Greedy Goblin

Thursday, December 29, 2011

What makes democracy democracy?

The word "democracy" is Greek, meaning "the rule of the people". It is believed to have several criteria:
  • Equality before law
  • Leaders are elected by the people (all 18+, non-convicted, non-insane people)
  • The separation of powers (checks and balances, judicial independence)
  • Rights of the individual
The funny thing is that none of the above is true to a gaming guild. Gaming guilds should be the purest form of democracy since there is absolutely no power objectively existing in a game that would force anyone to obey tyranny. I mean you don't need anything that the government would provide, and you can move without costs, so why would you accept anything less than perfect freedom? Yet people willingly form guilds that are openly tyrannic: one guy has all the power and he can do as he wishes, including kicking players for no other reason than he chose to. Why do anyone accept this in a game he plays at his own will? Please note that players implemented lot of systems outside the developers will, for example damage meters and GearScore, so you can't blame just clumsy developers. It wouldn't be hard to write voting addons, yet no one seems to wish to live in freedom.

Also, you can see several real world counterexamples: China doesn't fit to the criteria, yet it develops very fast (which is surely the interest of the people), while Hitler risen to power in a (moderately) fair election in a country that fit to the criteria more or less. The South African Apartheid regime last for almost 50 years, despite the criteria were upheld for the white people, and the "only democracy in the middle east", Israel is one of the biggest troublemakers of the World.

Current movements, the rise of the right wing extremism show that "democracy is in crisis". However I think only the bad definition is in crisis. Again, I'd focus of the gaming guilds: it should be perfect "people's rule". Now let's turn it upside down: as it must be democracy, if it doesn't fit to the criteria, it proves that the criteria is wrong. The other problem is that the criteria is a criteria and not a definition. It says "something is democracy if X,Y,Z are true", yet it doesn't tell what makes democracy democracy.

I believe I found the true definition: In a democratic system the power holders (government, jury, bureaucracy, armed forces) belong to the same demographics as the people. They are ones of the people therefore one with the people.

The criteria at the start is not so bad. Any democracy (by my definition) could implement them at the cost of some extra bureaucracy, while most non-democratic systems could not. However some non-democratic systems can operate within the criteria and for most democracies the criteria is just extra annoyance.

The gaming guild is democracy because the "tyrant" wants the same thing what his "slaves", therefore there is no point or need of oppression. In a raiding guild everyone wants to raid, so the rule of the leader is accepted and supported. The one who wants "freedom" against the rule is viewed as a "lazy moron" by the people. The unity between leader and leaded is created by the fact that the leader is just as much a raider as the leaded.

In every dictatorship you can find a demographic trait in which the leadership is different from the people. In the Middle East the leading party is usually one clan or religious sect while the people are not. Saddam Hussein was a Sunni Arab, while 2/3 of Iraq are Shia in religion and 25% are not Arab but Kurd or Turkmen. In North Korea the leadership is the Kim dynasty, and majority of the people are obviously not belong to that family. Slobodan Milosevic and his leading party were ethnic Serbs while most of the people in Yugoslavia were not.

Dictatorships are not bad because John Doe has no power, he has next to zero in a democracy either (0.0000005% of votes in the USA for example). Dictatorships are bad because the leaders are different from John, don't understand or like him, see his wishes weird or outright evil. They know nobody like John, so they see no reason not to crush him. A democratic leader doesn't put for example women into slavery because he is nice or because some piece of paper says so. He doesn't wish to do so because he has a mother, sister, wife, daughter and he doesn't want them be slaves. But more importantly he cannot do so, because large portion of his power system (members of his party, bureaucracy officials, cops, judges, lawyers) are women and not only they would actively resist but if he would somehow succeed, his system would collapse due to the sudden loss of large portion of the people upholding it.

For this reason China can be a democracy assuming that the party members and officials are from various backgrounds of the country. Hungary has experienced it, before the 1956 revolution the country was lead by a bunch of communist who lived in the Soviet Union for decades (definitely different from the average Hungarian) and held a terrible oppression. After the revolution Moscow chosen leaders who lived in Hungary and the party was opened to more average Hungarians (at its peak it contained 10% of the adults), therefore the country was as good as it could be behind the iron curtain and was referred as the "happiest barrack in the Soviet prison". If China goes on that way I see no reason why shouldn't they succeed despite violating most of the criteria listed above.

Enforcing the criteria to countries in a will to "create democracy" actually create dictatorship. The leadership will be a bunch of people following western values while the leaded people are not following these, making a huge ideological discrepancy between them, which means they are not one of the people therefore by definition the system is not democracy, and the "creation of democracy" will naturally fail. The landslide victory of Viktor Orbán's party in Hungary was exactly this: the people always rejected the western values, therefore never considered the previous governments their own and violated their laws wherever they could. Because of this, the actions of Orbán are widely accepted and the criticism of Western leaders are considered "outsider troublemaking".

