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In defense of democracies


Ferrous

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I've been around CN for a while, though I have quit the game and come back now several times. Given the holes in my experience, I may simply be restating what someone else said, so if you are one of the select few who reads this blog, then pardon any redundancy that I may present.

From a CN academic point of view, my primary interest has been the organization of alliances. In CN, we essentially have two distinct ideas, "Meritocracies" and "Democracies", and a whole bunch of hybrids. Many people are familiar with this debate, trying to argue for one model over another, as core ideas. My personal point of view (and probably common throughout the cyberverse) is that there is some middle-ground, with at least military decisions being made up of a meritocratic model. However, I think that there is a potential in democracies that has not been fully explored, which will be the main content of this blog.

Ideally, a democracy elects people based on their performance. The collective decides what's best for them, and who is most capable of filling a particular role. That person gets elected, and then has to constantly prove that he is the best at that position, or else he will get voted out. Sounds great. However, because of this system there are a number of problems that are usually pointed out with democracies:

  • Depending on the position and the nature of the membership, elections can sometimes turn into popularity contests, where people who are smart are marginalized, and those who talk loudest get the most attention. This can have the obvious effect of bringing in elected leaders who do not know how to properly handle their position. Also, it entrusts the membership to have a say in the direction of the alliance - especially for foreign affairs politics - when most of the members are not fully aware of the state of inter-alliance politics.
  • Those who are in fact qualified for a particular position and get elected to that position, often do not have enough time to carry out their agenda, since elections typically happen once a month, or once every two months, and elections are time-consuming and inefficient.
  • Some elected officials, once elected, don't do anything useful. Even in the best case scenario where they get voted-out in the next election, that is still a time period where nothing worthwhile can be done in that position, which can have an obvious negative effect on the alliance.
  • Democracies have a tendency to lack the military organization to take on an alliance of similar strength. Since military organization is essentially meritocratic in structure, good military organizations in strongly democratic alliances can be a bit of an enigma.

If these problems didn't exist, then we would be looking at an alliance led in capable hands, that since they were not chosen by a single individual, by chosen by a collective, the chances that they are qualified for their position, (hypothetically) is greater than that of one chosen by merit. Mathematically, think in terms of statistics: the average of the choice of a single individual might be the same as the average of the choice of the collective (in terms of choosing someone to fill a position), but the variance of the single-choice individual would be much greater than that of the collective, thereby increasing the chances of selecting the improper candidate for a position.

But the problems still stand. So let's take a look at the alliances that are democratic, and seem to be successful. What do they share in common? Typically they've been around a while and/or they are based from a different community altogether. Here's what we can garner:

The ability to choose the appropriate candidate for a position is greater in these alliances due to the fact that there are more experienced players in them, or they all have more similar mindsets, so they all have something more in common to look for. The people in these communities are more familiar with the individuals running for a position, so they know who is running for a popularity contest, and who is taking the election seriously. Additionally, these alliances are typically very active, which can help compensate for some lack of military organization. In the older alliances, the more experienced members are a particularly vital asset, since they are more knowledgeable about the real aspects of the position.

Because of this community aspect in successful democracies, it is relatively easy to maintain a small democracy, but difficult to maintain a large one. The larger a democracy is, the harder it is to maintain a uniform community. However, there are a few possible solutions to the problems that democracies have. These are recommendations that are both original and some that I've taken from others. While they may detract somewhat from the ideals of democracy, in the long run, they may save the alliance:

  • Restrict who can vote. This is not the real world, this is cybernations, and not all of the same assumptions apply. Some people have suggested that members cannot run or vote for the alliance until they have been in the alliance for a certain period of time (say a month, maybe two, depending on the alliance). This will help establish a more defined community, by weeding out those who take the time to stay in the alliance
  • Extend the term of office. A term of 1 month is absurd - you can have one board of people one month, and an entirely new slate the next. There is no continuity to the direction of the alliance, which can be very detrimental to foreign affairs, costing the alliance valuable allies. Extending the term of office to two months is a first step, but I think that alliances should try extending terms to three or four months, at least. This will also help cut down on the inefficiencies in elections.
  • Introduce more meritocratic elements in the military organization. Ideally, the top ranking military official should have the member nations well organized, and be appointed by someone, not elected. This is probably the most important post to the safety of the alliance, and a popularity contest would be the last thing anyone would want for this position.
  • Education, education, education. People elect bad officials because people are not always smart. Educate them so they understand what's going on.

That's all I've got for now. I hope you enjoy.

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I think you make a lot of very good points. Grämlins is a successful representative democracy, and sure enough we fit all your points perfectly.

"Restrict who can vote": we have a ranking system which weights votes towards those who are active, involved and the 'core membership'.

"Extend the term of office": each Conclave and Council position is elected every three months.

"Introduce more meritocratic elements in the military organization": each Conclave member appoints Prelates to help him in his work. The Prelates to the Executor do exactly what you say here, and for internal and foreign affairs the same point is true: picking the best people increases efficiency.

