Showing posts with label voting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label voting. Show all posts

Monday, January 17, 2022

Losers Don't Pay Taxes

This is just a rambling thought experiment. Feel free to ignore as it probably has vast shortcomings I have not considered in the admittedly short amount of time I have spent on it.

What if we instituted a rule via Constitutional amendment that the voters for a losing Presidential candidate in the general election do not have to pay federal income taxes for the term of office for which their loser was running? Suppose further that this amendment was so firmly established that there would be no question of it being followed (unlike so much of the Constitution) and no question of it being permanent for the foreseeable future.

I can think of lots and lots of problems with this as I'm sure you can too. A chief one is that Congress and not the executive branch determines taxes. Not to sideline those, but let's jump straight into some game theory.

What might some implications be?
  • Any rational potential voter would probably chose to vote given the prospect of tax avoidance.
  • Those votes would likely gravitate at first to candidates who looked very unlikely to win.
  • This seems to help third parties get on to ballots and garner significant vote share.
  • Knowing that everyone else is pursuing this strategy, voters likely would be reluctant to throw their vote for scary candidates. Even if they realize their vote will not affect the outcome of the election (spoiler alert: your vote doesn't matter mathematically), if presented with two similar candidates where one was slightly less objectionable than the other but both rather unlikely to win, the better of the two would tend to get the vote.
  • Candidates would know all this as well. That should push them to be slightly more objectionable at the margin. However, power still matters and is desired. So they would also have an incentive to try to win if they thought they could win. Now what would make them very desirable to getting votes so as to win? hmmm? Promises for very low taxes of course.
  • Could they or would they promise no taxes? I think this is unlikely as everyone knows that there have to be some taxes if there is to be some government spending. What about funding spending exclusively through debt, which is promises of either future taxes or future inflation? While this could be a workaround, it would have problems. The threat of inflation harms current voters as once inflation is suspected and to the degree it is suspected, it arrives immediately, or at least eventually. Future taxes might come soon enough to affect current voters and will likely affect their offspring, a group for which voters care.
  • This is starting to sound like a powerful tool to restrain government. Candidates are encouraged to campaign on small government so as to allow for low taxes. Voters are encouraged to support candidates who pursue small government. It also seems to promote experimentation as candidates are encouraged to be a bit wacky but not too wacky for fear (by voters) that they would actually get elected, and voters are incentivized to vote for marginally more wacky candidates (more than current but less than the wackiest). Here wacky means stuff like: drug legalization, troop withdrawal/de-escalation, privatization, deregulation, etc. Consider me wacky, btw.
  • I would fear it would degenerate into some suboptimal game, though, like where we all pretend to pursue small government and then don't actually do it leading to a need for higher future taxes. This would create a ratchet effect making the next election a competition between greater liars offering lesser improvements. Another BIG problem relates to the issue raised and promptly ignored at the top: Congress. Would Congress be emboldened to spend more? An opposing-party Congress as compared to the President seems likely to. This could not be fixed by changing the amendment to instead be a voter for a losing party in the next Congress since we don't vote for one Congressional position. Would the rule need to be it applies only to straight-party voters? If we went down that road, perhaps we would need another amendment limiting all elections to just two parties--the default situation we have now anyway. Lock in the Democrats and Republicans granting them the oligopoly of two. This might work making them compete along the tax dimension axis almost exclusively with all other policy subservient to it. Now we might be back to strong incentives for small government. Yet another suboptimal result might be one party in each election is always aiming to be the losing party and the other party tacitly agrees to be the winning party. Would this still give a small-government outcome? Maybe. Voters can switch who they vote for, but if there is strong lock-in on policy, they may not be so quick to change their votes. Where does social desirability bias and virtue signaling come it?
  • Who knows? I do like the integrity of only the voters who supported people in power have to pay for the actions of those people. 

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Does Ranked-Choice Voting Really Work?

All else equal, it would be good to reduce divisive partisanship in politics and to get elected officials who are more generally representative of their constituents' views. At least it seems like that would be good. Upon typing it I immediately have my doubts that I can both defend those goals as meaningful and desirable. And even if I can, it might be ridiculous on its face with the "all else equal" qualifier being impossible.

After all, all else equal, I would love to be worth $100 billion.

