or stubborn.

      • Long Disc says:

        I do not think refunding the trades in the losing candidates makes any sense and also it not clear to me what “refund” would mean – refund at 100%? At price paid? Either would create obvious arbitrage opportunities that reduce prediction quality.

        A simple solution is to have one base asset per candidate. This asset repays $100*approval rating in % at the end of term but only if the candidate wins the presidency to start with. One can then create the usual futures market to enable short selling. During the pre-selection period, basket of all base assets would be a candidate-independent bet on the final approval and would trade like an index fund.

        Until the selection day, each base asset would be a dual prediction of candidate odds to be selected and of his eventual approval rating.

        • silver_swift says:

          Yeah, but then you muddy the prediction (and therefor the election) by predicting both who gets elected and how well they do.

          Bonds for a hypothetical candidate who would be wildly popular at the end of their term, but who has basically no chance of being elected (because few people believe they will be wildly popular) would be accurately valued at $0,-, even for those people that do correctly guess that they’d be popular.

          This gets worse once you take the meta level into account, once it becomes common knowledge that [some policy] makes it less likely for candidates to win the presidency, no candidate running on a platform that includes [some policy] can ever win.

      • Gurkenglas says:

        The way I see to do it is to have no refunds (so the bond tracks approval*win probability), an extra bond that pays out iff the candidate is elected (so it tracks win probability), divide their prices to deduce approval, then select the candidate with the highest approval.

      • rui says:

        I also wonder what’s the “standard”. It feels we are all thinking it on the spot. So I’ll join in

        Bonds (/anti-bonds) may only be sold jointly with an I-ll-pay-you-back-the-amount-you-just-paid-if-the-condition-doesn’t-come-true paper.

  39. a real dog says:

    The first one sounds like something Charles Stross would come up with. Actually, that applies to a lot of ideas in this series.

  40. hnau says:

    Fun stuff. Reminded me of The Stormlight Archive series where the fictional world includes a dystopian gerontocracy (the ruling family doesn’t let others live long enough to claim the throne) and a bureaucratic meritocracy (fill out an application to become ruler), plus some other exotic systems of government whose details I forget.

    • Forlorn Hopes says:

      The bureaucratic meritocracy are great. The most ludicrously bureaucratic but also the most stable and functional government on the continent.

      Sanderson also had a literal plutocracy in Elantris where the nobility were the rich and the king was the richest; who had to cheat by counting national taxes to stay in his throne.

    • Lancelot Gobbo says:

      And I was just thinking these sound like Terry Pratchett’s output one of his more inspired days.

  41. I’m sure everyone knows the Churchill quote about democracy being the second-worst form of government yet invented, all others being tied for first…personally I’m pretty much ready to try some other options such as are described here.

    • No One In Particular says:

      I think you’re misunderstanding the quote.

      • “Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…”

        Misunderstanding it, how?

        • Pazzaz says:

          Your original comment said all forms of government are above democracy in a ranking. The quote says all forms of government are below democracy in a ranking.

          • 10240 says:

            No, the original comment said democracy is the second-worst, and all others are tied for first[-worst], i.e. they are below democracy.

        • C. Y. Hollander says:

          Well, the quotation doesn’t state that all non-democratic forms of Government are equally bad (“tied for first”). It merely states that they are all worse than democracy.

          • Heh that strikes me as missing the actual point of the quote by…quite a distance. But okay, sure, I’ll in the future make my paraphrasing of it more literal.

    • 10240 says:

      Actually, I think the only thing we know is that democracy is better than dictatorship and absolute monarchy. Ever since democracy has become popular, we never try anything else except when someone manages to become dictator.

      • eric23 says:

        I’m not sure there *is* an “anything else”.

        • 10240 says:

          There are plenty of other models, even only considering ones that have been tried, e.g.
          education census
          wealth census or land ownership
          corporatism / functional constituencies (representatives elected by occupational and other interest groups)
          sortition (this one is democracy, but never used nowadays, and rather different from electoral democracy)

          • Frederic Mari says:

            And Churchill’s comment probably apply to them? they’ve been found inferior to our western democratic model?

      • Wency says:

        I mean, Russia, China, and North Korea all have pretty different systems from us and each other. I think the poli sci consensus is that you can’t call Russia a dictatorship (at least right now) — I’ve seen the terms “hybrid regime”, “anocracy”, and “electoral authoritarianism”.

        There’s also systems where an elected body effectively shares power with an unelected leader or body, e.g., Iran, or a lot of European monarchies prior to WW1. I think maybe Thailand is still sort of this way.

      • alext says:

        the only thing we know is that democracy is better than dictatorship and absolute monarchy

        We *assume* this. Historically, democracies had short half-lives.

