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Taleb on Democracy - Transience Divine
February 28th, 2013
11:54 pm

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Taleb on Democracy
I heard Nassim Taleb, author of The Black Swan and Antifragile, talk at our local independent bookstore. Well, less talk than kibitz-- for example, to a question on his writing method, he praised the virtues of walking. Taleb seemed like the kind of smart guy it's easy to take issue with, and so I will, more for the opportunity than as an attack on him.

In response to an unrelated comment, Taleb elaborated on his disdain for democracy-- it's a vast ploy, he said, perpetuated by the wealthy and powerful to persuade the many to pay taxes and maintain government for the benefit of the few.

All of which is certainly at least partly true. But democracy is more than a set of existing institutions. When we talk about a range of potential institutions-- deep democracy, social democracy, government for the people-- it's also democracy we're talking about.

Moreover, its the democracy that we're all fighting for. I don't know if Taleb's disdain was for democracy as given, or our hoped-for future democracy, or that we could ever obtain that dream.

I suspect it was the latter. But by analogy, is it possible to transition to an economy without fossil fuels? Many people think it isn't, unless we find a fantastic technological solution that makes clean energy cheaper than dirty.

The thing is, with democracy, we've gotten the technological solution. The internet is that solution. And we're learning to use it, only slightly less quickly than we'd all like. Future democracy might not look exactly like we imagine, but we have the tools to win the battles.

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