War games politics censor knowledge thru free enquiry.

Electoral reform as a case study of war games politics.

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John Locke

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War games politics

Ive previously discussed fraud or foul play in the game of party politics ( on the page, Foul! Referee electoral system abuse ). That was to show how the game needed refereeing, and the best way to do it.

This and the succeeding web page, Why do we never learn anything from history? ( named after an essay by a military historian ) are also about electoral fraud. I apologise for some duplication of material. But, here, the emphasis is not on a specific remedy. Rather, I try to explain sharp practise, of politics in general, and elections in particular, as a war games mentality. This consists of force and fraud. When force is inhibited, if only because it threatens human survival, the war mentality may persist, in politics, as fraud.

War is a continuation of politics by other means, said Clausewitz. The idea of war games politics is that: Politics remains a continuation of war by ritual means. Lord Salisbury observed that the nineteenth century British parliament had come to run its affairs like 'a bloodless civil war'. Thus began our era of regimenting MPs into organised parties, playing the numbers game of victory by majorities.

Salisbury promoted what he presumably deplored, because he believed that the Conservative party should rule in the interests of its class. In such circumstances, what choice did Labour have but to enter parliament as a class party? Regimented in the work place, regimented in opposition to the work-place owners, by trade unions, and finally regimented in parliament, not to be traitors to their class, that was the Labour party's class war rhetoric. 'Traitors sneer' even in the words of their old anthem, The Red Flag, as if they were a little nation to themselves. And, over the years, such 'traitors' there have been in plenty from this pseudo-nation of a party.

Bernard Shaw said, in Everybody's Political What's What, that a majority was given victory, because in a battle the majority usually won. In other words, winning a majority was the ritualised version, that two sides to a quarrel could accept, of winning a battle, but without all that costly bloodshed.

In the British parliament, this war mentality is still upper-most in politicians' minds. The party in government with an absolute majority of seats is in the position of a conqueror over the opposition. As John Locke said, an absolute government is at war with its own people. Lord Hailsham's 'elective dictatorship' is akin to the ancient Greek tyranny. The tyrant was popularly elected but given a free hand to rule as he liked, whence no doubt the odium of the word 'tyrant' comes from.

It is a salutory reminder of the limitations of simple majority rule. John Stuart Mill has been ignored in telling the home truth that rule by the majority is maiorocracy which can be a dictatorship of the majority. He favored proportional representation, proper, as a progression to complete democracy.

Any amendment, to government legislation, is characterised not as what most MPs think is a change for the better, but as a 'defeat' to the government. Such is the simple-mindedness of simple majority rule. One would think the government was some ageing warrior chieftain, who has to constantly assert himself, lest the tribe suspect he is losing his grip. Every suggestion of a better way to do things is treated as a challenge, to his authority, that must be beaten off.

Before the time of John Harrison's chronometer, a common sailor, in the Royal Navy, expressed his worry the ship was heading for the rocks. He was hung for mutiny and the ship foundered with the loss of all hands. ( The captain survived but was murdered, on shore, for his ring. )

This is only an extreme example of how the assertion of one's ego can become more important than knowing how things really stand. Language hopefully exchanges useful information but can degenerate into a war of words, in which one's self esteem and status are at stake. The result is a kind of people who learn nothing because they think they have nothing to learn. To believe one is always right is to be dogmatic or doctrinaire. Instead of fitting one's views to reality, one's perception of reality is tailored to fit the beliefs.

Certain Pacific islanders simply could not see Captain Cook's ship, because they didnt believe such a large vessel could exist. Aldous Huxley mentions research that showed how people conventionalise or over-simplify information that they have read, so that it has a minimal impact on their set of mind. It is easier to be mentally lazy by allowing habits of mind to persist against the evidence. It takes a real effort and plenty of practise to think, as in any other activity one has to master.

Some years ago, a local paper was run by a local family who tolerated complete freedom of opinion, even if the editor didnt like what you said. This little oasis of freedom was bought by a regional group, who stripped down the non-commercial content, and called it 'your paper'.

I realised this and kept my letter short. But it was still edited, moreover, as to defeat its purpose. My usual attempt, to get the message thru, that the single transferable vote is the democratic method of proportional representation, was changed. Instead, my letter read as if I believed in any method of PR.

In the street, a local Liberal brightened at me, no doubt believing I had come round to the national electoral reform campaign's support for all PR methods, later called 'fair votes'.
The editor didnt apologise or correct his misrepresentation of my letter. He just said I could write another letter.

Meanwhile, I wrote to a local 'freebie', a paper earning solely by advertising. This letter, also, had to be very brief. ( I reckoned it would get in, as we had just placed an advert there. ) The freebie editor didnt re-write my scrap of a letter. But he captioned it: PR is undemocratic. He was on the other side of the British political divide that either said all PR is good or all PR is bad.

