Re: [pcp-discuss:] Re: Local minima in our collective behaviour?

From: John J Kineman (
Date: Fri Dec 01 2000 - 16:32:14 GMT

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    Hi Menno and Norm,

    These are all excellent observations, and it is quite interesting to get
    a non-US perspective. I also think criticism from SA countries
    historically embroiled in election problems is hard to defend, because
    the US "improprieties" are small in comparison and only highlighted in
    the current situation because of the scale of attention brought on by
    the narrow difference. Still, it is good for us to put the microscope on
    the process this way, I think.

    I want to change the subject a bit to comment on the "Darwinian"
    process. I've done some work looking into J.M. Baldwin and a wrinkle in
    the Darwinian evolution process, as many on this list know. The
    technical difference is this. In a Darwinian process, we assume that
    variation is uncontrolled/undirected and that the selective conditions
    of the environment determine differential survival. In a Baldwinian
    process, intentions and decisions direct behavior, which can alter the
    selective forces in the environment, thus altering Darwinian selection
    and creating partially directed pathways. I would argue that the
    political process is strongly Baldwinian, because so much of it involves
    creating useful "problems" as Norm pointed out and cultivating public
    opinion, which then becomes part of the selective environment.

    Menno RUBINGH wrote:
    > Hi !
    > Steve wrote :
    > > I know this is an international audience and I wonder at how we must
    > > look to our international friends as a culture and country?
    > I find it quite interesting.
    > It's IMO quite fascinating how, in the US, things are at least battled
    > out in the *open*. In the Netherlands (which is of course so much in
    > another scale of size that comparison is IMO really not very
    > meaningful), the size and number of political parties is such that
    > coalition governments are always necessary; and after lower house
    > (second chamber) elections, the political parties start a kind of
    > behind-the-scenes process of negotiation towards forming a coalition
    > government which can take as long as a half year, and it has happened a
    > few times that a coalition is formed that does not even include the
    > biggest political party. The prime minister is not elected directly,
    > and is also negotiated in the same coalition-forming process between the
    > political parties; the prime minister is usually the leader of the
    > biggest party in the coalition. So, frankly, to my taste, in the NL the
    > business of determining the people who are the government and the prime
    > minster is both quite a lot more slow, and also much more out of the
    > control of voters, than even the present US presidential election
    > situation.
    > [ Anyway, I don't see how any of those European countries which are
    > (nominally) still monarchies (!!!!!) could really plausibly make fun of
    > the US presidential election situation right now. ]
    > ( The processes concerned with determining the people who hold postions
    > of power in the *European Union* are, compared with the way the NL
    > arrives at governments, probably even more murky, behind-the-scenes and
    > out of voter control. )
    > ---
    > Gary Boyd wrote :
    > > So whoever can fill the channels with partisan signals, or just as bad,
    > > perhaps worse, with advertainment noise, can cripple the democratic
    > > process.
    > How about the thought that it is necessarily more the public than the
    > politicians who have to make sure that the democratic process is
    > safeguarded ?
    > I mean: politicians seem to have by necessity an inherent drive to make
    > power limited to within the set of people who are politicians -- same as
    > political parties seem to have an inherent drive to make power limited
    > to political parties, and any bureaucratic system seems to have an
    > inherent drive to make power limited to that bureaucratic system. If a
    > person P delegates decision-making to some entity E, then that alone
    > seems to be enough to make that this entity E takes over power from
    > person P. I don't see how, if P wants to regain some small influence
    > over things, logically any other course of action for P is possible than
    > conflict with E. (Conflict optimally in a civilized way, of course;
    > i.e. with words rather than with fists.) IMO, a certain degree of
    > existing in an **open** state of (civilized) conflict is *healthy* for
    > both P and E. ``If you act like a doormat, you will be stepped on.''
    > :-) I think that neither politicians nor citizens who act fully like
    > doormats are optimal to a country.
    > What I mean is: we civilized 1st-world humans are still natural
    > processes who fight for power, influence and survival, in a Darwinistic
    > way. Luckily, we now do the fighting mostly with words and in very much
    > more subtle ways than animals do. The existence and inevitability of
    > conflict and the ''Darwinistic'' effects related to conflict are IMO
    > inevitable natural laws.
    > Democracy is IMO simply our civilized way to channel a certain type of
    > conflict situation (between rulers and citizens) into more civilized
    > channels. But democracy is IMO still very much about *conflict*.
    > Starting believing that the democratic processes and institutions are
    > not about conflict but are e.g. only entirely altruistically cooperative
    > is IMO the germ of a belief system that could maybe derail somewhat the
    > effectiveness of democratic processes/institutions.
    > ---
    > Norman K. McPhail wrote :
    > > Once you understand that politicians are looking for good problems not
    > > solutions, it's relatively easy to make some sense out of what is going
    > > on.
    > Good point ! This seems rather to be a general characteristic of
    > politicians, in all countries.
    > ---
    > Best regards, Menno (
    > ------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    > Ir. Menno Rubingh,
    > Scientific programmer, Software designer, & Software documentation writer
    > Doelenstraat 62, 2611 NV Delft, Netherlands
    > phone +31 15 2146915 (answering machine backup)
    > email
    > ------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    > ========================================
    > Posting to from "Menno RUBINGH" <>
    Posting to from "John J Kineman" <>

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