I’m the designer (as regular readers know) of the political strategy game Democracy 3. Its promoted as a ‘political strategy game’, but its not a direct simulation of modern politics, and that, I believe is its strength. Its also very popular worth young people, whereas annoyingly modern politics is not, and that tells a very depressing story.
I’ve been following (from here in the UK) the current US election campaign in all its depressing, worrying, and car-crash-style horror. What I see is nothing to do with politics at all. Nothing. It has way more in common with celebrity gossip and reality TV than it has to do with politics. Let me describe to you what I consider politics to be, just so we are on the same page.
Essentially politics is an argument on two spectrums, Capitalist v Socialist and Conservative v Liberal. The Capitalist v Socialist argument is one of how to arrange an economic model in terms of allocating a societies collective resources, and the extent to which resources & money can be seized from one individual and allocated to another. There are some moral issues bound up in this (Ayn Rand equated capitalism with freedom and there is the counter argument of the basic right to freedom from poverty), but also some simply technical ones, such as ‘how high can we set top tax rates before the tax yield declines?’ or the opposite of ‘how high can social benefits be before we destroy the work incentive’. The Liberal v Conservative argument is basically one of social norms and individual freedoms. Am I free to do whatever I want with my own body, including abortions, same-sex relationships and consumption of drugs? or should society prevent me from such actions? Sometimes the conservative argument gets wrapped up in religious argument, but not always.
There are outliers. I am a capitalist green, something people generally consider an oxymoron, because they equate fighting climate change with state spending, which is bullshit. Regulations on CO2 emissions achieve the same result without the government spending a penny. Anyway…enough of the specific issues. What I am saying is that politics is ‘that kind of stuff’.
What politics is NOT, is the style of a candidates hair, or whether they are faithful to their partner, or if they have children or not, and what those children look like, what grades they got, the size of the candidates hands (and other body parts), a candidates accent, their favorite music, which school they went to, whether or not they can eat a bacon sandwich or if they wear a particular style of tie.
And yet this bullshit is what modern politics has become. I think its a symptom of the idiocracy we live in. if you ask people whether or not a 45p vs 50p tax rate is likely to bring in more government revenue, they will give you a blank look, or regurgitate the last thing they heard a friend say about it. If you ask them if Donald trumps hair is stupid or if Ed Milliband looks normal, they will be full of opinions. They put politics in the same box as ‘dumb shit about celebrities’.
I despise this.
Things are so bad, I honestly favor some sort of minimum awareness testing on the part of voters to qualify to place a vote. What is Trump’s Tax Policy? What is Hilary’s? if you cant even pick them from a line-up why the fuck are you voting? Far too many people vote based on celebrity bullshit, fabricated stories, silliness about hair styles and superficial bullshit. Simply put, those people are not mentally equipped to vote.
Personally, I think Trump is dangerous. I think this because he has no policies. The only policy he has stuck to is his plan to get Mexico to build a wall for him. I want a new garage and demanded that my neighbor build it for me, but they were strangely reluctant. What will trump do if Mexico refuses to pay? bomb them?
You cannot vote for a candidate with no policies. Thats basically just saying ‘do what you like dude’. People should be angry that trump has proven to be extremely racist, sexist and inciting violence, but they should also ask him what the fuck he would do if he was president. There should be policy documents, detailed ones that people can scrutinize themselves.
And this brings me back to my title. Democracy 3 simulates voters who vote purely on the basis of policies and facts. The socialists will vote for you if you provide greater public services and tax the wealthy. They will not vote for you because you have cool hair or can play the saxophone. Democracy 3 is my dream of what politics should, and could be. A sensible, intelligent and above all, an informed debate. We do not have that any more, least of all in the USA. For that reason we should be very, very afraid.