The one and only criteria of democracy is that the leadership has the same demographics as the leaded people. This can and should be internationally monitored, not the actual moves of the government. Of course it will lead to very different democracies, based on the very different cultures. While Iran is a dictatorship because the leaders are much more religious than the leaded people, a perfectly democratic Iran would still have Islam-based law and women would still have to cover their hair (not their full body), just as majority of them would think it's proper.

PS: please spare me from the "leaders are rich, so in an important demographics different from the people" comment. The ones you refer to are a 0.1% of the leadership, as for every rich senator there are thousands of bureaucrats, cops and soldiers who all together form the government as without them its rule couldn't be enforced. The average government worker does not earn more than an average guy and also a senator is not more rich than the top 0.1% of the private sector.


Ahtchu said...

Democracy doesn't work in online gaming because the infrastructure doesn't support it, point blank. Add-ons (voting) effectively hold no power in actually REMOVING a tyrant from power, for example. It would need to be hard-coded into the actual game: this slot (judge) holds power over this slot (executioner) who holds power over this slot (legislature) who holds power over... with the ability of the masses to make motions and vote on things every couple months or so (simulating elections) to which those in power cannot, by way of the game's coding, do otherwise than what the votes tally.

Azuriel said...

You said not to mention it, but I don't think anyone believes the cops/firemen/average government bureaucrats have any power compared to, say, Congress. 66% of the Senate and 41% of the House are millionaires, compared to only 1% of the US (source, with a nice infographic).

In any case, I find your argument a bit absurd. Would you say all street gangs are democratic? I think a it is important in a healthy democracy to have the leaders be "of the people." But at certain points, that becomes unrealistic. How is one person supposed to be of the demographic of any large group of people in a heterogeneous nation? I am fine with a rich, black Harvard Law professor being president because we have similar enough opinions on things... and, besides, the alternative was insane.

My counter-proposal is that democracy is democracy when those in power neither have the ability or the incentive to slaughter those they preside over.

chewy said...

Another very enjoyable read this morning.

I don't disagree with your definition but I don't completely agree with it either. Guilds aren't a democracy, they don't fit the other criteria that you mentioned at the top of your post and simply because they fit your definition doesn't make them a democracy.

Your statement is a truism about a democracy but it doesn't define a democracy. What you're saying is that all cats have fur so you've defined a cat as furry, which is true but doesn't define a cat since not everything that is furry is also a cat.

You've discovered another criteria to add to the list of criteria required for a democracy, you haven't found the one and only criteria.

Riptor said...

To me Social and sometimes even Casuals seem to resemble Sects much more than Democtarcies.
Also Raiding Guilds resemble Military Units (or given the fluctuation of members) Mercenary Units more than anything else.

Anonymous said...

You redefine the word 'Democracy', you then go on to show that your new definition of Democracy also considers certain Dictatorships as Democracy. You've successfully shown why your definition of Democracy is not commonly used.

Democracy is a form of government, gaming guilds aren't. That's why none of the above criteria apply to gaming guilds. What is true though, is that /anyone/ is /free to choose/ a guild and all guild masters have /limited power/ (kicking/inviting only) over their subjects that cannot in any way prevent the player from /exercising his rights/ (play the game, choose another game, raid w/ anyone, etc).

Most democracies in the world don't give any power to the common people. They simply let the common people decide who is in power.

Jesus said...

I've been in democratic guilds, and I've been in dictatorship-like guilds.

Well even if I like my personal freedom, when it comes to wow dictator-like guild masters GET THE JOB DONE.

And for me, in a raiding guild that's the only thing that matters.

You shouldn't look too much into it.

Carighan said...

This reminds me of the government system "stochastocracy", in which gov positions are re-elected very frequently, but by random draw out of those knowledge-wise qualified for the position. I think this was tought up for Earth 2150.

Reminded me a bit of your idea, though.

Grim said...

In the "PS" you claim that cops, army and bureaucrats are also part of the government.
But in your North Korea example you claim that the Kim dynasty is ruling the country. But in NK the cops, the army and the bureaucrats are not all Kims.

spinksville said...

I like that definition, and it makes me wonder what democracy means if a country has a really big class split in the population and rulers tend to come from one particular class (eg. USA.) They're still of the people, just always from one particular section.

Israel has a similar problem in that they have a large ultra-religious minority, many of whom are on welfare, have huge families, are ultra-right wing in political views, and will vote as a solid bloc for any party who benefits that.

Gevlon said...

@Azuriel: what you don't see is that the leaders never hurt people because they are "bad". They do it because they believe it's the right thing.

The religious militias in Iran beat up people in the strong belief that they are saving them from eternal damnation in Hell for listening to Devilish music.

