By Demosthenes Kyriazis
The paradox of voting.
In the past but also at present, scientists and thinkers have tried to assess the quality, which systematically have the collective decisions through referendums, because there were opinions and indications that these decisions are by their nature unpredictable and inconsistent with logic.
In the middle of the last century, research has been done in the U.S. to determine whether there is any quality difference between individual and collective decisions taken, as it is known, only through one way, with referendums and the application of the majority principle.
The results of these investigations were known as the “paradox of voting” [i].
The paradox was the finding that there are systematic and significant differences between the quality of individual and the quality of collective decisions taken with the referendums. These differences are summarized as follows:
1. Individual decisions are understandable, reasonable and usually reach the best possible choice.
2. Collective decisions by referendums are sometimes unpredictable, non-understandable and inconsistent to logic.
3. The quality of decisions through referendums is significantly affected by the phenomena of demagogy, the wording of the question and the number of options / responses the voters have. The most favorable case for correct collective decisions is when the question is of the type: A or B, Yes or No.
The result of this research is obviously contrary to common sense and to the logic of Statistics, Statistics Mechanics and Quantum Mechanics, where decisions / conclusions of a totality, have the maximum reliability compared with those of a subset of the totality- and much less of one person.
Notwithstanding the foregoing, the reliability of the results of the research was not only disputed, but was reinforced from the experience of the people who found that these differences were actually real.
Identifying and understanding the causes and therefore the process of creation of this strange and irrational phenomenon has a big and crucial significance because it is related:
• With the universal validity of logical and fundamental physical principles
• With the question of the ability of ordinary citizens to take collective decisions with the power of logic and
• With the adopting the view – and mostly the practice - that ordinary citizens take collective decisions with the power of instincts, emotions and motivations rather than logic; ie that they take decisions in the same way that irrational beings do.
It is perhaps interesting to recall that animals decide and apply decisions with the power of instincts and motives and that the only exception is man who has the prime possibility to take decisions with the power of reason.
The above data and views lead to the conclusion that the “paradox phenomenon” constitutes a deviation from the normal and healthy human behavior, it is like a "disease" which removes or diminishes the human logical force selectively in the field of political decisions by referendums. The finding that the logical power of the people is great when decisions are taken individually and reduced or canceled when taken collectively refers to the disease of divided personality that is to schizophrenia. This disease when concern the people as members of the society constitutes a “Social Schizophrenia”.
The causes and responsible people of social schizophrenia.
The responsible people of this social disease are easily identified, if we apply the doctrine of prosecutors. According to this doctrine the responsible of every criminal act is he who benefit from it.
In this case, the degradation of the logical force of people, in decision-making selectively by referendum, clearly promotes the interests of rulers, because consolidates the view that there is an absolute need decisions to be taken by a few people, while the vast majority of the citizens simply have to execute these decisions. In other words it promotes and consolidates the same old recipe used by the Kings - Gods, the Divine Right Kings, the Enlightened Leaders and the Fathers of the People; that the people only have to perform their decisions.
The emergence and spread of the social schizophrenia is due to the abolition of the status of the “governing and governed” citizen, ie the status that is nothing more than verification that all people dispose a logic power.
Important point is that this deletion has been taken in practice while in theory the status of the governing and the governed citizen is recognized broadly and without reservation. The famous saying that “the people are the bosses” said from the politicians and intellectuals, actually means that the people are the bosses provided that they are not ruling.
A second factor that reinforces this conclusion is that those exercising the power, have not attempted to cure this “disease” but tried to present it as a characteristic of human nature and therefore any effort for its treatment is utopian, if not hybris (as the ancient Greeks said). According to them, the great decisions have to be taken by the One or by a few “enlightened”, but to be executed by all citizens. The rationalism and the morality of such a view are obvious.
The results of the disease
The abolition of the status of “the governing and governed” citizen, had as a medium term effect:
(a) Atrophy and degradation of the citizens’ logic, because it was not used in the field of exercising of the political power, and
(b) Reduction of the citizens’ responsibility on the state problems, because the responsibility has been transferred from the owners/citizens, to their representatives.
