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Utopia Talk / Politics / Subsidiarity
kargen
Member
Thu Apr 29 15:31:46
I had never heard this word until a guest used it a few nights ago on the Gutfeld! show. It describes almost perfectly my political views on a variety of issues.

Subsidiarity: an organizing principle that matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralized competent authority. Political decisions should be taken at a local level if possible, rather than by a central authority.
Sam Adams
Member
Thu Apr 29 15:56:16
Seems like a good plan in theory.

Problem is 90% of people are incompetent at all things, especially journalists and politicians.
EuropeanPussy
Member
Thu Apr 29 16:03:27
http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subsidiarity_(European_Union)

In the European Union, the principle of subsidiarity is the principle that decisions are retained by Member States if the intervention of the European Union is not necessary. The European Union should take action collectively only when Member States’ power is insufficient. The principle of subsidiarity applied to the European Union can be summarised as "Europe where necessary, national where possible".[1]

The principle of subsidiarity is premised from the fundamental EU principle of conferral, ensuring that the European Union is a union of member states and competences are voluntarily conferred to Member States. The conferral principle also guarantees the principle of proportionality, establishing that the European Union should undertake only the minimum necessary actions.

The principle of subsidiarity is one of the core principles of the European law,[2] and is especially important to the European intergovernmentalist school of thought.
Nimatzo
iChihuaha
Fri Apr 30 01:32:35
*rolls eyes* You should pay more attention to my rants and ramblings. I’m like, the subsidiarity guy of UP.
Seb
Member
Fri Apr 30 03:24:22
Subsidiarity is an excellent principle that runs into problems when much of the progress of the last thirty years or so has been driven by integration and standardisation that require harmonised policies.

This is tending to drive centralism, again, and we need something that allows consensus building with out top down centralisation.
jergul
large member
Fri Apr 30 03:42:55
The problem is corruption in its various forms along with an inherent competence issue.

If you are pushing for the lowest possible competence, then sometimes you are going to fall into systemic incompetence.

Subsidarity does not scale well to entities below 50k people. Norway has vast experience trying to make it work.
Seb
Member
Fri Apr 30 04:03:09
That is an issue too.

But equally over centralization can create issues where a policy is skewed towards a powerful plurality or minority rather than being optimal, or is suboptimal to a more flexible.

Centralised powers are often bad, at a certain scale, at appreciating nuance or regional variation in needs, and frequently tends to hoard power.

A convening rather than dictating center is ideal but can be quite hard.


Nimatzo
iChihuaha
Fri May 21 09:28:47
So, this is a bit rough, but it is what it is.

When I think about subsidiarity and decentralization of power and authority, I am thinking about social issues/policy.

We could use the progress of the EU in the areas of harmonization as an example. There is a lot of technical harmonization, the things I work with, the differences of opinion here, while they exists and delay “progress” for sometimes 10 years, are not the things that drive anti-EU sentiments broadly. The Medical device directive for instance, wasn't a factor in Brexit. On the other hand monetary policy and trade policy can be things that foster dissent and of course directly increase immiseration.

A lot of progress made in these technical and regulatory domains have been flushed down the toilet in the UK with Brexit, when the real hot button issue was immigration or other things that had nothing to do with the technocratic progress. Of course, once could question if things are actually “progress” if they result in the weakening, or outright collapse of the order that has emerged out of that same progress.

“Decentralization is based on the simple notion that it is easier to macrobull***t than microbull***t. Decentralization reduces large structural asymmetries.”
- NN Taleb

Or to paraphrase Stalin, it is like killing 1 person vs killing 1 million. We can empathize with the death of 1 person just fine, but when you scale this up to a nightmare, the brain shuts down after a while. There is no way for anyone of us to scale our sorrow from 1 dead person to 1 million massacred. It isn't 1 million times more intense. It is the same quantity divided and diluted by 1 million. Sam Harris makes a compelling case around this regarding empathy, but it applies to practically all cognitive domains.

The same inherent cognitive limitation applies to corruption or anything that requires attention, or any of our other limited cognitive functions. Billions of Euros scammed, wow, that is a lot of money, he says as his eyes glaze over. Well, I am glad it wasn't my money! HONEEEY, should we go out for dinner today or order pizza? Life moves on, as it does, to more tangible and urgent needs.