A leader that is significantly different from the people will always harm them, unless his power is limited by checks and balances so much that he doesn't even qualify as a leader.

Kobeathris said...

I'm not sure demographics are the key point, although I am sure it plays a role. I think the important part is really the consent of the governed. Obviously, the US operates as a Republic functionally, but I think the Declaration of Independence lays out the basis for democracy well, "That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government."

So, basically, I think democratic governments are free to make unpopular decisions, but the people ultimately have veto power, however depending on the severity of the unpopular decision they may often choose not to exercise it. If the government institutes measures to override that veto power by, for example, jailing or executing dissidents and opposition party members, it is then operating as a tyranny.

Anonymous said...

The dictatorship is the only viable form in wow cause the game does not support anything else. There are no mechanics for spreading power over different people. There is always one GuildMaster/RaidLeader who holds all the power to recruit/kick and give rights.

If you look for it you will see democratic processes. Loot distribution is often done by mutual agreement between all concerned members of the raid.

I agree with your general sentiment that decision makers need to be part of the affected group to effective understand and rule accordingly. The most laughable thing currently is the way politicians talk about internet laws. Like penguins discussing how to corrently fly.

Rorik said...

Just to clarify a bit for everyone, the United States isn't a democracy, it's a Constitutional Republic. It was set up that way to avoid the "tyranny of the majority" that is all too common in democracies.

"Hence it is that democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and in general have been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths... A republic, by which I mean a government in which a scheme of representation takes place, opens a different prospect and promises the cure for which we are seeking." (James Madison, Federalist Papers, the McClean Edition, Federalist Paper #10, page 81, 1788)

Jumina said...

"They do it because they believe it's the right thing."

Exactly. You can't be a leader, stand before you people and say: "Hey, let's be an evil corporation!". You must say: "We are the only good people in the world!"

Excellent post today, thank you.

Gaming guild works more like a company. But you could consider it to be a kind of democracy too.

Eaten by a Grue said...

I think chewy hit it on the head. Gevlon, you are probably correct to a degree, in that elected leaders in a democracy tend to share many traits with their constituents. But you have identified a necessary but not sufficient element of a Democracy/Republic.

Wilson said...

"In every dictatorship you can find a demographic trait in which the leadership is different from the people."
True, but trivial to the point of being moronic. Every person on the planet has at least one demographic trait which is different from the majority of their contrymen, even before you expand the definition of demographic trait to such absurdities as "member of a particular family", as you did with North Korea. For example, the current president of the United States is half-Kenyan, not exactly an ethnic trait shared by most citizens.

Lenin was a middle-class Russian, Pinochet was a Catholic Chilean, Napoleon III was an elightened Parisian, Idi Amin was a typical Ugandan, King Fahd is a Sunni Arab, and Benito Mussolini grew up as a working-class Italian. By any non-trivial standard of demographics, these people were fairly typical of their respective societies.

Anonymous said...

Democracy is a political system where leaders are elected by the governed. This is contrasted with heriditary succession (North Korea) or appointment by the rulers (China, military dictatorships).

Your main objection to guilds being dictatorships seems to be that guilds provide no benefits and people can escape at will. They could have "perfect freedom" so guilds must be democratic. This is wrong.

Guilds provide improved access to group content and a sense of belonging. Raiders/guild-members also suffer from sunk-cost fallacies, making them unlikely to leave for small reasons. Switching guilds may also carry risk and require effort to apply; that switching cost may be more than the desire to leave. Non-perks guilds are somewhat sticky.

Escape to what? All guilds are formally the same. Every GM has the power to kick at will. So the formal structure of a guild cannot be a reason for leaving. There are no alternative "forms of government" in WoW so while guild masters do have formal authority to be tyrants, many aren't. If you leave your tyrannical guild, you can go to another guild with the exact same formal mechanisms of oppression. Your only hope is that the new GM has a softer hand. There is social pressure for the dictators to be benevolent and serve the members, but this does not mean the GM or officers are elected by the members.

NetherLands said...

I think you are correct, although there are quite a few class/voting-differences between those in power and the general voter.

In the Netherlands for example, most journalists are, like in many other countries, more left of centre than the average voter. Similarly, most judges vote a strain of 'Liberal Democrats' while in general elections those parties amount less than 10-15% of the votes.

I do agree that the bigger differences between ruled and rulers, the 'messier' things can get. One reason for a lot of the current discontent in Western democracies is that while your average poli is an academicly trained, 'cosmopolitan, pro EU, pro open borders, pro helping the poor in India before your own poor' kind of person, the average voter isn't nor has ever been all those things.

TERA apparently has a functional voting system so we might see how that develops.