Regardless, let's briefly explore one possible method of improving elections, ranked-choice voting (RCV); aka, instant-runoff voting. From Ballotpedia ranked-choice voting is
an electoral system in which voters rank candidates by preference on their ballots. If a candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, he or she is declared the winner. If no candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated. First-preference votes cast for the failed candidate are eliminated, lifting the second-preference choices indicated on those ballots. A new tally is conducted to determine whether any candidate has won a majority of the adjusted votes. The process is repeated until a candidate wins an outright majority.
Let me state up front that I very much like this as something that might help break the two-party duopoly that corruptly prevails in America today. This is a goal that isn't necessarily in line with the reasoning that RCV could reduce divisiveness, etc., but I think it is consistent with those goals. 

Yet a simple but extreme thought experiment gives me some doubts about RCV as a cure for the supposed ails. 

Consider this election ballot: 
  • Jesus
  • Almost The Devil
  • A Goofball
  • The Devil
Now suppose that we hold the election and the first-place results are:
  • Jesus - 38%
  • Almost The Devil - 30%
  • A Goofball - 20%
  • The Devil - 12%

Under RCV we don't yet have a winner because no candidate has a majority. So, we eliminate the lowest first-place vote getter and give his second-place votes to the remaining candidates. Presumably in this hypothetical everyone who voted for The Devil, who has now been eliminated, put Almost The Devil as second place. Therefore, the new results are:

  • Almost The Devil - 42%
  • Jesus - 38%
  • A Goofball - 20%
We still don't have a majority vote getter; so we now eliminate A Goofball whose voters equally split their votes for Jesus and Almost the Devil as second place. Therefore, the new results are:
  • Almost The Devil - 52%
  • Jesus - 48%
My hypothetical has resulted in Almost The Devil defeating Jesus. That seems bad on its face. Additionally it probably does not satisfy the Condorcet criterion (a known short coming of RCV among other systems). This is just one way RCV might not live up to our dreams. The Volokh Conspiracy at Reason explores another, similar dampening of expectations for what RCV can achieve in heavily contested elections. 

My hypothetical concern here might be rejected for at least one of two reasons (or both): 
  1. In repeated experience voters should get better and better at using the new system. This is similar to rejecting the argument that a simple one-time experiment in a classroom "proving" prisoner dilemma problems mean people will fail at coordination ... therefore, government force is required to make them make the right choices. 
  2. Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. If this is a 90% solution to known problems with elections and democracy, it might be worth this hypothetical, unlikely risk.
Perhaps mine is an uncharitable view on the electorate in general. The thing is when I apply the labels (Jesus, The Devil, etc.) so as to be self evident about the hypothetical candidates you get an unfair look into the future that is not visible to the voters ex ante. Reasonable minds will be rationally ignorant about specific candidates, and no amount of homework done ahead of time will tell us the future with certainty. 

Perhaps it is an argument against democracy--one could charitably say it is simply an argument in favor of less democracy. I think it is certainly an argument for less government power. Electing Almost The Devil as Advisement-Only Czar to the Local Private Firm Dog Catchers minimizes his tyrannical reach. 

I still think RCV is a big step in the direction of improvement. But this thought experiment has given me some moderation in my expectations of what it can achieve. 

P.S. See also this podcast from Building Tomorrow for an overview on RCV and its potential implications. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

No One I Know Committed Voter Fraud

This is not a post about recounts and pursuit of truth. It is not a post about probability. It is a post about imagination.

I don't know 1 million people, much less 70+ million. I cannot even imagine what 1m people looks like. I've been to football games with 100,000 people. One million is like (checks notes) ten times that. 

I can imagine 1 million pieces of paper--dollar bills, pages in books, ballots, etc. 

I know some people who voted for Biden, some for Trump, and some of us (bless our hearts) who still believe in freedom who voted for Jorgensen. But remember, I don't know and cannot even imagine 1m people in any form much less 1m people who all wanted to vote for Biden (or Trump, but that isn't important right now). 

Okay, so I actually can imagine it, but it is a bit hard if I want to concretely think about 1m people showing up and filling out a ballot for Biden. It is much harder still to imagine them all showing up together at one time and doing so. 

But that is what the ballot counting looks like especially after the fact. Boom, X-thousand for Biden, Y-thousand for Trump, etc. 

