Thursday, December 21, 2006
I'll spare you Arrow's theorem, you can read about it if you are interested, but let's focus on a much simpler observation. Let's suppose that intellectual capabilities, conscience, altruism, cultural preparation, willpower and inventive are distributed in a population in totally random quantities. Let's call a weighed sum of those characteristics "awareness". For a moment, let's just state that "money can't buy anything", but also consider that even if they can buy you a better scholarization they're not paying you a greater awareness.
So, if each of this features is distributed randomly, no matter how narrow is the spread between the minimum and the maximum values, our "awareness" becomes the sum of random factors. As every student and gambler knows, the distribution of the sum of purely random events is a gaussian curve. In example, if you throw a dice twice and you sum the result, the most probable outcome will be 7 (many ways to obtain it by summing different 1 to 6 values), and the least possible ones will be 2 and 12. Under the same simple principles, if you sum the "features" of our hypothetical population, we'll have a wide range of individuals with average overall capabilities, and fewer individuals with excellent or very poor skills in all the fields.
Pure democracy is one vote per individual, so when our hypothetical population comes to vote for its lead, the lead will mathematically be chosen not according with the decision of the individuals provided with the highest awareness, but according to the judgment of the persons having the most common awareness. In mathematic means, this is suboptimal for the population, that would have expressed a better choice if it were able to select the solution being proposed by the individual provided with the best means to analyze problems.
Of course, this is hypothetical; real world is not like that... In fact, in the real world there are some factors changing things:
1) People has to make their living, so that their awareness is reduced by a K factor after 8 to 10 hours work 5 to 6 days a week.
2) Decisions are not voted freely, but chosen among a limited set of alternatives.
3) Being the carrier of a winning alternative brings a great personal reward.
Adding this considerations, our theoretical model doesn't hold anymore; instead of having just a sub-optimal decision to be chosen in a democratic decision, we have a sub-sub optimal choice being selected here: because of (3), the limited set of alternatives to be presented to the less-than-aware population in (1) is presented so that they are chosen; they can be bad, as long as they are liked it's ok, just they must not be bad enough to be recognized as THAT bad AFTER they have been chosen by the voters (and at times, they can be THAT bad too). This is called "political marketing", and I am not inventing it here. Google for it, if you are curious.
So, is democracy doomed to fail? -- well, I told you just half of the story. The problem has another side we didn't touch yet.
My conclusions in the next part.