Leaderless opposition

by aepxc

It is easier to motivate people against something than it is to motivate them for something. It is easier to identify something that exists today that one does not like (and agree with others about it) than it is to figure out (and agree about) the best possible course forward. Thus, grass-roots, organic, leaderless movements of protest are much larger and more effective than any such movements can be in support of something.

This may not be as big of a problem as it first seems. A lot of the world’s ills are the result of an ‘excess of bad’ rather than a ‘deficiency of good’ – the result of people (in power) doing what they should clearly not be doing, rather than the result of people not doing enough of what they should. A quick and efficient kicking out of bad leaders may well be better than trying to pick the best possible replacement for them.

Of course, one cannot simply remove people from power within a democratic system. Representative democracies are not designed for leadership vacuums, so the only way to remove an unsatisfactory leader is by electing someone else in his or her place. Here we run into trouble with candidate selection – people who all agree that the current leadership is unsatisfactory may well struggle to unite behind a simple replacement.

A potential solution? ‘Negative candidates’. People who do not make any promises about what they WILL do, but make very specific promises about what they WILL NOT. First, such promises should be much easier to verify due to their greater specificity (“I will not take SuperPAC money” vs. “I will make the economy better”). Second, they allow for greater creativity and collaboration in office – having ruled out certain things that some among them would never agree to, people would then be free to explore the large set of ‘everything else out there’ for solutions, with the additionally improved ability to take new data into account.

With easy removal of people we find unsatisfactory and less bickering about their replacement (support anyone who promises not to engage in the specific activities you are currently unhappy about), we can take an ‘A-B Testing’ approach to government, hopefully to better effect than what we have now.