Thursday, April 26, 2007

Two Views of Democracy

Listening to a radio program about recent Nigerian politics, it occurred to me that there are two quite different models of how democracy works held by people who think it does work. One is a model of incentives, and one of selection.

The incentive version relies on the fact that politicians want to get elected and reelected. To get elected, they have to support the policies that a majority of the voters want; to get elected again, they have to actually work for those policies. Hence, it is argued, it is in the interest of politicians to do what the voters want them to do, whatever the private beliefs and objectives --other than election--of the politicians may be.

The selection model relies on the facts that people differ and that we have some ability to tell what other people are like. Some candidates are good people who want good things--the welfare of their fellow citizens, justice, peace, ... . If the voters can identify the good politicians, they can elect them and rely on the benevolent desires of those politicians to motivate them to do the right thing. Some candidates are not only good people but smart and hard working, hence likely to take the acts that produce those good things.

The two models have different requirements and different implications. For the incentive model to work, voters must know both what elected politicians are doing and what they ought to be doing, in order to vote for the ones who do what they ought to. In a large society with a government doing many things, knowing either what it should do or what a particular politician is doing is hard, which is one reason that model might not work very well. It's a common observation that when a politician wants to buy the votes of farmers by pushing up the price of food, he explains that he is doing it to guarantee American consumers a reliable food supply. When a politician wants to buy the votes of auto workers and GM stockholders by using a tariff to drive up the price of automobiles, he explains that he is doing it for the health of the American economy.

The selection model avoids that set of problems. You don't have to know what the government should be doing; you have delegated the job of figuring that out to someone else. Nor do you have to know what your politician is doing. The selection model even works for issues of national security where the voters know that they don't know what the government is doing--the Manhattan Project, say. On the other hand, it depends on voters being able to accurately evaluate the personalities of people they have met for at most a few seconds, based on what those people say about themselves and what others say about them. It thus leads to campaigns of charisma, bogus virtue, and the like.

My point here is not to judge which model is more realistic or which works less badly. It's merely to point out that people who believe in democracy are likely to have one of those two models in mind and are often unclear about which it is or what the differences between them are.


Mike Huben said...

We could make two models of why people read David Friedman.

The first, incentive, relies on the fact that David wants to be read, and thus will try to pander to the interests of an ideological set of readers. The second, selection, relies on how well David hoodwinks his readers so that they come back for more.

My point here is not to judge which model is more realistic or which works less badly. It's merely to point out that people who read David are likely to have one of those two models in mind and are often unclear about which it is or what the differences between them are.

Of course, if you really wanted to understand why democracy works, you might start with citing some recently published theories, such as Wittman's "The Myth of Democratic Failure". You know, looking to the literature, rather than making something up off the cuff.

Matt McIntosh said...


There comes a point in every man's life, one would hope, when he stops behaving like a teenager with too much time on his hands. When is that day for you, so that I can mark on my calendar when to start paying attention to your comments?

Anonymous said...

I read David Friedman because he emits, from time to time, theories that better explain phenomena that I observe than do alternate theories.

With regards to the assertion that David panders to the ideology of readers, I can only give my own experience: I drastically disagreed with David's writings ("The Machinery of Freedom") when I read them. David did not "cater" to me; he offended me. However, after reflection, I concluded that his arguments were better than my own, so I became convinced (until / unless better theories come along).

You may be familiar with this process under the name of "the scientific method".

Arthur B. said...

Most people I know - those who believe in democracy - rely on the selection model.
They assume that they can pick an honest person who will guide us since men are obviously bad greedy persons. The contradiction never strikes them... truly fascinating. Men are purely malevolent and politician purely benevolent.

Mike: unfortunately democratic failure is not a myth, it is an observed fact.

Russell Hanneken said...

Mike, David was not trying to explain "why democracy works." He was outlining what he believes are two commonly held views of why democracy works. You don't need to cite Wittman to do that.

Incidentally, Wittman's work has not gone unchallenged. Bryan Caplan, I think, has done a particularly good job of responding to The Myth of Democratic Failure. See the debate between him and Wittman in Econ Journal Watch (link1, link2, link3, link4). See also Bryan Caplan's soon-to-be-published book, The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies.

