Democracy, Social Media and the Monarch.

Monarchy is at the same time the best and the worst form of government. Whether it is good or bad only depends on the ruler.

Authoritarian governments grant their subjects rights. Democratic governments get rights granted by their citizens. For personal freedom, it is better to have a democracy.

The extreme form of freedom is anarchy. Anarchy has no rules. Everybody does what they like. Then, the strongest will start to make their own rules. People do not just live together in peace without rules. And when there are rules, it is no longer anarchy. Anarchy is not a stable form of governance. It will change into one of the other forms of governancy by itself.

Democratic government has a problem: Citizens are stupid. They can vote for leaders who make bad decisions. Maybe people vote for such leaders because they just want a change, or because they didn’t know how bad the leader was, or they believed the wrong person. And leaders make bad decisions for money or because they are afraid or because they don’t know better.

In democracy, there are elections every few years. So people must be elected if they want to be in power. They must convince people to vote for them. Leaders can do things that the people like, in order to get their votes. But sometimes people don’t like what is really good for them. Then the leaders must decide: Do they want to be elected, or do they want to make a good decision? If the leaders can’t explain why the decision is good, they don’t get elected again. Then maybe the next leader will do what the people like, but what is not good for them.

Now there is an “Infodemic”. Infodemic is an artificial word made up of information and epidemic. It means that bad information can spread fast like a virus by sharing through the internet. People share what they like. Whether it is correct or not, is not so important. People who can write information that people like a lot, get more influence. Because the information spreads a lot, many people read it, and perhaps believe it, even if it is wrong.

Messages which people like are very powerful when they can spread a lot through the internet.

People can’t be good at everything. Someone who is good at getting the facts straight, is maybe not good at writing the message. Someone who can write good messages, is perhaps not good at getting the facts straight. When people don’t like the facts, maybe it is impossible to write a message which people like, and which is correct. Messages that people like are spread further than messages which get the facts straight. And if people don’t trust their government, they will like messages which suggest bad leadership.

Because messages that people like are spread more, and democratic leaders are elected by people, leaders must care more about what people like, and less about what is good for the people. Then, their decisions will become worse. Because people don’t like what is good for them. Because they are stupid.

Can this be made better? It would be much better if people liked more what is good for them. If messages that people like are also the messages with correct facts, then a high influence of messages that people like would be good.

If the contrary happens, if people like messages more which are bad for them, then democracy is not the best form of governance. Freedom is important, but bad decisions are dangerous.

Social media strenghten populism.

Populism doesn’t care about facts.

Good decisions are based on facts.

Therefore, social media are bad for decision making.

Good decisions happen on the extreme “true” end on the scale of “true” and “false”. Indifference towards facts will cause a random spread on the scale between “true” and “false” with the peak, say, somewhere in the middle. Decisions based on the middle ground between true and false are terribly bad decisions. Almost as bad as decisions made based on wrong information. Example: A car races towards the abyss. False information: There is no abyss. People like speed and they shout: “Faster, faster!” Bad action: Accelerate. Good action: Full brake and turn the wheel around. Middle ground: Do nothing – maintain current speed and direction.

Both wrong action and inaction are fatal when decisive good action is required.

However – the main driver for bad decision making is the assumption that people are stuipd. Social media would improve decision making if people were smart and shared smart things. But they don’t, do they?

 

– – – – – – – Complicated wording below, rewritten above trying to be more simple.

 

Monarchy is at the same time the best and the worst form of government. Whether it is good or bad solely depends on the quality of the Monarch.

Authoritarian governments grant their subjects rights.

Democratic governments get rights granted by their citizens.

From the point of view of individual self determination, the democratic government form is to be preferred.

The extreme form of individual liberty would be anarchy. The result of the absence of structure and rules is the formation of sub-clusters of informal authoritarian governance by the strongest. Human groups do not tend to just peacefully live together in the absence of structure and rules. As such, anarchy is not a stable form of governance, as over time it will transform into one of the other forms of governance.

Democratic government has a major downside: Citizens are stupid. They can vote for incompetent/corrupt/greedy amateurs who may make decisions which are not in the best interest of the people. Reasons for such votes can be different, ranging from deceipt to manipulation through contempt or poor judgement. Reasons for imperfect decision making by elected leaders can be personal goals or convictions, lack of knowledge, poor judgement, loyalty to third parties through corruption, extortion or similar mechanisms.

As the democratic government is renewed in terms, leaders wishing to stay in power, or candidates to gain power, need to secure the people’s vote. Hence all actions by policymakers and candidates have a tendency towards populism, or else they do not win the election. Unfortunately the best decisions to be made are sometimes inconvenient to the people, who may not understand or like them. As a result, good decision makers who fail to educate the public about the quality of their decisions may face the end of their term, and be replaced with worse but more populist decision makers, even if this is ultimately to the detriment of the population. This is particularly true if the benefit of the decision concerns future generations, but also applies for inconvenient decisionmaking in the short term.

Enter the “infodemic”.

Infodemic is an artificial term combining information and pandemic. Untrue information can spread quickly and widely using social media and other forms of internet communication. The more populist and appealing the information, the wider it is being spread, regardless of truthful content. This strengthens the weight of populism. It also opens room to manipulation. Anyone with the means to compile a message which is appealing to a sufficiently large part of the population can get this message distributed worldwide quickly, and participate in forming public opinion.

The power of populism grows with the availability of internet message distribution.

Humans are usually limited in capacity, leading to specialisation. An individual which excels in fact gathering and research may not excel at communicating the message. An individual which excels at producing a compelling message may not excel at getting the facts right. In a situation where the best available knowledge is inconvenient to the public, it may be outright impossible to produce an attractive, spreadable message based on this knowledge. Populist messages have greater reach and inferior quality compared to inconvenient professional specialist messages. Additional propagation occurs when public trust in government is low, and messages suggest bad leadership.

The strenghtening of populism, propelled by increased message spreading, combined with the need for governance to take populist opinion into account, must lead to a deterioration of the quality of democratic decision making.

What can be done that turns a disadvantage into an advantage? The obvious answer would be for the general public to improve their judgement. If populism and accuracy to facts could be aligned, a higher influence of populism would turn into an advantage.

If the contrary occurs, if the general public shows sufficiently poor judgement, and populism gains sufficient influence, democracy may no longer be the preferred form of governance. Individual self determination is a high value, but detrimental decision making is a great threat.

 

Social media strenghten populism.

Populism doesn’t care about facts.

Good decisions are based on facts.

Therefore, social media are bad for decision making.