Any existential risk angles to the US presidential election?

Don’t let your minds be kil­led, but I was won­der­ing if there were any ex­is­ten­tial risk an­gles to the com­ing Amer­i­can elec­tion (if there isn’t, then I’ll sim­ply re­treat to raw, en­joy­able and empty trib­al­ism).

I can see three (quite ten­u­ous) an­gles:

1. Obama seems more likely to at­tempt to get some sort of global warm­ing agree­ment. While not di­rectly re­lated to Xrisks per se, this would lead to bet­ter global co­or­di­na­tion and agree­ment, which im­proves the out­look for a lot of other Xrisks. How­ever, pretty un­likely to suc­ceed.

2. I have a men­tal image that Repub­li­cans would be more likely to in­vest in space ex­plo­ra­tion. This is a lot due to Newt Gin­grich, I have to ad­mit, and to the close­ness be­tween civilian and mil­i­tary space pro­jects, the last of which are more likely to get boosts in Repub­li­can gov­ern­ments.

3. If we are hold­ing out for in­creased pop­u­la­tion ra­tio­nal­ity as be­ing a helping fac­tor for some Xrisks, then the fact the the Repub­li­cans have gone so strongly anti-sci­ence is cer­tainly a bad sign. But on the other hand, its not clear whether them win­ning or los­ing the elec­tion is more likely to im­prove the gen­eral en­vi­ron­ment for sci­ence among their sup­port­ers.

But these all seem weak fac­tors. So, less wronger, let me know: are the things I should care about in the elec­tion, or can I just lie back and en­joy it as a piece of in­ter­est­ing the­atre?

• I’m sur­prised you’ve left out nukes. Nukes are ba­si­cally the only ex­is­ten­tial risk an­gle that pres­i­dents have di­rect con­trol over and where the per­son­al­ity of the POTUS would effect the out­come.

1) Which one is more likely to en­gage in a nu­clear pre­emp­tive strike?

2) Which one is less likely to for­give a ‘finger slip’? (Ex, a fuse breaks in Rus­sia/​China/​who­ever and they alpha-strike the US; which per­son is more likely to re­tal­i­ate and end the world vs not re­tal­i­ate and suffer US ex­tinc­tion with­out pun­ish­ing them back?)

3) Which one has less fear of hu­man ex­tinc­tion? Reli­gios­ity and be­lief in an­thro­pogenic changes to the state of the world seem to be rele­vant fac­tors.

• 4) Which one is more likely to launch a pre­emp­tive strike against a fa­cil­ity that’s build­ing a bio-weapon which if un­leashed could de­stroy mankind?

• That seems to be a wash. Rom­ney has the rhetoric, Obama the his­tory of drone strikes on var­i­ous tar­gets.

• Note that what we want isn’t just a Pres­i­dent who would be likely to for­give a “finger slip”, but a Pres­i­dent who is be­lieved by other nu­clear pow­ers to be un­likely to for­give one. I’m not sure it’s pos­si­ble to de­liber­ately se­lect that com­bi­na­tion.

• I’m rea­son­ably con­fi­dent that the per­centage of peo­ple I con­sider un­likely to for­give a finger slip who have that com­bi­na­tion is higher than the per­centage of peo­ple I con­sider likely to for­give a finger slip.

• Those all seem to push in the Obama di­rec­tion, then...

• Well, those were the salient ones. If you would like some rom­ney-di­rec­tion ex­am­ples, there’s the amount of re­sources used to pre­vent nu­clear pro­lifer­a­tion, and of course de­ter­rence, the op­po­site of Xachariah’s #2.

• Which ad­minis­tra­tion is less likely to in­crease Peter Thiel’s taxes?

I’m fairly cer­tain he is spend­ing it bet­ter than the USG. Con­sid­er­ing what kind of char­ity he spends it on, it doesn’t seem like he gives to char­ity to get tax brakes or buy sta­tus for brag­ging at cock­tail par­ties. I’m fairly sure a richer Peter Thiel trans­lates into a bet­ter less ex­is­ten­tial risk ex­posed world.

Edited: Peo­ple don’t seem to be fol­low­ing my Peter Thiel link, it goes to the Top Donors for the Sin­gu­lar­ity In­sti­tute:

Thiel Foun­da­tion $1,100,000 • Do the rest of the peo­ple pay­ing com­pa­rable taxes to Peter Thiel also spend their money in such a ‘re­spon­si­ble’ man­ner? • I’d ac­tu­ally be sur­prised if Thiel’s marginal tax rate strongly in­fluences the amount he con­tributes to SIAI. For one, I don’t think the rea­son he donated$1,100,000 rather than twice that amount was that it was the most he could af­ford.

I’d be even more sur­prised (even given the above) if the re­sult­ing change has more effect on hu­man­ity’s fu­ture than the other effects of differ­ences in tax policy.

