The Boiling Pot - Issue 6
This month’s edition is a doozy! We’re introducing a new concept, Technocratic Musings, wherein our citizens will be asked for their thoughts on technocracy. The first edition has been provided by our former People’s Tribune of two terms, and the Tribune who assisted in our newspaper’s reorganisation, Nobsey. We also have a strong response to last month’s P&C article, as well as a shotgun interview with several of our citizens and a summary of events in the STU over the last month.
Writing credits: Imperium of Josh
In the interest of a common and concise definition of technocracy, it is necessary to evaluate the various facets of the ideology with the utmost precision. The overarching form of technocracy can be divided into that of autocracy, oligarchy, and democratic. Each of these forms have implementations which are more ideal and others which are less ideal. Throughout all of these forms, the unifying principle is the management of government by experts.
To speak frankly, one of the most critical failings of the modern political world is the empowering of people whose chief achievement is the ability to effectively manipulate the average voter. If one is to look at the average voter, the process of manipulating them proves to be a task far too simple to ever be of merit. It would be, rather, all the more efficient and reasonable to place those with skills and expertise in positions of government. Given that technocracy and meritocracy are similar on a surface level, it is necessary to clarify that a meritocracy is hallmarked by a perceived and/or subjective worth. That is to say that everyone wishes to maintain the illusion that their leaders are qualified for the position but in practice, they are severely lacking. Conversely, technocracy employs those with quantifiable works that show a desirable result and an efficiency of craft.
In addition to the types of leaders in power, technocratic systems follow a unique method for problem-solving. Where the modern political world seeks to come to a common consensus amongst those in power and those who elect, technocratic governments apply the scientific method. The scientific method may be thought to only apply to the sciences, however, its application in the political sphere is far superior when compared to the current model. Collection of data leads to the analysis of that data which then leads to discussion concerning the course of action which ultimately leads to the best possible course of action for the nation.
To speak first on the nature of democratic technocracy, it is necessary to clarify that the populace needs to obtain far greater intellectual prowess. Removal of politicians from the election process and placing technocrats in their stead is akin to placing a bandage over a bone-deep gash. In assuming that the populace is not changed to fit the modern technocratic landscape, it is assured that such a landscape will swiftly fall to the very same hell-pits that it just came out of. For a democratic technocracy to function in the most efficient manner possible, the citizenry must be lucky enough to elect a technocrat of proper principles. Education must be first and foremost on the plan for revitalising democracy in a technocratic manner.
Autocratic technocracy has far more opportunities for critical failure. Given that the political structure is based upon the will of a single person, it is a necessity that the ruler is founded upon exceptional technical knowledge and an incorruptible dedication to the enrichment of the nation and its citizenry. Assuming that the top of the governmental pyramid is flawless, the lower levels must also be examined. Autocratic systems are built upon favour and as such the path to higher roles is plagued with corruption. A technocratic system does little to prevent this not for fault of the system, rather, for fault of human behaviour. Even a perfect technocratic autocrat cannot maintain a watchful eye over all departments and because of this those lower departments will run amok and effectively destroy the technocratic regime.
Armed revolution must also be evaluated when contemplating any autocratic regime. The citizenry is painfully dull and will be subject to anti-government rhetoric regardless of the regime’s actual effectiveness. This is why if any technocratic autocracy hopes to survive and keep its feet out of perceived tyranny it must focus its attention towards the education of the masses. One could make the argument that the effective use of propaganda would minimise the risks of revolt, however, this is innately anti-technocratic. If one turns to the crutch of propaganda, the government is doomed to fall to parasitic individualism since the government is not held responsible by its citizenry. Morality will only get you so far in the absence of watchful eyes.
Oligarchic technocracy is a promising blend of autocracy and democracy but only if everything aligns correctly. Opposed to the high burdens put on the technocrat in an autocratic system, the oligarchic system affords the capacity to have ideas fallback on several key experts. Despite this major advantage, the oligarchic system is still liable to the faults of human psychology. If the circle of oligarchs is closed, meaning that members are decided by other members, then favour becomes the determining factor and thus the technocratic system has died. In place of such faulty governance, the open circle proves the stable option. Two forms of stable open oligarchies exist: exam-based and automatic entry. Exam-based removes favour from the equation by having potential members pass a written exam, however, this method opens up the possibility of cheating. Cheating can be managed with far greater ease than that of favour and as such is a stable method. Automatic entry consists of plucking the leaders of various fields and placing them on the council. This option once again eliminates the invasion of favour, however, those who do not wish to join the council but are forced to regardless will be apathetic leaders.
While there are more subsets of government, these three are the umbrella. Each of these systems have varying risks and rewards and is thus up to the government to decide which one it shall choose to employ. Whatever form technocracy is done in, it is safe to say that it will function better than the current models. If it is not functioning better, then it has ceased to be a technocracy.
