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The Politics of Scale

by Pythagorean
Tags: politics, scale
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Pythagorean
#1
Dec13-12, 02:32 AM
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This video puts forth the idea that an institution the size of the US (in terms of population) is unmanageable as a republic as the concept because a republic was designed for a smaller scale.

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Jimmy Snyder
#2
Dec13-12, 05:38 AM
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It had never hit me before that everything we humans build, like the Parthenon, are built to human scale, except for the cathedrals. No wonder city halls are so large. Except in small cities, of course. The implication is obvious. They are like cathedrals, not like Parthenons. How can a republic survive with large city halls? And then, when you bring Aristotle into it, it makes the argument unassailable. The American example they give is a good one. The USA was designed to be small and have slaves. Now it's large and has none. This is clearly a step backwards. In fact, all the arguments given by these guys were much better than if they had merely compared republicanism in small countries to republicanism in large ones. Let's compare the USA to North Korea. No wonder Kim finds North Korea is so manageable, it's small. So you see why they avoided this inefficient line of reasoning.
russ_watters
#3
Dec13-12, 05:48 AM
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I'm hearing a lot of assertions and no logic whatsoever in that video. Not even the building size analogy contains any logic. Which is quite annoying, coming from a philosophy professor.

While they present no logical reason why their assertions would be true, there is a potential analogue with business management. I have been told (I'll have to look for a reference) that due to time constraints it is difficult for one person to effectively manage more than about half a dozen people directly, though the actual number can vary with the task. This is because management requires physical interaction with the people being managed and there are a finite number of hours in a day. Corporations deal with this by adding layers to management. So if this problem actually exists, the potential solution may be to add layers to government. That concept is the reason why the layers exist now (the US Congress doesn't have time to vote for/against funding for every local road construction project, for example). I'm not sure if this applies though, since corporate management on most levels is dictatorial, not representative.

The road construction example, plus others such as the failure of the Articles of Confederation and adoption of the EU point to a need for appropriate layering, but again, these are issues of functionality that aren't necessarily about representation.

Monsterboy
#4
Dec14-12, 08:42 AM
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The Politics of Scale

The US is unmanageable ? Russ is right about layers of management ,it is called span of control of a manager(max number of subordinates a manager can control effectively) ,it about 4-8 in upper levels and 8-15 in lower levels ,it also depends on the manager's individual capacity ,If US can't be manageable then how can countries like India with 1.2 billion manage?
Ryan_m_b
#5
Dec23-12, 08:43 AM
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Quote Quote by russ_watters View Post
I have been told (I'll have to look for a reference) that due to time constraints it is difficult for one person to effectively manage more than about half a dozen people directly, though the actual number can vary with the task. This is because management requires physical interaction with the people being managed and there are a finite number of hours in a day. Corporations deal with this by adding layers to management. So if this problem actually exists, the potential solution may be to add layers to government. That concept is the reason why the layers exist now (the US Congress doesn't have time to vote for/against funding for every local road construction project, for example). I'm not sure if this applies though, since corporate management on most levels is dictatorial, not representative.
This makes sense. On the subject of dictatorial vs representative if you take a worker co-operative business model rather than a corporate one you get something that more closely represents a democratic society with the analogy still holding.

Perhaps there is far more than this small video presents but from it I'm not impressed that the authors missed the most obvious point that US governance does not work so simplistically i.e. the house of representatives is the one and only port of call for the public with regards to politics. I'd be interested in knowing how many people work in a governmental capacity from local councils all the way up to the president and including all the support staff that they have. I suspect that the ratio then would start looking a lot better.
Pythagorean
#6
Dec29-12, 08:05 PM
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Quote Quote by Ryan_m_b View Post
I'm not impressed that the authors missed the most obvious point that US governance does not work so simplistically i.e. the house of representatives is the one and only port of call for the public with regards to politics.
That's true, there's lots of levels of change to go through. Still, it seems that due to the sheer volume of people in the US, there's a lot of large unhappy groups (relatively small, but large enough to have an impact, such as occupy movement or libertarian votes). And we have a relatively large fraction of people locked up in jail, too (compared to other countries) so maybe there's some validity to not everyone getting fairly represented.

I wonder how often and pervasive of a problem "flooded inboxes" are for our representatives, or how many simultaneously conflicting voices they tend to regularly.
russ_watters
#7
Dec29-12, 09:32 PM
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Quote Quote by Pythagorean View Post
And we have a relatively large fraction of people locked up in jail, too (compared to other countries) so maybe there's some validity to not everyone getting fairly represented.
This implies a political motive behind their imprisonment, which is bordering on conspiracy theory.

More to the point:
That's true, there's lots of levels of change to go through. Still, it seems that due to the sheer volume of people in the US, there's a lot of large unhappy groups (relatively small, but large enough to have an impact, such as occupy movement or libertarian votes)....

I wonder how often and pervasive of a problem "flooded inboxes" are for our representatives, or how many simultaneously conflicting voices they tend to regularly.
So what? Winning an election with 51% of the vote means 49% of the population is against you. That means nothing on its own, whether it is a million people or a billion.

As I discussed earlier, issues with country size can cause one of the following two issues that I can think of:

1. Management problems.
2. Representation problems.

I see legitimate issues with management, which I think are fairly effectively dealt with (er -- minus the problem of "earmarks"). But I don't see representation problems. Representation problems require that the people being governed have significantly differing needs from their government. Modern western government is evolved enough that there is little impact from differing needs.

Slavery in the civil war? That was pretty fundamental. National versus pseudo-private social security? Not so much as big an issue. Indeed, I'd go so far as to say the lack of violent revolutions in the past 150 years is indicative of an increasing stability in Western governments -- despite the vastly larger populations of the Western nations. So I think this is a non-starter: there is no evidence of such a problem.
Pythagorean
#8
Dec29-12, 10:58 PM
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Quote Quote by russ_watters View Post
This implies a political motive behind their imprisonment, which is bordering on conspiracy theory.
That's really reaching to see that implication. Management problems comes from too large of a diversity of political views, not one large, congruent group.

So what? Winning an election with 51% of the vote means 49% of the population is against you. That means nothing on its own, whether it is a million people or a billion.
That's irrelevant, as the majority of those can be broken in to two political groups. The problem would be diversity of political views, not amount of population voting against you. If even 80% and 20% are split, there's still only two groups to worry about making happy.

The problem is when you have a split like (for example, not real data) 45-45-3-2-4-1 then 45 and 45 have lots of people representing them, the other 10 do not and each group wants radically different things. Then you start getting social unrest.


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