I've seen enough TV to be able to imagine what a fraud looks like. I can imagine easily a vague picture of what a million or so ballot fraud looks like. Truck pulls up to the back of the warehouse, doors open and a sinister fella peeks out, coast is clear, truck gate is lifted revealing fat stacks of freshly-minted fraudulent ballots, dollies unload the loot...

Add to this that perhaps I have motivated reasoning--I would love (hypothetically) to discover that Biden "won" because of fraud. Combine that with my natural and defensible lack of imagination that millions of people see the world differently than I do and in a way that I think is very significant (it was, after all, the most important election of our lifetime). 

Do you see how it seems more likely, perhaps much more likely, that fraud is at play in the 2020 election? What is more likely, that something I can barely imagine happened or something that I can easily conceive of happened? I'm just asking questions here.

Unfortunately, "seems more likely" is equivalent to "is more likely" for many, many people. The Monte Hall problem contains an amazing paradox. The probability is dependent on the perspective of the chooser; however, the perspective that matters is not the chooser's imagined framing of the problem. It is the fact that from the perspective of the chooser and the new information he now has, the probability assignment has changed in a way for him that it has not changed for an uninformed observer--for the chooser it is 2/3 vs 1/3 (i.e., 67%/33%); for the uninformed observer it is still 50%/50%. 

Probability is in the eye of the beholder. But the beholder doesn't get to invent out of whole cloth the critical elements governing the probability (subjective though they may be).

I lied, this is a post about probability.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Libertarian Party 2020 Presidential Run - A Postmortem

As the 2020 election comes to a close, it is hard not to be disappointed as a Libertarian. As a libertarian, there is much room for optimism as many libertarian/classical liberal issues carried the day. Namely, movement toward ending the war on drugs, criminal justice reform, data privacy, etc. advanced nicely across the U.S. 

Here are the recent historic totals of Libertarian candidate votes for president:

1996    485,759        Harry Browne/Jo Jorgensen
2000    384,431        Harry Browne/Art Olivier
2004    397,265        Michael Badnarik/Richard Campagna
2008    523,713        Bob Barr/Wayne Allyn Root
2012    1,275,923     Gary Johnson/Jim Gray
2016    4,489,233     Gary Johnson/William Weld
2020    1,705,638+   Jo Jorgensen/Spike Cohen

My first thought was frustration at the Jorgensen campaign performance. But a friend pointed out that the mainstream media largely shut her out (even by Libertarian standards) giving her virtually no interview time or press otherwise. The latest "most important election of our lifetime" along with its highly divisive nature (largely Trump's doing but not entirely) gave little reason for alternatives to the duopoly. This combined with the COVID world was a very unfortunate combination for an outsider looking to gain recognition. 

So this setback might just be a fluke. Still, we need ideas on how to generate brand awareness and garner votes. A partial list of ideas (definitely a work in process):
  • Get rid of purity tests - The infighting of no-true-Scotsman has to be limited to early primary candidate selection. Once we have a candidate, rally behind them. This doesn't mean we cannot criticize, but know what stage of the game you are in. This also helps broaden the tent. Be a directional libertarian rather than a destination libertarian.
  • Focus on uncompetitive states - perhaps never leave California or perhaps more appropriately Texas or just both of those two important states. Imagine building a strong base in demographically and electorally important areas. The Free State Movement envisioned flocking to a small state to dominate politics there, New Hampshire emerging as the destination. Rather than focusing on winning a small state's electoral votes, this would be a strategy of focusing on winning hearts and minds to reshape the policy debate.
  • Articulate stances in better sound bites - Help the voters know in the simplest terms why they are taking the leap to support, advocate, and vote Libertarian. A platform of less government is not enough. Specifics are crucial here, but more importantly we need to highlight solutions rather than what sounds to many like retreat into the darkness. A great example is Corey DeAngelis' straightforward and impactful message on school choice/education reform: "fund students (families) instead of institutions" and "let the money follow the child".
  • Stop sounding like extremists - This dovetails with the prior idea. “End the Fed”, “Taxation is Theft”, et al. are not salient. Find a way to be against war without sounding like a 60s hippie—pacifism is right but it doesn’t sell. You can’t win support by telling people they are awful. You have to sell the message of hope and progress.
  • Look the part - Quit going for shock value. You need to look like a candidate out of central casting. No nicknames on the ballot (e.g., Spike). No taxation is theft hats. The target new voter does not want to elect someone from Comic-Con. 
  • Focus on a few key, pivotal issues that resonate in the current election - Might I suggest The Big Five?
  • Get more exposure in mainstream channels - We have to bring the message to a much broader audience. We are certainly still in the brand awareness stage of marketing. Where is the Free To Choose of the modern era? Perot built a voter base from primetime segments he paid for and starred in. How about a libertarian town hall? How about starting this now and developing some multi-year momentum? 
These are just some ideas. We need lots more. 