Anonymous said...

'The greatest dangers to the community more often result from the government of the many than from government by one person. When there are many people in government it is more likely that any one of them will fail to be concerned with the common good than when there is only one.'

St Thomas Aquinas, De Regimine Principum

happyjuggler0 said...

One could say there are two different models of trolls.

The first type of troll gets pleasure out of wasting people's time with inanity, but doesn't necessarily believe his own crap.

The second type of troll gets pleasure out of wasting people's time with inanity, but believes his own crap to be true as well.

My point is not to judge which model of troll is more realistic or which behaves more badly. It's merely to...ah, never mind. I'm off to visit other sites that may inform me of something useful, and to engage others in constructive criticism, or constructive support, or posit hopefully intelligent questions.

Have a great day! Or not, your choice.

happyjuggler0 said...

By the way, nice blog David. Keep up with the off the beaten path musings. If I get tired of them I don't have to read them....

David Friedman said...

It occurs to me that a similar distinction applies to a smaller issue--giving convicted criminals time off for good behavior.

One might view it as an incentive to behave well in prison. Or one might view good behavior in prison as evidence that the criminal has reformed, or was never all that bad, hence that it's safe to let him out.

William Newman said...

Huben, your remark would be more useful, and perhaps more persuasive, if you summarized one of the theories of how democracy worked that you'd've liked to see Friedman mention, not just mentioned that there's a book of them. I might yet at least skim the book, since I see it's in the local university library, but I won't do it in time to respond in a timely fashion to your blog post. Does that make me lazy? Or you? (or both, of course)

Also, since you've just come to this debate recently, you may not be aware of that you are posting under a name used by a net crank who maintains a lengthy anti-libertarian FAQ, tearing down libertarian positions, where the only match to the string "Milton" is in the summaries of some books he cites at the end. I suspect this coincidence caused some people to jump to conclusions about your identity, and such people might be a little impatient with "you" (not noticing that you are in fact a voice for reason who only shares a net handle with who they think "you" are) scolding people for, in a 6-paragraph blog post, only choosing two common opponent arguments to address.

Peter Bessman said...

Genius. DDF ought to write a book.

Oh wait...

Anonymous said...

Good freakin' God Mike --- you do realize you're a dickweed, right? I mean, this is a fact that you are aware of?

This is like a little living room conversation, and you just keep coming in here and taking a dump on the coffee table, right on the almonds. Actually, I wish this really was happening in real life so I could put you over my knee and spank you for being a brat. I would pull your pants down and slap your pale buttcheeks with a reed, then send you to bed without dinner.

Jesus Christ, I never thought the behavior of a middle aged man would make me rethink my desire to have kids.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure what else you guys might expect from Mike Huben, who came into this forum when Milton Friedman had just died and decided it was a great time to make a comment along the lines that the Friedman family business was to telling lies for dictators.

Then he realized how awful this made him look, and he asked David to remove the comment. Not sure if it's still here or not. . .

Mike Huben said...

Of the bunch of commenters, Russell comes the closest to getting my message. The rest of you are just oblivious.

First, you notice that you're irritated by my message? Why is it that you're irritated by my message and not David's, even though they are very closely parallel? Because it's your ox being gored. I was hoping somebody would notice it.

So what's obnoxious about both? The framing. The implicit derision of the believers in democracy (and in my case David's readers.) it's part of the framing strategy that propagandists use. You didn't notice the omission of academic theories. Actual theories are much more complicated.

But let me give you another example. Imagine I said that people have two theories of economics: one where the producers set the price, and the other where the consumers set the price. Then I go on to pronounce that "The two models have different requirements and different implications." You all have enough economics fundamentals to know that neither is right, and that a real model of prices is going to involve supply and demand curves, marginal costs, etc.

Now I'm going to follow up that false dichotomy with a backhanded excuse:

"My point here is not to judge which model is more realistic or which works less badly. It's merely to point out that people who believe in economics are likely to have one of those two models in mind and are often unclear about which it is or what the differences between them are."

What impressions are you left with? First, that people who believe in economics are mostly very stupid. Second that there isn't a better model, and so economics is rather intellectually pathetic. Third, how could economics work when nobody believes anything real about it?

