Who Wants to Run? Incentivizing Better Participation in Politics, with Andrew B. Hall

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Who Wants to Run? Incentivizing Better Participation in Politics, with Andrew B. Hall

Challenges in Local Governance

  • The Handforth Parish Council meeting went viral due to its chaotic nature, highlighting the challenges of local governance.
  • Differential participation in governance can result in the aggregated views of those with the strongest incentives, which may not always align with the broader population.

Polarization in Politics

  • Polarization in politics is driven more by politicians and interest groups than voters, who tend to be more centrist.
  • The current system discourages qualified individuals from running for office, leading to extreme candidates with strong policy preferences.
  • Increasing the pay for state legislators has been shown to reduce polarization by attracting more centrist candidates.

Homeownership and Voter Turnout

  • Homeownership increases voter turnout, especially in local elections where zoning issues are on the ballot.
  • Homeowners are more likely to vote than renters, but the exact reason for this is unclear.
  • Economic incentives alone do not fully explain the higher voter turnout among homeowners.
  • Social pressure and a sense of community can also play a significant role in motivating people to vote.

Online Voting and Decentralized Governance

  • Tech companies have been experimenting with ways to involve their users in governance, but efforts like Facebook's global referendum in 2007-2009 faced low turnout due to the complexity of the decisions and users' lack of interest in engaging with policy documents.
  • Recently, there has been renewed interest in online voting, particularly in the context of cryptocurrency and decentralized governance.
  • Decentralized decision-making systems, like those used in crypto projects, face challenges in achieving high participation rates.
  • Token-based voting systems in crypto projects incentivize participation and experimentation in democratic governance.

The Future of Democracy

  • Despite concerns about polarization and democracy, there is reason to be cautiously optimistic about the future of democracy.
  • The US political system has shown resilience in reflecting voters' preferences despite challenges.
  • New technologies, including AI, may disrupt politics and create opportunities for redesigning political learning and the role of politicians.
  • Radical changes to the democratic system should be approached with caution, as democracies have proven effective in preventing worst-case scenarios.
  • Incentivizing engagement, adapting new technologies thoughtfully, and articulating what's at stake can help increase participation and address dysfunctions in politics.

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