Of course I'm not the only one thinking about this (this short video summarizes the current debate).

Saturday, March 23, 2019

The Big Five - Choose Your Battles Wisely

Here is the low-hanging fruit of public policy. 90% solutions (improvements) on these issues are several orders of magnitude more important than 99% solutions on a thousand others. They are in no particular order (alphabetical):
  • Drug Prohibition (end it--allow adults to make their own choices)
  • Education (privatize it--give the government an ever-smaller role)
  • Immigration (open it up--allow people to freely move and freely interact with other people)
  • Taxation (simplify and redirect it--efficiently tax the use of resources not the creation of resources)
  • War (move away from it--make postures less bellicose and violence less of an option). 
Everything else at this point is details. They are interesting details, yes. For example, the recent interesting, generally important, but marginally insignificant issue of the legality of blackmail. [note: I side with Robin Hanson, but I am sympathetic to and willing to live with the counter case.]

How should you vote? I would suggest an equal weighting of these Big Five policy stances as the guiding framework. While this recommendation is a prescription to be a few/select-issue voter, that should be considered a feature not a bug. Similarly straight-party voting isn't necessarily morally or intellectually inferior to a strategy of "voting the person not the party". By what criteria is a candidate-by-candidate voter deciding? Why should they believe they are properly weighting the issues, correctly identifying the stance on the issues, and accurately evaluating each candidate's position and expected actions on the issues? Using a few benchmark issues as the litmus test keeps the focus properly on that which meaningfully matters and gives the best hope the rationally ignorant voter is making a good decision.

More importantly, how should you advocate (much more bang for the buck)? Let's say solutions are just as simple as awareness (I know it is not, but it is a useful analogy). Spend about 95% one's advocacy efforts roughly evenly on the Big Five: ending the drug war, privatizing education, opening immigration, reforming taxation, and reducing war. The remaining 5% goes for everything else. My own behavior has not adhered to this framework, but since I am just now formally defining this, I grant myself pardon. Will I follow this going forward? All I can do is try.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Highly Linkable - Politics Edition

Continuing with the links posts to bring us up to date, here is the politics version.

Let's start with a post that encapsulates everything that is wrong with politics today.

Trade was a big presidential topic for the first time in decades. Steven Landsburg offered two strong, short posts back in June--see here then here. Sadly, I don't believe they carried salience with the voters.

Bryan Caplan made his case for why he does not vote (a position I strongly share and generally, faithfully follow) while his co-blogger David Henderson made a strong case for activism and by logical extension for voting (a position I found compelling and challenging to my own point of view). For the first time in 20 years, I voted to cast a ballot for the Libertarian ticket (Johnson/Weld). Sadly, they did poorly as compared to the apparent opportunity; although, they did well compared to prior Libertarian campaigns.

The Electoral College (consistent law of the land and method for protecting minority interests) was back under scrutiny being that Trump did not win the popular vote (the myth that 50% plus 1 vote = the best outcome). Of the many very good articles supporting the Electoral College, John Cochrane's struck me as particularly good.

And Cochrane wasn't finished with good political posts. He has some excellent advice for the new boss to make him not the same as the old boss. Sadly, Trump's official failures as a president have started before taking office.

I will be writing soon about where I am optimistic and where I am pessimistic about the new administration and Congress.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Presidential Optimistic/Pessimistic Outlooks

We are on the cusp of phase two of the great American game: Who Wants To Spend A Million Million Dollars?

Phase one, you might remember, is when every third American denies he or she is running for office and then promptly announces they'll give it a go.

Phase two is the more sensible phase where a small collection of obscure states get to pick who will make it to the more substantially populated states who will then determine who makes it to the finals.