Two creative editors made a self-contradictory nonsense of my point of view. Thus, was sabotaged my dissent, even on a humble local level, from the two partial sides of British electoral politics. Their two wrongs would combine to make another wrong, in hybrid additional member systems. These were a reconciliation between two bad systems of single members and party lists. By 2000, mainland Britain had implemented nothing but various undemocratic voting methods. An undemocratic debate was known by its fruits.

Since then, I have come across the same one-sidedness on the internet. The moderator of an e-mail group for 'fair votes' banned discussion of voting methods. He would not permit the question whether all proportional methods were worth supporting. The list owners seemed happy enough for dissenters to go elsewhere and even pointedly posted an 'unsubscribe' notice. Getting rid of dissenters, to the pan-PR prejudice, would make it an unquestioned dogma in their group, which, seemingly, is what they wanted.

Once a bias is put into a discussion, it is like tampering with the evidence. The decisions of that group have not been freely arrived at, but have had to operate under a prejudice, so their conclusions are suspect as being partial to that prejudice or presumption, such as, that all PR systems are good and to be supported.

A researcher may do much good work. But once his preconceptions censor adverse results, the whole of that work is put in doubt. Occasionally, a scientist is suspected of fraudulently altering his data to prove his beliefs. His colleagues dont know which of his labors are genuine, and so may not trust any of it.

The doctrinaire mind may suppress inconvenient evidence that does not fit into its neat dogma ( that is nevertheless wrong ). That may involve suppressing discussion by others. The doctrinaire turns dictator, who is at war with conflicting points of view.

An American congress-man said that in time of war, the first casualty is truth. Not only force decides a war but fraud. The fact that there is a war at all suggests the forces may be evenly enough matched for both sides to have hopes of winning, when all factors are taken into consideration. Admittedly, this is not always the case. But often enough, fraud, rather than force, may be the decisive factor in victory. In general, fraud is of comparable military importance to force.

The German philosophy of Realpolitik meant that the imperialists believed the realities of politics to be force and fraud. This belief is implicit in Clausewitz's saying, quoted above. Bismarck was its foremost practitioner. By sending the Prussian army to disband the Frankfort parliament, he was using force to create the conditions for fraud. Deception is made difficult by a parliament conducting free and open debate.

( Even the parties' whipping system has not quite obscured this function of the parliament of a free people, tho it has regimented supposed representatives into conforming to their official lines. This is the fraudulent suppression of dissenting opinions that dont fit in with party doctrines and may expose its falsehoods. )

Open diplomacy would have prevented Bismarck's deceptions against the French and the first of a series of Franco-German wars in 1870, that were to be such a catastrophic feature of the twentieth century. Moreover, Bismarck's deceptions were only directed to baptising in 'blood and iron', by 1870, a German unity, whose peaceful achievement he destroyed in 1848.

It was not national unity that mattered so much to Bismarck as the militarist method of force and fraud. The legacy of domination or dictatorship was to continue to triumph over democracy in much of Europe for much of the twentieth century. An attitude of force and fraud appear to be motivated by hatred and fear, an emotional imbalance that seeks to spread its instability to others. It is easier for the unstable to deal with others on their own terms than to learn self-control.

Of course, one's aggressions cannot just be wished away. They have to be re-channeled in harmless directions. The Olympic games, from the ancient Greeks, were just one conscious plan for doing this. In politics, a constitution or set of rules, that require a ritual adherence, are an important step in a country's self-control. The front benches of the House of Commons are placed at drawn swords' length from each other.

Britain's elaborate ceremonies on the opening of parliament ritualise historic conflict. Slamming the Commons door on the royal messenger, Black Rod, commemorates the stressful civil war period of parliament with the king. Ritual can get out of hand, however, especially with the Ghormenghastly British. Until 1967, Black Rod interrupted debates every time a Bill received the royal assent.

War itself was conducted with rules. In the first place, war was declared. This was the gentlemanly thing to do. It is the honest admission, to an enemy, that from now on honesty ceases. British prime minister Neville Chamberlain declared war in 1939 against Germany. There has been no cessation of wars in the world but one doesnt seem to hear the declarations. Surprise is too valuable in faster-moving more deadly times.

Only a rule of humanity and not rules of war can inhibit the use of modern weapons of mass destruction. The futility of war is shown by leaders, who are reduced to seeking comfort from counting the number of enemy killed in action, as in the trenches of world war one, or the 'body counts' by the Americans in their Vietnam war. These are 'necrocratic' counts instead of democratic counts.

Rules of wearing uniforms persist, at least in regular armies. Combatants without uniforms are liable to be shot as spies. It is absolutely forbidden to know the enemy's disposition and intentions. Tho, false information is constantly fed the enemy to throw them off-guard.

