Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Assessing democracy in the aftermath of Trump's victory, Part I: Data requirements

Time for yet another multi-part series.  Why?  I have nothing to say about the Turkey/Russia thing, nothing else is happening in American politics now that the idiotic "Hamilton elector" thing is a-bust, and this will keep me occupied for a few mornings.

Trump won.  How do we assess democracy now that this... person is going to have nuclear weapons?  It is a more complicated question than you might think.  Let's start with the data requirements, by way of analogy.

In evolutionary terms, some critters are just real success stories.  Sharks.  Sharks just work.  They've been around for millions and millions and millions of years, and the basic, core structure is so adaptable that they can serve any marine niche.  They've outlasted everything, and they'll outlast us.  In evolutionary terms, that's what success means.  They last.  They successfully reproduce, and get their offspring to reproduce and do so in such a way that they are still recognizable as the same basic critters as the fossils we find from millions and millions of years ago because those things from millions of years ago worked.  The adaptations needed were minor, relatively speaking.

There are also plenty of extinct critters.  Some lasted for a long time.  Dinosaurs.  Some didn't.  Wooly mammoths.  Reasons for their extinctions?  Many and varied.

And then there's us.  We have only been around for, what, 100,000 years?  200,000?  Somewhere in that neighborhood.  We're smart.  Comparatively.  Is that an evolutionarily good thing?

A few years ago, I found myself playing a game called Ursuppe.  (Later marketed in English as "Primordial Soup.")  In the game, you get to be an amoeba, moving around a board, evolving.  You get cards with evolutionary traits, like movement abilities, and attacks.  One trait was intelligence.  It was listed as "completely useless."

And in evolutionary terms, the jury is still out on that.  We are a young species, and already capable of wiping ourselves off the planet in a variety of ways.  Should we do so, we become one of those many evolutionary dead ends, like the predators that drive themselves into extinction by eating all of their prey too quickly.

Sharks will still be here, though.

Democracy, in anything like we know it, is a young form of government.  The country is not collapsing.  But, democracy failed here, and there could be dire consequences.  How do we assess that?  Coming soon in Part II...

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