Phase three is the finals where two nearly identical twins argue about trivia while basically agreeing they like good things, are against bad things, and have a vision of how to either "keep us on course for greatness" or "turn it all around to restore greatness" depending on if people are happy or upset in general.

Let's run down the current leading contenders to see what the optimistic case and the pessimistic case is for each (from my point of view, of course). Keep in mind these are scenarios where optimistic and pessimistic are generally but not necessarily mutually exclusive (we could get some of both).

Optimistic - Shows why we should lose (and should have lost a long time ago) our reverent awe for the U.S. Presidency; prevents major government action/intervention/meddling on any number of issues by being a circus act writ large (his administration's priorities will be prestige and showmanship rather than policy accomplishment); forces a meaningful debate and action on limiting executive power (a little bit in tension with the previous prediction as this one mitigates a Trump administration that is actually trying to do something).
Pessimistic - Engages in major international war actions (beyond the high amount the each of his opponents would do anyway); sets back trade freedom and immigration substantially; creates strong racial, ethnic, nationalistic, and gender divides.
Overall - I estimate the optimistic possibilities are more likely than the pessimistic possibilities. 
Optimistic - Is a strong ally of free trade in goods and services with a relatively good view on immigration; offers a serious challenge to some aspects of cronyism like ethanol subsidies, the Ex-Im Bank, and Net Neutrality; promotes a less interventionist military policy on balance; gets meaningful progress on tax reform. 
Pessimistic - Fails to get past a vision of a secured border leaving immigration policy languishing; allows military spending and engagements to grow substantially; uses executive power to similar ends as Obama and Bush. 
Overall -  Pessimistic are slightly more likely than optimistic.
Optimistic - Advances immigration freedom substantially (this would be a major political advance for the GOP helping its demographic problem); promotes free trade well; gets meaningful progress on tax reform.
Pessimistic - Engages in major international war actions while strengthening government surveillance; extends the actions of executive power in defiance and weakening of the Constitution; proves that just as a he could be bought as a Florida politician (e.g., Big Sugar) he can be bought in the White House (i.e, cronyism). 
Overall - Optimistic are slightly more likely than pessimistic. 
Optimistic - Creates an era of gridlock not seen since the first Clinton administration keeping government at bay; allows for meaningful immigration progress; allows the drug war to recede while not actively doing much to bring about its demise.
Pessimistic - Engages in major international war actions while strengthening government surveillance; dreadfully extends the actions of executive power in defiance and weakening of the Constitution; makes good on her technocratic promise to bring government involvement to new realms while deepening it in familiar places.
Overall - Pessimistic are more likely than optimistic.
Optimistic - Allows meaningful retreat in the drug war; sets back the cause of socialism by giving it power and identity; greatly reduces military involvement and spending while curtailing government surveillance; produces government sclerosis by getting lost in the wilderness of the endless desire to "do something" about each and every apparent malady.
Pessimistic - Gives power and identity to socialism in policy; accelerates greatly the growth of government spending; sets back free trade and immigration; creates new social divides and fosters greater identity politics.
Overall - Optimistic are slightly more likely than pessimistic.
What does it all mean at this point? Not much. Remember phase three... But for what it's worth, I would like to see a Cruz vs. Sanders finals. However, if we extend the field some (but unfortunately not enough to include Rand Paul), my preference among the awful alternatives is Bush vs. Sanders (this is definitely a minimax analysis).

Make no mistake about it. Each of these people would be horrible presidents when judged against the standards of liberty and the Constitution. But what else is new?

P.S., Sorry for all the parentheses.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Highly Linkable - the voting edition

I am happy to report that in the recent midterm election the results were very good. No, I don't mean who won and who lost. I am moderately favorable to that, and it was very pleasant to watch all the squirming on MSNBC. The success I refer to is the wonderfully-low voter turnout!

Perhaps we are getting wiser as a society, and more people realize there is no duty to vote.

After all, there are many good reasons not to vote.

Besides, voting is in many cases a moral wrong.

As I put it on Twitter:

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Highly Linkable

Catching up on some links to post--unfortunately it has been so long I have forgotten who to hat tip for some of these that deserve it. Don't miss any especially the last one.

Interesting story about the man who smuggles Trader Joe's into Canada.

The most "controversial" problems in math.

