academics > politics
document updated 2 months ago, on Oct 31, 2022

Political decision-making

In my mind, the raison d'etre for democracies is to make good decisions, a way to harness the wisdom of the crowd in the pre-Internet age. Which is not to say that it's perfect, but anyway...

Problems with existing decision-making

There are several problems that seriously distort the US's ability to make good decisions.

The first is that the US's political system has some significant anti-democratic features, and so does not accurately represent the will of the voters. As Chief Justice Earl Warren said in Reynolds v. Sims (1964), "Legislators represent people, not trees or acres. Legislators are elected by voters, not farms or cities or economic interests."

The second is that, starting with Trump in 2016, the Republican party and conservative news started pushing overtly counter-factual information. President Trump alone made many thousands of false or misleading claims, and Fox News has been important in the mainstreaming of various conspiracy theories.

Without an informed citizenry and equal representation, it is impossible to make good decisions.[1] This can negatively affect everything from national defense to the economy to medicine to utility oversight.

(I'm not being utopian about this. I understand that voters may always prefer to base decisions at least partly on personality, in addition to policy. But in the age of Trump, it seems like we've swung completely away from policy and entirely towards personality, and that's bound to cause significant missteps on the international stage. Also, misinformation has always been a problem [2] [3] and always will be, but the level of misinformation seems to have gotten noticeably worse lately.)

Future decision-making

If we were to have a "United States 2.0", how would we organize it? Advances in decision-making software and social science research into group decision-making may offer the opportunity to do things very differently the next time.

Wikipedia pages about group decision-making offline:

Wikipedia pages about political group decision-making offline:

Wikipedia pages that have a more social science bent:

Wikipedia pages about decision-making software:

Wikipedia pages about the combination of all of the above::

Other Wikipedia pages:

Problems with current crowdsourcing

Do current social media websites surface the most useful content? (Granted, there's a difference between "usefulness" and "engagement", but let's put that aside for the moment.) I would say no, they do not: