@jensahlstrom made a point on twitter, about how the Pirate Party of Sweden could benefit from blogging and tweeting in English, as it would greatly increase the size of our potential audience. As the pirate movement is a global one, I shall take his point to heart and endeavour to make our discourse more accessible to that great swathe of the internet’s population which does not speak Swedish, but comprehends sufficiently the English language to understand texts written in it.
In this blogpost I will be relating an investigation of the organisation of political parties between an old man named Oldar von Harm, and an ambitious youth named Glaucon, whose discussions I often have the pleasure of overhearing.
Oldar von Harm was approaching Glaucon, who was sitting on a bench with his attention directed to his laptop.
”I hear you are vexed by a conundrum,” said the old man as he joined the youth.
”I am always vexed by one conundrum or another,” replied Glaucon.
”Tell me about this one,” said Oldar.
”How can one tell whether a political party is organised soundly or unsoundly?” asked the lad.
”A worthy conundrum, that requires a worthy answer,” remarked Oldar.
”It would appear reasonable, that we must investigate what soundness entails, then.”
”What is your opinion on the matter?” Asked Oldar.
”That is sound which can reasonably be assumed to reach success,” replied Glaucon. ”Success being the achievement of one’s goals,” he added before Oldar could cut him off.
”Let me ask you, if I was trapped in a room filling with water, which once full would begin to drain after twenty minutes, which would be sound if I wanted to avoid drowning: To hold my breath, or not to hold it?”
”To hold it, surely.”
”But would it be reasonable to assume that holding my breath would achieve success, if my goal was to survive?” the old man inquired.
”Hardly,” the young man answered.
”So in this case, the course of action was sound, but the assumtion of success was not reasonable?”
”So it would seem.”
”Furthermore, if I must come to an important appointment on time, would my plan be sound if I simply went to the station and waited for the train, without consulting a timetable first?”
”Surely not,” said Glaucon, ”you would not know whether there were any trains departing, which would take you to your appointment on time.”
”But if I know that trains often leave every hour, except at certain times, though I am not sure which, is it not a sound gamble?”
”The gamble may be sound, but the sound plan would be not to gamble at all.”
”But surely, my plan is reasonable?” asked the old man.
”Is it unreasonable to think that if most trains leave every hour, this one will to, probability being on my side in the assumtion?”
”I suppose not.”
”Then it is reasonable?”
”If you say so.”
”So the plan is reasonable, but not sound?”
”And if I ran an entire organisation by such plans, it would not be a sound organisation?”
”Not at all,” said the young man.
”So that which can reasonably be assumed to reach success, is not always sound? And that which is sound, cannot always be reasonably assumed to reach success?”
”It would indeed appear that my original definition was incorrect.”
”How, then, shall we go about defining soundness?”
”Pray tell,” said Glaucon smugly.
”If my example of the meeting and the train could illustrate the error of defining soundess one way, could it not also be of use in proving the veracity of another definition?” the old man asked.
”I should think so.”
”Then let us investigate: How could the plan be improved?”
”You could consult the timetable before making your travelling arrangements,” replied the lad.
”What about delays and cancelled departures? Should I look for a website, and see if there is information to find on disruptions in train traffic?”
”And if there was no such site to find, should I make inquiries among well travelled friends, about how usual it is for train traffic to be disrupted, and telephone the train company’s customer service, and ask them if my train will run on time?”
”But if I had no friends who were well travelled, and there was no number to telephone for information, what then?” the old one asked.
”Then I don’t see what else you could do.” the young one replied.
”But if I must get to this appointment, and there are no busses or taxies to be had, and I have no car and no telephone, would it be sound to go and wait for a train, after consulting a timetable, and simply hope that there are no delays or cancellations?”
”It would appear, that your plan would be sound, considering the circumstances.”
”Ah, so we should consider the circumstances!” exclaimed Oldar. ”I shall return to that point in a moment. But first, another question: If there was no timetable to be had, and nobody to ask, would it be sound to go to the station and hope that the train arrives every hour at this time too, as I know it does on other times, and hope for the best?”
”I am not sure, for first you convinced me that to go to the station without consulting a timetable would be unsound, but now it seems the only sound plan to be had.”
”Ah, but we must do as you said, and consider the circumstances!” said Oldar triumphantly. ”Would you not say that if there was a timetable available for consultation, but you did not consult it, that would be unsound?”
”But as you said also, if there was no timetable to consult, the only sound plan would be to go the station and hope the train arrives at this and that time?”
”It would appear so.”
”How then would you define soundness, after what we have said?”
”It would seem, that soundness is the quality of institutions or actions or other such things, which incorporates every measure available for enhancing the chance of success.”
”So that is sound, which maximises the probability of success?”
”Yes, that seems to be the best definition of the word,” said the young man.
”Would it not be the soundest plan, to walk to the city, then, as it would carry no risk of cancellation or delay, assuming one could know the time it takes to walk into town, and one had such time?”
”If coming in time to the appointment was the only object, and there was no risk of delay on the road greater than the risk of delay of the train, then that indeed would be the soundest plan. Seldom are appointments so important, however,” retorted Glaucon.
”Ah, well played,” chuckled the old man, ”but suppose you had other considerations?”
”Then that plan would be sound, which maximised the probability of success in all relevant considerations, allocating more resources to that goal which is more important, and when necessary less to that which is less important, prioritising according to priority, as it were.”
”Indeed I agree with you in this,” said Oldar, ”but I am afraid there is one more question which must be answered with regard to this definition: Can one plan be more sound than another?”
”That seems reasonable, yes.”
”But if ‘that is sound which maximises probability of success’, then how can one thing be more sound than another? Surely, probability can by definition not be higher than the maximum?”
”A valid interjection, but I suppose you have a further point you are getting to, as always.”
”Please do not take offence to my inquisition, I wish only to give your conundrum a thorough investigation. For that, I believe, is the only appropriate way of resolving it.”
”No offence taken,” assured the youth, ”but do go get on with it.”
”Very well,” said Oldar von Harm, ”but my further point is only this: If the calculation of probability is based on premises, then the result of the calculation is necessarily a conclusion, and conclusions and only be true or false. As the calculation of probability is a matter of mathematics, it should, theoratically speaking, be a simple enough task to verify or falsify a conclusion. Therefore, as the probability of success can only be maximised or not be maximised, relative to the circumstances, a party can only be organised soundly or unsoundly. No party organisation can be considered the soundest, unless all other forms of organisation are unsound; a party can never be superlative in soundness. Now that we have established the nature of soundess, let us move on the investigation of how to organise a party soundly.”