Martin Sustrik

Wiki Contributions


Hard to say, but one problem I see is that strong regional identity that powers the political processes in federations cannot be created by fiat. If you turn a centralized country to federation by passing such law it would continue to work as a centralized country. Maybe in 100-200 years regional identity, regional elites, specific regional interests would emerge, but it won't be tomorrow. Same, although maybe in a lesser extent, I think, applies to already federated countries and "making them even more federated".

Interesting. I've never heard about that. Any tips about where to read some more about that?

Let's go even further. Assuming the above model, the system can be improved by treating each successful referendum as a system failure. A postmortem should be written a submitted for public discussion:

  • If majority was in favour, why wasn't the law changed before in the first place?
  • Why haven't the counterproposal succeeded?
  • Why haven't the initiants retracted the initiative?
  • What should be done so that a similar failure doesn't happen again?

There's yet one more dynamic: Initiative proposes X. Government is, like, this is just crazy. The initiators: Do change the law to include Y (a watered down version of X) and we'll retract the initiative.

Looking at it from that point of view, the referendum can be thought of not as a way for "the people" to decide, but rather a lever, a credible threat, to change the law without having to go via the standard representative system (joining a party, becoming an MP, etc.)

In Switzerland there's a lot of discussion about changing this or that part of the political system, but I've never seen someone advocating for getting rid of referenda. There's something about the concept that people tend to like, irrespective of whether it works well or not.

I still think the “old guard” problem is real, and we’d have to come up with new mechanisms to address it. (Perhaps influential positions would institute a mandatory retirement age of 350.)

I was thinking about this the other day, but from a slightly different perspective. Consider trust in the society. If a country goes through a civil war, or maybe a period of a state collapse, the people are - based on their experience - less trusting of strangers and maybe even willing to take advantage of a defenseless stranger. The prospects for cooperation (and therefore societal progress) are not great. One is likely to see clique formation, tribal thinking, corruption.

Now, new generation doesn't have the civil war experience (or a street gang experience, or whatever). It is generally more trusting. They are able to cooperate on a higher level, but the old generation is distrustful, considers the youngsters to be dangerously naive and throws a wrench into the machine. And the longer the average length of life is, the slower the process of moving away from zero-sum games to positive-sum games becomes.

The interesting observations are:

  1. Solutions like "retire at 350" are not going to work - you can't retire a person from the society.
  2. The "old guard" problem could be, in theory, solved if the old generation would learn to change their mind, to adjust to the changed conditions on the ground. However, I am not sure how realistic is the unlearning the civil war experience, unlearning of not trusting the people around you.

Picture fixed. Thanks for spotting that.

It would take a large amount of research...

That's the nature of illusion: If you research it there's no illusion. If you just glance at it without much thinking, the illusion is there.

Is this true?

As far as I am aware, yes. At some point it was all about Africa. I recall complaints about that in the media back at the time.

Whether it's a calque or a descriptive expression, I think the main problem is still that it addresses only one term. You encounter a term that has no good translation, invent your own translation, start using it and maybe it'll eventually catch on. But then you have to do the entire dance again for the next term.

What I was thinking of was using the English terms. There are, obviously, problems with the declinations, transliteration to cyrilic or what not, but the main blocker, I think, is that using English terms is seen as ugly, un-literary and generally low status.

But that doesn't have to be so: Consider the use of Latin phrases in Europe in XIX. century. It was, back then, seen as beautiful, literary and high-status. If the same could be achieved today with English, it would allow small language communities to break out of the language cage.

I think you are on the wrong track. Of course, in the end you can find the equivalent term that someone used somewhere.

But look at it from a different perspective.

Take a term that is used and understood in the rationalist community. Say "Moloch".

Now try to write an opinion piece to The Washington Post. If you want to refer to the concept of "Moloch" you can either explain it, wasting your allotted 3000 characters quickly, or just say "Moloch" and hope someone would get it. In the latter case one or two people may get it and the rest would think you are a crackpot referring to the ancient Phoenician deity in a completely unrelated context.

The problem is that the rationalist community is too small for its terminology "to be in the Overton window". Not so with economic terminology. That community is large enough and the terms like "economies of scale" are admissible in public discourse.

Now scale that down to a small language community. Suddenly, the rationalist community is so small that it, for all practical purposes, does not exist. The economists are now in the position that the rationalists were in in the anglosphere. There are few of them and their terminology is not widely understood and accepted.

In other words: In the US you can't make an argument in public discussion involving rationalist concepts. But you can use economic terminology and get away with it. In Slovakia, you often can't.

"Economies of scale" seems to be "úspory z rozsahu" ("saving from the extent") - but that sounds really weird and I've never heard it being used. My guess is that the economics professors just use the English term.

As for "single point of failure" I am an engineer myself and I've never encountered any Slovak equivalent.

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