Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Are wild dogs smarter than us?

Animals also vote. Not exactly like us, but they also make collective decisions. A study about wild dogs shows that they use sneezes (or something similar) to cast their votes. An interesting part of the study is that the percentage of votes needed to make a decision is variable. They use variable quorum thresholds. In particular, the thresholds change with the status of the "agenda-setter." It may also depend on other variables, but human scientists are happy enough for the time being on what they have discovered. It is as if wild dogs had their own Venice Commission, that is, the Council of Europe's Commission for Democracy through Law, which prescribes the conditions under which referendums should take place. In the particular case of self-determination referendums to create new countries from existing ones, the conditions are very strong. That is, it is more difficult to change borders, especially in democratic countries, than to decide where to go for dinner. This is often forgotten by some superficial commentators, who recommend this kind of referendums usually for countries that are not their own. The USA, Germany, Italy, France, and all major democracies either prohibit or do not contemplate such referendums in their constitutions. Only four countries in the world include such possibility in their written Constitution (Ethiopia, Uzbekistan, Saint Kitts and Nevis and Liechstenstein). In some cases, of course you can reform the Constitution, but reforming it is difficult. This is probably for good reasons, to avoid lies, divisions and instability, as the British now know from the Brexit experience. Some referendums are necessary and good, but they must take place under very strict conditions. The distinction between good and bad referendums is crucial. Franco and Hitler did organize referendums. Orban, Le Pen, Wilders, and Putin have also used or tried to use referendums. Being rigorous about the defence of such instrument is as important as the distinction between democracy and autocracy. Wild dogs have very careful rules, not everything goes. They do not have a written document like the code of good practices of the Venice Commission. We humans have such a document, but many people refuse to know about it.

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