Writing credits: Qiyi Guo
In the last edition of The Boiling Pot, the Imperium Of Josh laid out credible and convincing arguments for all-citizen legislatures. In this edition, I (a passionate supporter of democracy on NS, in quite the contrast to Josh) intend to argue the opposite; to argue in favour of elected legislative branches.
There are many parts where I agree with Josh's assessment. Faults with founders is where a depressingly large number of regions fall short, and I witnessed this myself during my time in the NSL server; more complicated regions with larger governments do tend to need more staff to run smoothly; most players will sit idly doing little and rarely engaging with the community; the list goes on.
Where I disagree with Josh's assessment, though, is the assertion that indirect legislatures "restrict access and participation in the legislature to a tiny handful of players in the region". Indeed, I believe the biggest thing about representative democracy is missed here - the representation. An ordinary citizen is not barred from influencing the judicial branch in an indirect legislature: they are still very much capable of expressing their opinions to sympathetic members of said legislature, campaigning and lobbying within their home region for the change/policies they wish to see implemented, and at the end of the day, if an elected legislature isn't doing its job, the citizen is under no obligation to cast their vote for the incumbent candidates at the next election. Granted, these are often less effective ways of influencing regional government than being a member of an all-citizen legislature, but that itself taps into another idea - the idea that to serve your region, to be trusted by your region-mates with legislative office is a privilege earned through the dedication and determination to the furthering of the region's best interests, not a right of any citizen who happens to chip in every two weeks and disappears again. To be elected to and to serve in an elected legislature is a gesture from your community, a reaffirmation of their confidence in you to do the right thing and act appropriately, and this prestige often gives members of a community an incentive to take part. After all, you might not like to admit it and others may disapprove of such a sentiment, but who doesn't enjoy being part of an especially valued and treasured member of government with the support of your region behind you? In many respects I think it can appeal to our human nature to enjoy the feeling of being in-the-know; to be part of something (or be part of something) which others aren't allowed to. Take that as you will, but if it encourages organic participation in a legislature, I see that as a positive.
Josh goes on to state "will be most beneficial for a young or small community" - which I understand completely. Drawing on my own region's experience, Thaecia in its earliest days had a Senate with 5 members. If my memory serves me right, the first Thaecian senate collapsed 3 times within 2 months due to inactivity concerns, so I can most certainly see Josh's point here.
I disagree where he goes on to argue that all-citizen legislatures are a one-size-fits-all feature. Firstly, I find myself questioning how issues like quorum are solved in all-citizen legislatures. Does the threshold for a legislative action's passage sit at the 50% mark? Such a threshold may work in regions with few citizens but it becomes considerably more challenging when scaled upwards: Thaecia & Europeia, for example, have around 200 & 100 citizens respectively last I checked, and it would be absurdly impractical to require 51 or even 101 citizens to approve of something before it can be actioned.
The other option here, as best I can see, is to set a lower that threshold or make it dependent/proportional to another factor (e.g. how many citizens took part in debates). This immediately raises democratic concerns to me - is it right, democratically speaking, for something to pass after obtaining 51% of 17% of the citizenry? It doesn't really sound it to me. This ties into Josh's argument as to why indirect legislatures on NS solve a problem which doesn't exist - in larger democratic regions like Europeia and Thaecia, it is in fact impractical to get the opinions of every citizen heard on every issue. Polling and surveying the opinions of hundreds of people/nations is no easy feat, and representative democracy helps fix that challenge which Josh refuses to acknowledge the existence of.
What I also find absent from Josh's arguments is something which underpins many of my disagreements with him - not everyone and everything on NS is designed to be maximally efficient and effective. Though I do of course believe elected legislatures can be efficient and effective, it is important to note that that is not the only priority a region may have. I distinctly remember election cycles in Thaecia, nervously but exhilaratingly biting my nails awaiting the results of a Congressional election to see if people who align and agree with me had won enough seats to defend our agenda. The glamorous (and sometimes perhaps even decadent!) election graphics created a buzz of excitement, fun, activity and engagement which would not have been possible with an all-citizen legislature. Perhaps dramatic elections which keep you on the edge of your seat isn't your region's cup of tea, I understand that. But just because it isn't what you look for in a community/government, doesn't mean that others share your point of view.
Fundamentally, Josh is an experienced player of NationStates who clearly offers a unique and interesting point of view on the topic of all-citizen legislatures. He offers a perspective which looks out for the smaller democratic regions over the larger ones, which I appreciate. However, coming from a region which is now what I consider a medium-large sized representative democracy, I think the overarching thing which must be remembered in this discussion is that regions come in all shapes and sizes, and where representative democracy works in one region, that does not mean it will work everywhere (and vice versa). When considering whether or not elected or all-citizen legislatures are better for a region, a holistic approach considering the region's priorities, activity levels, ambitions and likelihood of success/growth should be considered. Make the wrong choice, dear founder, and you may doom your region before you have even begun building it.
