How To Construct a Political Ideology

post by CarlJ · 2013-07-21T15:00:39.411Z · score: -2 (13 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 26 comments

Related to: Hold Off On Proposing Solutions, Logical Rudeness

Politics is sometimes hard to discuss. Partly since most of us seem to unconsciously take political matters with the same degree of seriousness as our forefathers used to, because we use the same mode of thought as they used to. Back then, a bad political choice or alliance, could mean death, while the normal cost today in a democratic society might be ridicule for having supported the losing team or position.

Nevertheless, politics should be taken seriously. Bad politics means that it'll take longer for us humans to reach world peace, an end to hunger and disease, and favourable conditions so that no one will create an unfriendly AI. Therefore, discussing  politics is vital so that, someday, some collective actions could be performed to alter the political course for the better.

But what should that collective action be? - what should the new course(s) be? - and who should do it? - and what does "for the better" imply? To engage in politics one needs to be able to give some (implicit or explicit) answers to these questions. This can be done, and in so doing one has constructed a political ideology - which might be similar to existing ideologies or it might be different.

A political ideology might be constructed in various ways. In this and a few more posts I will propose one way of doing that. These posts might be seen as a tutorial in constructing a political ideology. In these posts I will not suggest an answer to what the best political system should be, nor will I follow my own instructions. But if one should follow these instructions I believe that one can answer the questions mentioned above.

Political ideologies might be constructed in various other ways. The one I discuss in my following posts is based on two principles: (1) that one should not propose an answer until one has thought about the question extensively, and (2) that one should consider the most important questions first.

Before writing the next post, here are the points I will discuss in each of them - I will write the posts as an instruction manual so I'll address you, dear reader, through them out:

Next post "The Domain of Politics"

26 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by ModusPonies · 2013-07-21T18:48:34.719Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · LW · GW

Without commenting on the subject, I'll say that I have a policy of downvoting contentless introduction posts that promise a lengthy forcoming sequence. These projects usually peter out after 2-3 posts, leaving the bulk of the work undone.

comment by peter_hurford · 2013-07-22T13:38:11.068Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Thus the rule of thumb: never post a series until you've finished writing it.

comment by ModusPonies · 2013-07-23T19:09:46.062Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I would suggest a different rule of thumb, which I will call the Yvain Method: never post a series. Instead, write one post that stands on its own. Look at the responses. Use them to learn about the subject and other people's reactions to it. Only then should you think about writing post N+1.

comment by peter_hurford · 2013-07-23T20:31:30.525Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Yvain has overtly written a series, though.

comment by ModusPonies · 2013-07-23T20:52:07.595Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Huh. My to-read list keeps getting longer and longer.

comment by Viliam · 2016-01-31T10:42:31.023Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Or the Eliezer method, which is: post a standalone first chapter; then post a second chapter (which may include references to the first chapter), and so on; optionally post a table of contents afterwards.

comment by CarlJ · 2013-08-07T13:22:51.572Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

And now it's finished! I've tried to make them shorter than the ones I've already posted and with no political leaning. Here they are:

A Tutorial on Creating a Political Ideology

The Domain of Politics

Choose That Which is Most Important to You

Consider the Most Important Facts

Strive Towards the (Second) Best Society

Change the World in the Most Efficient Manner

A Digression on Alliances

Discuss the Most Important Points

How To Construct a Political Ideology - Summary

And here is my own ideology while following this tutorial:

My Own Political Ideology

comment by CarlJ · 2015-01-11T16:53:03.680Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

And now, 1.5 years later, I've written an extra chapter in the tutorial, but written to be the third chapter:

Survey the Most Relevant Literature

comment by ModusPonies · 2013-09-06T14:11:14.985Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Congratulations! I am glad I was wrong.

comment by CarlJ · 2013-07-22T19:12:04.786Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I would beg to differ, as to this post not having any content. It affirms that politics is difficult to talk about; that there's a psychological reason for that; that politics has a large impact on our lives; that a rational perspective on politics requires that one can answer certain questions; that the answer to these questions can be called a political ideology and that such ideologies should be constructed in a certain way. You may not like this way of introducing a subject - by giving a brief picture of what it's all about - but that's another story.

I will finish posting this series. I have already written an almost complete version of them, so what's missing is mainly coming up with a few facts/perspectives for some of the posts. Hopefully I'm finished by, thursday.

comment by BlindIdiotPoster · 2013-07-22T23:26:03.363Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If you do finish the series, and manage to insightfuly and productively discuss the topics you outlined, Ill change my downvote to an upvote.

comment by CarlJ · 2013-07-23T08:55:04.104Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Unfortunately, my Karma score went below 2 last night (the threshold to be able to post new articles). This might be due to a mistake I made when deciding what facts to discuss in my latest post - it was unnecessary to bring up my own views, I should have picked some random observations. But even if I hadn't posted that article, my score would still be too low, from all the negative reviews on this post. Or from the third post.

In any case, I'll finish the posts on my blog.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2013-07-21T18:52:31.325Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

what is the goal of politics?

