Publicity, conformity and change

I’ve been having an email exchange with Yoram about how to ensure that people in various roles act as that role requires. Basically my answer is to ensure that what they do is completely open to public scrutiny and assessment.

Yoram replies that the standards in terms of which those assessments are made are set by the establishment. So the scrutiny only serves to keep the bearers of those roles serving the interests of the establishment.

I reply that there are contexts in which that is largely true, but plenty of others where it is not, especially where there is constant open debate about the ruling conventions in particular matters. Discussion of them in completely general terms is mostly futile. Anybody who has had a long life in recent time has very many examples of complete reversals of the accepted conventions in many areas of life arising from small groups of activists succeeding in changing people’s opinions. The establishment had hardly anything to do with it. For the most part it resisted the changes quite unsuccessfully, in spite of raising fears that society was falling apart.

Where the establishment has usually been much more successful is in the case of strictly institutionalised activities like economic and political structures. Mere changes of opinion have much less effect on them. The difference is obvious. Where what people do is dependent only on their personal compromise between what they would like to do and what they think they ought to do, as in matters of sex, parenting, lifestyle, education, leisure and so on, although they are influenced by existing conventions, if enough people choose to defy or evade them, the conventions soon crumble. In many cases the result is to entrench an entirely new convention.

In strictly institutionalised roles, however, the people in those roles enjoy no such freedom. If they do not conform closely to what is expected of them, they are strongly penalised or ejected from that role. If changes are to be made in those roles, they come, not from changes of opinion among the occupants of the roles, but from those who control the sanctions and choose the employees who get to work under them. In a changing world, however, the establishment does need to change, to adapt to new conditions if they are to survive. Rigidly static organisations inevitably destroy themselves.in the long run. Even in the short run they are grossly inefficient and costly.

You can only effectively order people to do what they know how to do. If they don’t really know they will fake doing it by superficial conformity, which in the long run is worse than defiance, because it often succeeds in deceiving you. In a changing world you need smart people who understand those changes and can show you how to exploit them for your own purposes. So you offer them enormous pay to ensure they are motivated to do just that. It’s well worth it. But there are limits to what any institutionalised establishment can do. Nobody can possibly control the ecosystem in which their activities are embedded. All anybody, no matter how powerful or well organised, can do is adapt to and perhaps exploit the changes that affect the operating environment on which its existence depends.

Modern humans have the enormous advantage over our ancestors that we have not only scraps of empirical knowledge but some limited capacity to understand the processes that underlie our familiar experience. So we can sometimes achieve objective, though limited, knowledge of what is going on. We sometimes discover ways of adapting to the changes we cannot control and even exploiting them for our purposes. In order to achieve that sort of knowledge, even the establishment often needs to call into question some of the assumptions that have served it well in the past. Nobody can be quite sure in advance just which assumptions need to be changed. In general the regimes that have allowed open discussion have been more successful in discovering the information they need than those which have tried to control that discussion. They have had access to better understanding of what is happening. There is no substitute for genuine knowledge, no matter who you are, if you want to act effectively.

Let me try to illustrate my generalities by examining a particular aspect of the changing role of public goods in contemporary societies and its implications for adaptation and exploitation by different groups. Over the past century, technological inventions, exploiting extraordinary advances in science, have been developed by capitalism so as to change radically our relations as individuals to many community activities and our dependence on public goods. Nearly all of us now own a car, a computer, a tv, a record player and a mobile telephone. These devices free us from dependence on public transport, information stored on paper, communication of information by personal exchanges, attending public performances for entertainment and education, and making contact with distant others only by letter. Our capabilities have increased enormously and so have the returns to capital. But most of us are happy because all these things have become better and cheaper, thanks to competition between capitalists.

It does not mean that desires for public goods have been extinguished. Many find it much more pleasant to take a train and read or do the weekend shopping by phone than to battle their way through the peak hour traffic. People flock to big performance events in order to participate in the collective enjoyment of it all. They continue to be concerned about community affairs. Naturally the capitalists have found ingenious ways of supplying community events and needs for profit and claimed that such provision is both cheaper and more responsive than anything a public authority might produce. In certain cases that claim is very plausible. Especially from the viewpoint of the individual consumer, being liberated from absolute dependence on certain public good is clear advantage. It is not surprising that the libertarian ambition to abolish almost all deliberately constructed public goods looks attractive to many.