Your attention and impressions have been steered by Friedman's skillful framing. David's writings are rife with examples of this sort of propaganda (aka public relations.)

What's really sad is when I see David attempting to think with propaganda tools. His similar oversimplification of the very complex problem of obesity was just pathetic.

As for those of you who think I'm obnoxious, well, if you're the types who cannot look beyond tone to see the substance of a message, it's your loss. I won't pander to your weaknesses. The best antidote to the implied messages of public relations is disrespect.

And let's talk about my most obnoxious comment, when I pointed out that Milton Friedman was a propagandist. That was obnoxious because he had just died, and I should not have been mean to David when he doubtless was grieving. I like David, respect many of his ideas, and oppose others. I didn't need to be mean to him right then, and I regretted it.

However, that doesn't change the fact that Milton was a propagandist:
"Moreover, Friedman's effectiveness as a popularizer and propagandist rested in part on his well-deserved reputation as a profound economic theorist. But there's an important difference between the rigor of his work as a professional economist and the looser, sometimes questionable logic of his pronouncements as a public intellectual."
Who Was Milton Friedman? Paul Krugman

Thanks for the references to Caplan, Russell. I'd already read them, and I think Bryan has the same sad problem of creative thinking with propagandistic tools. He comes off very poorly against Wittman, IMHO. I view his work as libertarian apologetics, attempting to plug the leakiest holes in his ideological boat. There's a big market for apologetics among true believers. I view him as another example of Michael Shermer's principle: "Smart people believe in weird things because they are very good at defending positions they arrived at through non-smart reasons." Shermer's libertarianism seems to be another example.

Anonymous said...

For myself I found Mike's message irritating because it was rude. The messages are definitely not parallel because this blog is David's not Mike's.

In his message, Mike is at least right in pointing one thing, his defense of democracy comes from belief and faith.

Anonymous said...

David Friedman strikes me as rather inoffensive. Even if you think he's loopy, it's a bit odd to accuses him of "pandering" and "hoodwinking" in his books in response to a post that at it's most specific was about Nigeria. A democracy critic much more deserving of Mike's ire is Mencius Moldbug, with the post "The case against democracy: ten red pills"

Anonymous said...

What a shrill diatribe by Mr Huben. Did it contain any points of substance? How sad it is that his contributions have come to this.

Anonymous said...

It's too bad this is turning into a thread about Mike Huben, forgive me for contributing to the trend :-)

The first time I read Mike Huben's famous FAQ, I thought he was an intelligent and informative participant in a debate that's usually a cesspool of stupidity and misinformation: political debate. This was back when I was a blinded libertarian, insistent that my side was right even if I hadn't figured out why yet.

Since then, I've grown a bit more nuanced in my views, and in hindsight I've been exposed to a heck of a lot of ideas and information in the meantime. I no longer harbor any illusions that "my side" holds all or even most answers. You would think this would make me closer to Mike's position, but instead it now seems like he's part of the usual dung-throwing that cripples every other partisan. The knee-jerk and sophomoric response of his on this comment page is as good example as any. If you want to find anti-libertarian arguments, you can do far better elsewhere, although usually one must resort to writers who are more narrowly anti-libertarian than Mike appears to be. In any case, it's disappointing to find Mike to be not as sharp as I remembered. I'm unsure whether this is because my taste is less forgiving, or if he's become just like the rest of them.

(forgive my writing - I'm a bad writer. if you're patient enough to read, you probably get what I meant, it can probably be restated in about three sentences that are easier to understand and less grating)

Mike Huben said...

So let's see: one anonymous moron skips the substance to find me "rude", as if he can't read.

tggp pretends that David is innocent of participating in public relations crusade against government throughout his life. You need only look at a few of his books to see the pattern. Is that inoffensive? If you rely upon government services, then David is opposed to your interests. (I took a look at the "Ten Red Pills" post: a stupid set of false dichotomies.)

Alex labels me "shrill". Oh, heavens! To be lumped with people like Paul Krugman.

