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I have been exploring a deconstruction of the trope of “democracy” which may possibly have 2 (initially) independent axes:

  1. A statistical computation of the “free will events” of the populace, where a “populace” is a collection of agents, and “agents” are defined with respect to an ontology of agency (i.e., different characteristics relating to sentience, awareness, being, knowledge, cognition, etc. To be determined.) By a “statistical computation”, I mean a function, operation, or transformational process which returns a collective choice result out of the individual choice inputs (there is an entire class of such functions; the “majority wins” max-function, the “average”, are just simple examples.)
  2. A certain collection of “values” pertaining to views on what a “human” is. Regardless of what they are, we can assign a metric to all of the free-choice-events that become actualized in the society, to determine to what extent the society is a realization of those “values”.

This formalism is still being developed.

The purpose would be to show how if the decision-making function has good “faithfulness” in “mirroring” or preserving particular characteristics of the “choice-events” (characteristics which are still to be decided), it becomes independent of the metric which determines how well a resultant society embodies a collection of “human values” (with some interesting sub-cases, such as faithful choice-reflection being one of the “values”, or possible interference between the value of freedom in action with its sub-type, freedom of choice).

This model would aim to show how trying to influence other people to vote for “the right thing” decreases “choice-preservation”. In other words,

  1. If “democracy” D1 is a system in which the choice-result reflects the choice-inputs well;
  2. And someone assumes D1 is a value, then it would follow:
  3. Decreasing the extent to which people’s choices are not authentic, or are not faithful representations of what they themselves actually want, is contravariant with “democracy” D1.

But if “democracy” D2 is a collection of desirable characteristics manifestant in a society, and it is a value to increase those desirable characteristics, it may follow that D1 is negatively correlated with the outcome of D2. Maybe there are interesting cases where you can show the correlation between D1 and D2 and compute a mutual optimum.

The point being, it depends what you think “democracy” is, but if it is wanting society to be a reflection of the wants of its constituents, it is antithetical to that aim to try to encourage, pressure, condemn or praise, or even like or dislike, other people’s votes; in spite of this being an extremely common part of election culture.

I am wondering what research out there is relevant to these ideas.

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  • Voting to close as the question isn't at all clear. There are gestures at multiple fundamental questions of political theory here like what is democracy, what is the nature of political subjectivity etc. Pure political theory might fit better on Philosophy SE but only if the question can be clarified.
    – Brian Z
    Commented Apr 27 at 22:08
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    As to research, there's no shortage of it. Political theory & philosophy... Not downvoting, but this question is super broad - and its foundation ("D1" vs "D2") seems to ask for a from-scratch explanation of the justification for voting, and then gets into what criteria should determine how it ought to be done to meet those criteria.
    – Pete W
    Commented Apr 27 at 22:47
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    "in spite of this being an extremely common part" Where and when? Last time I voted nobody liked or disliked my vote because nobody knew what I voted for. Neither was there any pressure or praise. The vote was secret. I just went in, voted and went out again. Commented Apr 28 at 0:07
  • Somewhat relevant plato.stanford.edu/entries/ethics-manipulation (Several politics-related papers are cited therein, which may be interesting.) Commented May 2 at 12:54

2 Answers 2

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This approach problematizes the act of convincing others, where it should (instead) problematize the method of convincing others. 'Convincing others' is a central element in any formulation of democratic systems. The central idea of democratic interaction is that citizens come together (in one fashion or another) and formulate policy through discussion and accommodation. Where there is no ability to 'convince others' democracy fails and de-evolves into a competition between disparate autocracies (groups with fixed interests struggling to impose them on each other).

What most democratic systems try to establish is a form in which 'convincing others' is restricted to certain modes: usually communicative and normative-ethical modes. Democracies try to exclude forms of 'convincing others' that involve menacing and threats, bribery and graft, pay for play, and other 'corrupt' (meaning non-consensus or non-universalized) forms of convincing.

People are not static objects with fixed characteristics. A healthy democracy tries to elevate citizens so that they understand and agree with what's best for the community as a whole. You might check out Habermas' "Theory of Communicative Action".

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  • Doesn't persuasion kind of defeat the purpose of voting? Imagine you are on a quiz gameshow, and you have an "Ask the audience" lifeline. This lets you crowdsource knowledge basically; it's unlikely, given a big enough sample, that the biggest subset will pick the wrong answer. But what if the audience has time to debate it first. You can get a charismatic-but-incorrect person to skew the sample so they lead you astray. Can't the same thing happen with Democracy? Persuasive people can get the voters to vote for bad things.
    – Ryan_L
    Commented May 2 at 15:38
  • @Ryan_L: Well, that's the gamble of democracy. Any government we adopt has the possibility of getting some charismatic-but-bad person calling the shots. In an autocracy we can get tyrants like Putin; in an aristocracy we can get rich idiots, like Elon Musk; in a democracy we can get demagogues like [ahem…]. The main advantage of a democracy is that if we make an error choosing the wrong thing, we have a chance to fix it. Commented May 2 at 16:12
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This approach seems to be based on the assumption that there is a clear distinction between 'informing' or 'influencing'.

Practically all information or data relevant to the functioning or working of a society is from other humans. It might be specifically written by some other human so you reading it means you are influenced by that human. Even if you observe other humans directly your observations are influenced by what they choose to show.

In other words, if your opinions about how society should function are based on any kind of data from the real world than you have been influenced by other humans. That is just intrinsic to being human. Democracy just means that your opinions, along with everyone elses, should be considered when deciding how society should function.

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  • Fully agree, however it's not all the same: just specific information or aimed misinformation campaigns. Otherwise everything would be the same really. Commented Apr 29 at 14:48
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    @NoDataDumpNoContribution There definitely is a scale from mostly informing to mostly influencing but there is no clear cutoff and the same data might count as purely informational in one context and purely influencing in another.
    – quarague
    Commented Apr 30 at 7:49

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