David Garcia on Fri, 23 Aug 2019 15:07:41 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> from Meatloaf to penalty Shoot Outs

The relationship we have between knowledge and political decision making in the context of 
complex technological societies hss been recognised as problematic since the arguments between Dewey and Lipman in the 
1920s and many of their arguments about the changing nature of democracy and the nature of the public as we moved beyond 
the small communities of farmers envisaged by the founding fathers are as relevant today as they ever were.

One particularly apsoste ‘entity' that our constitutions have not yet come to terms with is the enormous growth and importance of a domain 
that exists outside of normal politics (until there is a problem) and that is the vast hinterland of regulatiory bodies with quasi judicial powers 
sometimes called Quangos in english. 

A good example is European Medicines Agency (EMA).. Which as a direct consequence of Brexit has moved from London to 
Amsterdam. EMA as is a regulatory structure for decision making about our medicines and other pharmascuticle products. 
 The trouble is that if you look at the UK’s Brexit political declaration all it says about the EMA and other regulatory regimes is that 
we will aspire to associate membership.

What the f*%K does that mean? We will *aspire* to be in an absolutely critical regulatory framework which is regulating all the medicines and 
pharmaceutical products we use. We are in effect aspiring to join something that doesn’t exist. There is no such thing as associate membership
It is not a golf club. And even today with weeks to go we just don’t know. Manufacturers don’t know.. customs officials don’t know. We are a 
knowledge free zone. This time next year will we be operating under the EMA’s regulatory regime and certification processes for their products..
 that is absolutely staggering and alarming.. and the same is true of food standards.

This highlights the basic misunderstanding of the UK’s position of being prepared to leave without a deal.. It is an 19th or early 20th century
idea of political sovereignty that existed before the rules and treaty based international systems we inhabit today. And highlights perfectly the
epistemic crisis we face when we misunderstand the foundations of the world we live in.

The deep trouble we are in to some extent originates from the fact that the vital work of these agencies are opaque and lack any meaningful
interface with the publics that arise when a problem arises that demands public involvement. 

I see a great deal of value in emergence of Citizans assemblies operating in conjunction with referenda. This happened successfully in the 
Irish abortion referendum where expert groups were deployed in these assemblies not as decision makers but as advisors or public servants. 
Although this kind of democratic experiment is not fullproof we need to persevere with experimentation in this most urgent task of building 
a ‘knowledge democracy’. 

In my view this begins by recognising the regulatory regime as a new arm of government as important as the judiciary, the executive and the legislature 
Acknowledging this status would force us to think about how we make these bodies more transparent and accountable and ultimately improving their interface 
to the citizenry. B

David Garcia    

On 23 Aug 2019, at 12:56, Michael Guggenheim <migug@bluewin.ch> wrote:

I beg to disagree, and I would love to invite you to a trip to Switzerland, where indeed referenda are held 4 times a year on all kinds of things, from deciding whether to build a new school or (infamously) whether to ban minarets. Sometimes you and I may agree or disagree with an outcome, but the last time I checked, overall policy decisions in Switzerland were no better or worse (according to my parochial judgment) than those of any other European country without regular referenda. 

When I last checked (a week ago), Switzerland was not "frighteningly fascistic". In fact, it is the opposite. A simple reason is that if people are asked in referenda repeatedly, they learn how to act in referenda (including the fact that the state develops complex techniques for administering them, that overcome the beginner mistakes of the Brexit referendum (was it advisory or not? What were the options exactly? etc.). Most importantly, they do get engaged in the relevant questions and are much better informed about issues. They also have the possibility to decide case by case whether they agree with a certain policy, rather than being forced to vote for a party with which they may agree in some issues bit disagree in others.
(Also ask yourself: Are MPs better informed and do they make better arguments than random people on the street? Answer: They do not, for the simple reason that they are not trained to be policy makers).


On 23/08/2019 11:28, Sean Cubitt wrote:
John writes:

Date: Tue, 20 Aug 2019 08:48:41 -0700
From: John Preston <wcerfgba@riseup.net>
To: nettime-l@mail.kein.org
Subject: Re: <nettime> From Meat Loaf to Penalty Shoot Outs
Message-ID: cc9c510bb7d1e7848da3f3df41d85f2f@riseup.net"><cc9c510bb7d1e7848da3f3df41d85f2f@riseup.net>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=UTF-8

Technological development puts pressure on social institutions. We need
a system of governance which encourages rapid iteration and mass
participation, two features lacking in our current democracies.

the problem is that referendums are not a viable alternative - partly for the reasons David gives: abandonment of evidence, argument or - I'd add - a commitment to the good life for all.

Judiciously timed, a referendum on restoring the death penalty would succeed in any European country. So would bans on abortion, gay marriage, modest dress for Muslim women, immigration, and very probably heavy metal 

There is surely an arrogance in expertise, and a we-know-best among professional politicos. But to exchange that for constant (and compulsory?) opinion polling wouldn't change the new problem which is exactly that: ubiquitous real-time comment IS government by opinion poll, and it is frighteningly fascistic. The new national-populisms rely on just such technological by-passes because they know they do not construct the public but a plurality of publics, each of which can be triggered by the right (usually negative) stimulus - this is the whole strategy of social media marketing in the US, UK and across Europe. 

Sadly - since it requires far more work - the political solutions are the only response to political problems. Yes, any politics in the 21st century must be mediated, and media techniques and technologies impact politics just as politics impact on technologies and techniques. 

The challenge is to build political media that are in service of the good of all - including non-humans -- a medium that allows the Amazon a voice, that could be interesting . . . .


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Michael Guggenheim
17 Popham Street
N1 8QW London
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