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chaosmage comments on Politics is hard mode - Less Wrong

28 Post author: RobbBB 21 July 2014 10:14PM

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Comment author: chaosmage 22 July 2014 11:13:08AM 8 points [-]

Let's make explicit that we're talking about politics specifically in the US.

My experience (in Germany) is very different. Here parties need to be in coalitions in order to get majorities; so they need to remain on speaking terms and know each others positions well enough to find compromises. Our political discourse is a lot less polarized than yours, which makes it more complex, and that complexity selects for other people to participate in it. I know a bunch of politicians personally (a few very well) and they tend to be intellectual, thoughtful people with strong consciences that do care about the truth.

So I can't really comment on whether "hard mode", "mind-killer" or any other term is appropriate on your side of the Atlantic, but please remember you're not describing a universal phenomenon.

Comment author: [deleted] 22 July 2014 07:00:30PM 3 points [-]

Here parties need to be in coalitions in order to get majorities;

Same applies to Italy and yet Italian politicians aren't that much saner than American ones. So an American-style two-party first-past-the-post system aren't a necessary condition for politician craziness (though it does help).

Comment author: [deleted] 23 July 2014 11:49:07AM 1 point [-]

A more precise description of the Italian system is: if the centre-right coalition comprises 40% of the parliament, the centre-left coalition comprises 45% of the parliament, and the lone contrarian party comprises 15% of the parliament, then the lone contrarian party gets to decide everything (except questions on which the centre-right coalition and the centre-left coalition agree, which aren't likely to be voted on in the parliament in the first place) without needing to be in a coalition, and hence without needing to be sane enough to be in a coalition. (BTW, nobody actually likes the centre-right coalition or the centre-left coalition: people vote for the centre-right coalition just because they dislike the centre-left coalition and don't want it to get a plurality of seats and vice versa.)

(I'm not familiar with German politics so I don't know what prevents this dynamic from occurring there too.)

Comment author: B_For_Bandana 23 July 2014 11:38:34PM 0 points [-]

then the lone contrarian party gets to decide everything

How often do the center-right and center-left coalitions look the crazy thing the lone contrarian party wants to do, go "lol, nope" and make a centrist compromise with each other? Is that possible/common?

Comment author: Nornagest 24 July 2014 12:02:14AM *  2 points [-]

The trouble with being a kingmaker is that you can't choose the people that have a shot at becoming king. The lone contrarian party isn't in a position to dictate terms; all it can do is decide whether it wants the country to be center-left or center-right on a given issue, which sounds okay for preventing partisan insanity but bad for coherence on anyone's part.

I can only see compromise being a winning move if one of the mainstream coalitions wants to do something that won't work without agreement between several different policy domains, and if it's willing to sacrifice a lot to get it. Otherwise there's no incentive: pissing off the crazies isn't a good strategic move if it implies concessions to your real enemies.

Comment author: [deleted] 24 July 2014 08:12:25AM 0 points [-]

That was covered by “except questions on which the centre-right coalition and the centre-left coalition agree” but Nornagest said it better.

Comment author: ChristianKl 23 July 2014 09:38:34AM *  1 point [-]

The debate is not about politicians getting mind-killed but mainly about normal people getting mind-killed. The fact that a professional politician manages to think clearly doesn't indicate that the average person on the street also thinks clearly.

At the moment I'm having a facebook discussion with a German friend (I'm also German) who thinks that the US is definitely responsible for shooting down that plane in the Ukraine.

While it's possible, it's also plausible that the rebels simply wanted to shoot down a military plane and mistakenly hit the civilian aircraft. I do think "mind-killed" is a pretty good description for that behavior.

In the city of Berlin a few years ago the Berlin government wanted to have a database with the names of all students and with schools the student goes to. There are cases where a student get's accepted in two schools and then both schools run with a higher head count and the schools are late in reporting back that they have a lower student count. That makes it harder for the central school administration to distribute teachers so the central school administration wants a database with student names and their school.

The German pirate party opposed that program because it's about centralized storage of personal data and all centralized storage of personal data is supposed to be fought. I also think that the label "mind-killed" is fitting at that point.

There also quite good experimental evidence that people who can successfully use Bayes theorem when given non-political examples with numbers fail to use it when given political examples with are otherwise identical. I have no reason to doubt that only happens with Americans who think about politics and that it doesn't happen in Germany.

Here parties need to be in coalitions in order to get majorities; so they need to remain on speaking terms and know each others positions well enough to find compromises.

That's not much different than the US. In the US bills usually net support from some senators of both parties to avoid getting filibustered.

A big difference in Germany is that we don't have privately funded political TV ads. We also have political parties where a politician has to explain himself to other members of his party to get on the party list to get elected. US politicians instead have to convince private donors to fund their campaign.

Comment author: Jiro 23 July 2014 02:44:04PM 5 points [-]

The German pirate party opposed that program because it's about centralized storage of personal data and all centralized storage of personal data is supposed to be fought. I also think that the label "mind-killed" is fitting at that point.

Alternatively they understood that "no centralized storage of personal data" is a much better Schelling point than "no centralized storage of personal data except in a few obviously harmless cases". Or that allowing it in a harmless case can lead to a slippery slope. Beware of assuming that anything you don't understand is mindkill.

Comment author: ChristianKl 23 July 2014 07:18:07PM -1 points [-]

Or that allowing it in a harmless case can lead to a slippery slope. Beware of assuming that anything you don't understand is mindkill.

I do understand the relevant political field.

There are people in the privacy movement who prefer that the police in Berlin routinely breaks the law to locate people who confess to attempting suicide via the telephone over the police having the legal authority to locate those people.

At the same time the pirate party did very little to protest centralized storage of medical information because that wasn't a topic on the agenda of the mainstream media.

Or that allowing it in a harmless case can lead to a slippery slope.

They don't have the power whether or not to allow it or to enforce a Schelling point. As a strategic choice it's very bad to not have the debate about privacy in a way where you argue based on rational arguments why certain state actions aren't worth it. Without engaging in rational discourse but instead fighting for a Schelling point that way outside of what you can push through, you don't effect political choices.

The German pirate party effectively did get nothing done on a political level in the face of the Snowden leaks right in front of a general German election because they didn't fight for specific political goals to move public policy in the right direction. That's very sad.

They also damaged themselves through infighting to the point of not entering the German federal parliament.

Things would have played out differently with competent people at the head of the pirate party. In that case we would have at least some decent pro-privacy laws passed and we would have a pirate party in the German federal parliament.