Even the debates/discussions at higher level become diluted as all kinds of people (without skin in the game) opine and start weighing in on the outcome. As things scale, they increasingly start to take a life of their own, those same limited brains are hijacked and the discussions devolve into lowest common denominator noise and fear mongering in a game of who can scream the loudest and become most indignant. Scale also removes urgency; how does this Chinese trade deal affect me here and now? And that goes both ways, the leaders have no real connection to the community they are governing at large scales - I am the elected leader of 5 million, 10 million 200 million(!) people. What does that even mean?

One thing that stuck in my mind from listening to the Chainlink founder on Lex Fridman, was the idea he brought up of smart contract to hold politicians accountable. You are making these election promises, hold up, let's put that in a smart contract. How we get there, if it is possible, I have no idea, but I like the concept. You promise us a bunch of things to get this job, then failing to deliver should cost you, and these days it doesn't even cost people the next election anymore. If any of us mere mortals got a job and we made campaign level promises during the interview and we deliver 5%, we would not only get fired, we wouldn't be able to use that job as a merit for the next job. On a large enough scale responsibility and accountability dilute and it facilitates the classical merry go around behavior, where the pointing fingers form a perfect circle.

Just think of this thought experiment, what would be the effect on election campaigns, if for each broken election promise, we broke a finger on the guy or gal who was elected? I bet you people would get careful with their words. Arguably this is more than what fits into smart contracts… for now >:)

Now imagine if your neighbor lied and bullshitted you as much 1/10 of what national level politicians do. You are probably going to remember that asshole for the rest of your life.

The game is borked my friends and it is borked in ways that seem immune to iterative correction and improvement. Unless you pull some Sarkozy level bullshit or have bunga bunga parties, you are not losing your job. The average joe is too busy and the 4th estate when it isn’t failing is in an impossible zero sum competition with the noise, screams and screeching generated on social media.

To me it is obvious that these systems that we have, they are not dimensioned for the 21th century, they are still rooted in medieval thinking and trying to temper stone age emotions. We have patched them as best as we can to keep them functional, but the writing is on the walls.
Dukhat
Member
Fri May 21 09:41:46
And yet, watch kargen stay 100% silent as red-state governments override city-level governments with rules that ban paid leave and mask mandates.

Modern cuckservatives have no principles.
Seb
Member
Fri May 21 10:19:35
Nim:


"A lot of progress made in these technical and regulatory domains have been flushed down the toilet in the UK with Brexit, when the real hot button issue was immigration or other things that had nothing to do with the technocratic progress."

It's not that simple. Standards are a form of trade barrier - in fact the dominant form of trade barrier. Key to harmonising standards (relaxing a protectionist measure and opening your economy to greater competition) is the quid pro quo that you know that if you get clobbered with competition and get rising unemployment, then your people can seek work elsewhere.

It's all part of a process of supply chain integration.


Of course, once could question if things are actually “progress” if they result in the weakening, or outright collapse of the order that has emerged out of that same progress.

The smart contract point - again an example of trying to use technology so solve a social problem. Representative government relies on representatives having leeway to take deliberative actions because the world is complex, unforeseen things occur and trade offs are inherent.

The electorate need to take a nuanced view and engage with the process and decide who to vote in or out and punish and reward at the ballot box.

The last thing we want is to try and automate that with hard criteria in a smart contract. You only need to look at the goddamned mess that screwing up incentives structures for remuneration of executives has done to companies. Automation will not save us from our lack of political engagement.


Nimatzo
iChihuaha
Fri May 21 11:21:55
It is a fair point, about it being a trade barrier, but those exist regardless of country, you have to fulfill them. In other words, whether the UK is in or out the conformity requirement is there to put products on the EU market. I don’t count these as drivers behind Brexit

”again an example of trying to use technology so solve a social problem”

This social order, wouldn’t be possible without technology, so I am not sure what this is getting at. Social problems are emergent properties of human nature and the ecosystems that we have built, ecosystem that are either directly founded on technology or indirectly the result of layers of technology. So, technology has already created some of these problems or amplified old ones. It would seem natural that technology also solve or facilitate better maintenance since our brains do not evolve that quickly.

