EN24 discord
sov map

Democracy in Eve Part One: Why does it not work?

February 23, 2015

With announcements about changes to SOV just around the corner (March 20th is the most popular guess right now) we can expect to see a greater number of entities in null sec by the year’s end. This presents an opportunity for many ‘old ways’ to make a comeback, over the course of this series we will be exploring one of these ‘old ways’: democracy, and coming up with potential ways to successfully implement it in the future.

“Democracy in eve doesn’t work”.

This is a very popular stance point in eve and through this series I shall try to enlighten you to the fact that democracy is not the apocalyptic end as some think it is but rather the best style of governance in Eve, if used correctly. When we talk about democracy in Eve we will be talking about the 3 main strands of democracy; direct democracy (where the people vote on matters), representative democracy (where the people elect representatives to represent them in a parliament) and republican democracy (where the people elect leaders). There are a few examples of democracy in null sec around now however they are usually nothing but mockeries of the word such as Brave’s Council of Newbie Management. Indeed democracy, really, has been dead for nearly 7 years now since the fall of Brutally Clever Empire back in 2008. Currently almost all of New Eden, especially in null sec, have no democratic institutions and are instead run entirely by totalitarian dictatorship styles of governance.

So why supposedly does democracy not work? 

So what are the main problems with democracy in Eve? Primarily it would have to be the fact that Eve is a war-game. There are some activities that do not revolve around war such as mining, manufacturing, trading, etc. however what drives this game is undoubtedly war, especially in null sec. Because of this fact many think that having a sole person in charge will aid them in war due to the ability to make quick decisions. However quick decisions are often not the best decisions as goes the famous saying ‘make haste slowly’.

The Roman Empire was arguably the greatest military empire to ever be, turning itself from a lowly city state into the masters of the Mediterranean and beyond in a few short centuries. However people seem to have forgotten that the Roman Empire was built up thanks to the political system of the Roman Republic. If Rome had stayed under the power of kings then it is not unrealistic to say that many of us would know more about Carthaginian history than Roman history. Democracy provides immense motivation for FCs (generals) to constantly expand the borders of their empires as it provides the FCs with glory, the alliance (and thus members) wealth and it gives the members content which should help increase activity/numbers in the alliance.

The issue of slow decisions is one that is attached to direct and in particular representative democracy and there are very few ways to deal with this issue. You could perhaps demand the people/representatives come to a decision within 24/48 hours or you could demand a decision within just a few hours however this severely limits the amount of time the people have to debate the topic and will limit their ability to come up with the best solution.

Another mountain that democracy in Eve has to overcome is that of the apparent ‘game of thrones’ drama, politics can create. While all styles of governance will suffer from internal conflicts, democracy can be said to certainly enhance this problem, especially in republics. This may not necessarily be a problem. Millions of people don’t watch Game of Thrones for the blood or the tits, they watch it for the political intrigue. The possibility of adding another ‘career’ or ‘aspect’ to the game in the form of professional politics is something that would be most welcome in my opinion as it would be a major content generator and major story generator for decades to come. Most of the time the stories people hear of Eve are about large battles or corp thefts, however what if we were to attract a brand new audience to the game by stories of elaborate political machinations? Or of certain individuals corrupting an alliance and turning a once shining democracy into their play things? This would provide a breath of life into Eve, one which could be very interesting for null sec politics.

A lot of what happens in null sec requires weeks of planning and so many things are kept under operational security ‘opsec’ in order to prevent the enemy from gaining the upper-hand. As Niels Bohr, a Nobel prize winning physicist from Denmark, said ‘the best weapon of a democracy should be the weapon of openness’ however being so open could prove to be disastrous.

Imagine for a moment if The Mittani had been open to his membership about the Band Of Brothers director-level traitor he had acquired. The traitor would of been ousted and BoB would likely have been a significant force in the universe for many more years. The danger of the enemy finding out your plans, even hours before you enact them, is a very real and potent danger in null sec and is why you have officer/FC channels and why ‘leaks’ are dealt with so harshly. This danger does not necessarily have to be present in a republic however in representative and especially direct democracy it is certainly there. We could counter this problem by giving special powers to FCs during war-time however the threat of them simply becoming dictators and casting aside democracy is a very real, and proven, danger. We could also keep those voting and those actually doing things (FCs, logistics people, etc.) separate however this may undermine the idea of democracy in anything but a republic.

There is always a danger in democracies (excluding direct) that the process of electing leaders/representatives could always turn into a popularity contest. This is a very real danger especially when we look at the real world, where world leader’s are becoming younger and more photogenic each generation as aesthetics are becoming increasingly more important than competency.

FCs are probably the most popular people most null-sec alliance simply due to the fact that they often have the most interaction with the most people and since they are the ones providing content to the average line member a sense of loyalty tends to build up over time. This could potentially mean that FCs would have the influence required to make a mockery of democracy and sway his/her followers to vote certain ways on certain things, as he sees fit. The only real way to counter this is to prevent FCs from holding political power/office but that could potentially weaken an alliance’s leadership as highly-skilled individuals are kept out of leadership.

We also have to consider if this is even a problem. It is often successful FCs that gain the highest reputations and the most admiration and so this could potentially have massive benefits for the alliance if said people were to get the lion’s share of power. In the Roman republic pretty much all offices of note were held by either successful generals or people who had proven themselves on the battlefield and look at the rapid expansion they achieved!

The final major problem of democracy in Eve is the difficulty of collecting votes. Realistically the only way to do this would be through forum polls or a specialist tool that assigns 1 account, 1 vote however several issues arise out of this. Are players with more than 1 account more valuable to the alliance? How do you prevent rogue admins or hackers massively influencing the course of events? Sadly no answer yet exists to prevent hacking which is one of the main reasons voting has not been widely taken online yet for real life elections. However a potential way to stop spies or people with more than 1 account having too much of an impact on your vote would be to introduce some form of citizenship.

Next week we’ll be talking about Citizenship, in particular who should vote? Should we demand proof of a certain commitment to the alliance before members are allowed to have a say in alliance leadership? Or should the vote be open to everyone in the alliance as they have shown their commitment by joining? More on this next Monday.