        In our time, the match is still being played. The US won WW2, and has been dominating since. It doesn’t necessarily follow that another form of goverment (eg an absolute monarchy on the pattern of the Early Roman Empire) wouldn’t have done at least as well.

        • matkoniecz says:

          You measured success on scale of empire building, in his case I prefer to measure success on whatever system works well for people.

          And overall more democratic countries seems superior place to live.

      • Furslid says:

        That doesn’t show that democracy is superior to other forms of government. It only shows that democracy is a stable equilibrium. Remember game theory.

  42. The Representative For Plutocracy is the richest person in the country.

    I would have thought it would be auctioned off every term!

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I think that would be more in keeping with the idea of plutocracy, but make for a worse government – it would encourage corrupt people to buy it for their own ends. I think the Clamzorians just genuinely think that super-rich people might have some useful skills that make them good members of a governing council when checked by many other people with opposing interests.

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        Someone would hack the market the day of selection to boost the shares of their company.

        • craftman says:

          Right, you’d have to have a realistic wealth-measurement metric.

          Gates could buy some trivial number of Microsoft shares for 25% above market value at the closing bell on the day of the election to boost himself above Bezos.

          • mendax says:

            I tried thinking of a way that antidosis could be used to find the richest individual, but I think that only works in situations where one doesn’t want to be the “winner”.

          • Scott Alexander says:

            Maybe just have terms expire unpredictably (maybe every day after two years, there’s a 1% chance that the term expires) and once it expires everyone uses market prices from the day before?

          • kupe says:

            You could have whoever paid the most tax over the past 5 years. As a bonus billionaires would have an incentive to pay tax in case of a future run for representative.

          • jas0nn says:

            Or select by lots above a certain threshold of wealth, however defined.

          • Gurkenglas says:

            Instead of expiring terms at random, select the person with the highest average wealth since the last selection.

          • Kindly says:

            Every day after two years? Not mathematically rigorous enough! Every second from the very first second, there’s an 0.000001% chance that the term expires.

        • Some Troll's Serious Discussion Alt says:

          Let em. Anyone rich enough to credibly make the attempt is rich enough to fulfill the point of the seat and successfully hacking the market is a display of competence.

        • Non-gaussian says:

          Terms only apply to certain positions. Hereditary changes upon death or resignation of current officeholder; Military Dictator and labor union leader presumably change according to the rules of those organizations. So wouldn’t the wealthiest person at that particular point in time hold the position? Market manipulation to adjust wealth would thus need to be maintained, not merely arranged for a moment in time.

      • No One In Particular says:

        make for a worse government – it would encourage corrupt people to buy it for their own ends.

        How do those two go together? “Buying things for their own ends” is how markets work. Auctioning it to the highest bidder maximizes efficiency, by ensuring that it goes to the person who puts it to the most valuable use. Furthermore, if the purchaser can be held to enforceable contracts regarding their votes, the position can be purchased by a consortium of people who elects a figurehead (or simply purchased directly, if a collective ownership, such as via a corporation, is allowed), assigning the votes of the position to whatever policy makes people the most money. Plus it could be a revenue source.

        It’s like you haven’t even read The Machinery of Freedom.

      • 10240 says:

        I think the ClamzoriansYyphrostikothers just genuinely think that super-rich people might have some useful skills

      • toastengineer says:

        Well, actually, if we assume that the rest of the government works well, it’d be difficult to get away with any anti-social plan that involves purchasing the seat. So in practice the seat would end up getting auctioned off to someone who has an idea for how to make a ton of money that is unlikely to get blocked by the rest of the council, which is probably something that is going to do everyone else a lot of good as well.

    • broblawsky says:

      Maybe we could implement some kind of charitable program along the lines of ancient Greek liturgies or eurgetism? Whoever spends the most money on public charity gets to be the Representative for the term.

  43. Paul Crowley says:

    I love the idea of Clamzorian acausal democracy, but how does it interact with variation in the value of the currency caused by the leader’s policies?

    • hnau says:

      Hmm, so the use of bonds creates a disincentive against inflationary policies? Might be a feature and not a bug. 🙂 If not, one could always denominate the bonds (or part of them) in gold / bitcoin / US$ or this world’s equivalents.

      • Ttar says:

        I was going to suggest denominating the bonds in physical units of gold, but that wouldn’t totally solve the problem — it would skew incentives to nationalize the gold mining industry.

    • Yosarian2 says:

      Also it seems like there’s a problem whenever “the value of the bonds” is less than “the value you can get by putting someone who promises to support your industry in office”. Then you can buy up enough bonds to put a bad leader in office and accept a loss on those bonds in exchange for getting big subsidies to whatever industry you represent.