Political Playoffs instead of Payoffs

What if the skill of “good governance” was like skill in the game of chess. Image the United States and China decided to settle their disputes via a game of chess played by their respective leaders. The people want to make sure their country wins, so how would the existing election process fair?

Consider for a moment that the typical voter is rationally ignorant about chess and has never actually played. The population divides itself into parties and sponsors candidates with opposing philosophies on how to play chess. The people are given an opportunity to vote for arm-chair chess experts.

At the end of the day the elected president would be the one most skilled at convincing rationally-ignorant others they know how to play chess - a skill that is largely unrelated to actually playing chess. Would you bet on the winner of this process?

If chess-skill were the measure of “governance skill”, then most sane people would recommend a tournament. Everyone interested in representing the United States in a chess game with China could enter. They would be randomly paired off to play a game. The winners of the first round would be randomly paired with other winners. This process would continue until a chess champion was identified and this chess champion would then go up against China.

It is clear that compared to voting for a chess champion, that a tournament is far more likely to identify and produce the most skilled player. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to have a tournament for running a country; however, if we could design a game that tests for skills that highly correlate with good governance then that could be a more suitable proxy than the party-politics game we play today.

If the purpose of government is to enable a group of people to reach consensus, then it should be lead by someone skilled in the art of consensus building. The most skilled consensus builder is the one who can get unanimous consent of the population, the least skilled is the one who divides the population into waring factions.

To identify the best consensus builder we set up a tournament that randomly assigns people to small groups (~10 people). Each group must reach a super majority (~7/10) consensus on one of their members to represent their group. This tests each group member to see whom is most effective at building consensus. A group that cannot reach consensus is like a chess match that ends in a draw and no one from the group advances in the tournament. The process repeats until the best consensus builder is identified.

If China also used this process, what are the chances that we could negotiate a fair trade deal and avoid war? Imagine what our society could be like if everyone in any elected position had to go through this process. Do you think congress would still have a 30% approval rating and faith in government would be under 20%?

This post was originally made on voice.com.


© Daniel Larimer