Thursday, May 26, 2016

Yearning for a Benign Dictatorship: a rational, yet delusional pursuit?

I believe in benevolent dictatorship provided I am the dictator. -- Richard Branson

A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or Tragedy; or, perhaps, both.--- James Madison
Rational Pursuit. One traditional, widely accepted notion of rationality indicates our tendency to maximize what we cherish while minimizing what we dislike. (This is expressed more technically as "maximizing expected value," i.e. the total sum of the individual probabilities of each event times the value of same event, whether positive or negative.)

It is far from irrational, or rare, to hope to find, at long last, a benevolent dictator, i.e. someone who will maximize for us those goods we desire while saving us from the evils of working for them ourselves. A restful thought! (See Are Humans Rational? What’s At Stake?)
To sleep, perchance to dream. Aye, there's the rub... -- Hamlet.
But Whom Can You Trust? There's the critical rub. We should amend our simple characterization of rationality to allow for individual differences, rather than pretend that it automatically yields a consensus on what is desirable and what, repugnant. We are, let us say, rational as individuals, if our actions pursue what we perceive as a positive value while gainsaying what we believe to be of negative value.(See Values and Valuing)
But, will any dictator we find, and believe to be benevolent, share our personal conceptions of positive and negative values? How could we be sure of this before making a commitment of submission? As history abundantly -- but apparently vainly shows -- it will be too late afterwards, if he or she is truly a dictator. (See Bestowing Trust)

Organizational Dynamics vs. Personal Concerns But maybe we shouldn't be so sanguine, so lazy. Perhaps we have to participate in our political life and governance, instead of sitting back and sneering at what we all too easily dismiss as the "narcissism" and "avarice" of politicians.(See Thank Your Politician For Carrying the Burdens of Democracy)

It appears that what is needed is not benevolent dictatorship but cautious, yet willing support of reasonable, albeit directive, organizational leadership. But can the concerns of two, much less, millions of, individuals be maintained through time and change? Perhaps they can, to some degree, if during the institutionalization process, those concerns reach high enough priority during goal-setting activities. (See Institutionalizing Wisdom)

But irrational optimism should be stifled. Many institutions in education (see GoodSpin: the basic rules of public school hype.) as well as others in commerce, law and government tend to favor goals generating exclusively institutional and incumbent benefits, rather than those they celebrate publicly as their social “mission.”

Are Institutions Dispensible? Many people notice this discrepancy between an institution’s purported mission and the normal results of its activities. It’s great sport to pick a scapegoat for school, government and corporate misadventure: it counteracts apathy; it generates headlines; it flatters egos. Most important it generates an often irrational, therefore lazy, hope for change. (See Dreams, Luck and Too Many Cooks.)

But the outrage is often cavalierly underexamined; and, therefore, misaimed. For example, very many people if asked, want to reduce highway fatalities (or hunger, or cancer, or the number of TV commercials, etc.) to zero. But few want to have to pay to achieve such goals. (Tax the other guy! Or let “the market” -- hocus, pocus -- handle it!)

But what if any kind of technologically advanced, culturally diverse, generally peaceful society requires some degree of collectivization? If so, it also likely requires the subordination, the subjugation, even of some individual aspirations. (And risks a dictatorship hardly benevolent.) Institutions, collectives, not only preserve societies, they define individuality, and help, with cautious public involvement, to support individual freedoms and responsibilities.

For examples and to examine these issues further, see Institutionalization

--- EGR