Persuasion is the art of causing someone to do something. It is a significant factor in politics.
In the past 200 years, elements of persuasion have been honed into the science of marketing, Those who reap the rewards of marketing use it to further their own interest, usually at the expense of those they persuade. One current manifestation is the marketing of politicians without regard for their character.
Our purpose here is to find ways to improve the quality of our political leaders. We seek to do that by harnessing our own natures to the election process. That requires that we consider the human characteristics likely to motivate the participants in the election process. We will do so by contemplating the likely attitudes of the people at the various levels of the Active Democracy process described earlier.
At the initial level, when the entire electorate meets for the first time to select one member of a their group to represent the other two, there will be three kinds of participants:
1) those who do not want to be selected,
2) those willing to be selected, and
3) those seeking selection.
In any group where all three participants do not want to be selected, the triad will not make a selection and all three participants will be eliminated.
Thus, among the groups that actually make a selection, the people who are selected will either be people who want to be selected or people who are willing to be selected. This is not to say that each person must be of one type or the other, but rather that each person is somewhere on the continuum from those willing to be selected to those wishing to be selected.
For simplicity, we will assume that the desire to be selected is equivalent to a desire for public office and that the people we mention as examples are at one end of the wish-willingness continuum or the other. The reality is infinitely more complex but the results will differ only in degree from what we learn by thinking about the kind of people who are at the hypothetical poles.
We must also note that the attitudes we've mentioned may not be static. Although a person seeking public office is unlikely to become a person willing to serve, a person willing to serve may well be transformed into a person seeking public office:
[If person-willing-to-serve (A) feels person-seeking-office (B) is not a good choice, (A) may seek to persuade the group that (A) or (C) is a better choice. Such an effort moves (A) closer to being a person-seeking-office because if A will not support B, the chance that A will be chosen increases.]
Based on this assessment, we can say that people who advance to the second level will have one of two characteristics: either they seek public office or they are willing to serve in public office. In other words, either they persuaded the other members to select them or they allowed the other members to select them. The difference is the extent to which they used persuasion to achieve selection.
In a pyramiding process of the type under discussion, it is reasonable to think that active seekers of public office will succeed more frequently than passive ones. Thus, after several iterations of the process, we can anticipate that each member of a triad will be a person seeking public office. Under such circumstances, the art of persuasion assumes mounting importance. Those making the selection want desirable qualities in the person they choose. Those seeking selection must persuade their peers they possess the qualities sought.
Whatever other qualities a person seeking office will have, we can assert with considerable confidence that two of them will be a desire for public office and persuasiveness. Our method of selecting public officials uses these traits; all three want the same thing and can only attain it by persuading the others to select them.
When persuasion occurs between two people, it takes place as a dialogue with one person attempting to persuade the other. In such events, both parties are free to participate in the process. The person to be persuaded can question the persuader as to specific points and present alternative points about the topic under discussion. In such circumstances, it is possible that the persuader will become the persuaded.
When persuasion involves multiple people, it occurs more as a monologue with one person attempting to persuade the others. The transition from dialogue to monologue accelerates as the number of people to be persuaded increases. The larger the number of people, the less free they are to participate in the process. As the number of people to be persuaded grows, the individuals among them are progressively less able to participate in the process. They can not question the persuader as to specific points or present alternative points about the topic under discussion. In such circumstances, it is unlikely that the persuader will become the persuaded.
Viewed in this light, we can say that when selecting public officials, a system that encourages dialogue is preferable to one which relies on a monologue. Discussion can best be encouraged by having fewer people in the "session of persuasion". Because of the need for a definitive decision, I believe the best group size to encourage active involvement by all participants is three.