20 September 2008

Life in an Idiocracy: How Stupid is Too Stupid to Vote? When Democracy Breeds Tyrants

To vote in the US, a person must be:
  1. 18
  2. a US resident
  3. a resident of municipality for 30 days
The person needs to be breathing, but occasional exceptions can be made by creative voting officials and campaigns. There is no requirement for cognitive capacity, or ability to understand the issues underlying the differences between candidates' positions.The average population IQ of the US population is roughly 100, of the world's population well under 90. The standard deviation of population IQ is 15. Life in a high technology society is an uphill battle for those with IQ's below 85. In fact, one is hard-pressed to find any society on Earth with an average IQ below 85 that is able to maintain a high tech infrastructure without significant outside help. For "Idiocracies", democracy is a fast road to tyranny:
Young democracy, with weak institutions, often brings to power, at first, elected leaders who actually don't care that much about upholding democracy....This is a process now being repeated in Africa, Asia, and parts of Latin America, regions that once seemed destined to become the third and fourth waves of global democratization, following the original Western democracies and the second wave in southern Europe and several other regions. The pattern has become so noticeable - repeated in Venezuela, Russia, Bangladesh, and other states - that one must even wonder about democracy's future itself.

....In democracies still on unsure footing, weak institutions prove unable to hold these elected tyrants back. In Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Rwanda, and many other nations, the media eventually submitted.... _Source
Democracy is neither good nor bad. Like nuclear energy, guns, genetic engineering--democracy is simply as good or bad as what is done with it. When golden-tongued populists seize the imagination of a coalition of the gullible, the wishful thinking, the corrupt, and the less intelligent, democracy can bring the worst and most corrupt elements into power.

We expect such results from democratic elections in the third world, where average IQs range in the 70s and 80s--at the verge of the ability to maintain a sustainable technological society. Human capital in these countries is limited, in the absence of a high IQ market minority (such as the Chinese in many Asian countries and a growing number of African countries). Democracy leads to tyranny when voters lack intelligence, insight into how societies work, and basic integrity-- predictably.

The same phenomenon may occur in the developed world, in enclaves possessing high concentrations of low-IQ voters. Repeated elections of Kwame Fitzpatrick, Ray Nagin, Chicago's Mayor Daley, and any number of other corrupt political kingpins illustrates the phenomenon nicely.

Democracy in an Idiocracy. As average IQ of the world's population drops, and third world immigration into the developed world accelerates, it will become a familiar concept.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share


Blogger Marcus said...

Heinlein agreed with you. His solution was to require the voting machine to generate a simple quadratic equation for every citizen attempting to vote. Nothing too advanced, just high school algebra. You got two attempts to correctly solve it. Blow it, a warning siren sounds, the doors to the booth fly open, and you slink off under the scornful eye of your fellow citizens. No ballot for you.

I like it, but it'd be nigh impossible to enact.

Saturday, 20 September, 2008  
Blogger Hell_Is_Like_Newark said...


i live in Jersey City in a not-so-nice neighborhood. When the electronic voting machines first came on board a couple years back, voting got... well.. 'interesting.

Pretty simple procedure really. Pick the candidates / ballot questions and then hit the big red VOTE button BEFORE leaving the booth. The machine make a distinct 'BEEP' sound when you hit the button.

I watched the three people ahead of me; enter the booth and stay there a very looooong time (obviously confused). I watched them pause for a while, then press buttons furiously (or as best I could surmise since they were shrouded by a waist high curtain). They would then open the curtain and leave. No BEEP sound. They never pressed the VOTE button. Their votes were never recorded.
God only knows how many votes were lost because none of these people could figure out how to use the damn machine.

Saturday, 20 September, 2008  
Blogger SensibleEnergy said...

"There is no more fundamental American right than the right to vote."


Kennedy, Jesse Jackson Jr...etc. They all say the same thing.

Obama knows what you want and what you need.

I find many people don't know the difference between a democracy and a constitutional republic.

Saturday, 20 September, 2008  
Blogger mnuez said...

I find it interesting that the awesomely important subject of democracy (and its discontents) is so rarely discussed in any sort of intellectual setting. Even among the intelligentsia one often finds that thoughts regarding government have progressed no further than a simple-minded worship of some archaic document they refer to as "the constitution".

I appreciate your small contribution here to the awakening of a discussion regarding democracy and it won;t be your last contribution to the field.

(Mencius did some awesome shaking of the capital's snow globe in the first half-dozen installments in his "letters to a progressive" and they're well worth serious consideration even if he did end up spending his next ten pieces in loony land where he advocated madly for some new form of untested fascism in the hands of some all powerful "Receiver".)


Sunday, 21 September, 2008  
Blogger mnuez said...

I didn't mean to be presumptive. That sentence should read:

I appreciate your small contribution here to the awakening of a discussion regarding democracy and I hope it won't be your last contribution to the field.

Sunday, 21 September, 2008  
Blogger al fin said...

To a populist demagogue, democracy is the ideal form of government. He can always sway the majority of the people to want what he wants.

A constitution is what protects the people from a democracy.

That makes the constitution an obstacle to populist demagogues.

People who support populist demagogues believe that "the right thing to do" is always obvious. If not to them, then at least to their wise "dear leader."

The posting above discusses only IQ as a qualification to vote. But Heinlein demanded competence as well. That's why in some of his books, only veterans of competence-tested public service such as the military were allowed to vote.

In our world, competence is a vanishing commodity.

MNUEZ, this entire blog is about this topic, in one way or another.

Sunday, 21 September, 2008  
Blogger Marcus said...

Al Fin,

There were two different Heinlein takes. The one you refer to as "competence-tested" is, I think, from the novel "Starship Troopers" in which to get voting rights, a citizen had to demonstrate he placed the health of the republic over his own.