• I think you would also have to con­sider the effect on Thiel’s in­come. It’s pos­si­ble (for in­stance) that Obama would in­crease his tax rate but also in­crease his in­come enough to cover this.

Since I think both Obama and Rom­ney are propos­ing poli­cies which are bad for the econ­omy, and since I’m not re­ally an ex­pert in eco­nomic policy, I don’t ac­tu­ally have a strong opinion on which how the elec­tion would af­fect Thiel’s in­come. But it definitely must be con­sid­ered.

• con­sider the effect on Thiel’s income

In that case I sup­pose we should let Thiel tell us who to vote for.

• Not nec­es­sar­ily, even if the effect on Thiel’s in­come is my only con­sid­er­a­tion.

For one thing, Thiel might recom­mend can­di­date A over B be­cause he calcu­lates ex­pected in­come un­der A > ex­pected in­come un­der B, but I might con­sider Thiel’s ex­pected in­come calcu­la­tions in­cor­rect and be­lieve EI(B) > EI(A), in which case I would vote for B.
For an­other, Thiel might recom­mend A over B be­cause he val­ues other things more than EI… for ex­am­ple, maybe B is a Mor­mon and Thiel re­ally hates Mor­mons. In which case Thiel’s en­dorse­ment of A would not be strong ev­i­dence that I should vote for A.
Etc.

In fact, even by no­valis’ rea­son­ing, we don’t care about Thiel’s in­come, we care about the size of Thiel’s dona­tions to SIAI. If Thiel cred­ibly pre­com­mits to donat­ing N to SIAI if can­di­date A wins, and 2N if B wins, then in this case I should vote for B, even if ev­ery­one agrees that A will max­i­mize Thiel’s in­come.

• Well, that’s only if we think the marginal effects of policy changes on SAIA donors’ in­come would be greater than any other differ­ence be­tween the can­di­dates in terms of effects on the world. I think this is pretty un­likely.

• Good point. This seems to be a pro-Rom­ney ar­gu­ment.

But the ex­is­ten­tial risk ar­gu­ment seems ten­u­ous—does Thiel con­tribute to SIAI, for in­stance? If not, who does con­tribute?

• 20 Sep 2012 16:24 UTC
12 points

So, less wronger, let me know: are the things I should care about in the elec­tion, or can I just lie back and en­joy it as a piece of in­ter­est­ing the­atre?

Vot­ing is kind of like buy­ing lot­tery tick­ets in this re­gard, a waste of perfectly good hope. It re­ally is a silly rit­ual which I’m dis­mayed some ra­tio­nal­ists still take se­ri­ously.

My ad­vice is find­ing higher qual­ity en­ter­tain­ment.

• Do you dis­pute the claims in this Gel­man pa­per about the prob­a­bil­ity of votes in var­i­ous states be­ing de­ci­sive in Pres­i­den­tial elec­tions? Or the much higher prob­a­bil­ities of de­ci­sive in­di­vi­d­ual im­pact in state and lo­cal races, and pop­u­lar refer­enda/​ini­ti­a­tives?

Lot­ter­ies are for per­sonal con­sump­tion, and have nega­tive ex­pected value. Vot­ing can be done as an act of al­tru­ism (in ad­di­tion to other rea­sons), buy­ing a small chance of very large im­pact, for which it can eas­ily have a pos­i­tive ex­pected value. It would cost hun­dreds of dol­lars in poli­ti­cal con­tri­bu­tions at least to pay for the de­liv­ery of an­other vote to re­place yours, so there is a large wedge be­tween your op­por­tu­nity cost of time and your pro­duc­tivity vot­ing.

• Vot­ing can be done as an act of al­tru­ism (in ad­di­tion to other rea­sons), buy­ing a small chance of very large im­pact, for which it can eas­ily have a pos­i­tive ex­pected value.

I agree with this ar­gu­ment, but note that it only ap­plies if you ac­tu­ally be­lieve that the differ­ences be­tween the poli­cies that Obama and Rom­ney are likely to im­ple­ment do amount to a very large over­all util­ity differ­en­tial (and that you can know be­fore­hand in which di­rec­tion it goes). I sus­pect that Konkvis­ta­dor does not share this premise.

