Is Democracy a Fad?

Democracies did not exist in the premodern world for one main reason; they were bad at war. Revolutions and republics did form in the Medieval period, particularly in capital-intensive trade hubs like Northern Italy and Northern Germany. However, most were quickly crushed under a wave of poorly armed peasant-soldiers from the coercive states next door.

A major reason for democracies rise in the 17th-21st centuries because democracies suddenly became much better at warfare than all other systems, and have maintained this advantage ever since. The first state to create a democratic nation-state and harness it to war was the Dutch in the Dutch revolt, who shocked Europe by defeating the Habsburg Empire. Shortly afterward Britain formed a democracy-nation hybrid who set the standard for military power. All major world wars since have been resounding Democratic victories., from the War of Jenkin's Ear to the Cold War. The main advantages of the democratic system are

  • Modern democracies had both large populations and property rights for capital, combining the two great advantages of previous state forms. Some autocracies have greatly improved their ability to accumulate capital to close this gap (Fascist Italy, China, Soviet Union).
  • Leaders pay a higher cost for defeat
  • Democracies can more credibly issue bonds (democratic advantage has faded over time)
  • Democracies rarely have to coup proof (divide and purge the military to prevent coups)

This advantage should be completely irrelevant going forward. China and Russia may democratize, giving the democracies a clean sweep of the security council powers. But the democracies are already at maximum influence in many stable anocracies like Morocco and Jordan.

Democracy and Development, a Simple Model

Hahaha I love hearing someone else say "cluster in polity-space". I use that phrase often but the other political scientists never do. It's an incredibly useful framework for describing correlated variations and side-stepping pointless debates about definition.

That's all spot on. Stable alternative models are rare and poor performing (Belgium, Lebanon, Bosnia, Libya).

The steel man for a democratic long run future: In the long run, the political system that survives longer should dominate. Once democracies pass a production threshold around 10,000 gdppc transitions become extremely rare. The half-life of a rich parliamentary system is really long > 200 years. By comparison autocracies have been unstable so far in all periods.

A brief explanation of the Myanmar coup

Selectorate: People who select the leader

Ejectorate: People who don't.

In the Soviet Union, the selectorate was the Politburo Standing Committee. In Egypt and Myanmar the selectorate is a group of generals. In the US the selectorate are voters in swing states.

Thanks for the feedback.

Best Consequentialists in Poli Sci #1 : Are Parliaments Better?

My professor Hans Noel is featured in the article. Nice.

My mistakes on the path to impact

I have a friend who is making the first two mistakes. They are in a different field from EA but similar totalizing vibe. They rarely apply to jobs that are outside their field-role but which would provide valuable career capital. They are also quite depressed from the long unemployment.

What can I say to help them not make these mistakes?

My mistakes on the path to impact

I disagree Max. We can all recall anecdotes of overconfidence because they create well-publicized narratives. With hindsight bias, it seems obvious that overconfidence was the subject. So naturally we overestimate overconfidence risks, just like nuclear power.

The costs of under confidence are invisible and ubiquitous. A grad student fails to submit her paper. An applicant doesn't apply. A graduate doesn't write down her NGO idea. Because you can't see the costs of underconfidence, they could be hundreds or thousands of times the overconfidence costs.

To break apart the question

  1. Should people update based on evidence and not have rigid world-models. Is people disagreeing with you moderate evidence?
  • Yes to both
  1. Once someone builds the best world-model they can, should they defer to higher-status people's models
  • Much much less often than we currently do
  1. How much should we weight disagreement between our models and the models of others?
My mistakes on the path to impact

Thanks for making this. I experienced similar struggles in young adulthood and watched my friends go through them as well. It sucks that so many institutions leave young people with bad models of job-world and inflexible epistemology. It hits when we most need self-reliance and accuracy. IMO, the university professors are the worst offenders.

My disorganized thoughts

  1. Trusting your own models is invaluable. When I was 25 I had a major breakdown from career stress (read about it here). I realized my choices had been unimpeachable and bad. I always did "what I was supposed to do". But the outcomes would have been better if I trusted my own models.

There aren't consolation prizes for following socially approved world models. There are just outcomes. I decided to trust my own evidence and interpretation much more after that.

  1. It stuns me how often young people under-apply for jobs. The costs of over-applying are comparatively small. How to talk my friends out of it?

  2. I'm not sure you took risks, in an emotional sense. Under-applying protects against rejection. Loyalty protect against abandonment. In the moment, applying to an additional job and exploring a new career path feel very risky. I generally encourage young people to apply for tons of things, try new fields and move to new (developing) countries. I believe the strategies that feel risky are often the most effective, since they differentiate you and offer new skills. Maybe "risk" is the wrong heuristic for young people, who understand the world too little.

Best Consequentialists in Poli Sci #1 : Are Parliaments Better?

Great question! That is an incorrect interpretation, but this is the fault of the authors for their terrible reporting of the results not maintaining their reproduction data. I noticed the problems after writing.

Basically, those coefficients are the effect of one more year of parliamentarism in your history. So the .004 coefficient on corruption control means that 100 years of parliamentarism (1901-2001) is associated with a .4 increase.

I would also note that the dummy factors are stacked against parliamentarism. Think of it this way. In around 1880, Europe. East Asia and the Commonwealth chose parliamentarism while Latin America, the Francophone countries and (later) Africa chose presidentialism. We can't know if parl is the reason governance is worse in the later group, so we assume the reason is something else. But this is a strong assumption, we cannot rerun history and give the Norwejian constitution to Chile. So you should update up a bit toward parliamentarism.

To take import duties for example. If you keep country dummies in, 50 years of parl is associated with a 2.5% decrease in duties, half the impact of being a democracy. If you remove the continent dummies, then 50 years of parl is about as good as being a democracy.

Generally I would multiply the effect of parl by 50 then compare it to gdp per capita to ballpark total effect.

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