Re: Property Rights

Raymond G. Van De Walker (
Wed, 26 May 1999 00:00:36 PDT

On Mon, 24 May 1999 19:17:15 -0700 writes: <bunch of good stuff snipped>
> One
>with collective control in the past has been corruption and greed on
>the part of those entrusted with control. Today it would be possible
>to use computer networks to allow democracy at a much larger scale
>in the past. Online voting, especially combined with modern economic
>protocols like preference voting and auction based systems, can allow
>group decision making without the possibility of corrupt rulers,
>there are no rulers to corrupt.
<bunch of other good stuff snipped>

I don't think computer networks can fix direct democracy.

Direct democracy failed in Athens. I think it will fail anywhere, anytime, with
any technology, except possibly transhumanism.

The problem is that orators come to dominate a direct democracy.

Athens had several famous, expensive schools of rhetoric, and orators were famous for persuading the athenian court of nonsense,
and for getting rich in the process.

The solution that fixes direct democracy is representative democracy, a "republic" so that governmental specialists like judges and legislators can penetrate the rhetoric.

The classic example of direct democratic folly is the battle of Mytilene. Athenian generals were prominent citizens with military skills, who volunteered their time and ability for the good of the state. The Athenian court was 1000 average citizens picked at random; the large size was -to make bribery attempts difficult-

The battle was fought at sea, against the Spartans, in a difficult storm. The Athenian
navy won, by skill, strength of arms, and clever leadership.

When the 5 generals got back, an orator pursuaded the court that the generals were
guilty of impiety because they had failed to return the bodies of the sailors who were lost at sea, in the storm. The sentence for impiety was death, and it was carried out immediately. One general successfully fled.

A week later, the court repudiated its decision, and mourned the dead generals.

Sparta took a whole generation to recover, but _won_ the next war. That's how Athens fell. A common speculation is that the most intelligent people no longer wanted to be general. Another common speculation is that the orator was an agent of influence paid by the Spartans. Of course, the Athenian court did not have to take his advice.

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