Like so many ideologies, libertarianism uses a limited truth to distract attention from less attractive aspect of the reality. Capital has several alternatives to productive investment: pushing up the price of scarce assets; rent seeking in its various forms; deflation, which reduces the prices of everything except money itself; exploiting the buyers’ market in less skilled labour to compensate for the sellers’ market in skills, and above all to exploit the money to be made out of completely unproductive trading money and securities. In all these ways wealth manages to take value out of the market without supplying anything of use. The result has been that, although productivity has increased enormously, the fruits have gone almost entirely to the holders of wealth. All of this is widely known. It is lamented even by supporters of the status quo.

None of this came about as a result of a conspiracy, but mainly out of individuals adapting rapidly to changing circumstances and the opportunities they offered. It is true that it often involved governments dismantling various controls that might have been used to curb some of those activities, but usually the retreat was forced upon governments by pressures they could not control because the collapse of the Bretton woods settlement deprived them of the power to set the exchange rate of their own currency. We cannot go back. The only way forward is to set up global authorities to handle specific global problems such as the global economic system and climate change. At least those adaptations are obviously needed, but I don’t know how to bring them about.

When it comes to discovering the adaptations we need to make, I argue that we need new institutions directed at getting well-grounded practical decisions about specific problems. We need to single them out one by one on whatever is the appropriate scale of the problem and mobilise whatever resources we have towards understanding them as fully as we can.

The traditional radical approaches to our problems have been very defective. The revolutionary approach has depended on simplistic recipes for change. When Marx was asked how the political processes of post -revolution society were to function, he replied that he was not making up recipes for the kitchens of the future. The workers would evolve their own forms of organisation in the process of struggling to overthrow the old order. Unfortunately, having chosen to do so by force of arms, their organisation took on a militarist form, with disastrous results. Others have taken the path of pursuing power through parliamentary parties and found themselves trapped in the role of an alternative manager of the existing system, and all that implies.

What I have proposed, if it works at all, is only a very small first step in a very long road. There are some very big questions on the horizon. Sooner or later, we are not only going to need to stop using fossil fuels for energy, but stop wasting non-renewable resources generally, abandoning the throw-away mentality for sustainable recycling. We will have to find ways of countering the pressure towards population increase in just those contexts where the needs it creates are most difficult to meet. I would argue that approaching most of our problem in terms of a search for ways of compelling people to change their ways is as futile as preaching to them. The only way is to offer them incentives to do so, but I do not think that is easy.

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19 Responses

  1. >What I have proposed, if it works at all, is only a very small first step in a very long road

    and via posts that are so long that nobody reads them, especially when you don’t respond to earlier questions as to why it won’t work, such as: https://equalitybylot.wordpress.com/2016/03/21/representation-and-what-its-for/#comment-18050

    and

    https://equalitybylot.wordpress.com/2016/03/18/policy-and-representation/#comment-18044

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  2. John,

    > forced upon governments

    It is interesting that those supposedly forced actions benefited those taking those actions.

    I also point again at what seems to me an obvious contradiction in your claims: (1) that the world is too complex to be understood by most people and that they (we) have to therefore trust the experts blindly, and (2) that you are able to make broad generalizations about how the global geo-political system worked over the last few decades.

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  3. Yoram < it is interesting…

    The establishment does coopt its principal functionaries by making it worth their while to do what they are supposed to d. No regime can long endure by coercion alone. But, of course, the coercion is ready to be invoked if the operatives do not do as they are supposed to.

    As for the other point, you mistake what I say. The world is too complex and our available knowledge and capacities too meagre for any body to be able to understand it comprehensively enough to control it. At best we can intervene occasionally adapt successfully to some changes. It turns out that in many such specific matters processes are involved, such as the effects of the accumulation of certain carbon compounds in the atmosphere and in the oceans that can be understood and assessed accurately only by certain very specific experts. We have to decide whether to trust them or not. Blanket distrust is absurd. In every aspect of our lives in a tach society we do have to trust the experts to tell us about certain crucial aspects of our situation. But there can be good reason for doubting them in particular matters.

    Unfortunately, a lot of people think that they can accept or reject the advice of experts, not because they have any sound reason to do so, but just because they do not like that advice. In our society there are always plenty of charlatans that will sell them fictions instead. It doesn't matter so much when it is a question that affects them alone, but it does matter a great deal when they are numerous enough to block our doing anything effective about matters of great importance to us all.