Consequently, we can admit, that given an adversarial mentality, Clausewitz is right about war and politics. If realpolitik is the politics realistic to a believer in force and fraud as the prime movers of government, then war is merely at one end of a scale in which extreme force is used. Politics would be the use of fraud or deception, at the other end of this scale of measures by which one's wishes were won at other people's expense.

Abroad, secret diplomacy was the means by which nations hoped to out-manouvre one another. At home, it was considered dangerously radical to give the lower classes education. H G Wells said Britain's 1870 education act was for the supply of factory workers.

War, as the use of force, has had to be kept in some check or there would have been few or no-one left to fight. But that does not necessarily end the war mentality. War may continue as fraud. The plunder and pollution of the planet has been described as a third world war on nature. It defrauds most of this and future generations of natural wealth. ( More democracy thru Constitutional Economics is a means to checking this. )

An information war can defraud the public from knowing its rights. Censorship of electoral knowledge about democratic method is a key factor in the power struggle conducted by politicians, academics, reformers and the media. A struggle, for and against electoral reform, took-off in Britain in the last quarter of the twentieth century ( spreading to other countries, mainly English-speaking ). A remarkable fact about the campaign is how both sides sought to censor debate on voting methods.

Adversary politics and electoral reform.

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In 1975, a collection of essays, called Adversary Politics And Electoral Reform, was edited by Prof. S E Finer, who also provided the title essay. His opening sentence sums it up:

Briefly, the adversary system is a stand-up fight between two adversaries for the favours of the lookers-on.

Finer goes on to say two parties go about their respective government and opposition business like the defense and prosecution in a common law trial, hoping to win the majority support of a jury that is the British electorate.

Their contention is sharpened by the stakes, which are winner takes all. The party with most seats monopolises the government and all its powers of patronage. At least until the Freedom of Information legislation, passed -- not before doubts it was genuine -- by Blair's Labour administration, government also monopolised the huge data-gathering resources of the civil service, with the Official Secrets Act.

By the final quarter of the twentieth century, the USA was a world leader, as was Sweden, with their Freedom of Information Acts. Ever since then, other democracies have been following suite, and Britain better late than never.

1975 was the year when Britain's national campaign for electoral reform was founded. It later called itself 'Fair Votes' ( a title apparently taken over by electoral reformers starting campaigns in North America ). This was an all-party movement that followed Finer's thesis.

The reformers criticised the two-party fight, in which one party knocked the other down, at a general election, and then walked all over it, only to be treated in the same fashion, if it lost the next electoral bout. Britain was not so much governed as unsettled by counter-acting invasions from the left and right of politics.

Fair Votes campaigns have usually held that governments should have a majority of the voters behind them. If one party cannot achieve that, they advocate coalitions. This necessitated proportional elections, so that small parties would win their fair share of seats, and take their rightful place in government, if no one party had a working majority in parliament.

This seems harmless enough. The devil is in the details. And, from, the start, your Fair Votes campaigns could not abide the details.

In Britain, from the mid 1970s, one kept hearing on television the phrase 'some form of proportional representation'. The public were not instructed they were merely indoctrinated by this parrot call. The 'fair votes' lobby was making clear that was all that mattered to them.

Later, they could drop the rubric 'some form of', when it was understood that proportional representation meant what they wanted it to mean: any voting system that gave small parties a share of seats for votes. This reinforced the popular fallacy that proportional representation merely means proportional partisanship. The logical fallacy is in the fact that the former implies the latter but the latter does not imply the former.

The fair representation of small parties is only one consequence of democracy, not a substitute for it. Any voting system, accepted alone for fairness to small parties, does not necessarily provide democracy.

So, there you have it, for over a quarter of a century, a relentless ( and now international ) campaign for 'fair votes' based on a non sequitur. This illogicality shows these campaigners havent even learned what the ancient Chinese say is the beginning of wisdom: to call things by their proper names.

The dogma of 'fair votes' for small parties' seats.

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A 'fair votes' movement, that included members of all parties, and spoke against the adversarial politics of the two-party system, should itself be non-adversarial. One might think that a movement that embraced supporters of all kinds of proportional elections was being liberal and tolerant.

Unfortunately, all kinds of proportional elections, themselves, are not liberal and tolerant of voters' choices. To treat them, as if they were, is false and against the public interest and right to know. Moreover, one didnt have to be a prophet to guess that when the defenders of the existing inequitable system had to make concessions, the public interest would still not be foremost in their minds.

By 2000, many of those concessions had been made in Britain. And they indeed achieved some share of seats for votes to small parties. In Scottish and Welsh parliament elections, in London local elections, party lists of additional members, or straight party lists in the case of European elections, all achieved some so-called 'fairness' to small parties, and all with a total disregard for the voters' freedom of individual choice of candidates, as if representative democracy had to shrink to make room for party ideologies, or was a completely out-moded concept in Europe.