Politics doesn't have any goals. It's an activity that people with goals engage in.

comment by CarlJ · 2013-07-21T21:18:53.785Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

True, changed it. Thanks!

comment by [deleted] · 2013-07-21T16:14:31.097Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

EDIT: I assumed "politics" as most people take the meaning of the word, carlJ means something more sensible and general. I suggest different terminology or at least explicit clarification.

You missed the important part:

Given that we have very plausible explanation of your desire to talk about politics that doesn't at all require the hypothesis that politics is actually important, what reason do you have to believe that politics is an important subject?

Let me start you out with some things that don't answer this question:

"Politics is important because a lot of value is at stake". This is true but for it to follow that I should talk about politics, I need enough leverage on that value, relative to other opportunities. Why do you think an individual has enough leverage? Perhaps you have some reason, but before arguing this, consider that your leverage over politics has shrunk drastically since EEA times, so it would be suspicious if you still argued that politics is important with the same conviction.

"You can have large leverage because you can just X", where X is creating a successful ideology, organizing people, convincing people, etc. X is hero work. People vary in ability. If you assume you are in the upper end of ability such that you can do X, the opportunities open to you have just drastically increased and now you have to show that politics is better than starting a $100M business, doing great intellectual work, and so on.

"You have a lot of leverage because of TDT-style superrationality." The scope of this is at most LW. We are different enough here that we could make our decision independent of the population at large. I doubt even most of LW is superrational, but I wouldn't want to be convincing of that, for obvious reasons.

"The massive altruistic payout outweighs the tiny leverage." This might be true, but I want to see a good argument for it. Take into account that other altruistic targets like malaria or x-risk reduction may have much higher return. It would be suspicious again if the politics instinct happens to get the right answer, unless you can show that there are reasons to expect the political payout to be roughly invariant between EEA and here. Also, being essentially a long-shot gamble like pascals wager, you have to do it blind, with little idea of whether your particular intervention is doing good in expectation, hence little chance to learn and improve. Humans are good at learning but bad at getting it right a-priori.

comment by elharo · 2013-07-21T18:09:14.768Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This is true but for it to follow that I should talk about politics,I need large leverage on that value.

No, that doesn't follow at all. To conclude that one should talk about politics, all that's needed is that you have equal or greater leverage than you do in other arenas. You're advocating the superhero fallacy: that unless you can personally save the planet from impending doom, nothing's worth doing. In the real world, there are no superheroes; and it is a perfectly valid choice to be one of many thousands or millions of people working toward a valuable goal.

comment by drethelin · 2013-07-21T18:36:09.061Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

"valuable goals" break down in a lot of different types but the key difference here is: If you work toward the valuable goal of keeping people from starving, and you do some work but don't fix the problem, at least you've fed SOME concrete people. If you work toward creating a political ideology and fail, you've done nothing of any use to anybody. Politics, like celebrity and sports are zero sum, the more famous you are the LESS famous someone else is. There are already millions of people working to achieve fame and power through politics, and importantly, they want to do it at your expense, they want you not to have that power. This means that unless you have large leverage on politics, the time you spend on it will simply be wasted.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2013-07-21T19:05:45.435Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

and you do some work but don't fix the problem, at least you've fed SOME concrete people.

Really not true at all. At least in the US, there aren't a lot of starving people down the street for you to feed.

If you work on fixing "the problem" of starving people, you can spend endless hours designing a "fix", organizing other people, "consciousness raising", fund raising, and organizing logistics without ever feeding a single person a single meal.

This means that unless you have large leverage on politics, the time you spend on it will simply be wasted.

Oh no. You'll gain power and connections with a group of people bent on power and connections. That's not a waste.

comment by CarlJ · 2013-07-21T21:00:18.904Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Politics may or may not be worth one's while to pursue. The model I'm building will be used to determine if there are any such actions or not, so my full answer to your question will be just that model and after it is built, my ideology which will be constructed by it.

I also have a short answer, but before giving it, I should say that I may be using a too broad definition of politics for you. That is, I would regard getting together to reduce a certain existential risk as a political pursuit. Of course, if one did so alone, there is no political problem to speak of. But one probably needs the support of others to do so. So, if this model would suggest me to engage only in making money and giving to charity, then that would be my political strategy. I believe that it's unlikely that will be the only thing to do, however.

One reason is because politics is somewhat ubiquitous and potentially cheap to engage in for most. Discussing politics - how well they like/dislike the current political leader, if policy X is good or bad, how wrong someone is to support the opposing team - is normal for at least 70% of the adult population, I'd guess. So for most people, they will have ample chance to discuss politics and if they can get one sentence across for every conversation that might be a part of their political strategy as well. Another low-cost strategy is just to announce one's political views and otherwise be a friendly character, unless someone asks for one's opinion.

Another reason is that for some, politics is rewarding in itself. A few will naturally seek to become specialists in politics, just as a hobby.