    Te only way of sorting out these issues is by completely open debate in which the participants rely on grounds that stand up to criticism, and where nobody has power of any sort over anybody else. I think it may be possible to institutionalise such debate without recourse to coercion, but I'mnot at allsurprised that many people are convinced in advance that it is impossible.

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  4. > The establishment does coopt its principal functionaries by making it worth their while to do what they are supposed to

    Well – so we have in power people who are promoting their own interests while screwing the average person, and they are telling us that they had no choice. How gullible are we supposed to be?

    > a lot of people think that they can accept or reject the advice of experts, not because they have any sound reason to do so, but just because they do not like that advice

    This is the nature of the electoral system, and allotted bodies would be in a good position to make more informed and considered decisions.

    That said, it seems relevant to point out that your trust in establishment economic dogma (expressed in your opinions about “globalization” and carbon taxation vs. carbon trading) is no more well informed or well considered than many of the opinions you are (rightly) criticizing and yet you are uncritically asserting its validity.

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  5. Yoram > economics

    I have had very close relations for sixty years with the movement called “political economy” which concentrates on the many ways in which what are promoted as economic necessities are in fact political decisions. I am very well aware that economic theory is often exploited to mislead not just the gullible, but even critical people.

    Nevertheless, it is important to remember that most economic theory is directed towards helping the wealthy to manage their affairs more efficiently. From that point of view it is supremely important to them to get it right. If you want to understand how the system works there is much to be learned from the mainstream economists, as Marx himself and his more scientifically minded followers well knew.

    It is simply fallacious to explain any view that agrees with the economists as being duped by their ideology. The fact is that the only competitor to a capitalist economy at present is a socialist planned economy, which, as the ex-Marxist Agnes Heller put it, inevitably constitutes a “dictatorship over needs”. I do not believe that the capitalist contrary, a reckless proliferation of needs in the interest of capital, is ecologically or socially sustainable. Some other mechanisms than the market are needed. I think my proposals are a step towards discovering those new procedures.

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  6. > the only competitor to a capitalist economy at present,/em> is a socialist planned economy, which, as the ex-Marxist [Fr. John Burnheim] put it . . .

    Is it fair to describe demarchy as pursuing the eschatology of Marx (the withering away of the state and the birth of the New Adam) by other means? And of course the means are entirely Christian — viz the irresistible power of logos — the light shining in the darkness of fallen man. Those of us who take a more pragmatic line are more disposed to take the Old Adam as he is and seek to find ways to work with the crooked timber of humanity rather than preaching a secularised version of the Sermon on the Mount from the demarchic pulpit.

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  7. keith > eschatology

    One of these fys you may get around to what I actually say.

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  8. Keith

    Ok . You have got under my skin!

    Eschatology is certainty, and the resolution of all conflicts.

    I end the manifesto by saying it is unlikely that anybody will put my proposals into practice, and, even if they do, quite possible they won’t work. I offer a suggestion that I think worth trying. It just might produce better public policies in some matters.

    It certainly cannot solve all the problems we face, even if I am right. So, I can understand that the ordinary punters to whom I address my suggestion may regard it as a poor bet.

    Not very inspiring. Just a suggestion for a little bit of civil engineering.

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  9. John,

    >Just a suggestion for a little bit of civil engineering.

    Engineering is an empirical discipline. Successful engineers, unlike architects and other visionaries, always work within the specifications of the materials they are presented with. Besides which, the way you describe your programme it involves cognitive, not civil, engineering. And engineers do not rely on norms as to how the material would need to behave in order to achieve certain outcomes, they rely on their past experience as to how the material has behaved in practice. To date you have not provided a single example to support your claims, hence my view that it’s a visionary, rather than an engineering project.

    PS I don’t mean to get under your skin, I just think you’re wrong! And I think our exchange is typical of how a demarchic council would function in practice, as it will be constituted by people like ourselves who believe passionately that they are right and will have no incentive to compromise. What makes this all the more ironic is that, as your editor and publisher, I have spent far longer reading your work than anyone else on this forum and have a commercial incentive to puff it, rather than argue with it!

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  10. John,

    > The fact is that the only competitor to a capitalist economy at present is a socialist planned economy

    This kind of analysis, while standard in establishment discourse, is not even wrong – it is completely useless.

