RadicalXChange, March 22-24

Robert Wiblin of 80,000 hours has an excellent podcast with Glen Weyl on Radical institutional reforms that make capitalism & democracy work better. Weyl’s diagnosis of the problems of capitalism and democracy strike me as wrongheaded but on the other hand his solutions are interesting.and original. Wiblin does a good job of gently but decisively pushing back in places, e.g. in the discussion of high modernism.

RadicalXChange is hosting a big conference March 22-24 in Detroit. In addition to Weyl, speakers include Vitalik Buterin, Margaret Levi and Zooko Wilcox among others. I will be talking about open borders and also about city development on a panel with Devon Zuegel, Mwiya Musokotwane and Mark Lutter.

Comments

Quadratic voting strikes me as something that most voters would find too complicated. At least, in so far as you have to make 20 or 30 different votes on a given election. I can just imagine what the lines would be like if implemented with our normal procedures.

"he way this works in practice is quite simple:

A voter is able to express how strongly they feel about a certain decision by buying and applying more votes to their desired position.
Voters can vote as many times as they want, but they are assigned a set number of voting tokens over a certain period of time and the cost of each vote/token increases in a nonlinear way.
In turn, quadratic voting takes advantage of the fact that the stronger someone feels about a certain position, they more they will be willing to allocate more of their votes to that position. In terms of why quadratic voting is “quadratic,” Vitalik explains in his article On Radical Markets, the voting is “quadratic” because the total amount you pay for N votes goes up proportionately to N²."

Everything they want to do is simply redistribution of money and central control but with an insistence that it isn't Socialism.

+1

Run, don't walk, away from this.

I am sure the authors are very intelligent and convinced that the world would be a better place if only everyone would do what the authors believe should be done. The short version of my previous sentence: authoritarianism.

What an overrated comment.

"I am sure the authors are very intelligent and convinced that the world would be a better place if only everyone would do what the authors believe should be done. "

As opposed to authors who believe the world would be a better place if everyone rejected what they write?!

The author may believe 'quadratic voting' will lead to policies he likes but the system hardly guarantees that. I could easily see how a hard core libertarian minded minority might shoot down ten 'democratic socialist' policies by using their voting power to enact hard libertarian principles while the left splinters between various boutique ideas.

"As opposed to authors who believe the world would be a better place if everyone rejected what they write?!"

No.

I would pay all the tokens not to listen to a podcast, so I tried Jordan Ellenberg on the subject. With particular reference to times when gay marriage lost at the referendum level, he says, "Economists hate this. Because the losing side [under standard voting rules] cares so much more, they lose more than the winning side gains—so the overall effect, in a calculation of social utility, is negative."

Which is a sentence whose meaning or logic I can't divine at all.

Suppose there are two issues in play in a given year; Same Sex Marriage Ban or a Tax Increase to fund new green projects. Suppose, though, that the voting is being done in two different places but you can only show up at one.

If you really, really, really hate SSM. You can vote against that and let those liberals have their green projects. Or if you are really, really for SSM, you can vote on that forgoing influence on the green projects. If you're super-libertarian and against taxes you would let SSM fall where it will and vote against the green tax bill.

The idea here then in the sentence is an anti-SSM ballot passes by a small majority of voters who don't really feel very passionately about it while a minority of voters are very much for SSM. This is actually a net negative for society in terms of social utility because giving a majority of voters something they only slightly care about isn't much compared to depriving a minority of something they really want. Put it another way suppose 51% get a free ice cream cone versus 48% getting their house paid off in full. Clearly the benefit to 48% is huge but simple voting would say 51%>48% therefore the policy is free ice cream cones. In a more rational price decision the 48% should be able to say "look, I'll buy you guys free ice cream cones for the next 30 years if you vote to pay off my mortgage!" but the voting system doesn't allow for that nor does it allow voters to show whether something is something they kind of want (free cone) or really, really want.

Ah. That is helpful. So a maximum of "social utility" is defined as "total intensity of preference in one direction or another," not total good that flows from one choice or another, which can't be known in advance; or indeed is not material in the least.

Well intensity is certainly material and can be expressed in the form of a price. What are you willing to give up to achieve policy A over B? In the above example the current voting system has some elements of that. If those two ballots were up, would you spend your resources on the first or second?

