[discuss] What is MSism?

'Andrew Sullivan' ajs at anvilwalrusden.com
Sun Mar 30 10:00:16 UTC 2014

On Sat, Mar 29, 2014 at 10:07:06AM -0700, michael gurstein wrote:

> [MG>] Yes and thank you for so clearly articulating my position.  The
> magical process by which the one (public interest) somehow mystically
> emerges from the concatenation of the many (competing private interests)
> intrigues as does much magic which of course gains its aura by misdirection
> of attention.  

It's fun to point and laugh in lieu of an actual argument.  I don't
think there's anything magical at all in claiming that "the public
interest" is an emergent property.  It is in fact a well-understood
property of groups that they do not have the kind of unity of
intention that individuals do (if this is unfamiliar, you can probably
start with Arrow's paradox).  Therefore, you can't _ask_ "a public"
what its views are: there's nobody (we might say, "no _body_") to ask.
Instead, all you can do is look at the messy results of various
expressions of views and try to synthesize the public interest.

> outcome that in any manner supports the well-being of the broad public which
> would include the non-"stakeholder", the poor, the marginalized, the
> non-user.

It sounds like your complaint is that, whatever "MSism" is, it doesn't
perfectly capture the interests of everyone, and therefore it is an
inadequate system.  But no system, ever, meets your test.  Suppose we
had a perfect system of direct democracy in which every person could
participate reliably, even if they didn't have connectivity to the
Internet.  That system would _also_ not support the well-being of the
board public which would include the poor, the marginalized, and the
non-user.  This is because many such marginalized &c. simply wouldn't
have the information they'd need to make decisions in their own
interest: the very factors that marginalize them keep them from having
that information.  By what mechanism -- magical, perhaps? -- do you
suppose those whose interests are, ex hypothesi, not represented in
this discussion will somehow become informed enough to be able to
defend those interests?  Does this mechanism prevent the
crypto-neo-liberals from using advertising and other such tactics to
influence those parties?

> [MG>] If you are uneasy can you imagine how someone who couldn't figure out
> what the term "set-theoretic" meant if their life depended on it might feel
> in attempting to navigate themselves into being an active and effective
> "stakeholder"?

I have no idea, but if you are suggesting that the opinion of someone
who can't understand a Wikipedia article should nevertheless be an
important factor in the way the Internet runs, I beg to differ.  I do
not think that we should strive for an Internet governance model that
attempts to cater to every opinion, no matter how ill-informed.  

You are right to worry that a system that is completely unresponsive
to any interests outside those of the participants risks becoming
illegitimate.  The answer to that, however, need not be direct
democracy or anything of that sort.  It might just be a mechanism by
which additional interests can introduce themselves without a lot of
procedural friction.  I think that is, for instance, something the
IETF is pretty good at, and I've yet to see an argument that the
alternative you appear to be pushing doesn't subject the Internet to
misinfomed mob rule.

Best regards,


Andrew Sullivan
ajs at anvilwalrusden.com

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