Electoral reform, for fairness between the parties, betrayed the voters' freedom of individual choice. It was simply not an issue for most influential reformers and they didnt want to know about it. It seems strange that a movement that cares so much about fairness should care nothing at all about freedom of the individual. Perhaps, the answer is that the all-party movement was not so much about fairness, either, much less about democracy.

It is easy to spot the origin of the British electoral movement, that has since spread to other English-speaking countries with a grievance against the winner-takes-all system of simple majority elections. In two 1974 general elections, the Liberals won 19 - 18 per cent of the votes and less than two and a half per cent of the seats.

We can admit some sense of injustice here, among other than Liberals. But the 1976 proposals of the Hansard Society on electoral reform, the Blake report, show the severe limitations of that moral sense. The additional member system, they advocated, was merely an attempt to stop a leak in the existing system, by giving seats ( in effect ) to the Liberals, who were the best losers.

Something like this system was eventually used in Japan and its anomalies widely reported there. In Britain, it was given up as hopeless. ( The Wakeham report resorted to this system but only as a no-hope option, for a minor role in the second chamber. ) British reformers started by believing they could ameliorate single member constituency elections, with a proportional count, without having to resort to continental party list systems. The significance of the critical failure of the Blake report was the recognition that this could not be done.

Yet, in Britain, it had always been said that party lists gave too much power to the parties. A further step, in the retreat from principle, came with Britain's first European elections. All the other Common Market countries would be using list systems, and the treaty of Rome required a uniform system, so a good many British politicians bowed to the inevitable ( as they believed ).

By the late 1970s, Labour was losing its narrow parliamentary majority, in a succession of by-election defeats, and had come to a working arrangement with the Liberals, the Lib-Lab pact. Labour didnt want traditional Liberal policy for electoral systems, the single transferable vote, which they introduced in the House of Lords. This bill was a hint the Labour government was delaying too much for the elections to take place. The first Euro-elections were a year late, because of the British government.

Meanwhile, the Liberals obligingly came up with a party list system, as being less offensive to the regimented ranks of the Labour party. The Regional List allowed voters to put an X by the individual candidate on a party list they most prefered. The party member first past the post would be elected first, if indeed their share of the vote, as a party, warranted their winning a seat.

If a party won a proportion of votes in the region that entitled them to two of its seats, then their candidate, second past the post on the list, would be elected. Unfortunately, this system is not fool-proof. The Home secretary had to admit, to questioning in parliament, that it was possible for a list candidate to be elected with no personal votes. He can ride on the back of other list candidates, who win more votes than they need to claim a seat.

This absurdity is the result of the Regional List counting party loyalty as superceding representative democracy. This system would later be called an example of an 'open list'. A closed list gives no individual choice of candidates, only allowing one to vote for a party.

As soon as they came into office, in 1997, the Blair Labour government introduced a closed list for British Euro-elections. A political commentator said this was at the behest of the Liberal Democrats. This is probably true, as the Liberals had been out-raged at the defeat of the Regional List. They even went to the European court of human rights, failing to over-turn the decision.

But the new Labour and Liberal alliance didnt make the mistake, this time, of letting parliament criticise their choice of electoral system. The closed list was simply announced by dictat of the Prime Minister. So much for the constitution.

Four Labour MEPs had whipping sanctions against them, for refusing, as one of them said, to sign a 'gagging order' on the subject. Two of these left wing MEPs were ultimately expelled from the party.

No doubt this was much to the pleasure of the authoritarian right, who had taken over from the authoritarian left, in the Labour party, their legendary loathing for each other, apparently only exceeded by their loathing for democratic voting method.

Meanwhile, the House of Lords rejected the closed list -- five times. There was talk of an open list, as if this were some sort of salvation for individual representation. We have seen, it had already been exposed to ridicule as capable of 'electing' candidates without any votes, or derisively few. Labour and their Liberal Democrat backers knew what they were doing and made their discreditable choice in favor of outright denial of individual representation, the closed list, instead of the open list's bungled individual representation.

This Lords rebellion was their last and futile act before hereditary peers were abolished. Their replacements have defied advertising standards by being called 'the people's peers'. In fact, they are not elected by the people. They are merely appointed by a so-called 'Independent Appointments Commission'. This is a contradiction in terms, as the appointers are narrowly dependent on who appointed them -- largely the parties, depend upon it. And the peers themselves, dependent on the appointers, are actually 'the appointers' peers'.

Here are more Orwellian examples of the political abuse of language, by which the Establishment deceives itself, it can rule legitimately, by denying itself the authority of representation. Here again is the unwisdom of not calling things by their proper names.

Richard Lung

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Captain Cook

Why do we never learn anything from history?
Continuing the war games case study of electoral reform.

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