And the last anonymous poster attempts the "I grew up, why didn't you" putdown. Yet for all he criticizes me, he doesn't list one specific. Nor does he list one specific thing that Friedman said of value. Totally content-free. Is that the sign of a grownup? And I presume all the libertarians are nodding their heads in agreement with him. It's easy to agree with insults, especially when it suits your confirmation bias.

At least my criticism has content, unlike most commenters here. You guys don't even have a clue as to how you're being manipulated by libertarian propaganda. And you won't even admit it when I spell it out to you. All you do is continue the circle-jerk of "he opposes our beliefs, so he's an enemy, so he's bad and wrong". Syncophants like you probably embarass David.

Anonymous said...

A dean candidate who visited my campus recently, when asked what he expects of faculty in terms of publishing, said the following:

"There are different kinds of research, and I won't say one is more valid than another, but a professor at a university must be actively engaged in research. Zero research is not an option. That's what separates us from high school teachers."

I mention this to point out that Mike is in that sense (and I believe in the literal sense as well) a high school teacher, a casual consumer, but not a producer of research. David is a professor. He has done and continues to do actual research (when he's not busy playing WoW or writing novels). His father, who has received a bit of Mike's bashing lately, was one of the most productive and insightful researchers in the history of social science. Mike does not actually have anything to say. He is in the audience, throwing rotten tomatos whenever he can. But that's all he does. David thinks, makes an argument, offers a testable claim, maybe even provides some evidence. Mike says "read Wittman," or "read Krugman," or "read Rawls," or "read X person I agree with on this one particular point" as though David hasn't already. One is an original thinker, a generator of ideas, an academic in the truest sense (some would say he's *too* academic), the other is not. Huben isn't even a second-rate thinker, i.e. a synthesiser -- he is purely and merely a critic. He's hardly a thinker at all. It's probably unfair to even judge him as a thinker. His role is to get pissed off, make snarky remarks, and cite people he agrees with. Don't expect an actual argument, and you won't be disappointed.

Mike Huben said...

Another anonymous twit thinks he can dismiss valid arguments because I'm "not a professor" and don't do "actual research".

Illogical arguments like that would easily disqualify David Friedman too, who brags that he doesn't have degrees in economics or law, yet he teaches law and economics.

Oh, and the twit is wrong: I do have scientific research publications. Three (though the last is an extended rewrite and translation into Spanish of the first.) I do that for fun, working at the Museum Of Comparative Zoology at Harvard (informally.)

But really, the twit is just another syncophant looking for a way to protect his beliefs from challenge. They'll grasp at any excuse for dismissal, because anything is better than actually considering that their hero could be wrong.

Anonymous said...

You don't "do" anything, really. It's almost funny that you say people ignore the content of your posts. What content? Your blog and CoL site are good examples. No ideas, no discussion to speak of. Just "X is wrong because Y disagrees." It has value, but that value is very limited.

And when it comes to politics, law, economics, or anything else relevant to your posts here, you are a non-thinker, non-researcher. You're on the sidelines. Your challenges are welcome, but the truth is you don't offer challenges. "Read Wittman" is not a challenge. We all have. Try explaining why you think he's right and DF is wrong.

Anonymous said...

Way to prove my point, Mike -- you are anything but an active researcher. David is, especially in the fields he teaches in (and blogs on). Maybe he should do more, or less, I don't know. That's not the point. You're not disqualified because you don't hold this degree or haven't published in that journal. That's merely evidence to support the claim that you are not a thinker. You have no arguments. There is no book on political economy from Huben. There is no article on why or whether democracy works, not even on the web. Other people, thinkers, write those things, and other thinkers criticize them. You choose the ones you like and link to them. Bravo.

Arthur B. said...

Mike. I am the "anonymous moron". As it was pointed out before by Peter, your intrusion was indeed downward rude. You claim symmetry as a defense, but this is not a playground, this blog is private property (something you probably don't understand). I don't want to be playing the guard dog here, but you have to realize that people posting comments here are doing so with the owner consent and thereby agree to implicit rules, one of which is politeness to the host. Even though you may find David's thought on the way democracy is perceived rude, as a guest you are held to consider this opinion politely. Mothers usually teach that kind of thing to their kids. Now go to the corner and think about what you've done.

Mike Hammock said...

As I see it, here are Mr. Huben's errors.

