Possibilities and perils

I just read an article that blew my mind. (Warning: paywall)

What Happens When Techno-Utopians Actually Run a Country | WIRED

Direct democracy! Universal basic income! Fascism!? The inside story of Italy’sĀ Five StarĀ Movement and the cyberguru who dreamed it up.

I will be blogging about it, but if we care to influence the future of the planet, we need to be aware of how the landscape has changed. It’s not just global warming, it’s not just a single populist leader, it is the development of fascism that masquerades as democracy.

I am very familiar with the “political philosophy” underpinning what the article is about, and wrote for years about the opportunity and the danger, and what it would take to create what I called direct/deliberative-representative democracy. Direct democracy on a large scale without protective structure is very, very likely to devolve into fascism, through the Iron Law of Oligarchy. Look it up if you are not familiar with it. Popular movements like term limits increase the power of the media and those who can buy the media. (Or, in this case, those who have developed the skill of manipulating popular, unprofessional social media. This is a current Very Big Story, about the 2016 U.S. Presidential election.)

There is no way around the Iron Law, but there are ways to harness it, but hardly anyone even recognizes the problem, much less solutions.

I may have been one of the writers who influenced the founder of that Italian movement; if not, it could have been one or more of a small group who pushed for similar ideas, such as Demoex in Sweden. This is stuff that is very appealing, but what is common is utter naivete about the dangers. The Italian experience demonstrates both the intense appeal and the depth of the danger.

“Leaderless” people are not free, they are in great danger of manipulation by people who have learned the lessons of mass psychology, and the behind-the-scenes founder of Five Star explicitly studied those concepts and used them to create personal power. Strong-Leader people are also not free, they are the slaves of the Leader. There is a synthesis possible, but it will not arise until the dangers are recognized and we pay attention to and develop structure that will ensure that we have the right to actually choose representatives we trust — and the right to take that delegation back at will if they lose the trust. The entire conventional system is based on win/lose, which defeats genuine chosen representation and becomes the dictatorship of the majority (or, often, worse, of a plurality). It can be done, but most people think and act, knee-jerk, from within the familiar, and strong-leader is familiar and so is direct democracy in small groups of highly interested people. More will be revealed.