Thursday, March 14, 2013

So I began

(Note: this was originally posted here. Now, in January 2014, I am copy-pasting and backdating to actual time of publication.)

I have just what the Reactionaries need to become a political movement with realistic and useful goals, btw.

Instead of trying to figure out how to get a stable and nice dictatorship going, they need to switch to re-inventing the traditional aristocratic caste of past societies in a new improved form.

We could take the British House of Lords as a starting point, and think about how we could turn it into an actually useful and competent stably powerful institution:

(1) Stop pretending that plutocrats (etymologically: people who are granted power because of wealth) are aristocrats (etymologically: people who are granted power because they are considered better than others). Currently you get into the House of Lords by e.g. having rich and influential parents. Most people there aren’t even well-educated, let alone intellectual in the slightest degree. In short, the institution as it currently stands is a clown show. (And it doesn’t have real power over much anything either.)

(2) Agree upon the ways you measure who are the genuine aristocrats, i.e. people who are considered better than others. An easy starting point is measuring intelligence and education levels, we already know somewhat well how to do that. We should continue by figuring out reasonably good ways to measure other virtues, of which there are many, but one very important one is not being an egotistical prick. Personally, I would among other things require aristocrats to be the kind of people who *want* to live a materially humble existence, since that seems to correlate pretty well with a lot of genuine virtue.

(3) After you have ways to measure the virtues you value, put additional safeguards in place to ensure that very smart but power-hungry and non-virtuous people aren’t able to game the system. This means making the role of an aristocrat such that only a genuinely virtuous person would *want* to live in that role. Requiring a materially humble existence is a good starting point, and as another key element I would propose having to live under *extreme* surveillance. The aristocrats at least, if not everyone else, should in the future live in a Transparent Society a la David Brin where perhaps their bedroom and toilet wouldn’t be open to round-the-clock publicly broadcast surveillance, but pretty much everything else would be.

(4) Do something useful with your modern House of Lords where the Lords are virtuous and well-educated intellectuals. My favourite two major powers to grant them would be (A) the ability to pass any law that you could get a majority of the people in a referendum to support. In other words, you could take the role of the more powerful lower house of parliament in the instances where the people agree with you. This would keep the corruption of the typical politicians in the lower house in check, as would the power of (B) after every election, being able to substitute something like the electorally lowest scoring 40% of democratically elected representatives with other candidates from the same parties that the aristocracy considers less corrupt and better people. Here the idea would not be to impose any political views of the aristocracy (and indeed candidates could only be replaced with other candidates that the same party originally nominated, so the parties control the options), but to go rather far in weeding out the bad apples from the political class. I expect this system would even lead to a lot of genuinely good and competent people having successful political careers, perhaps to the extent of transforming politics in a rather surprising way.

So there you have it. In short, re-invent aristocracy by realizing that these days it is actually possible to *measure* who the better people are, and also with advanced technology to *monitor* the chosen aristocrats to such an extreme extent that you know you get the kind of people you were trying to get.

And of course a key element is that you aren’t giving yourself power to do stuff the people strongly oppose, thus inviting revolution. Essentially, you’re transferring power from politicians to virtuous aristocrats, with the people having at least as much power as they have under what we currently consider democracy.

(I’ve actually wasted quite a lot of time thinking about some of the details that arise in trying to implement and fine-tune this kind of a system. I plan to properly write on these issues in 10 years or so, which I estimate to be about the world-historical stage when thinking about things like this becomes fruitful instead of wasteful.)