Writing credits: Andusre
The Social Technocratic Union (STU) is made up of a wonderfully diverse, talented, and incredible bunch of people, and in the last twelve months the regional culture has been wildly growing, thanks to the energy and engagement of our citizens. As such, it seemed an important time to reflect on the beginnings of those that invest their time in the STU, what their history is, and what they love about being here – so welcome readers, to the first in a series of articles for the Boiling Pot Newspaper; Stirring the Stew. Four interviewee’s were selected for this issue, based on their valuable contributions, and regular involvement in our region, and were given three questions to answer.
It seemed important to ask our interviewee’s what led them to the STU initially, and how long they had been around the greater NationStates.
GTFourty, a relative newcomer to the region, joined in November of 2020, and noted, “STU’s telegram was one of the first ones I’d gotten. The idea of a technocracy was very interesting, something I’d heard very little about to [sic] that’s what led me to join.”
Whereas Patchourisu, who joined NationStates back in March 2020, answered “I joined the Social Technocratic Union after creating my first puppet, in August … I then found a telegram of the Social Technocratic Union and found the concept of a technocratic region cool and interesting, hence I joined!”
This was a sharp contrast to compare with our two other interviewee’s, Wilhelm and Kitsy. Kitsy, having been on NationStates for a few years, but actively involved for just over a year, has a history of experience in Gameside Affairs in Osiris, and was recruited to the STU by our Director, Josh. Kitsy explained “STU became the place where I felt I could contribute more and kinda felt like I fit in more. I don’t know a lot about politics but Josh always takes the time to explain things to me and it’s a place I love being.”
With a much longer period of time on NationStates, since 2016, Wilhelm recounted their origins in the region Karma, “I joined [Karma] because of Josh … [who] invited me to some events within this region, and to partake I needed to be granted citizenship. At the time I really had no idea what any of this meant but was a fun pastime with new people to joke and drink in the evenings with. At some point within this time, Josh realized there was no WA (World Assembly) delegate in Karma, so, he endorsed my nation making it the delegate with 1 endorsement being my only claim to fame … being the first WA delegate of Karma.” On joining the STU Wilhelm explained, “Josh told me he was starting his own region, I was one of the first people he invited to the discord, so I decided to make a new nation and is where we are now.”
Our interviewees were then given the hypothetical situation of having all the time and resources on their hands, and were asked what they would want to improve, change, or achieve in the STU. GTFourty chimed in first, “I think I’d need more time around … STU [more] to find that out. I’m still settling in … but I’m sure in time I’ll be able to understand things better.”
Whereas our recently elected Tribune, Patchourisu, opened up about their ideas a little further, explaining that “I’m not sure if I want to fundamentally change anything. I like STU how it is … I wonder what the residents' thoughts and wishes are … if I had the time and resources, I would try to do what would benefit them and what would please them. And this comes by knowing their needs/wants, so doing more surveys!” Excitedly, Patrchourisu added, “Maybe I’d try to develop a scientific (and maybe academic) department in the STU!”
Similarly, Kitsy responded, “STU is pretty great … if I had more time I would literally just keep doing what I do here.” Although she also added, “I love contributing to our newspaper and engaging with all our citizens and non-citizens alike. If I had more time I’d be in VC (Voice Chat) a lot more and gaming with STU a lot more. Time-zones are hard, son!”
Wilhelm explained the relatable issue of real life limitations, answering, “Time is 100% the biggest factor for me here, my main role within the STU is organising game events, but with me taking multiple other responsibilities and hobbies over the past couple of months … the main thing would be to try get more people interested and engaged into organising events where I don’t have to always be around.” Continuing to explore what he would like to achieve Wilhelm advised, “I think eventually, I will run for People’s Tribune but currently feel with me being already close with most of the government within the STU, I can already make the points I want to make … so feel it’s best left to others to give anyone that opportunity to make the changes they wish to see.”
With our region being filled with such passion and love for the people that find their way here, some investigation into what our interviewees love most about the STU was absolutely necessary, and I couldn’t have found more open or eager responses anywhere else. GTFourty was first to add that, “Everyone just is very excitable and enthusiastic about the region, and NS as a whole, I like the energy, and I’m sure I can come to be a greater part of it in time.”