• Large enough to be mil­lions of times what you would buy with a $50 char­i­ta­ble dona­tion. That’s not a ter­ribly high bar for differ­ences be­tween can­di­dates. And cer­tainly one’s vote is more in­fluen­tial in pri­mary elec­tions than gen­eral elec­tions, and in swing states, and in lower turnout re­gions, etc. Policy differ­ences can also be clearer in other races and cases, e.g. vot­ing on sin­gle ini­ti­a­tives in Cal­ifor­nia. • The pa­per as­sumes votes are ac­cu­rately recorded, counted, and re­ported. Which is known to be false; er­ror rates in vote counts are at least 0.1%, and likely closer to 1%. A perfectly hon­est close elec­tion is an elec­tion de­cided not by ac­tual votes cast, but the ran­dom dis­tri­bu­tion of count­ing er­rors. And any elec­tion so close is go­ing to be sub­jected to re­counts that sim­ply re­dis­tribute the count­ing er­rors. Now, it is the­o­ret­i­cally pos­si­ble your vote might ac­tu­ally tip things in the fi­nal re­count, right? De­spite the fact that who ac­tu­ally won in a close elec­tion is un­known and un­know­able, your vote is more likely to be ac­cu­rately counted than not, so it might tip over the de­ci­sion, right? Ex­cept that’s as­sum­ing perfect hon­esty in record­ing, count­ing, and re­port­ing, which is ridicu­lous. What will de­ter­mine who wins in a close elec­tion is whether the mar­gin cre­ated by ran­dom count­ing er­rors is small enough that the peo­ple in the best po­si­tion to com­mit fraud can tip it the way they pre­fer. And, of course, we then ask—did you ac­tu­ally have a good, re­li­able of idea how your can­di­date was go­ing to do in office, and then on top of that how his choices were ac­tu­ally go­ing to trans­late into effects? Really? So, back in Novem­ber 2008, what did you pre­dict the Septem­ber 2012 un­em­ploy­ment rate would be, if Obama won? What did you pre­dict the US bud­get deficit would be? Did you pre­dict that the av­er­age num­ber of deaths of US per­son­nel in Afghanistan per month un­der Obama would be five times higher than it was un­der Bush? Did you pre­dict the over­throw of the Libyan gov­ern­ment by US air power? Let’s be se­ri­ous; Obama didn’t have a very good idea of how his poli­cies would trans­late into ac­tual effects back on Elec­tion Day 2008. Your vote for a po­si­tion less pow­er­ful than Pres­i­dent is more in­fluen­tial, sure, but its ac­tual effect is re­duced be­cause the po­si­tion is less pow­er­ful. There might be some point in vot­ing on propo­si­tions and ini­ti­a­tives if your state has them, and maybe on very lo­cal elec­tions if you’ve both­ered to be­come in­formed on them and live in a small enough com­mu­nity. • As­sum­ing hon­esty in record­ing is ac­tu­ally not prob­le­matic. As Eug­ine_Nier says, there will still be a set of vot­ing out­comes that lead to Can­di­date A be­ing elected, and a set of vot­ing out­comes that lead to Can­di­date B be­ing elected, and fraud only slightly changes the shape of the bound­ary be­tween these sets. It gets bet­ter. Turns out that the “area” of that bound­ary is min­i­mized in a fair ma­jor­ity elec­tion. The prob­a­bil­ity of a vote be­ing pivotal is only in­creased when the bound­ary is dis­torted by fraud (al­though, ob­vi­ously, your vote will no longer be pivotal in ex­actly the same situ­a­tions). If the er­ror rate in vote counts is 1%, that means you’re 99% as likely to make the vote you in­tend to make. So if you had a 1 in 10 mil­lion chance to make a pivotal vote, that chance now be­comes… roughly 1 in 10.1 mil­lion. This part doesn’t re­ally make a lot of differ­ence, al­though you’re right that it should be taken into ac­count. • As­sum­ing hon­esty in record­ing is ac­tu­ally not prob­le­matic. I don’t think you ap­pre­ci­ate just how hard count­ing votes is. • What does that have to do with any­thing? Okay, fine, make the er­ror rate 10%. Then your chance of mak­ing a pivotal vote just be­came 1 in 11 mil­lion in­stead of 1 in 10 mil­lion. That’s a gross over­es­ti­mate and it still hasn’t made a huge differ­ence. Edit: My point is that al­though dishon­esty changes when ex­actly your vote is pivotal, it in­creases the prob­a­bil­ity that it will be. • I have no idea why this post is down voted, since it points out some­thing very im­por­tant, vot­ing re­sults are an im­perfect mea­sure­ment of who the elec­torate ac­tu­ally tried to vote for. • Ex­cept that’s as­sum­ing perfect hon­esty in record­ing, count­ing, and re­port­ing, which is ridicu­lous. What will de­ter­mine who wins in a close elec­tion is whether the mar­gin cre­ated by ran­dom count­ing er­rors is small enough that the peo­ple in the best po­si­tion to com­mit fraud can tip it the way they pre­fer. Your vote might still be the vote that tips the to­tal