[EM] An artist's view on voting methods

Kristofer Munsterhjelm km_elmet at lavabit.com
Sun Dec 16 04:11:56 PST 2012

On 12/10/2012 01:25 AM, Michael Allan wrote:
> Kristofer Munsterhjelm said:
>>> Could such a "cultural election" [of a narrative world view]
>>> happen in modern times, do you think?  Or what might prevent it?
>> In the most strict sense, I don't think so. Modernity has too many
>> aspects to be made into a narrative world view. You might see it in
>> groups within some given society, though: those who hold a certain
>> identity might agree upon the direction of some aspects of modern
>> life - enough to provide such a narrative - but only for the parts
>> that are relevant to them.
> I agree, fragmentation is essential to modernity.  We'd have to expand
> the question (in the strong sense) to "contemporary times".  Modernity
> might then hang in the balance; it might change, or give way to
> something else.
>> In the weaker sense, it is everywhere. Sets of values are often
>> woven into a narrative, and politicians refer to the narratives to
>> compactly state their values. A conservative may talk about
>> "preserving the American dream", for example, while a liberal may
>> tell the voters he can be part of a continuing change for the
>> better.
> These seem to be two aspects of the Christian theme of salvation.
> Their competition as self-reliance vs. charity (or conservative
> vs. liberal) might be a consequence of Christianity's failure as a
> myth in the Reformation (strong sense), or America's failure as a myth
> in contemporary times (weaker sense).  Adam Curtis says, "When a
> nation is powerful it tells the world confident stories about the
> future.  The stories can be frightening or enchanting, but they make
> sense of the world.  But when that power begins to ebb, the stories
> fall apart.  All that is left are fragments, which haunt you like
> half-forgotten dreams."  http://thoughtmaybe.com/it-felt-like-a-kiss/

It's interesting that you mention Adam Curtis. In the third episode of 
his series, The Trap, he goes into the concept of negative and positive 
liberty. Negative liberty is "freedom from" something, while positive 
liberty is "freedom to" do or be something. Modern democracy has been 
associated with negative liberty, in that it provides for (more or less) 
the freedom for anyone to do what he wants as long as that doesn't 
interfere with the similar freedom of others.

In contrast, positive liberty might be seen as associated with your idea 
of a common myth or story. A positive liberty to fulfill one's potential 
as "something" (that may differ)... sounds a lot like having a shared 
concept of what "something" it is one should strive to reach.

Curtis says that Isiah Berlin, who came up with the terms of positive 
and negative liberty, considered the former more dangerous than the 
latter. He (Curtis) then shows examples of positive liberty going wrong 
- but also, that the ideal of negative liberty itself becomes something 
to reach for in ways otherwise associated with positive liberty. Thus 
one gets logic like "fighting for freedom" or "liberating authoritarian 
nations", where the myth becomes "the story of having many stories", and 
the "freedom to be something" is the "freedom to have freedom from".

If he's right, then it appears there's no real escaping having a greater 
narrative. If the society provides for extreme diversity, then the 
narrative simply becomes "we have many stories".

I don't think it's impossible for a democratic nation to have a more 
tangible story, though. The right kind of mechanism design would 
encourage that, as well. The state's hand in the story is related to how 
much power it has, rather than by what means it is chosen.

Say you have a society where everything is strictly managed, but the 
composition of the management is decided by some fluid means like 
delegative proxy with appropriate dampening features (e.g. managers have 
power relative to a moving average of their support, rather than their 
support at any given moment). Then I would imagine such a society to 
have a rather strong unifying story. It would also be democratic, but it 
wouldn't be libertarian.

Could a libertarian society have a single story? Perhaps, if there are 
other factors that go against the division into many stories. If the 
country was relatively homogenous (be it socially or economically), 
common identity would be stronger, for instance.

More information about the Election-Methods mailing list