Equally, Patchourisu, somewhat indecisively, yet excitedly added, “I’m hesitating between their kindness, their open mindedness and their wisdom!” noting that, “The STU community knows how to cope with life, and is doing their best to thrive without forgetting their intelligence and humanity. Take a game night, for example. Even if there's a lot of people being drunk, still, I still think like I'm talking to real people with self-criticism and knowledge … Another example, I don't see any offensive comment[s] or meme[s] in the STU, and I really appreciate it. It is commonly puns, and jokes about geese … (Okay, sometimes historical and political jokes … ) And that's what I love about the STU: It is a place with wise people who keep their humanity.”
With a similar eagerness, Kitsy explained how she loves that the STU, “embraces our love of cats and pets.” Adding further, “Our Daily Peach seems to be a great success! This place makes me happy. And everyone is incredibly friendly and so intelligent. I love what Josh has created.”
Finally, Wilhelm enthusiastically explained his passion for the STU in the same vein, “This would likely be how outgoing a lot of the people who jump into the voice channels are, not to say the quiet ones aren’t great too, I just really like how there’s never a dull moment when it's hard to get a word in edge-ways (yes, I’m talking about you Ten). Game nights, especially Among Us/Secret Hitler recently have been some of the highlights of 2020 in The STU, we have also had some great HOI4 and CIV 5 games that have been great opportunities to have a drink while trying to do something somewhat competitive. Aside from The STU, there was a recent charity event hosted and promoted throughout the entire NS community organised by Wym … that I was really lucky to be heavily involved with, where I hosted every stream over a couple of weeks in December. I got to meet some awesome new people, sing karaoke and discussing a range of topics, from the downright weird to inspiring, all whilst raising money for a great cause (raising a total of $3,400).”
The culmination of an almost twelve month period of successful engagement, the people of the STU have come from various backgrounds and experiences, and while each one of us is unique, we have found a common space to share passions, interests, life experiences and more. Interviewing these individuals shows us why our community has thrived – we wouldn’t be here without the valuable contributions that they have made, small or great, and their love for the STU.
Writing credits: Istil
The STU has had a very busy month since our paper’s last edition. Not only have our citizens celebrated various holidays during the month of December, and enjoyed New Year festivities co-organised by our very own Icarus, we have also taken part in NS-wide charity efforts and elected a new People’s Tribune. Everyone in the STU is very proud of both Wym, who primarily organised the NS Christmas Charity Fundraiser which raised $3,400 for the Trevor Project, and Will, who ran and frequently appeared on the fundraiser’s livestreams. We’re all very glad to have taken part in such a noble effort, and our citizens enjoyed a great number of the events spurred by participating regions.
Meanwhile, the STU’s elections process for People’s Tribune began with our usual nomination and campaign period, lasting from the 26th of December to the 1st. 3 candidates entered the race; Nobsey, our Tribune of two previous terms, Wym, a newcomer to the region (but certainly not NS) with big plans for our recruitment and integration, and Patchourisu, a long-time popular member and previous contestant for the position. Nobsey’s campaign focussed on his previous successes in the role and offered small optimisations and improvements relating to his previous prerogatives rather than large reforms to the region’s system. This was an understandable view from a two-time incumbent tribune, but failed to inspire our citizen base, and ultimately Nobsey was knocked out in the first round of voting. Wym’s campaign focussed on his extensive NS experience, and the issue of recruitment and integration, arguing that the STU needs to perform better in retaining its recruits, as well as eventually pull more in. Patchy’s platform offered a more citizen-input driven vision for the Tribunate, which was ultimately successful in convincing a majority of voters. Patchy has already designed and issued a survey for citizens since winning the vote on the 6th, in an impressively proactive move.
Voting began on the 1st and was split into 2 rounds of 3 days each. The second round was triggered by a wafer thin margin - 50%+1 of votes are required to win the position of Tribune, and in the first round Patchy won exactly 50% of votes cast (10-9-1). Voters reported being torn between candidates in the first round, and this notably impacted turnout. In round 2 Patchy was able to pull off a comfortable lead against Wym, who took 2nd place (18-12). Voters clearly felt that the impasse of round 1 could not be repeated, and opted to side with particular candidates, adding to both remaining candidates previous vote totals, and improving turnout by 50% in round 2. As part of the STU’s long-standing tradition of the Director hiring all promising candidates for Tribune to work on their promises in the event the winning candidate did not emphasise them, Wym has been hired to manage improvements to the STU’s recruitment and integration.
When asked for comments about the election’s results, Patchy and Nobsey were able to reply, while Wym’s real-world schedule and other events unfortunately prevented him from providing a response in time.
Nobsey: “Well the other candidates had vastly superior plans for the future and a much better dedication that my own I can only say that I'm extremely pleased that Patchy will be taking my place as the next People's Tribune”
Patchy: “I really appreciate your support throughout this election, and it is truly an honour to work with you to better this place! I look forward to all the good moments we can build together!”
As ever, the Directorate is grateful to everyone who ran.
Writing credits: Imperium of Josh