Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Choices, Choices...

In the following lecture by Sheena Iyengar, from Colombia Business School, the cultural differences between how people deal with choices is explored. Sheena's work may be relevant to democracy and how it is applied in different cultures (Switzerland? Afghanistan?). She also touches on the relevance of choice to performance and happiness.

Within the proposed Interactive Democracy system, choices are effected by debate, leadership and data. The politicians may act as expert advisers and those that don't want to choose may devolve their vote to other people within the liquid leadership system.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Evolved to be Wrong

Laurie Santos runs the Comparative Cognition Laboratory at Yale. In this video she explains how monkeys make the same mistakes as humans and suggests that our decision making may have evolved to make poor decisions many millions of years ago. Interactive Democracy involves many people in collective decisions, avoiding some of the bias that may be inherent in small groups, but if we all have the same problem behaviours hard wired into our brains by evolution, maybe other decision making systems are required? For example, the theory/experiment approach of science or the 6 Sigma methodology of Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve and Control.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Three Coalition Policies

Three items from the Coalition Government paper:

"We will give residents the power to instigate local referendums on any local issue.

"We will bring forward early legislation to introduce a power of recall, allowing voters to force a by-election where an MP is found to have engaged in serious wrongdoing and having had a petition calling for a by-election signed by l0% of his or her constituents.

"We will ensure that any petition that secures l00,000 signatures will be eligible for formal debate in Parliament. The petition with the most signatures will enable members of the public to table a bill eligible to be voted on in Parliament."


Research in Switzerland has indicated that Direct Democracy can contribute to happiness. The following lecture, by Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman, explores the notion of happiness in more detail, contrasting what we remember with what we experience and the difference between happiness and well being. Finally it briefly examines US poll data and the correlations between income and happiness. This shows that incomes above $60k don't add any more happiness, but incomes below $60k rapidly erode happiness.

Could it be that Direct or Interactive Democracy would naturally adjust policy to achieve the greatest total of happiness in society, given that the greatest number of citizens have lower wages and would benefit most from policies that improved their wealth while richer people may not gain happiness from greater wealth?

(This idea doesn't necessarily point towards wealth redistribution; it may just as easily point to wealth creation via capitalism. I note that Switzerland has the highest per capita income of any country in Europe.)