I agree with you on the issue of politics being very different today than what it was on the savannah, or wherever these instincts evolved. Politics requires a lot more people, more coordination than in the past, it would seem. But, even though it is different, that doesn't mean there is no goal that a lot of people can accomplish by acting in concert. That is, just because we're primed to believe that it is much easier to do than it really is and to believe that any old strategy will work, one shouldn't believe it cannot be done. One shouldn't start believing in it either, of course.

comment by Coscott · 2013-07-21T18:55:57.865Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I feel a moral obligation to be an informed voter. I am aware that I do not have leverage, and that there are more altruistic uses of my time, but my idealism can't get over the fact that if a large number or people were both political and at least a little bit rational, it would make a difference. We do not have anywhere near that number, but I want to contribute to the potential solution, even if it doesn't work. I don't think that being an informed voter is a terminal value, but I think that that kind of idealism is a terminal value for me.

comment by [deleted] · 2016-01-31T07:54:46.608Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You may be interested in Moral Foundations Theory

comment by gothgirl420666 · 2013-07-22T16:00:11.551Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Politics is sometimes hard to discuss. Partly since most of us seem to unconsciously take political matters with the same degree of seriousness as our forefathers used to, because we use the same mode of thought as they used to. Back then, a bad political choice or alliance, could mean death, while the normal cost today in a democratic society might be ridicule for having supported the losing team or position.

I know this isn't that relevant to your post, but I kind of think the evo-psych explanation for why people care about politics is really stupid.

Here's a better explanation:

  • In America, if you do not vote, you're considered a bad person.
  • If you vote without being knowledgable about the issues and having a coherent political belief system, you are considered a bad person.
  • Therefore, if you aren't knowledgable about political issues or don't have a coherent political belief system, you are considered a bad person.

Or here's another one: when something is on the news a lot, people will care about it even if it doesn't affect them at all and isn't really inherently interesting (the royal wedding, the Casey Anthony trial, celebrity gossip). Politics is probably the topic most heavily featured on the news. Therefore lots of people will care about it.

comment by wedrifid · 2013-07-22T18:18:44.242Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I know this isn't that relevant to your post, but I kind of think the evo-psych explanation for why people care about politics is really stupid.

Do you mean that this particular evo-psych explanation is really stupid? That I can understand, since it does include burdensome details and questionable, overly simple specific claims. But in general people's political instincts being explainable by evo-psych seems to be among the most obvious and least controversial applications.

Here's a better explanation:

  • In America, if you do not vote, you're considered a bad person.

People in countries that are not the USA have similar political instincts to those in the USA. This includes countries like Australia where people are motivated to vote by legal obligation instead of shame and countries that aren't democracies at all so voting doesn't come into it. This explanation is not better. It is a specific explanation for a phenomenon that is more general. Even apart from this it strikes me as an implausible just so story.

Or here's another one: when something is on the news a lot, people will care about it even if it doesn't affect them at all and isn't really inherently interesting (the royal wedding, the Casey Anthony trial, celebrity gossip).

This strongly suggests to me that the bias towards spending time on politics has an evolutionary psychology cause. Interest in gossip about high status figures, shaming and criticising targets, calling for punishment, advocating policies for the distribution of resources and privileges and advocating people or groups as deserving of allegiance. It's all part of the monkey social hierarchy game.

comment by CarlJ · 2013-07-23T06:43:41.891Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The explanation isn't for why people care about politics per se, but that we care so deeply for politics that we respond to adversity much, much harsher in political environments than in others. Or, our reactions are disproportionate to the actual risks involved in it. People become angry when discussing if something should be privatized or if taxes should be raised. If one believes that there is some general policies that most benefit from, it's really bad to become angry at those whom you really should be allies with.

That's different from what I'm used to here in Sweden. For most people here it's accepted to not vote - if you put a blank vote in the ballot box. Even though most vote (more than 80%) it's not considered bad to not have a political opinion, you can just say you don't understand enough. In the bad all old days it seems that there was something of a taboo to ask others what they voted for, which made it easy to skip discussing politics.

comment by gothgirl420666 · 2013-07-23T18:25:22.071Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The explanation isn't for why people care about politics per se, but that we care so deeply for politics that we respond to adversity much, much harsher in political environments than in others. Or, our reactions are disproportionate to the actual risks involved in it. People become angry when discussing if something should be privatized or if taxes should be raised. If one believes that there is some general policies that most benefit from, it's really bad to become angry at those whom you really should be allies with.

I feel like many people (especially the type of people who discuss politics) have strong political opinions that aren't rationally justified. When their beliefs are attacked they get emotional because they can't back it up with logic.

comment by CarlJ · 2013-07-23T19:59:11.586Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Sure, I agree. And I'd add that even those who can show reasonable arguments for their beliefs can get emotional and start to view the discussion as a fight. In most cases I'd guess that those who engage in the debate are partly responsible by trying to trick the other(s) into traps and having to admit a mistake, by trying to get them riled up or by being somewhat rude when dismissing some arguments.