Today this is done by bundling ideologies. Usually anti-SSM voters will veer against a green policy ballot too. Hence if you get out the vote for one you get it out for the other and vice versa. But what about pro-SSM voters who are environmental skeptics or anti-SSM voters who are pro-environmentalists? Right now the voting system zeros out their influence because it is more useful to have voters who flock together. You either buy your lunch from McDonalds or Burger King but some people want a Big Mac and BK Onion rings.

With particular reference to times when gay marriage lost at the referendum level, he says, "Economists hate this. Because the losing side [under standard voting rules] cares so much more, they lose more than the winning side gains

The homosexual population itself might care so much more, and that matters for a bourgeois like Weyl, for whom that 2.8% of the population is uber-kewel. Among the rest of the population, there's no reason to believe one side cares more than another (but there is reason to believe that 'economists' don't know anyone on the opposing side and don't respect the stated opinions in that vein of those they do know).

Does Quadratic voting just turn us all into 1 issue voters?

The problems are that too many offices are made elective, some offices are elected too frequently, the electoral calendar is haphazardly ordered, elections are held on the wrong day of the week, and the nomination procedures are a mess. Something like ordinal balloting (with Condorcet or Hare tabulation) would be an advance, but you have to clean up all these other problems before you institute that. In New York, the energy the state legislature devotes to these problems is less than zero.

It seems very easy to manipulate. Basically, if you can get one absolutely existential issue for your opponents on the ballot you get to run everything else. Your opponents have to spend all their credits making sure that issue turns out their way while you get to allocate all your votes to the issues you actually care about.

More broadly, it turns voting from an expression of your preferences to some complex interaction of your preferences with your prediction of the preferences of everyone else.

Good point.

It seems to me this problem inherent to democracy, at least if policy is assumed to occupy a finite number of discrete states.

"It seems very easy to manipulate. Basically, if you can get one absolutely existential issue for your opponents on the ballot you get to run everything else. Your opponents have to spend all their credits making sure that issue turns out their way while you get to allocate all your votes to the issues you actually care about."

I'm not really seeing how that would work. Suppose a CEO is hated by his board and there's ten minor policies in play for the next shareholder election. The hated CEO decides to put on the ballot some totally insane policy that would blow up the company if passed (i.e. "we'll give away all our stuff for free!"). The idea being the shareholders would have to vote against the suicide policy while the CEO uses his shares to vote as he pleases on the ten lesser issues.

But in order for that to work the CEO has to put all his votes against the suicide provision to make it a credible threat. Otherwise it will not have any danger of passing and the shareholders would be free to put their influence elsewhere.

> More broadly, it turns voting from an expression of your preferences to some complex interaction of your preferences with your prediction of the preferences of everyone else.

In other words it sounds like a more complicated way of saying negotiation.

And it seems to me that would be a feature rather than a bug. You want decisions to be made by people who take into account not just where they stand on a set of questions but also which stands do they think are the most important, what hills would they be willing to die on and what hills they think others will die on.

Quadratic voting makes no sense. Due to the nature of quadratic growth, you are under-representing yourself by choosing more than one issue, which is degenerate.

The ability to allocate your vote tokens according to the issues makes sense, though.

"Quadratic voting makes no sense. Due to the nature of quadratic growth, you are under-representing yourself by choosing more than one issue, which is degenerate"

How so? What exactly does it mean to 'represent me'? It means you want something in place that represents what you consider important. If I really want a new playground in town but I don't really care about the new sidewalk and there's a vote on each, casting yes on one and yes/no on the other is underrepresenting myself. I don't care about the sidewalk so to represent me I should be putting more voting power on the park and none on the sidewalk.

On the other hand if I like both then casting for both is properly representing me.

The problem is Red Chinese influence in American politics. Red China deatroyed America's economy, controls America's cine, America's TV, America's schools and America's politics.

Ok if I get quadratic voting correctly it works a bit like this. You get some allotment of 'voice credits'. Say 100. Casting a single vote costs only 1 credit, but 2 will cost 4 and so on.

Let's say you have one thing that's really important for you, you can cast 10 votes and use up your entire budget. On the other hand if you have 4 major issues, you can cast 5 votes on each of those issues. 5 squared is 25 and that exhausts your credits.