Noah Smith offers a very good article on how as clever as we now are, it is not a fine line between us and the market.

If you only want to read one article on the 2014 Economics Nobel Laureate, Jean Tirole, I would suggest you read Tyler Cowen's.

Terrorism is not something to worry much about. Efforts to minimize terrorism are (i.e., we are wasting resources on preventing terrorism). Bryan Caplan has a brief post making both points.

A potential candidate for one side of a WWCF?

Bill Gates on inequality and Thomas Piketty. As an aside, I like Gates' comment made in passing, "Piketty was nice enough to talk with me about his work on a Skype call last month." Things to do today . . . wonder if I can find time to talk to Bill Gates . . . hmm, let's see.

Ritholtz on the economic size of U.S. cities . . . there is a lot of potential economic energy in this world.

Ben Southwood explains how and why central banks cause low interest rates but not by lowering interest rates. (HT: Scott Sumner)

In case you were thinking of wasting your time this coming Tuesday, Hit & Run offers 4 reasons each that Republicans and Democrats are full of s#*t.

Megan McArdle writes about food label laws. We can have too much of anything including information, which is not the same thing as knowledge. Too much information is noise.

Also from McArdle, employers need employees to take vacations. For the employee it might be just a quest for fun, but for an employer it can be everything from a prevention of fraud to a stress-test for capabilities.

I've been making this point for a long time--Andy Schwarz does it better.

Arnold Kling asks some good questions about education.

This one is way too good to be at the bottom of a list--what you don't understand about inequality but should by Phil Birnbaum.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Can't Stop The Gods From Engineering

Well, we can all breathe a sigh of relief. The momentum won't end. At least that is the story now that Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett has won re-election. His main opponent, City Councilman Ed Shadid, was apparently threatening to thwart that progress. And he continues to I guess by leading an initiative drive to bring back up for a vote both the >$250,000,000 new OKC convention center and the nearly permanent 1% sales tax associated with the city's long-term MAPS projects.

I'm not here to tout Shadid. The point I wish to make is a larger one. The winner of the mayor's race, Cornett, is seen and self proclaimed as the torchbearer for what I call the Coalition to Spend Other People's Money on Bright and Shiny Things. Shadid is one of the more high-profile challengers to this the received wisdom. But let's put the politicians aside and discuss the issue at hand. That issue is simply one of two questions:

  1. Should we force people through taxes to pay for things they don't seem to want?
  2. Why do we have to use taxes and government spending to express the people's desire?

I believe the first question is the correct framework of the issue. The supporters of MAPS have to believe the second is. I am presuming the people don't want these things because if they did, their wanting them would be sufficient to cause someone in the market to provide them without government involvement. Conversely, the supporters presume that the people* do want these things, but are unable to express that desire through the market. Let's assume the issue is framed properly by the second question, which means the challenge to the supporters is "show me the market failure!" Which really amounts to "show me the externality!"

Here is why. We've got lots and lots and lots of evidence that the market generally works at delivering the goods (the goods people want). That puts the burden of proof firmly on those who wish to make the case for the second question. Why is the market not able to connect demand and supply in this case? Ultimately that gets to what economists call externalities--positive externalities in this case. For some reason it must be that the benefits that would come from these projects cannot be sufficiently realized by those who would be the suppliers of these projects in the free market. But is a convention center really like clean air? There are lots of private suppliers of convention centers. What makes the OKC market so unique that convention centers become a public good?

Looking back to the funding into what is today Chesapeake Arena where the OKC Thunder play, why would private investors not be rewarded enough to build and improve such a facility? A self-serving, non-peer reviewed economic impact analysis is not relevant to this question. I understand how bright and shiny bright and shiny things are. This is a question of a cost/benefit analysis--both parts of which are critical to making a good investment decision. If only someone impartial studied these things . . .

Good public policy is shaped by setting aside what emotionally feels good for what critically is in the best interest of the public. Figuring that out is hard, but it is especially hard if you never look. See beyond the seen. Until the coalition can answer the second question effectively, I have to presume that the first question is the one to ask--the answer to which seems obvious.

*There is a BIG underlying assumption here that what is in the general (majority) interest of the public is expressed through the voting process and that that interest is a desirable end to impose on all of the people. It is not hard to poke holes in this assumption. If thirty people are trying to decide on what movie to go see where they all have to see the same movie, having fifteen of them vote on the movie will leave some of the voters dissatisfied and likely will leave some of the non voters dissatisfied too.