1) David Friedman is not actually saying that these are the only models of how democracy works. They are, however, models held by (many) people who believe democracy works (well). Friedman says that they are likely to have one of those two ideas in mind, but he does not rule out other ideas per se. Wittman might be another possible idea, or perhaps Becker's (1983) model of competing interest groups. The two models that Friedman discusses are two arguments that I have encountered frequently as well; he did not "make them up off the cuff". In fact, they both closely resemble things I was taught in high school civics classes. Ask one hundred college students why politicians in democracy "do the right thing", and I suspect that you will find some who argue that it is in their interest to do so, and others who will say that voters pick the politicians who will do so. How many will cite Wittman? Sadly, I would guess none. Even if Wittman is right, that does not mean these common arguments should not be examined.

2) Huben is insulting to Friedman and his readers. I don't mind having my ideas criticized; it's the best way to improve them (or the best reason to toss them and start over). I do expect criticism to be polite and constructive, however. What purpose does being insulting serve? Entertainment value, perhaps? The argument against name-calling applies to those who call Huben names, too.

3) Huben says that Friedman's two theories are like two theories stating that consumers set prices and producers set prices. That is actually half an excellent example, because I hear the latter argument all the time. It is a bad argument that deserves examination, for the same reason that the theories Friedman discussed deserve examination (although Friedman doesn't actually say that the theories are bad per se).

4) Friedman actively publishes research in law and economics, yet somehow Huben concludes that this means that an argument that "people who don't do research don't have valid arguments" (quotation marks added for clarity, not to signify an actual quote) applies to Friedman, too. On the other hand, I agree that an argument should be judged on its merits, rather than status of its proponent.

5) Huben says that David Friedman and Milton Friedman are/were propagandists, and I guess we are supposed to conclude that we should therefore not read them, or at least discount their opinions heavily. Yet could one not also argue that Michael Huben has been participating in public relations crusade against David Friedman and libertarianism for much of his life? You need only look at a few of his web pages and blog posts to see the pattern. As it happens I think Huben simply and honestly disagrees, and I would not call him a propagandist (nor would I call the Friedmans propagandists). Calling someone with whom one disagrees a propagandist doesn't seem productive to me.

I would like to hear what Huben thought of The Myth of the Rational Voter, however.

Mike Huben said...

Arthur: You presume to speak for David, who may be more tolerant than you are. When David wants me to act differently, he'll tell me. But I'm not surprised: many libertarians like you want to be authoritarians and dictators in their little properties and restrict the speech of others there. Rather pathetic. And you still haven't addressed any substance in our argument: you're still acting like a moron.

Hammock, you have completely ignored my explanation of why Friedman's post was public relations style propaganda.

But worse, you somehow reverse my meaning in your point (4): I called that sort of argument illogical.

Your point 5 identifies something I left out: what to do when you identify propagandists. The answer is not to trust them: be skeptical of their writings, and if you find them persuasive, seek independent confirmation. The same as if you encounter somebody who's a swindler. Don't trust them; your relationship has to be based on something else, something where real knowledge can replace trust.

Need I be a propagandist because David is one? The test is whether somebody uses disingenuous, deceptive and/or highly manipulative tactics. I've identified David's.

Anonymous said...

Mike, as I said I am not a guard dog, I am not ordering you anything, I am a guest as much as you are. I am merely trying to explain to you why your reaction is perceived badly, why it it considered rude and impolite. There is no substance to address here, your style is offensive, that's enough.

Anonymous said...

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Einzige said...

Mike (Huben),

Do you find the abrasive and insulting tone of your comments accomplishes your purpose?

I assume it must, given that you've always taken this tack--but that must mean, then, that your purpose in commenting and criticizing is something other than an attempt at persuasion.

Mike Hammock said...

Mr. Huben, you called the argument I mentioned in 4) illogical because it would also apply to Friedman. It may be an illogical argument, but I don't see how it equally applies to both of you. Perhaps I still misunderstand your point.

So you call Friedman names--specifically a propagandist--and in response, other people call you names, and the debate has advanced not at all. I don't see that as useful. If someone were to describe some of your arguments as disingenuous, deceptive and/or highly manipulative, would that mean we should stop listening to you? No, that would be foolish. I suppose we could use this blog entry as an opportunity for you to present all the dishonest things you think Friedman has done, and then he could respond, but I don't think this is the place for that.

