Card: "Does Democracy Really Work?"

Another very interesting article from Orson Scott Card, about the becoming-more-famous book The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies, and Nations, by James Surowiecki.

Card says, summarizing from the book:

Crowds are wisest when these conditions are met:

1. Diversity of opinion. ("Each person should have some private information, even if it's just an eccentric interpretation of the known facts.")

2. Independence. ("People's opinions are not determined by the opinions of those around them.")

3. Decentralization. ("People are able to specialize and draw on local knowledge.")

4. Aggregation. ("Some mechanism exists for turning private judgments into a collective decision.")

And then, arguably, turns to using the book, and those concepts, to show the it really was the best thing that George Bush was elected, that the Iraq war was a success (even decries "the CIA's intransigent rejection of President Bush's war plan in Iraq") and why the Democrats are such miserable, elitist, two-faced failures.

But it's so easy to see how selective and self-serving the rhetoric is.

Think just a bit about the four points above, and you see that:

1) We have little "Diversity of opinion": There's the right-wingers, the left-wingers and the poor slobs in the middle who got the sales pitch of the millenium. And in the Neocon world, everyone's "on message" or they visit the woodshed til they get on message; quite scary really - but terribly sucessful, if measured in the acquisition, expansion and use of power.

2. We have little Independence: People's opinions were determined by the opinions of those around them; both in the sales pitch and in the endless hand-wringing about "electability".

3. Decentralization. "People are able to specialize and draw on local knowledge."? Huh? We have a virtually homogenized culture - and a presidential election is the epitome of that.

4. Aggregation: Sure, we've got voting, but among the many indications of fraud, various flavors of disenfranchising activities, the utter lack of any way to verify much of the voting (e-voting and others), ignoring the non "battleground" states, low percentage turnout... we're left with rather little to crow about.

But back to the title for a moment: "Does Democracy Really Work?"

It can - but like anything else, it can fail too. It can be twisted, and we're seeing an awful lot of that lately.

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