Evolution has suggested to me that there are evolving organisms that we do not easily perceive. I imagine that there are a large number of power structures constantly competing for survival, being reproduced by the actions of individuals who recognize the value of them, though perhaps not the fact that they evolve and develop traits that could be mostly invisible and very detrimental.

A trait that is mostly invisible might be the tendency to disenfranchise supporters who are helpful in the short term but harmful in the long run. For example, philanthropic support of a power structure based on the perception of that power structure as a force of good will help that structure in the short term. However, it may be the case that the power structure will have more fitness if it becomes greedy and ceases to be a force of good. In that case, the philanthrope, which would have gained significant knowledge of the structure because of the past relationship, may turn against it. If the philanthrope happens to have ample resources, this could be very damaging to the structure (but good for society). For this reason, power structures that tend to become more capable of survival by growing greedy will be better off divesting themselves of strong philanthropic support before following a path that would incur the wrath of the philanthrope.

The tendency to avoid philanthropic support is a mere example and I don't know if such a trait exists. I admit, this is armchair theorizing. The point is that it is likely that power structures develop traits that may be difficult to discern, that such structures get reproduced, and that they therefore evolve in ways that may be quite hidden from everyone involved.

Democracy, states, corporations, and commercial advertising are good examples of faceless power structures that have developed traits that seem to me to be detrimental. I will describe such a trait I see in each of these structures and propose some ideas that might help alleviate the problems they create, or which might turn the trait against the structure. In each case, there is a common aspect of the trait and that is its camouflage. These traits would have been eliminated long ago if they weren't able to hide.

Democracy's worst aspect as far as I can tell is the plurality voting system. The perception that election results reflect the wishes of the largest possible portion of the electorate is where this trait hides. In fact, this perception is accurate, but since that portion must be fashioned by removing from it any voters who disagree, it disrespects the wishes of an unfortunately large portion of the electorate, usually more than half. The self-reinforcing aspect of this trait has two sources. First, voters learn that unless they identify and decide between the two frontrunners, their vote will be wasted, and so a two-party system develops. Second, the leaders of the two parties recognize that their chances of holding power are greater on average (50%) in this two-party system, and so they work to maintain this trait since it maintains the duality.

If we were to aim instead to abide by a series of majority answers to yes/no questions, a far greater portion of the electorate would be in agreement (at least partially) with our political direction. Other electoral systems can help avoid making voters hide their true loyalties in an effort to make their vote count, and any of these would be an improvement

States (added 3/04)
Most people feel that the legitimate use of force lies solely in the hands of the state. The ability for an institution to produce this feeling in its members can be considered a valuable trait in the business of having and maintaining members. It hides by operating primarily on young members, teaching them before they learn that the teacher is also fallible. Members are then compelled to follow the laws of the state regardless of the value of those laws, because those around them accept as legitimate the force that agents of the state use to enforce them. All of us (speak up if I'm wrong) are living under the rule of such a state, and recognize that certain laws have no value to us.

But suppose people instead felt that the legitimate use of force belonged to anyone finding it necessary to defend his or her person or property. This is the basis of the law of self-defense. A greater appreciation for the concept and how it challenges the notion of a legitimate state would be of general benefit.

Recent corporate scandals have suggested to many people that the folks at the top are just a bunch of bad apples. In fact, an analysis of the history surrounding ethically and morally questionable decisions on the part of company leadership demonstrates that corporations that tend to select the riskier of the highly intelligent MBAs as their leaders have longer term survivability and on average turn a greater profit. This trait hides through the very actions of the people it most directly effects, and often to their ultimate detriment.

(changed 3/04) Recent discussions with a co-worker have convinced me that whether a company's behavior is legal or not should matter to us less than whether or not that behavior hurts us. Rather than relying on the state to protect us from such behavior, we should protect ourselves. Some companies, such as Experian and Thawte, establish themselves as trustworthy, and if our patronage or investment in companies was contingent upon some kind of fraud insurance provided through such a trustworthy company, there would be economic incentives to avoiding the kind of upper-level management that makes a mess of things. Unfortunately, the state acts as a crutch, doing a half-assed job of keeping companies honest, and eliminating the market for companies that would do a better job of it.

Commercial Advertising
Commercial Advertising has already undergone many changes because of traits it developed that we don't like. Truth in advertising laws, and the requirements advertisers fill by talking fast on the radio and adding small print to their ads are good examples. However, one of the arts of advertising is filling these requirements without actually giving the audience much opportunity to absorb the information. This trait is hidden by the very laws that attempt to remediate the problem. These laws do help, but rather than addressing the root of the problem - that advertisers don't want consumers to know all this stuff - they hamper the effects of the problem. It is enough of a solution to keep the number of people asking for more truth in advertising down. Let us work toward a solution that is instead ideal.

(changed 3/04) To turn this trait against the advertisers, again, it would be best to remove the crutch on which consumers rely to be protected from the old bait and switch and all the other trickery used to separate a fool from his money. People should be allowed to lose or waste their money for not educating or protecting themselves. The school of hard knocks is the one guaranteed to teach only the truth.

At the conclusion of deadlemming's paper on faceless power structures, he explains that our best hope is education. By reading this far, you are helping in this effort. If you have insights into the issues and suggestions put forward in this paper, please /msg me.