Thursday, November 6, 2014

Celebrating Idiot Masses Day

This year, Tuesday November 4th marked the day I'd colloquially term the Idiot Masses Day in the US. This is the day, bi-annually, when the idiot masses get to go to the polling stations, and help steer the country inexorably forward toward its destined idiocracy. It's the day when, no matter how informed or educated you may be on any particular political issues or candidates, there are an order of magnitude more people going to the polls to vote purely based on idiotic partisan categorization, some partisan or paid-for endorsements, or worse, a combination of distilled and filtered sound bites randomly garnered from media exposure. The setup virtually ensures we'll get a mediocre outcome at best, and reinforces the monetarily corrupt native of the current voting process.

Which begs the question: could we do better? Well, that's a more difficult question, with no easy answer. Conceptually, there are several ways we could hope to have a better overall outcome, but they all have substantial drawbacks.

For example, we could have some sort of political literacy test required in order to vote, which would eliminate some of the people influencing the process without the faintest comprehension of the effects of the things they are voting for. Depending on the test, this could do wonders to screen out the easily manipulated votes (and by extension the corrupting influence of money), but whoever was setting the test criteria would have enormous influence over the election process. Since this would be done by elected leaders (directly or indirectly), and they are generally contemptible and thoroughly corrupt, this would be untenable in practice.

We could also weigh votes, based on some objective criteria, designed to elicit more educated voting indirectly (eg: count votes by property owners as worth more than votes by people with no land holdings). While this could certainly work to increase the quality of opinions expressed by the voting populace, it would (again) no doubt elicit much debate as to what criteria was used to select for "good" opinions on political matters. While I'd love to see this employed for some sections of government, to allow specific points of view to have a voice (eg: elect the US Senate with votes weighed based on actual taxes paid, to allow the people who pay for government a say in government actions), I don't think this is really viable for general elections, due to the potential for abuse of the criteria.

There are also optimizations which could be made to make it more feasible for working professionals to vote, and/or for people to express indirectly-educated opinions. For the former, something like online voting would be a great alternative to visiting a polling place. For the latter, the ability to proxy your vote on specific people/issues to others who you trusted to be educated and like-minded would go a long way toward raising the effective education level of the voting populace. However, both of these also have issues, primarily related to the required anonymity of voting itself (ie: the moment voting has a identification trail, it's a certainty that the intelligence agencies, who don't particularly care about rights or ethics, will compromise the data, and politicians will then be able to use it to intimidate voters and influence the process). So this, too, is probably a non-starter.

Where does that leave us? Well, where we are now: celebrating Idiot Masses Day, as the abysmally poor way to make political decisions, which also happens to likely be the best methodology our corrupt system/people can actually support. The day when you can spend time going to the polls and do your best to correct the direction of the state/country (within the very narrow and practically meaningless confines imposed on you by the politicians determining what measures get onto the ballot, and/or choosing between two horrible corrupt partisan liars), only to have your potentially educated and insightful opinion drowned out by the masses of drooling idiots casting their votes for the highest media bidder. Congratulations.

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