måndag 9 juli 2012

Vad går det politiska spelet ut på egentligen?

I boken The Logic of Political Survival beskriver författarna politik som ett spel där spelets främsta aktörer (de som bestämmer vem som har makt över staten) antas vara ute efter materiellt välstånd. Den här bilden är något snäv, dock. Här tänkte jag ta upp några andra observationer om människor i det politiska livet och mina egna tankar. 

Min slutsats - vilket kommer från ett ekonomiskt perspektiv - är att det politiska livet är irrationellt. De politiska lösningar som finns på vissa problem är relativt dåliga; folk hyllar en viss ideologi, men vägrar följa den logiskt; och de flesta är ute efter att svartmåla sina motståndare istället för att hitta ett sätt att sluta vara politiskt involverade med varandra. En vän gjorde liknelsen mellan politik och att vara fast i ett fångarnas dilemma, vilket låter rätt likt. Jag minns inte om han sa detta också, men det går att lägga till att ingen förstår att det är ett sådant spel man spelar, eller att det finns andra som är möjliga. 

Men, nu går jag händelserna i förväg. Vad har då andra sagt om människan och politik som verkar belysa dess dynamik?
People go funny in the head when talking about politics.  The evolutionary reasons for this are so obvious as to be worth belaboring:  In the ancestral environment, politics was a matter of life and death.  And sex, and wealth, and allies, and reputation...  When, today, you get into an argument about whether "we" ought to raise the minimum wage, you're executing adaptations for an ancestral environment where being on the wrong side of the argument could get you killed.  Being on the right side of the argument could let you kill your hated rival!
- Eliezer Yudkowsky, Politics is the Mind-Killer

When we study sage grouse or elephant seals in their natural habitat, we can be fairly sure that they are striving to maximize their long-term reproductive success. But it is much more difficult to make the same claim for human beings. People strive for something, certainly, but it is usually money or power or security or happiness. The fact that they do not translate these into babies is raised as evidence against the whole evolutionary approach to human affairs. But the claim of evolutionists is not that these measures of success are today the tickets to reproductive success but that they once were. Indeed, to a surprising extent they still are. Successful men remarry more frequently and more widely than unsuccessful ones, and even with contraception preventing this from being turned into reproductive success, rich people still have as many or more babies as poor people.

It is contended that the desire to expand wealth in the face of scarcity underlies the evolution of rules, including moral norms. People "rationalize" their behavior as moral by adopting beliefs which reduce the costs (psychic or tangible) of achieving their objectives.
- Bruce Benson, Endogenous Morality (recension)

Public-choice scholars have long argued that voting is instrumentally irrational because the probability that a single vote will change the outcome of an elec- tion is nearly zero. Dennis Mueller made the point well when he noted that “the probability of being run over by a car going to or returning from the polls is sim- ilar to the probability of casting the decisive vote. If being run over is worse than hav- ing one’s preferred candidate lose, then this potential cost of voting alone would exceed the potential gain” (1989, 350).
- Cecil E. Bohanon och Norman van Cott, Now More Than Ever, Your Vote Doesn't Matter

Civics teachers talk as if politics is about policy, that politics is our system for choosing policies to deal with common problems.  But as Tyler Cowen suggests, real politics seems to be more about who will be our leaders, and what coalitions will rise or fall in status as a result.  Election media coverage focuses on characterizing the candidates themselves – their personalities, styles, friends, beliefs, etc.  You might say this is because character is a cheap clue to the policies candidates would adopt, but I don’t buy it.

The obvious interpretation seems more believable – as with high school class presidents, we care about policies mainly as clues to candidate character and affiliations.  And to the extent we consider policies not tied to particular candidates, we mainly care about how policies will effect which kinds of people will be respected how much.

If the people never avail themselves of the opportunity to overturn what was done initially without their consent, they may thereby reveal only that people who have been fed thin gruel for a long time get used to eating it and even come to consider it nutritious. In less metaphorical terms, my claim is that ideological change is often path-dependent: where a dominant ideology stands and where it is most likely to go in the future depend significantly on where it has been in the past.

Bearing in mind this aspect of political, social, and economic dynamics, we may come to understand better how, for example, in each decisive episode in the great transformation of America's political economy between 1900 and 1950, "first it happened and then they consented," and afterward the people looked back on these episodes not so much with regret as with pride and a sense that the nation had overcome great challenges.

This picture of the voter was largely corroborated in the behaviouralist revolution, when sociologists and political scientists began asking people questions about politics. To their dismay, they found that the typical voter is not the ideal citizen of classical democratic theory, but largely ignorant about matters political. A majority of voters have little knowledge about policy issues, lack a coherent ideology and are unable to distinguish between party programmes (Berelson et al.. 1954/1956: ch. 14; Campbell et al, 1960: chs 8–10; Converse, 1964).

Power does not flow from the person who administers orders. A command is inconsequential, it's ignored, or laughed at. Obedience is the real foundation of misplaced power. It is in fact the chain of obedience - not the chain of command - the cumulative force of cowardly, and compliant citizenry which allow some men to take control.

Special interest politics is a simple game. A hundred people sit in a circle, each with his pocket full of pennies. A politician walks around the outside of the circle, taking a penny from each person. No one minds; who cares about a penny? When he has gotten all the way around the circle, the politician throws fifty cents down in front of one person, who is overjoyed at the unexpected windfall. The process is repeated, ending with a different person. After a hundred rounds everyone is a hundred cents poorer, fifty cents richer, and happy.
- David Friedman, The Machinery of Freedom
New studies show existence and positive purpose biases.  First, we presume that what exists is better than what is not. ... Second, we presume the universe is designed to achieve broad positive purposes. ...For social institutions, these biases combine into a perfect storm: we assume our social institutions are well designed to achieve laudable broad purposes, rather than being more accidental arrangements where we each achieve private purposes holding constant others’ behavior.
Dessa citat följer inte en röd tråd utan pekar ut områden i politiken (och lite hur det är att vara människa) som ändå är rätt så viktiga. Min bild är byggd på dessa observationer, men den är tyvärr också ungefär lika spretig.

Det första som är värt att konstatera är att vi människor har en hjärna som är utvecklad till att sköta politiska allianser som är helt annorlunda än de vi stöter på idag. Vi har vissa värden och beteenden inskrivna i hjärnan, som formas av sociala institutioner, men vi har ingen intuitiv förståelse av våra sociala institutioner. Det finns inte direkt någon fullständig vetenskaplig förståelse av det politiska spelet (och om man läser de bidrag som kommit borde de flesta undvika att ge sig in i spelet). När man då går in i det politiska spelet, då ger man sig in i ett spel som man inte helt förstår. Varför går man in i det då? Därför att man spelar andra spel, just de som man blivit "hard-wired" att följa.

Min enda slutsats är, återigen, att politik är ett spel som inte är värt att spela. En rationell individ borde ganska snabbt komma fram till att dennes egen frihet har ett givet värde, men också att andras frihetärvärdefull. (Den är vacker, dessutom.) Det finns därmed ett prima facie skäl till att undvika politik (så som spelet spelas nu, åtminstone).

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