    There is no capitalist economy without government management. Since the government manages the economy, there is an infinite variety of knobs and parameters it could manipulate. Those choices determined the outcomes of the economy. The choices made by electoral governments reflect the elite interests they serve.

    Just as an example, unemployment is to a large extent government-determined. Government policy of high levels of unemployment has been transferring wealth from the average worker to the elite.

    The notion that this kind of results is somehow beyond government control is, again, standard establishment dogma, but it is in fact contradicted by orthodox economic theory (which, I agree, has a lot of value, despite all of the corruption of the science of economics caused by power relations).

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  11. Yoram,

    >Just as an example, unemployment is to a large extent government-determined. Government policy of high levels of unemployment has been transferring wealth from the average worker to the elite.

    If it’s that simple, then why doesn’t everyone vote for Bernie Sanders? Is it a matter of stupidity or false consciousness? It can’t just be money as Sanders’ fundraising is in the same ballpark as Clinton. I would suggest it’s more plausible that voters are aware that the sort of regulated and protectionist economy that you prefer is not generally correlated with prosperity.

    PS the ongoing spat between John and myself should give the lie to Yoram’s mantra that people always act in line with their interests. My commercial interest is in selling as many copies as possible of John’s book. OK, I have my own competing volumes but their sales are negligible. Perhaps we’re just the exception that proves the rule but I would suggest that Yoram, John and myself are a lot more Don Quixote than Sancho Panza. And if this is true of us then why not extend the benefit of the doubt to elected officials? If I was young, bright and ambitious I would certainly not choose a life in politics.

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  12. Keith > hopes

    Of curse we al have our dreams and hopes. After listin my hopes about where Demarchy might lead us, I acknowledge that these are just vague hopes. There is the world of difference between that and a conviction that society is like a locomotive, charging along the fixed rails to a predetermined destination.

    As for the Sermon on the Mount, I certainly would not want to deny my debt to our Christian heritage, and I do think that moral reflection is a strong force in setting social policies. Just two examples, the treatment of the disabled and the treatment of homosexuals, where even th hardiest cynic can hardky pretend that most of the people wha have changed in these matters did so out of self interest.

    My favourite moral theorist is Adam Smith. TShere used to be an academic debate about “the Adam Smith problem”, because crude economistic models seemed incompatible with morality. TAhat has disappeared as scholars have come yo understand Smith’s position.

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  13. Keith >a small concession

    I do agree that in a small council, as opposed to an open forum, a few intransigents who refuse to seek any common ground may so disrupt the attempts of others to do so that the majority begin to despair
    of reaching an agreed conclusion and abandon the project. Of course, if the project is abandoned, the intransigents will not have succeeded in advancing their own interests, unless their main interest was to wreck the project. And that is bound to happen from time to time. There is a perverse streak in a number of people.

    I imagine that public opinion will usually take a dim view of such attitudes where serious questions of policy are concerned, but that may not deter them.

    I am not accusing you of such perversity. I appreciate your difficulties in understanding my position, because for you the question I seek to answer doesn’t exist. There is no such thing as good policy based on valid argument, only a lot of diverse and competing wills. That is a pretty traditional view, but it is wrong.

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  14. John,

    The dispute between us (whether the presence or absence of power is necessary to generate agreement) can be resolved empirically. All the commentators on this forum are reasonable, educated and articulate persons and we share a common purpose, yet we have failed to reach agreement as we have no power or responsibilities. The members of your own profession (philosophy) have been exchanging reasons for three millennia, but have come to no agreement. This has caused you to sign up to the philosophical school that has given up on the project in favour of the study of language games.

    You have to date failed to come up with a single empirical example to support the case for demarchy.

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  15. Keith > empirical evidence
    I agree that the dispute between us can be resolved empirically. In my world the evidence is almost entirely in my favour.

    In my world the most powerful motivation people have is self-respect. People almost always do what is expected of them according to the accepted rules governing this or that role that they choose to perform. It is on this that one normally relies when dealing with other people, whether in work or play or casual encounters.

    It is rare to have to invoke power, such as the power to sack an employee for not doing the job properly. Normally if the employee’s work is substandard, one attempts to point out the deficiencies and show how to correct them. If the person in question is in fact capable of doing a satisfactory job, that is normally enough.