I think it's less interesting to try this in a mass election than inside an institution. For example, suppose you say each month the House of Representatives will vote on a package of bills. The representatives will then allocate their credits with some festering on one particular issue (say voting for or against wall funding) while others spread out over multiple issues.

Another place might be shareholders. Let's say a major shareholder thinks the CEO is a putz. He might throw all of his votes against the CEO. Other shareholders might use their votes to defend him or they might care about other things like whether to approve a proposed merger or spinoff.

The activist shareholder is implicitly making a decision. He thinks the CEO is so bad getting rid of him trumps other things like the merger or spinoff. He is saying he will forgo having any say on those issues because he thinks getting rid of the CEO is so important. The other shareholders likewise can allocate their voice over multiple issues or rally round the CEO, depending on what matters to them.

I think this would work out well because it implies a price mechanism for passion about the issues. You can have a lot of influence on a few things or spread your influence over a lot of issues. Traditional voting schemes restrict voters from exercising an allocation of their influence.

It's strange all this talk of reforming voting to winnow out or devalue less-"meaningful" votes (well, not strange, as D the B points out, the sudden questioning of the American system has everything to do with 2016, but let's pretend it's in good faith) at the same time that an idea like mandatory voting is in the air. If there was not all this absurd boosterism around turnout and the act of voting as an "accomplishment" and marker of identity, and so many strained efforts to get people to vote who wouldn't have bothered - then maybe the "traditional voting scheme" would reflect just this: real interest.

I only vote every few years, and when I do, it is always and only to do with "one thing."

I'm not really seeing how Quadratic voting would be in play in the 2016 Presidential election. The point behind it is voting with a budget of 'voice'. That would be less applicable with an election for a candidate (who should be the next CEO) and more applicable when there's a slate of policies on the table to be voted on. I think the ideal place where quadratic voting should be started is less in a general election and more inside a voting body (say a committee, a company's board of directors, even a homeowners' association).

Sadly, that would leave me out. How about the biennialish school bond election? I'd be much more likely to vote (or quadratic vote) if we voted on a slate of items, instead of the usual two "tranches," by which the bulk of the money is safely insulated from the more flaky stuff (both of which almost always pass anyway, as bonds usually do). Surely no one would have a problem with something so purely democratic ...

2016: I meant - sorry, quite apart from today's lesson on game theorizing obscure voting systems to get to desired outcomes - it seemed to me but I may be imagining, there's been much-more-than-usual mainstream diagnosis that the system is broken or ill-designed since the Tragedy of 2016, lively interest in which subject I assume will cease in January 2021 if Democrats retake the White House.

There's been a lot of debate and work on alternative voting systems long before the 2016 election.

Yes I agree such a system would be interesting to try with the creation of a budget. This happens informally. If you spend an hour arguing for keeping the music department fully funded, odds are they won't cut the music department but won't make much time to see you if you also want to chew their ear about math, science, and the library. In essence you practiced quadratic voting where you choose to allocate your voice on one thing.

Sure. It's the calls in the media to rewrite the Constitution in order to move away from being a federal republic, that really picked up steam after the 2016 election. Brooklyn should have a senator, Wyoming should have none, etc.

This has been an area of concern before 2016. For example, consider the attempts to wrest the Iowa's spot as the first primary that have been going on for decades. The winner take all nature of the electoral college does generate distortions. You don't have to think Brooklyn should take Wyoming's senator to consider possible changes. For example, suppose any state larger than 5 votes should be required to use proportionate representation rather than winner take all?

Hmmm. So a reduction in power of those who feed us, to augment the power of those who are fed. That already plays out in my state, where city-dwellers wield a lot of power. For instance, the metro area - at the behest of the water hustlers - can unilaterally flood the farm that's been in the family for six generations, a hundred miles away. So proportional electoral votes would only continue a trend.

This seems like a good time to seek those changes. It no longer seems to matter as much as it once might have, for one thing, and Founder-reverence is dead, while the confidence of the people in their own greater wisdom and infallibility seems unusually high.

Well actually if you made the states closer in population size to each other the result would probably not be a Senator for Brooklyn but a Senator for upstate NY and that Senator would represent quite a few in agriculture and would probably not be a Democrat.

Also what you describe sounds like something where quadratic voting would be helpful. A rural representative might decide to diminish his voice on issues like net neutrality and letting the MTA increase subway fares and instead pool his voting power towards protecting that 6 generation family farm that's about to be flooded. Today both national parties would find the pure local issue not worth caring about and the rural representative doesn't normally have the power to hold leverage over a major issue in order to make himself felt on the smaller one.