If you want to make an argument of substance, make it and I'll listen. If you want to call names, I'd rather you went elsewhere, but I suppose I'll have to tolerate it to fully enjoy Friedman's blog.

Anonymous said...

I come to this site, oddly enough, to hear from David Friedman, because I find him congenial and interesting. If I find myself getting large chunks of Mike Huben, I'm afraid I find it less congenial and less interesting, and I start skipping it. We're all entitled to comment here, but I think we should all show some restraint.

-- Jonathan Palfrey

Anonymous said...

Dr. Friedman, (and also some others who left comments)

What do "democracy works" and "democracy does not work" mean?
What is supposed to happen when it "works," and what is it that does not happen when it doesn't "work?"

Can someone define "work?"

Mike Hammock said...

Vahe, I suspect that by "democracy works" he means "democracy tends to achieve efficient policy outcomes". Of course, that explanation may not be enlightening to noneconomists.

Jonathan said...

I mention hesitantly that what is under discussion here is not really democracy (the rule of the people) but representative democracy (the rule of elected representatives of the people). Perhaps this comment will be seen as naïve, but I do believe there's a significant difference between the two political systems.

Anonymous said...

Can this outlook on representative democracy be applied to corporations? If I understand corporate governance correctly, stockholders are the voters in a small representative democracy (the corporation) who vote the members of the board of directors into their seats. I suspect most of them do not know any better how should the corporation conduct its business and who should it hire as the CEO, but they hope that those for whom they vote do. Which of these 2 models do they use? Which of the 2 models do directors use when hiring the CEO and other executives?
Are corporations any different than representative democracies in this respect? If yes then how?

Anonymous said...


I should like to venture some differences between a corporation and a democratic state:

A corporation has a clearly defined goal: Profits for the shareholders (although this important principle is being eroded by the introduction of social responsibility factors).

Exit is easier - ie, it is easy to sell shares. This is not impossible in a democracy but harder (emigration).

A corporation is bound by its contractual arrangements. It can change its constitution but subject to entrenchment of certain articles - or it can, at least, in the UK.

Despite the principle of majority rule, the corporation powers over the minority are far more limited.

David Friedman said...

1. Mike is welcome to post here. If he makes good arguments against me, I might learn something. If he makes bad arguments against me, that will help convince readers that I am correct.

2. The nearest Mike comes to a definition of "propagandist" is:

"The test is whether somebody uses disingenuous, deceptive and/or highly manipulative tactics."

On that definition, I don't think either I or my father qualify, although obviously Mike does. Mike's quote from Krugman doesn't provide much support for his position, since there is no reason to assume Krugman is using the same definition as Mike is and "looser, sometimes questionable logic" falls well short of "disingenuous, deceptive and/or highly manipulative tactics." I frequently think the people I argue with are using loose and questionable logic, but it doesn't follow that they think so.

I think Mike comes closer than either of us to fitting his definition of a propagandist, for reasons that I think should be clear from my response to his anti-libertarian piece:

But even in his case, I think it is more reasonable to regard bad arguments, which most of us sometimes make, as error than as deliberate dishonesty.

3. The point of my post wasn't an attempt to "understand why democracy works" (or doesn't). As I would think would be obvious, if I were attempting to answer that question I would approach it from a public choice/rational actor standpoint. My point was an observation about what appear to me to be widely held views of democracy--in particular the fact that there were two quite different ones that aren't usually distinguished and should be.

Mike Hammock said...

I think Professor Friedman meant to post this link:
(it seems to get cut off due to length)

Mike Huben said...

(1) David has a good, liberal attitude towards censorship.

(2) David pretends to deal with my charge that he is a propagandist with a few simple manuvers that will please the syncophants, but not actually refute me.

First, he cites my criteria, but doesn't show how my framing example is wrong.

Then he resorts to the grade-school "no I'm not, you are" taunt, but provides no specific reasoning or example. He refers to his (rather shoddy) critique of my FAQ, probably to where he says I'm an evangelist. Unfortunately, he doesn't bridge the gap between evangelist and propagandist in any way. And unfortunately, he's also wrong: I am not an evangelist, but an iconoclast.

