Inside the Division of Historical Defense

by Eric on February 13, 2013

In the sub-basement of the old State, War, and Navy building in Washington, DC, there’s a door with a small, yellowing card next to it reading, in Selectriced letters, “AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION.” (There is, of course, an ongoing debate between the authenticity faction and the archival preservation faction over whether the card ought to be replaced with one made of acid-free paper.) Inside the room is – well, is a lot more dust than there should be, actually, but also an agglomeration of black boxes wired to a console distinguished by its steel heft and Bakelite knobs. There’s a row of lights across the top of it, each with a paper label underneath – 1941, 1942, 1943, 1944, and so on – years extending back to the dawn of the republic and forward, with the limited foresight of the original engineers, to 1976. Fortunately, that year – with a special bicentennial appropriation – the AHA was able to add an auxiliary console, carrying the lights forward to the millennium. But no further; nobody works here full time anymore. [click to continue…]

Some Microfoundations for Pragmatist Democracy

by Henry Farrell on February 13, 2013

One of the arguments that Knight and Johnson make is that standard ‘epistemic’ accounts of democracy do not provide a good foundation for understanding what democracy actually does. Such accounts argue that democratic institutions can do a good job at capturing and aggregating the knowledge of citizens, so that the collectivity can make better decisions than any individual. For example, Condorcet shows that if everyone is slightly more likely to be right than wrong, and if they make their judgments independently, then the more people who vote on a question, the more likely that they will collectively reach the right decision. [click to continue…]