In the past things were less partisan so you might get a representative who would buck his party's orthodoxy on a big issue and demand they buy him back by protecting his local concern. That's harder to do now that the parties are more partisan and party loyalty on larger issues is more absolute.

Think of quadratic voting as a way to take the back room deal ("I'll give you your repeal of net neutrality if you give me the family farms in district 6") and letting the voters have some access to it.

Radical institutional reforms that make capitalism & democracy work better. Weyl’s

IOW, twee, onanistic stuff which amuses the spergs but doesn't address the actual assaults on democratic institutions incorporated into judicial review, the machinations of the 'public interest bar', insulated administrative agencies, tenured civil servants; local governments hog-tied by funding conditions, judicial decrees, and union contracts; completely unaccountable state colleges and universities, &c. If you care about those things, you're one of 'them', and Profs. Weyl, Tabarrok, and Cowen want to avoid being confused with 'them'.

Politics are essentially coercion and deceit. Every issue is weaponized for political (control, money, and power) purposes.

Now, it's fear and loathing: some people, who think they are morally superior, find the need to change elections/voting because "we the people" are not sufficiently supportive of their policies/programs/ruses.

Benevolent dictators and "smart" technocrats always fail. 8 Dec 2018, Jeffrey Carter.

Unlimited government elites whine that a country has become “ungovernable” when ordinary people resist schemes which adversely impact ordinary people.

Are the Paris riots the "Lexington and Concord" of a world-wide revolt against the climate cult's monarchial rule?

Did the glorious 2016 election reveal that ordinary Americans have wised-up and turned against the elite left?

If so, change voting.

Politics are essentially coercion and deceit. Every issue is weaponized for political (control, money, and power) purposes.

Thanks for the ex cathedra pronouncement. It's been an education.

Such is life in Trump's America. https://www.smbc-comics.com/comic/life-online

+1

This comment is not only the thread winner, but may be the best comment ever posted on the blog, IMHO. But that's just my opinion, only one out of thousands, and should remain as but a grain of sand on the beach.

The problem with elites is they think their thoughts are the beach. They aren't.

The point is, the American Dream has gone sour. America's jobs have been sent to Red China so that Chinese tyrants, Zionists and American oligarchs can becomemricher and richer. Maybe Americans should take their country back.

But Americans can still look forward to living the Brazilian Dream. Is that so bad?

"Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?"

Americans used to be free. Now they are Red China-Japan-the Zionist Entity's slaves.

Does capitalism require "radical reformation", or is it only the case that certain sectors of our economy bear overdue and far-reaching regulations governing both content and delivery?

Our lying and spying Tech Sector and our corrupt and corrupting Media Establishment have both ably resisted for decades prudent and overdue regulations that would perhaps begin to compensate for the ills they have both generously heaped upon our tottering democracy, ills which they have heaped upon us out of tender regard for economic efficiency.

Our lying and spying Tech Sector can have all of its claws retracted for it by some earnest Congressional regulators, if Congress has not yet been fully corrupted by Tech Sector "philanthropy" and campaign contributions.

Our corrupt and corrupting Media Establishment could have its nefarious influence properly trimmed by restricting its diarrheic output to something less than its present 24/7/365 (366) programming schedules dictate.

Now that theatrical conventions have bled generously from corrupt and corrupting Media Establishment newscasts ("Lights, make-up, costume, set, cameras, ACTION!") directly into our feeble politics, it seems clear that Media Establishment representation and participation in both our politics and our economics is both overwrought and chiefly responsible for gifting us with the political farces we face today.

I can't believe I'm saying this but things aren't that bad, and we have plenty of workable solutions short of getting radical about anything.

Weyl’s exchanges on Twitter make him seem like a self-important little punk.

Not surprising.

But, everybody has to do something, so ivory tower nerds invent crazy schemes out of thin air. Meanwhile, the rest of us work jobs providing goods and services people want - they vote on the value of those goods and services with their money. We then pay taxes to fund these little nerds.

I've expressed the value you provided with your comments in my payments to Tyler for this blog.

More seriously, does Twitter actually make anyone look better than they are?

Shall we judge Taleb by his performance on Twitter?

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