    More to the point of our disagreement about demarchy, my world is full of voluntary associations of all sorts, cultural, sporting , charitable and political that all depend on the work and financial support of people who derive no other benefit than that of doing something worthwhile for a common project and being respected for doing so They organise themselves on the basis of agreement about the decision procedures to be used in deciding what to. Most of them are very successful, even though there is no question of invoking power unless there is an instance of fraud or intimidation. in no way does the normal consensual running of the enterprise depend on power. Power is invoked only where deviance threatens the normal procedures. Thatis how all societies, even most criminal gangs, run. The crim looks for respect from his peers.

    All I postulate is that people who voluntarily undertakd certain roles will do what that role requires without in any way being forced to do so and without the prospect of imposing power on anybody else. The point is to influence others by persuasion, as the very many associations to which I have contributed in attempting to change social practices and opinions have done, without any reward other than the achievement of that objective. In the long run power can never triumph over opinion.

    I have commented in earlier blogs about various aspects of your position. but perhaps the basic problem is encapsulated in your remarks about philosophy. In my view the classical ambition of philosphers to find a small set of self-evident propositions in terms of which everything can be explained and evaluated is doomed to failure. The world , as a great physicist put it is not only stranger than we had imagined but stranger than we could possibly have imagined. The conceptual tools of philosophers can be employed more profitably in the humbler task of conceptual analysis. Classical philosophy repeatedly fails because it attempts the impossible, but neither I nor anybody else can prove that.

    You insist on thinking that my position depends on unquestionable universal generalisations, whereas it is strictly pragmatic. (Not that I am a dogmatic pragmatist). Of course, if you think that is mere evasion, a refusal to acknowledge my commitments, and that provokes you to look for ways of inning down my evasions, which is an endless task.

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  16. John,

    The voluntary committees that you refer to (sporting clubs etc) all have genuine power and responsibilities and, as a consequence, are obliged to come to a resolution on policy matters — whether you call that compromise or consensus is of little consequence. The paradigm example of deliberation without consequence, where the only opportunity is to influence wider opinion, is the internet blog, and all the available evidence runs against the case for demarchy. I would like to think that your principle “people almost always do what is expected of them according to the accepted rules governing this or that role that they choose to perform” applies to the deliberation on this blog and would hope that (with the occasional exception) we treat each other with all due respect and respect the forceless force of the better argument. The fact that we don’t come to an agreement is not because we are (temperamentally) “intransigent”, it’s just that we don’t agree. As we have no power or responsibility, there is nothing to encourage us to compromise our own deeply felt convictions. I cannot imagine how it would be possible for you and I to come to an agreement on an online opinion forum, but I’m sure we could cobble together some sort of compromise if we were provided with an opportunity to put our cherished ideas into practice.

    So I would ask you just one more time (please forgive the capitals) to answer the question: IS THE DELIBERATION ON THIS BLOG THE EXCEPTION THAT PROVES THE DEMARCHIC RULE, AND IF SO WHY?

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  17. Keith exception?

    First ,two very import distinctions.
    1. You link power and responsibility. Demarchic councillors, like anybody in a serious role, have responsibilities, but in their case no power.
    2. If you allege that the innumerable voluntary bpdies often have power, the sense in which that is true is that they discipline those who belong to them, and in that sense I would hope that the demarchic bodies would also have power such as the chair calling contributors to order if they transgressed the rules of debate.
    I should also hope they have power in the way in which any institutionalised body offering a consensus of expert opinion on a certain matter has power, which is connected with their responsibilities. and the assumption that they are acting responsibly.
    The sense in which they do not and must not have power is that they cannot FORCE anybody to accept their recommendations either legally or extra-legally. In that respect they are in exactly the same position as any other purely voluntary association. As I have explained at great length, once the objective of participants is to get their hands on power to force conformity to their conclusions, argument is no longer directed at getting the issue right but at mobilising the numbers necessary to gain power.
    I suggest that deliberation about public policy can and ought be separated from the pursuit of power. In theory that is certainly possible. Whether it can be done in practice remains to be seen.

    In regard to your big question, we bloggers have no institutional role. We are not pretending to offer practical recommendations that others should act on. I am just offering suggestions and , which I argue might have very good results if the work as I postulate. You are trying to make the case that they cannot work. I have offered suggestions about why you attach so much importance to doing that. The one that seems to me to come across in your discussion is that you see me as offering an unworkable strategy as the first step towards changing our present political practices. You think that this dangerously distracts attention from what you see as the right strategy and as misrepresenting the real problems. So, as long as you think that, your responsibility to the cause of reform demands that you continue to look for flaws in the admittedly inconclusive arguments I offer for my position.