Of course technology can’t solve every social problem and sometimes it solves them by accident, like the birth control pill. However this specific example of a smart contract isn’t even on that level and can not be a simple deployment of tech. o
Obviously holding politicians accountable in that manner with a smart contract I described would have had to be preceeded by some massive political and social change, and the smart contracts would simply be the way to manage it. Here I think tech can also inspire us to change the things the tech then can manage.
Nimatzo
iChihuaha
Fri May 21 11:33:19
”The last thing we want is to try and automate that with hard criteria in a smart contract.”

I think you are missing the indirect effects this would have on opportunistic actors in politics and especially during election campaigns. I just threw this in there as a concept, the idea is great, but smart contracts may not be the best way to facilitate it. Though it has to be based on objective criteria and an immutable process, hence why smart contracts make sense as a concept. Any human arbitration over who promised what and how well they kept it, will devolve into a shitshow and become the source of conspiracy theories.
Cloud Strife
Member
Fri May 21 13:15:17
Look Nim, I've noticed you peering into the crypto hole. Which is fine, gamble however you want. You can make some quick money whenever there's crazy volatility.

But don't drink the kool-aid, bro. The technology is worthless aside from CP and ransomware. We already have a legal system that handles contracts/copyrights/whatever way better than any "smart contract" that you're imagining.

It's not even new technology anymore. This crap's been around longer than tik tok, which actually made something of itself.
Cloud Strife
Member
Fri May 21 13:27:16
As to the OP. The idea is largely meaningless, malformed philosophical babble. I guess it's an axis to consider, where the cohesion/identity of a group is better guaranteed at smaller scales, e.g. a European vs a German, or an American vs a Trumptard. This doesn't seem very relevant though.

A military obviously can't be "decentralized", nor can a monetary policy.

At its logical limit, the world devolves into a mass of city states with border crossings at every town. It's a disastrous model for sovereignty, where you don't even know which other townships would accept your citizenship.

Predicting arguments, cuz I know how ya'll are. If you say townships are extreme, well it functions similarly at the state/province level. If you say that you only go to the most local level reasonable, than it's just a meaningless platitude, where we do things in the way in which they work best.
Seb
Member
Fri May 21 13:47:30
Nim:

"It is a fair point, about it being a trade barrier, but those exist regardless of country, you have to fulfill them. In other words, whether the UK is in or out the conformity requirement is there to put products on the EU market. I don’t count these as drivers behind Brexit"

Right, but the deal is that if the UK wants automatic standards recognition and removal of standards checks for its goods going into the EU, then it also needs to accept free movement back. And free movement is an issue.

Equally, if standards checks will be applied on EU goods going into EU, then we are going to apply and maintain our own standards regime (even if they remain the same because frankly, few manufacturers will invest to meet divergent UK standards) as a reciprocal protectionist barrier.

So in the end, they are all related.
Seb
Member
Fri May 21 13:57:11
RE social problem:

The problem is that the electorate in the west have become far more tolerant of behaviours in politicians than previosuly: they have come to accept dishonesty, emotional rather than rational arguments etc. that they would previously have punished.

As a result we have a spiral whereby politicians "get away" with failure to deliver promises.

The solution to that can only come when the electorate starts to care more about politicians behaviours than specific policies, narrative, partisan tribalism and narratives.

This cannot be solved by smart contracts automatically penalising politicians for failing to meet targets for a host of reasons, technical and also procedural. Do we actually want a situation where a politician, responding to unforseen emergencies (say a pandemic) decides to continue to prioritise his or her promise to increase the total number of people using public transport because that is what will determine if they remain in office - even if nobody in their right mind thinks that is a good idea?

There is no sensible way of trying to automate the role of the public in deciding whether to punish or reward a politician at the ballot box.

Can technology play a role in shaping how people engage? Yes - but fundamentally this a social problem, not a technical problem. It will not easily be fixed with tech here.

Nor is it likely to be fixed simply by re-arranging the deck-chairs by shifting power between different tiers of govt.

If people don't care that much about politicians behaviour, it is the hard work of political campaigning to try and persuade people that this is the criteria by which they should judge people.

Seb
Member
Fri May 21 14:04:30
Sorry, the other side of the spiral: people keep asking politicians to make unreasonable promises.

There is a fundamental dishonesty: people do not want to hear that complex problems will be slow and difficult to solve, or that the problem is an inevitable consequence of something ultimately far more beneficial.