PS. Note that I am only discussing the economic efficiency facet of this debate wholly ignoring the important ethical argument about if it is right to tax some people (largely lower income/lower wealth people who have a harder time escaping the sales tax) for the benefit of some people.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Highly linkable - on high-minded steriods

I want to go to there. And while we're at it, here too.

So let's talk about misled people doing selfish things. But perhaps it is not as bad as it seems.

Here is a different example of the same kind of high-minded nonsense as above. I particularly like the quote: "It’s time for the altruists to get over themselves. We cannot afford the price of their convictions."

The high-minded Fed controls interest rates, right? Wrong.

Just how bad are the effects of rent control--one of many forms of high-minded real estate planning? Maybe to the tune of about $1 billion dollars on a $3 billion neighborhood. Dr. Evil would be proud.

Lenin was a prohibitionist!?! Shocking . . . well, no; that makes sense. He was high-minded enough to want to help every aspect of Russian life.

Speaking of turn of the 20th century garbage, apparently my Spidey Sense was correct when it picked up on something rotten in Downton. The George Will piece quoted in the previous link deserves its own link. Still a good show; let's just not romanticize how hard life was for most everyone in prior generations.

Enough negative stuff, for the moment. Let's think about a cool new business idea. While we're at it, let's think about how fabulously wealthy cool new business ideas continue to make us.

Okay, moment's over. You know, college football isn't a business; hey, stop laughing! Like all NCAA sports, it is about pure amateurism.

Sticking with sports, I think I am being consistent when I believe both (1) that Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart was potentially justified in pushing a Texas Tech fan (if the fan had been injured and I was on a jury, I would be giving heavy consideration to a self-defense argument in favor of Smart) and (2) people in public (state-owned) spaces or attending official-state-functions have wide latitude to say nearly whatever they want in the act of cheering. The First Amendment doesn't have a carve-out exemption for your or my high-minded respectfulness or proper etiquette. You don't like cussing, hatefulness, and otherwise ugly slurs coming from the crowd? Quit funding sports arenas and sports teams with taxpayer money.

When it comes to sports and high-mindedness, you don't get any higher than the Olympics. And you'd have to be high not to see through the veil of virtue and right into the corruption, state run-amok wastefulness, and panglossian denial of oppression that is the Olympic gathering. I very much like the stories of so many of the athletes. I like the history of competition. I detest the desire to pretend there hasn't been and doesn't continue to be intense nationalism (an illogical and evil conception) at the heart of The Games. Don't get me wrong. I root for Team USA, but I also root for others. These sports aren't my sports, and some aren't even sports. These are interesting curiosities that viewing for just a few moments will satisfy my interest for four years at least. But if you're really into it, great! Just don't tell me we are obligated to root for our country. And don't tell me it is "us" versus "them". And PUH-LEASE don't tell me how great The Olympics are for world peace, the economy, or NBC ratings.

Saving the best for last, Megan McArdle busts the high-minded bubble of paint-by-numbers educational excellence cum success. "Let your kids fail!" is perhaps the best advice one can give a parent.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Robin Hanson on voting advice

Robin Hanson has a very interesting post up on his advice on voting. Read the whole thing here.

I'd like to focus on one piece and the counter-intuitive implication:

The thing you probably know best is your own life. So a good simple strategy is to vote “retrospectively,” i.e., for incumbents if your live goes well, and against them if your life goes badly. The more voters who do this, the stronger incentives incumbents have to make most lives go well.
For life quality extremes this advice is clear, but what if your life is near the middle? What should be the cutoff between a good and bad life? One simple reference is how you expected your life to go when incumbents were elected – reelect them if your life has gone better than expected.
The result of this strategy would be for a lot of voters to reject their preferred candidate when that candidate was the incumbent and for a lot of others to vote to re-elect the opposition. The expectation for many is that one's own candidate will right all wrongs and bring near utopia while the opposition will be the one to finally turn the lights out on America. Both extreme positions are obviously wrong in retrospect for many of the reasons Robin describes in the post along with the general truth that there isn't that much change a president, et al. can effect and there isn't much difference between most candidates in most elections.