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  18. Keith > a big concession?

    I readily concede that neither demarchic councils nor open discussion can be guaranteed to come to an agreed conclusion. After all, reason can only guarantee consistency among a person’s beliefs. If some participants hold beliefs that beliefs that contradict the beliefs of other participants, and reject attempts to find common ground on which to argue, then reason is likely just to entrench the disagreement. That happens frequently in purely theoretical matters, especially where the terms in which empirical considerations are described are vague. The great strength of the physical sciences is that the description of the relevant empirical instances is both precise and clearly related to theoretical claims that are equally precise. That is not the case in social matters or, for that matter, most philosophical questions.

    In the precisely definable questions that the physical sciences address, being more abstract or more general does not entail increasing vagueness, but in the kinds of concepts we are forced to use in practical life and in social theory, it is inevitably the case that abstraction, generality and vagueness go hand in hand. The reason is that the categories in terms of which we describe instances are based on similarities between the cases they lump together, rather than on objectively established identity between instances of the same factor, and clear differentiation of them from other factors. The business of attempting to disentangle the relevant factors that get lumped together in ways that obscure certain resemblances and differences is tedious and often inconclusive, especially when we are seeking generality.

    What I assume in my proposals for demarchic councils is that focussing on solving a particular shared problem in an experimental, pragmatic way makes it very much easier to sort out what are the considerations that the discussants agree are relevant to assessing proposals. In that way we can escape the trap of judging practical proposals by their conformity to some very general criteria, such as those invoked by socialists or libertarians. It still remains that even an pragmatic approach may fail when people who agree about the relevance of certain considerations put different weight on them. We may agree that a program will cost more money and that it is desirable, but differ about how much more we are prepared to pay to get those desirable effects.

    NOTE. We depart on a tour OF DESERT COUNTRY TOMORROW. SO I AM UNLIKELY TO BE IN A POSITION TO REPLY TO COMMENTS UNTIL WE RETURN IN A WEEK’S TIME. But every submission will get a response eventually, I hope.

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  19. John,

    I don’t recognise your categorical distinction between power and responsibility (outside of the context of the harlot’s prerogative). I’m a member of Exeter Rowing Club, and on Thursday we will be electing a new executive committee. This committee is responsible for the day-to-day running of the club and exercises power on behalf of its members, to whom club officers are accountable if they want to be re-elected in a year’s time. They vote for minor changes to the club’s rules and also act in their official capacity to police those rules. Bernard Manin would describe this as an example of “parliamentary” representation, as we are voting for persons rather than policies, but draws no hard distinction between “parliamentary” and “party” democracy, as both forms of representation fulfil the criteria of election, partial autonomy, freedom of public opinion and trial by discussion (Manin, 1997, pp. 202-218).

    >In regard to your big question, we bloggers have no institutional role.

    Yes, but that’s also the case with demarchic councils. They are sponsored by a private foundation and members appoint themselves. All they can hope to do is refine and enlarge public opinion and in this respect are no different from blogs, newspapers and think tanks. They have no formal institutional role and, in a postmodern multicultural society (which acknowledges reasons rather than reason), are unlikely to acquire an informal one.

    >[Kleroterians] are not pretending to offer practical recommendations that others should act on.

    Not so — there have been many practical recommendations made on this forum (by Bouricius, Wallace, Gat, Sutherland and others). However, as we know there is very little chance of any of the recommendations being implemented there is no incentive to compromise around a shared programme. This would be very different if the forum had an institutional role to play. I would suggest, therefore, that the parallel between this forum and a demarchic council is an exact one.

    >What I assume in my proposals for demarchic councils is that focussing on solving a particular shared problem in an experimental, pragmatic way . . .

    Once again, I don’t see that that’s entirely dissimilar from the concerns of the participants in this forum, even though we often differ in our emphasis. We all want to see the implementation of sortition into democratic governance but some of us are more interested in equality per se, whereas others just want to see the trains run on time. Although we do, from time to time, invoke abstract principles in support of our arguments, nevertheless our concerns are pragmatic — how to institute a system of government that better represents the interests and beliefs of the governed.

    I hope you enjoy your trip with the Desert Fathers.

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