We are increasingly used to being able to get what we want, how we want it, when we want it. Rising expectations of government have been a major challenge and on risk registers for democracies for about two decades.

Politicians that tell the truth that this stuff is complex and there are not easy, quick and simple answers get punished. Those that lie and then fail to deliver also eventually get punished. Those that can leap from lie to lie fast enough to keep the public narrative and focus moving do extremely well.

This is why Chernobyl was the best drama for this era. "Every lie we tell incurs a debt to the truth. Sooner or later, that debt is paid.".

Technology will not save us from our own collective failure to engage with governance properly. If the electorate will not be responsible, you are probably better off trying to adopt a liberal technocracy, not attempt to automate the publics role of holding their representatives to account.
Seb
Member
Fri May 21 14:07:52
In any case, rather than a smart contract, you could just have a dumb normal contract.

Change the constitution such that the govt must commit in law to meeting binding targets and, if it fails to do so, is deemed to have resigned by automatic operation of law, and have the opposition have the power to sue for that effect.

This is what I mean: it's mot a technological problem.
Nimatzo
iChihuaha
Sat May 22 05:38:51
”They are related”

We agree to disagree, these examples still gives both parties the ability to reciprocate. On the other hand, with immigration policy, there is no way to reciprocate, without pulling away.

”The solution to that can only come when the electorate starts to care more about politicians behaviours than specific policies, narrative, partisan tribalism and narratives. ”

And this I believe is mission impossible, for the reasons of cognitive limitations. Our brains can not ”care” at scale and individuallt we don’t care about the same things. It practice this means the caring is increasingly concentrated into groups that are or become centers of power of themselves (be they corporations, movement or NGO’s. We can think whatever else about that, but it actually weakens democracy and turns things into entities that are to some degree monocultural, singularly obsessed with 1 thing. Additionally the dynamics of getting things done has emerged as beeing primarilt about deep pockets, or effective use of media, who is the angriest? A race to the bottom in some cases.

”even if nobody in their right mind thinks that is a good idea?”

You are simplifying the concept of a smart contract. We can in theory make the contract as complex as any contract on paper, write in a force majeure clause.

”Yes - but fundamentally this a social problem, not a technical problem. It will not easily be fixed with tech here.”

Disclaimer: I don’t know what the significance of the category ”social problem” means for you.

The manifestations of problems in the ”social sphere” doesn’t mean the problems originate in the social sphere, or that they are best solved where they manifest. Anti psychotic meds for instance, prevent social problems. We have a lot of technology to simply prevent social problems, cc tv cameras for instance, alcohol locks for public transit.

Because at some point you realize, pleading for good behavior, gets you that far and beyond that the consequences are too high. You need better control mechanisms than ok I trust you. A put your mo ey where your mouth is. These situations pretty much makes up governance, where a lot is at stake, but there are huge assymetries in how power AND risk is distributed.

”people keep asking politicians to make unreasonable promises.”

Exactly, my post go too long and I didn’t want to go down this rabbit hole too. We see the same problems, we both think this is about generally the same patterns of behavior and/or disruption of behaviors that result in these problems. We just think different on the solutions and in what domains, and I don’t even think so much domains, but the ratio or specific recipe. Now those difference may be significant, I don’t want to regress to the mean.

The interesting thing to me about the smart contracts is the objective and immutable arbitration, based on objective fact. A dumb contract is one that is decided ultimately by humans that interpret the outcomes, and in any political scenario that means bias or imagined systemic bias. Trusting the result requires trusting people and increasingly it opens up many doors for opportunistic race to the shit bucket.

Thing is, my thinking is more on the level of a manifesto and you are thinking in terms of technical thesis. You are right in many things you say, that certain things and stuff need to be answered or solved. I don’t have good answer for all of the them, probably never will have, but I also don’t believe that is my role in the grand scheme of things. If these ideas ever become part of some grand scheme of things, I wouldn’t have been the technocrat that built it, I am the technocrat that got red pilled.

