Discover more from Panocracy
A Noble Activity
For those of you who are new to these columns, panocracy (with or without a capital P) is a vision for our democracies that's being developed here and is in its initial stages. Panocracy is the kind of democracy which puts the ordinary person in control of decisions that affect their lives. This is not what we have at the moment.
I hope you will join me on this quest for a better future while there's still time to do something about it.
This time we're looking at politics, God help us.
“Never trust a man who speaks well of everybody.” - John Churton Collins
“Politics is a noble activity in which men decide the rules they will live by and the goals they will collectively pursue” - Aristotle
Nailed it, Ari. Apart from the noble bit.
Oh, and who exactly does the deciding?
Children learn from an early age that they to get other people to do what they want they have to adopt certain behavioural strategies. Some people become very skilled at this and by adulthood are very good indeed at getting their own way. Many of these people assume senior roles in business, commerce and government. This is fine as long as such people are competent, considerate and have the best interests of the rest of us at heart. Need I say more?
“Electoral competition tends to create a ‘bidding war’, in which rival parties promise ever more appealing programmes. Voters often assume that these programmes can be straightforwardly implemented – as if they are consumers choosing a product. But in reality, manifesto claims are often discarded or watered down in the face of limited resources, viability, or political veto. What results is disappointment and disillusionment in democratic politics.” - Christina Boswell
The question we need to answer is what exactly we mean by the word politics: we need to unambiguously define what we mean so that the institutions within our panocracy and anyone monitoring them can be clear about what kind of behaviour is allowed and what isn't.
Remember that we don't want to allow political behaviour of any kind within the agencies of State. This is to avoid a repeat of recent history when most of us were grossly misled by those who we thought we'd elected to look after our interests and the interests of our polities.
We're looking for a functional definition that can be applied to the activities of any individual, agency or institution.
We all know to a greater or lesser extent when we're being patronised, gaslit or otherwise deceived because we've all at some point been the victims - or the perpetrators. The issue is to tie it down so that the boundaries are unambiguous. This is notoriously difficult as Bedazzled's Stanley discovered.
Like Stanley, I’m about to fall into Mephistopheles’ trap so if you have any suggestions on how to improve the following definition, please let’s have them!
So let's jump right in to the Herculean task of beheading the hydra-headed beast that is politics with a proposed definition of it.
Some suggest that “Politics is the tool people use that allows them to put aside their petty differences and agree on something”. Unfortunately, coercion and physical violence are also such tools so we have to think a little harder. Let's cut to the chase.
Politics is competition between groups or individuals for influence, power or status by means other than merit. (We'll say what we mean by merit later on).
This definition applies just as much to office politics or interpersonal relationships as it does to affairs of State. How many dramatic plot lines revolve around X making Y look bad so X can get the attentions of Z?
Political competition is rarely scrutinised by impartial judges or referees and so all is fair provided you don't get caught. Evidence of political interference is usually difficult to come by. Hence whispering campaigns and other non-attributable activities like 'leaks' and 'briefings' are the stock-in-trade of the successful political animal. This is perhaps why concepts like loyalty, secrecy and discretion feature so highly in political discourse.
By the word merit we mean skill or ability in some area like science, music or sport.
So for example, Usain Bolt currently holds the 100m sprint world record. He's evidently pretty nippy and everyone recognises that he attained his records fairly – without artificial aids or dishonest means.
Others have achieved greatness in less direct ways and the media are full of juicy exposes. There are far too many to list but you will, no doubt, have your own favourites.
So another word for merit is fair play and another word for politics is … cheating.
While we're on the subject of politics we might as well cover this contentious ideology.
The term identity is somewhat overloaded and, like the word politics itself, can mean different things to different people. We take it to mean that an individual's self-declared identity is what is to be deemed by everyone to be their defining characteristic. There are obvious and immediate problems with this which curiously seem to have been missed by its proponents.
We consider identity politics as a way of getting what you want by means other than merit and therefore it could not be tolerated within the agencies of a panocracy, although it might be elsewhere. A rapist pretending to be a woman to gain access to a women's prison would fall under most people’s definition of cheating.
Bertrand Russell told a story of a man who came to his office one day. The man said he'd read Russell's book on philosophy and only understood one statement. And it was false. The statement was 'Caesar is dead' and Russell asked him what was wrong with it. The man drew himself up and said 'I am Julius Caesar'.
If identity politics were to catch on, who - or what - would you really like to be?
Perhaps the British Security Services would have to take on someone self-identifying as James Bond. Maybe it's already happened but is a State secret.
“Reason is the slave of the passions” - David Hume
“... when I am presented with arguments for or against a policy, even though my brain tricks me into thinking that it is coming up with dispassionate and logical arguments for the greater good of society as a whole, what it is likely actually doing is rationalizing a pre-existing support for my political tribe.” - Habib F
Types of bias (and there are a lot of them) have been categorised and you can find a good summary of how they're classified and how they influence your thinking here.
Bias happens because when we need to decide on something we mostly take an easy route to making the decision – the one that uses least brain power. We rely strongly on what we already 'know' rather than evaluating the laborious evidence in front of us.
Individually, we can't remove bias from our decisions but when there's a large number of us, our biases tend to cancel each other out. Less bias means better decisions.
This is in stark contrast to the small group which currently determines policy. These people are selected because they share a lot of biases and these will of course add rather than cancel. Thus they're far more likely to lead us down a dark path.
It's a powerful attribute of our panocracy that the biases of individuals will tend to cancel out when applied to a large population. This will result in far better direction for our society than we have now.
Next Time we'll be looking at another key that opens the gates to Heaven - and the gates to Hell, the Internet.