"Education, education, education": I'd like to think that our members are all educated ;) and we have election threads that educate everyone about the issues and candidates.

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Echelon has a similar model to the one outlined above. Directors (serving for a term of six months, staggered each two and elected by majority vote) are the continuity element, with extended powers and nominal legislative abilities. Congress (serving for a period of two months, number of seats proportional in size to the overall membership, elected by majority vote) have purely legislative abilities and with the Directorate, form the Leadership Council. Each ministry head is appointed by the Directorate (the element of Meritocracy) and each ministry head appoints his/her departmental staff.

From this, we say that we are legislatively democratic yet operationally meritocratic, or in simpler words, a Republic. Between alternating phases of economic growth and martial operations, the system has worked very well thus far.

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My biggest problems with democracy are that not everybody has the same level of activity and that not everybody in the alliance bothers to stay informed. Why should some guy who doesn't bother ever getting on IRC have the same say that I do? Same goes for someone who doesn't read OWF.

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How does a democratically run alliance deal with apathy? Or, is apathy even an issue in such alliances due to the very nature that input is required from the general membership?

Let's take an example of a 100 person alliance. Say an election comes up, and only 15 people vote in that election - a 15% turnout is horrible! Generally, the 15 people that turn out to vote already have a vested interest - they themselves are candidates, are returning government officials, etc. While it works, it is by no means representative of the membership.

What are the ways to combat apathy in such alliances?

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How does a democratically run alliance deal with apathy? Or, is apathy even an issue in such alliances due to the very nature that input is required from the general membership?

Let's take an example of a 100 person alliance. Say an election comes up, and only 15 people vote in that election - a 15% turnout is horrible! Generally, the 15 people that turn out to vote already have a vested interest - they themselves are candidates, are returning government officials, etc. While it works, it is by no means representative of the membership.

What are the ways to combat apathy in such alliances?

In theory, the system should solve itself. Suppose that you have two candidates who are running for a position, candidates A and B. Should candidate A win, with a mere 10 votes, and candidate B lose with 5 votes, then we are looking at 85 people who didn't vote. For the next election, if candidate B wants to win the election, he will have to go to those other 85 people and try to get them to vote.

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In theory, the system should solve itself. Suppose that you have two candidates who are running for a position, candidates A and B. Should candidate A win, with a mere 10 votes, and candidate B lose with 5 votes, then we are looking at 85 people who didn't vote. For the next election, if candidate B wants to win the election, he will have to go to those other 85 people and try to get them to vote.

I must have had a mental lapse :lol: - you've explained it exactly how it should work: by campaigning.

I guess what I was trying to get at is, what are the systems in place (in democratic alliances) that encourage members to participate even before campaigning begins? Also, what if there is only one candidate - what are the rules in place for winning by acclamation?

I assume that there is a forum dedicated to the election, where candidates can have platforms and such. I also presume that the government in power, preceeding the election, advises the general membership via in-game spam that an election is upcoming. What are the proceedures in place to mobilize the general membership for an election?

Most of the questions are just my general interest in how things are run by electorally based alliances, and the systems used to encourage participation.

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In theory, the system should solve itself. Suppose that you have two candidates who are running for a position, candidates A and B. Should candidate A win, with a mere 10 votes, and candidate B lose with 5 votes, then we are looking at 85 people who didn't vote. For the next election, if candidate B wants to win the election, he will have to go to those other 85 people and try to get them to vote.

I must have had a mental lapse :lol: - you've explained it exactly how it should work: by campaigning.

I guess what I was trying to get at is, what are the systems in place (in democratic alliances) that encourage members to participate even before campaigning begins? Also, what if there is only one candidate - what are the rules in place for winning by acclamation?

I assume that there is a forum dedicated to the election, where candidates can have platforms and such. I also presume that the government in power, preceeding the election, advises the general membership via in-game spam that an election is upcoming. What are the proceedures in place to mobilize the general membership for an election?

Most of the questions are just my general interest in how things are run by electorally based alliances, and the systems used to encourage participation.

1. A lot depends on the individual alliances. To get members active who are not campaigning, or before they campaign, there are often other positions open, and other activities for them to partake (signing up for a military division, tech dealing, trade circles, etc.). Some alliances are very open, to the point that the general body can vote on treaties, war, and things like that. This can help keep the general body active, but also can cause inefficiencies in the system.

2. Usually, if there is one candidate for a position, then people still have to vote for him, but the candidate pretty much wins by default.

3. There is not always a forum dedicated to the elections. I've seen elections be held in two forums (one for voting, one for discussing the issues), and elections held in the general-discussion forum. For mobilizing the general members for an election, some alliances leave it up to the candidates, some alliances leave it to the duty of an Internal Affairs Minister, or one of his/her underlings.

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If your alliance is 85% inactive, then you have more problems than just your government system :P

Yes, you'd be quite right :lol:

I was just using that as an example... something much more realistic might be the other way around - 85% active, and 15% inactive :)

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You brushed over a lot of problems. Ryiis already brought it up, but when GOD was democratic virtually no one voted. The only time anyone paid attention to elections was when they were frustrated with what the government was doing, and that virtually never happened since we've never had a CN-inclined membership (that is to say, a lot of people that follow politics).

We might have 40-50 people on IRC each day and only 15 people would vote, because they just don't care. This is in part because only qualified people tended to run (so it didn't really matter) and also in part because they just couldn't care less.

In fact, some two months after we eliminated voting I got a query from one of our founding members saying sorry he missed the vote... only to be shocked to find out we'd gotten rid of it... two months prior. Democracy as a concept is government by the people, for the people. The problem with this is a lot of people don't want that extra responsibility.

Democracies, responsible ones, require you to educate yourself on people and cast a good vote and this flies in the face of people who're playing CN because unlike other games, it doesn't take them much time to maintain.

or they all have more similar mindsets, so they all have something more in common to look for.

On this, even in idealistically homogeneous groups there will be favorites who might not be qualified for whatever reason, in which case you have the popularity contest problem again.

Additionally, these alliances are typically very active, which can help compensate for some lack of military organization.

Some, but only if there's a proper military structure to back it up. The masses wouldn't come together on their own and conduct proper and precise counter-attacks if they got blitzed... they'd post a bunch about OMG I GOT ATTACKED - though because they're active, they'll be a lot of them instead of a few. :P

You also forgot one, huge, flaw in democracies... and that's the lack of a central leader. The floating leader position hurts most when it comes to forums and IRC channels, because transfers of power are not always carried out properly and coups can happen. What happens when someone with Root Admin gets unelected, hm? What if it was a bitter election? Hate to say it, but I've seen coups start and happen that way.

Some have left the guy with admin having no other choice (ODS in particular, who you should remember, left Ruben as Root). This undermines OPSEC pretty bad, because you now have someone who's not government with complete access to every little corner of your forum. What happens if they leave? Have a hissy fit? Decide to CN-Suicide it and log dump?

There goes your alliance.

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Ah, "The Law of Ruben." I completely forgot about that one, which, yes, is a problem that I left out entirely. I'll contend that I answered the other problems you raised because I'm too lazy to write them out again.

Generally speaking though, I think the main issue boils down to education. How smart your people are, in CN stuff, probably correlates to how active they are.

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I think democracies depend on respect of each individual in the alliance and outsiders for that matter and the enlightenment of the membership. Keeping members informed about issues and updating them with the happenings should allow your population to make the right decisions.

With Global Democratic Alliance we have been an evolving process and I think that's very important. We started out with an elected president and elected ministers. We changed this after only two elections to allow a President to pick his cabinet team. This allowed someone to pick to run with that they can work with and to pick the best team they can.

Under a liberal agenda some months later and a voice from the people, we established the senate to get an insight into member views better and more efficiently with government decisions and to establish laws. We still do appeal to everyone on matters of the utmost importance.

Finally the top off for our alliance was adding a Supreme Court to preserve the government always and assure that bad leadership could be impeached. These were permanent positions and our membership supported it for the good of the alliance as a whole. There are certain provisions to prevent abuse as with all departments.

We still add and change things sometimes to make things more efficient or to make things what democracy are about like fair trials that would work on an online game and be quick. Evolving I think is a good part of a democracy whether to make it more free or more efficient.

Finding these three branches was good for our democracy. I think there are all kinds of democracy type of systems within the game, it is finding what works for you. John Locke and Charles de Montesquieu were great for us and many other historical figures of the first democracies are good reads. The law must be upheld that is important to any democratic system or any alliance for that matter.

There is no real democracy involved when it comes to our military nor should be any. Everyone is required to go to war for the alliance or be in some manner to assist it. The military structure is absolute and appointed by the ranking Minister in charge there and his Majors.

Good read and interesting to hear about some other democracies. :)

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While I agree that democracies can work and may have some advantage over other systems, I believe it has some severe flaws that, despite taking safeguards, can still emerge from time to time.

1. An alliance where individuals are told its a democracy tend to question their leadership. While this is inherently neither a good thing or bad thing on its own, it can create some major issues. An alliance with members that believe they are "free" and elect people to voice their choices tend to desire a lot of info from their government, to the point where the insatiable curiosity of some create potential OpSec problems.

2. Almost regardless of safeguards, the ultimate flaw of democracy in CN is that it runs a significantly higher potential of promoting complete knuckleheads into positions of power. In a more totalitarian system, its generally easier to remove an inept government member. In a democracy, it tends to be a bit more difficult. Some individuals can create personality cults to skew any voting into their favor, even if they have very limited leadership skills. In a more totalitarian alliance where one person or a small group decides who gets to be promoted to what degree, those individuals tend be be a bit more picky about who they give power to. While its still possible to bring in a bonehead, they're also generally easier to get rid of, unless the guy doing the selecting is a bonehead, in which case the alliance will likely be rolled or couped anyways regardless of the government structure.

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