I do not think there is anything fundamentally flawed or impossibly with what I am saying and it hasn’t been tested, for the same reason no one created a liberal democracy in the 12th century. Certain applications of software (social/cultural of broadly ”behavior”) requires certain advances in hardware to run them without crashing the computer. That metaphor maps to reality 1to1! If you realize we can’t really change our own hardware, so we have to create technilogical extensions of ourselves to off load work. Some times that is menial work, sometimes it is complex tasks. Increasingly we will be using technology to help us solve complex tasks. We should do everything we can to use them in evolutionary sound ways, that doesn’t allow our baser nature to be played like a fiddle and support us where we are weak, I know we agree on that.
Nimatzo
iChihuaha
Sat May 22 05:44:40
I want to expand abit more on the smart contract. You could say, well bias could coded, sure. However the arbitration and mechanism for settling is now part of the code and can be audited by however many people you want before the contract is even signed.
Seb
Member
Sat May 22 07:19:58
Nim:

They are intimately related though: UK govt insists it will not be a standard taker - i.e. it will not follow evolving EU standards. EU will not allow UK a say in standards setting outside of full single market, which requires respecting the four freedoms; movement of labour being essential to prevent build up of economic asymmetry over time.

We can pretend there's are distinct things we can pick and mix from, but they interact. Hence it's a package of quid-pro-quos you can't pick and mix from for good economic reasons. Don't forget Cameron's pre referendum gambit was to ask for precisely that: EU membership, but with an emergency break on migration.

I don't really see how it could be otherwise.

"And this I believe is mission impossible, for the reasons of cognitive limitations"

In 2010 we had a huge political backlash because the public cared very deeply about politicians fiddling their expenses in minor ways. In 2021, the PM is given a pass by the electorate for getting political donors to fund his houses redecoration. This is far more dynamic and about public discourse and attitudes, not fundamental cognitive limits.

On smart contracts, I'm going to flip my response around from the order you wrote because I think my point reads better if I do.

Let's look at what the problem is: smart contracts provide automatic enforcement. That would address situations where the problem is a lack of willingness to enforce rules. But my contention is that actually the public do not care or are willing to specifically allow govt to break rules and excuse failure to deliver on promises; because tribalism/winning matters more than outcomes, and processes and guardrails that get in the way of winning are actively disliked by the public.

Now we can already (in theory, let's ignore implementation because that's a problem for your proposal also) put in more processes (whether smart contracts, or a dumb contract) - essentially enshrine fulfillment of manifesto pledges into constitutional frameworks.

And if we are worried that those charged with triggering and enforcing those provisions can be subverted, maybe smart contracts could help.

However, they would not have legitimacy: the reason that we have govts that fail to deliver is two fold and both down to the electorate:

1. Tribalism: we want our team to win, and we care about that more than rules, and will therefore demand rules be waived. So automatically enforced rules will in some way be cast as illegitimate when they get in the way.

2. The public often votes for simplistic and often mutually exclusive outcomes that can't be delivered. They will often forgive these not being delivered because they want their team to win. But where they don't, they won't look back and say "oh, maybe I shouldn't have voted for this stupid policy". Instead they will say "this politician failed, my party needs to get rid of him and replace him with someone new" or even change to another party promising the same stupid policy.

In this context, what's going to happen? At the ballot box, will people modify how they vote and which policies they want their leaders to promise? No. Will politicians have an incentive to make less extravagant policies, or at least communicate why such policies are impossible? Not really.

"We can in theory make the contract as complex as any contract on paper, write in a force majeure clause."

And this is the crux of it: who rights the contract? You've just moved power into the hands of a very centralised and powerful minority there.

The automatic enforcement isn't the problem here. It's lack of proper engagement by the electorate in governance. The smart contract is trying to fill the gap of that disengagement, but can never really do so.

It's a form of the same error many in the UK left make about the need for a written constitution; when actually what we need is a greater appreciation for Constitutionalism as a principle.
Cloud Strife
Member
Sat May 22 12:38:05
"However the arbitration and mechanism for settling is now part of the code and can be audited by however many people you want before the contract is even signed. "

This sounds like actual law, but with extra steps.
Seb
Member
Sat May 22 16:49:14
CS: except actual laws and contracts are enforceable as written, whereas smart contracts aren't unless they are couched in actual contractual terms least they be disputed in courts, which have primacy over them.

Biggest problem with smart contracts, the only thing they can directly govern is the status of a blockchain address, which is limiting. Cf. NFTs, which I must remind everyone stands for "Not Fucking Tangible".
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