David suggests that somehow he and his father are not propagandists because Krugman and I may be using different definitions for propagandist: there's a gap in that "logic". They could be propagandists because they fit either or both of our definitions (assuming the matched definition is correct.)

"I think it is more reasonable to regard bad arguments, which most of us sometimes make, as error than as deliberate dishonesty." I think it is more reasonable, considering the several decades he and his father have spent making such arguments, that they are propagandizing for their sincere beliefs. Propaganda may not require error or dishonesty. But you notice that David has suggested that false dichotomy as part of his argument. Shouldn't he know better? So is David a lunatic, liar, or god? :-)

Anybody interested in the range of meanings of the word propaganda might want to read the Wikipedia article on propaganda, and compare it to impoverished dictionary meanings.

(3) After examining a lot of David's lifetime of works, going back to TMOF, a common theme seems to be that "even democratic government is so awful that we wouldn't want it." There is nothing in this post which contradicts that theme, and plenty that reinforces it. So I don't buy David's claim of innocence. His habitual framing is not innocent. And he's yet to even disagree with my analysis of his framing, let alone show how I am wrong.

Richard Y Chappell said...

Ironically enough (given the first comment), Harvard political theorist Jane Mansbridge has proposed similar ideas.

Mike Huben said...

My complaint isn't so much about the ideas: it's about Friedman's framing.

It's also obvious that the two ideas are not exclusive. Voters patently apply both strategies: I personally have always considered both ideas to be valid, part of a complex system of checks and balances between voters, rival politicians, rival parties, branches of government, levels of government, political organizations, etc. In such a complex ecology, it is silly to logically derive the effects of one sort of input: the others could provide feedback that negates the effect.

Mike Huben said...

Out of curiosity, I decided to see what Mansfield thinks beyond what Richard reported.

Rethinking Representation:
Expanding Normative Analysis to the Promissory, Anticipatory, Self-referential and Surrogate

Essentially, she adds several other methods to the two David mentions (which she labels together "Promissory Representation". And she mentions that Pitkin offered a hybrid between the two David mentioned.

These other methods are not arcane: they are rather obvious to anyone that follows politics.

Anticipatory means (approximately) that you judge a candidate by his track record.

Self-referential means that you think the candidate will behave according to unchanging internal dictates: ideology for example.

Surrogate means that you obtain more representation than you are entitled to through repeated bribery (usually campaign contribution.)

I suspect that if you polled the public, you'd find that most people share all of these models, as opposed to only one of the two David suggested.

Perhaps David would have benefitted, and written a better post, if he had just looked in the literature a little, instead of (I speculate) listening to his confirmation bias.

Mike Hammock said...

It's not clear to me why the "surrogate" representation concept would be one of the "models of how democracy works held by people who think it does work." It sounds more like an problem which should give advocates of democracy at least some pause.

The distinctions drawn in the paper are interesting, but I don't think they necessarily contradict what Friedman said, nor does he contradict them. I guess it would have been better if he had said "...people who believe in democracy are likely to have at least one of those two models in mind..."

Raphfrk said...

Apparently, based on previous records, legislators (in the US anyway) tend to be very consistent in their voting.


This would seem to indicate that the selection method is better. Fear of not getting re-elected will have almost no effect on how a representative actually votes.

Micha Ghertner said...

Mike Huben wrote the following two statements:

1. "The test is whether somebody uses disingenuous, deceptive and/or highly manipulative tactics."

2. "Propaganda may not require error or dishonesty. But you notice that David has suggested that false dichotomy as part of his argument. Shouldn't he know better?"

The definition Huben provides in statement one seems to contradict the first sentence of statement two. The tone of words like "disingenuous," "deceptive," and "misleading" imply that one is either knowingly and intentionally being dishonest, or unknowingly and unintentionally engaging in error.

Is there a third possibility? Perhaps Huban is using loaded, antagonistic language to make the somewhat less controversial and obvious claim that David Friedman, like all of us, has political biases that frame his view of the world. Friedman, like every academic, works to convince others to adopt his views. If this be propaganda, color me guilty.