Wanted to post this at Tobold's but your Comment system is better:
Blizzard is aware of who has abused the Satchel system, not just because they can easily see the levels (the Satchel's have a very simple level distribution, and matching it with toon levels is simple enough) but because people have been reporting those toons in-game for weeks now.

What makes the lack of action stranger is that in the recent past they have e.g taken away Quest rewards people recieved from GM's on grounds of Quests being the same before and after The Shattering except for rewards and minimum level (most notably Dissectors for Researching The Corruption, same mobs, same Quest, but lvl 18 old-20 new). So given the precedent one would expect action, esp as these exploit toons also turn up in the same BG's as Trial players end up in (bad publicity).

Anonymous said...

@Rorik, currently democracy refers to a government chosen by the people, so the USA are a democracy (representative democracy). Most contemporary republics are in fact representative democracies.

When the founding fathers of the USA criticized democracy they were actually talking about *direct* democracy, which indeed can be dangerous, but in my opinion there can be good points in direct democracy too.

I live in Switzerland which is a semi-direct democracy and I think one of the most direct democracies in the world. People can have *huge* impacts on how the country is governed, proof is we are not in the EU even if the government pushed so much for this back in the day.

Still due to fear and anti-islam propaganda I am ashamed that we voted for the ban of the building of new minarets in the country. Most now realizes that vote was a "gut" vote and was a wrong decision.

That vote I think was a necessary evil, it helped many in realizing the power they hold and that it actually matters, and that voting with guts can be very dangerous, just as voting with the brain can be very good.

Rorik said...

Anonymous, I think you just proved the point of the founding fathers and their hatred of democracy, be it direct or representative.
"I am ashamed that we voted for the ban of the building of new minarets in the country".
Our (the United States) constitution prevents the tyranny of the majority, which is exactly what happened in Switzerland with that vote. The US constitution has no provision for national referrendums. The only thing we vote on at the national level is for the presidency. Democracy = mob rule.

Unless there is a way to /vote kick a guild master from a game, I'm not sure there's any way to realistically impliment a guild as anything other than a dictatorship/monarchy.

I'm not sure how real life guilds were/are run, but it would be interesting to compare them to in game guilds. There's probably a lot more in common than we think.

Anonymous said...

@Rorik, I agree with you on that, as I said that's a drawback of direct democracy. But there are also drawbacks with representative democracy ala USA. In a representative democracy the assumption is that who represents actually always does the interests of who is represented. This is obviously not always the case and with a more direct democracy who is represented has much stronger tools to make sure who is representing is kept in check. Also sometimes who is representing leans some way and who is represented in another. Without direct democracy we would be part of the EU and most likely in the Euro bandwagon too.

My point is: both systems have positive and negative aspects, that's why in Switzeland the democracy is only semi-direct and the Constitution still places many limits to what can be done or not. The idea is to try to cater the best of the two systems, and the result is not that bad although I'm not sure it would work equally well with all populations.

Hippo said...

It is interesting to see that in China, growth comes through enforcement of the "common good". This means you sacrifice civil liberties in exchange for a more "society centered theam" at least in theory. OFten it ends up with corrupt leaders taking bribes and ruining the lives of millions but some of the things China does do directly benefit it's people. For example, if you build a product, it is not allowed to be 100% proprietary and you must share at least 1/3rd of the technology with other companies in that sector, this leads to faster innovation as you do not have to keep reinventing the wheel each time you start a new company. The system of patents and copywrites in the US is literally killing the ability to innovate and often keeping good products from coming to market as if patent A is owned by one company and patent B is owned by another you can never create a combination of the 2 products no matter how it would benefit others.

That being said, there are many drawbacks, including power corrupts that prevent China forom being a pleasant enviroment for the average person.

Hippo said...

BTW, democracy doesn't exist in any country right now, since most decisions are made by the few. For example you can't vote for anyone for president, you only get to choose for the select few candidates given to you that are selected (by donation) by the rich people.

Democracy really can't work on a large scale anyways, it's a too many cooks spoil the broth problem. To many people with different opinions create a system which stalls out since they can never all agree on the right way to go about things. You end up with a system when only those who are upset with the status quo bother to vote as the majority see no reaosn to bother causing you to just flipflop from one extreme to the other. Of course, thankfully in the US youer options are limited so the extremes are not that far apart, giving you the perception of choice where none really exist.

Anonymous said...

"Democracy doesn't work in online gaming because the infrastructure doesn't support it, point blank."

The online game "Utopia" forces the player to play together with 24 random people. The leader of these provinces is the king or queen of the kingdom, and is democratic appointed by the most votes. Only very unorganized kingdoms have no king/queen, and a tyrant is easily removed.

The problem with democracy is that it does not scale. You need to micromanage, and these managers are often the selfish dictators who don't care about their inferiors or superiors. All they do is suck up, kick down.