The first result greatly increased the power of lords that they got the institutional right, to be taking the major strategic decisions without citizen’s agreement, and then to argue that they have been substantially taken from the citizens.
The second result became a boomerang for the politicians, because decisions can be taken without the citizen’s consent, but is impossible to be realized without the active citizens’ participation [ii]
The great difficulty, if not impossibility, for the application of the plethora of political decisions taken today, proves that the boomerang is not a theory but a visible reality.
The therapy of the disease.
Similar to the treatment of any disease, the treatment of the social schizophrenia can be achieved by canceling the cause which has created it. This can be achieved through the existence of a real and not of a verbal, “governing and governed” citizen’s status.
The power and responsibility of citizens is not, as many believe, two autonomous entities, but a single and indivisible entity. When one of them is canceled, automatically the other is also canceled. When there is a shortage of citizens’ power automatically a deficit of their responsibility is created. This does not apply to the representatives of the citizens who have the status only of lords.
In today's political system, the power of the citizens has actually been canceled by those exercising the power and has been replaced by verbosity. But nature is not fooled by words. The creation of responsible citizens but without power is unattainable with deterministic certainty.
In today's power system, the rulers/representatives of the people have the institutional right to take: (1) strategic major decisions affecting the citizens and (2) the minor decisions which come out and are limited from the strategic decisions. But in the real Democracy, the Democracy of ancient Greek culture, the major decisions were taken by the citizens and the minor ones by the rulers. So the citizens were the boss and lords were the servants of the citizens.
In this way, there was faith and cohesion of the society in the application of the major decisions / objectives.
The fact that today, the big decisions are taken by lords, who claim that they do so by executing the citizen’s mandate, but are not taken by the citizens, have as a consequence these decisions to be constantly into question and the struggles and sacrifices of citizens to become without coherence and efficiency.
Addressing of the “paradox phenomenon”.
In modern Greece, politicians and other competent were not involved in the understanding and treatment of the paradox, but with its surpassing. This happened in the following three ways:
1. Informal cancelation of referendums in practice, not in the constitutional law. This transaction was very easy because referendums in Greece are decided by the government and not from the people or by assets provisions. As was expected the rulers / representatives hardly decided to put their authority under the power of the citizens and so in the last 70 years two referendums only have been done in Greece. This very low frequency of referendum - a referendum every thirty years - until recently, perhaps was justified from the great difficulties of informing citizens and the very high cost of making them. But now that the digital technology is widely used in many areas of public life (taxation, public safety, healthcare,..), these difficulties can be surpassed. By using the new technology of informatics, the "digital referendums" will have much lower direct and indirect cost, high operating and financial information for the public and greater security and reliability, compared to conventional ones.
2. Big decisions have to be taken from the “enlightened leaders” of the party and only minor decisions through referendums, in order not to affect the power of the party lords. This way, besides rendering difficult the exercising of power, completely subverts the original philosophy of the ancient Greek Democracy, where the few major decisions were taken by the citizens and the plethora of minor ones, introduced and limited by the majors, by the lords.
3. Doing referendum of confused way, in which the existence of paradox decisions is ... impossible. The method was simple. Like the egg of Columbus. Instead of question type A or B, they initiated referendums of query type, A or A, so paradox and absurd result cannot be found
All Greeks are well aware about the initiators these ways to overcome the paradox of voting in the country that has been the Cradle of Democracy.
The nature of the referendum leads to decisions not of degraded quality and reliability, but instead leads to decisions that have thoughtful wisdom, great reliability and the widest possible acceptance. Opposite opinions and findings, is the work of the established power, which has the contractual right to decide the application of the referendum, the wording of the question, the way and the morality of citizens’ awareness, the rules and the frequency of referendums. With a referendum every 30 years, it is not possible to have, logic, experience and familiarity of the citizens with the institution of referendums, the institution which is the essence of authentic democracy.
[i] J.Haskell. Direct Democracy or Representative Government, Westview Press, 2001.
[ii] More on the side: http://www.dd-democracy.gr/article.asp?Id=42