The voting booth test came from one of his essays in "Expanded Universe." I think there he was trying to devise a voting test that had at least some chance of being put into practice.

Sunday, 21 September, 2008  
Blogger Will Brown said...

A couple points if I may.

re: Heinlein, he often used the mechanism of altering a readily recognisable (to the average reader) social construct - like voting and/or rights as example - as a means to differentiate his story universe from the physical one. I've read this was a hold-over from his early writing for pulp and periodical markets, which required a story set-up in the least word count the writer could legibly contrive. Using a political fad or fashion was an easy choice for him to do so apparently, given the number of times and novels in which he used the technique in various fashion.

The problem under consideration here is that of determining a public policy regulatory mechanismn to assertain some ephemeral minimum standard of individual competence. In it's original form, the US Constitution included such a regulatory mechanism (a stipulated minimum valuation of real property ownership) as the minimum standard to vote, which nicely illustrates the actual difficulty involved. What constitutes an even-handed national minimum standard that doesn't also tend toward subsequent detrimental political manipulation?

Lots of different mechanisms have been employed at various times over the course of the republic's history, all of them have resulted in less-than-hoped-for outcomes eventually. That's what makes this such a perennial conversation, I suspect, the quest for "better". Whatever we each consider that to be. :)

Personally, I don't think there is "an answer". Partly because there are just too many possible different "standards" we variously desire. Partly because our circumstance as a nation is continuously changing as well. Between the two, I don't think we'll ever arrive at a concensus, let alone a permanent standard.

Sunday, 21 September, 2008  
Blogger al fin said...

According to neuroscience, a person's brain does not mature until 25 years of age, sometimes later. Sometimes never.

On University of Wisconsin campuses, students are taught how to cheat the voting system so as to be able to vote multiple times for a favoured candidate.

Even under the best devised system of voter vetting, there is no permanent cure for election fraud such as that rampant in most large inner cities, and third world countries.

Monday, 22 September, 2008  
Blogger Will Brown said...

Assuming the thread is still active, I think vote fraud is more a result of a lack of personal faith in (perhaps personal association with is a better choice of phrase) the motivating principle's underlying a polity then a reflection of the per capita IQ/EF of that polity. A willingness to damage something has a lot more to do with how much value one places in that thing than does one's IQ rating, I think.

I'm sure there is more than a little coorelation between the two (voter competence and degree of vote fraud), but I think the example Al Fin provides above would argue against actual causation of one from the other. An individual's personal IQ rating may well have something (even something substantial) to do with said person's suseptability to political manipulation, but I don't think it can therefore be said that an increase in IQ automatically reduces the likelihood of such manipulation occuring. Indeed, I think a good argument to the contrary could be made from the available evidence.

People seeking to improve their position in life will always result in damage caused to some other person. Rigging a political system to prevent such improvement is a certain guarantee of those same individual's advancing themselves at the polity's expense and damage by their having to actively circumvent the rules and regulations erected to thwart their self-improvement efforts.

A better mechanism is one that starts from the expectation of self-advancement and incorporates various means to doing so into continuing the stability of the political process. I would be curious to read other's ideas as to how such might be accomplished in the USA as it exists today.

Monday, 22 September, 2008  
Blogger Redneck said...

Re:"People seeking to improve their position in life will always result in damage caused to some other person."

You can't be serious!

Thursday, 25 September, 2008  
Blogger al fin said...

d.r. zinn: as a courtesy to readers, please specify the comment that you are responding to.

Unreferenced comments add noise without signal, heat without light.

For the benefit of readers, zinn is referring to the 22 Sep 1:20:00 PM comment by Will Brown.

One of the reasons for comment moderation is to eliminate flaming. Insults and blind assertions without support, are the bane of internet discussions.

Too many dolts were coming here expecting the right to flame on this blog. Just as there is no unconditional right to vote in a constitutional republic, there is no right to flame in the Al Fin Republic.

Make your points logically, and with supporting information if you are capable, and specify the target of your comment.

Thursday, 25 September, 2008  
Blogger Redneck said...

Hmmm... I think if I'm replying to the comment immediately preceding mine, and quoting it in my reply, there's no need to clarify to whom I'm replying.

Friday, 26 September, 2008  
Blogger al fin said...

Perhaps you are thinking clearly on this issue, d r, and perhaps not. But--and no need to thank me here--since my previous comment clarified the issue it really doesn't matter anymore.

In many areas of life, documentation is the difference between success and failure, often life and death. It doesn't take that much longer to leave clear documentation.

Friday, 26 September, 2008  
Blogger Redneck said...

"In many areas of life, documentation is the difference between success and failure, often life and death."

This ain't one of them.

Friday, 26 September, 2008  
Blogger al fin said...

Very well. d r zinn, with your most recent post, you have graduated from novice to veteran commenter at Al Fin blog.

Your new rank allows you considerably more leeway in commenting.

No longer will you be called to account for minor infractions of the international blog-commenters' code.

By your sheer persistence in the face of mild reprimand--and without resorting to profanity or voodoo curses--you have demonstrated the attributes of a veteran commenter, junior grade.

Further promotions are subject to candidate performance.

Saturday, 27 September, 2008  
Blogger Redneck said...

Wow, from Novice all the way to Veteran in one step! I must be doing something right! (Although it's only junior grade, so I shouldn't let my head swell.)

In all seriousness, I've enjoyed your blog for some time now, and don't usually comment much anywhere, but that statement (see my original comment) had me a bit non-plussed.

Saturday, 27 September, 2008  

Post a Comment

“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

<< Home

Newer Posts Older Posts