past the thresh­old where the op­pos­ing coun­ters can com­mit fraud. • See this post. The point be­ing that in or­der for ra­tio­nal­ists to win we need to stop us­ing the kind of straw ra­tio­nal­ity you seem to be ad­vo­cat­ing. For ex­am­ple, while it’s true that an in­di­vi­d­ual vote only has a small effect, con­sider the effect of say en­courag­ing ra­tio­nal­ists not to vote no­tice that this has an effect on more that one vote. • For ex­am­ple, while it’s true that an in­di­vi­d­ual vote only has a small effect, con­sider the effect of say en­courag­ing ra­tio­nal­ists not to vote no­tice that this has an effect on more that one vote. I always find it amus­ing how quickly peo­ple jump to knock off effects in these de­bates. If my ac­tions and ar­gu­ments have such effects surely those of other po­ten­tial vot­ers do as well. Doesn’t this mean things add back to nor­mal­ity any my in­fluence re­ally is just the nano-slice it seems to be? • If my ac­tions and ar­gu­ments have such effects surely those of other po­ten­tial vot­ers do as well. Most vot­ers don’t cam­pain, post on LW, etc. • I just re­al­ized that one doesn’t even need to in­voke game the­ory for vot­ing to make sense. If there are N vot­ers in an elec­tion, the prob­a­bil­ity of you be­ing the de­cid­ing vote is ap­prox­i­mately $\\frac\{1\}\{\\sqrt\{N\}\}$, but the num­ber of peo­ple af­fected by the re­sult is ap­prox­i­mately N (prob­a­bly more since a lot of peo­ple don’t vote). Thus, the ex­pected num­ber of peo­ple you’ll af­fect is $\\sqrt\{N\}$. • This seems like grasp­ing at straws. Con­sider how many peo­ple you af­fect when you go to the store to buy break­fast. You prac­ti­cally effect nearly ev­ery­one else on the planet by a very small value. I’d ar­gue vot­ing is not more than two or so or­ders of mag­ni­tude above that. But let us for the sake of ar­gu­ment say it is larger than that, your ba­sic prob­lem is that ev­ery other voter af­fects $\sqrt{N}$ peo­ple by the same value as well. No mat­ter how you turn this you only get a nanoslice of power in steer­ing where the coun­try moves. There are clearly bet­ter things to do with your life than spend­ing time think­ing about which can­di­date to vote for or pay­ing the price in gas for the 30 minute drive to the vot­ing booth. This is as­sum­ing to the first ap­prox­i­ma­tion poli­ti­ci­ans only care about the pro­por­tions of votes var­i­ous can­di­dates and par­ties get and not the num­ber of peo­ple vot­ing. Note that for some kinds of refer­en­dums this isn’t true. But for most elec­tions it seems to hold to the first ap­prox­i­ma­tion. Mov­ing be­yond that ap­prox­i­ma­tion, I bet that higher voter turn out makes the re­sult of the elec­tions seem more le­gi­t­i­mate to the pop­u­lace em­bold­en­ing the gov­ern­ment for de­ci­sive ac­tion. If one de­sires small gov­ern­ment the state hav­ing lit­tle le­gi­t­i­macy sounds like a good idea. • Con­sider how many peo­ple you af­fect when you go to the store to buy break­fast. You prac­ti­cally effect nearly ev­ery­one else on the planet by a very small value. You’re effec­tively choos­ing the ad­minis­tra­tion un­der which $\\sqrt\{N\}$ peo­ple will live un­til the next elec­tion. This is a much larger effect than the marginal change to the econ­omy from you buy­ing break­fast. I bet that higher voter turn out makes the re­sult of the elec­tions seem more le­gi­t­i­mate to the pop­u­lace em­bold­en­ing the gov­ern­ment for de­ci­sive ac­tion. To through your other ar­gu­ment around back at you. What’s the marginal effect of one per­son re­fus­ing to vote. Prob­a­bly less than for one per­son vot­ing since most peo­ple who don’t vote do so out of laz­i­ness with no deeper philo­soph­i­cal mo­tive be­hind it. Let’s put it this way: a can­di­date with a ma­jor­ity (or even a plu­ral­ity in some sys­tems) be­comes the office holder, whereas less than 50% turnout doesn’t cause a rev­olu­tion; and even if it did, it would prob­a­bly not be the rev­olu­tion you want. Let’s put it this way, the two rea­sons you’ve given for not vot­ing are: 1) You’re un­likely to af­fect the out­come any­way. 2) If enough peo­ple don’t vote the gov­ern­ment will have less le­gi­t­i­macy and this can have pos­i­tive effects. Since the logic of these two rea­sons con­tra­dict, would you mind tel­ling me which is your true re­jec­tion? If one de­sires small gov­ern­ment the state hav­ing lit­tle le­gi­t­i­macy sounds like a good idea. We still want the state to have enough le­gi­t­i­macy to se­cure prop­erty rights and en­force con­tracts. • Let’s put it this way, the two rea­sons you’ve given for not vot­ing are: 1) You’re un­likely to af­fect the out­come any­way. 2) If enough peo­ple don’t vote the gov­ern­ment will have less le­gi­t­i­macy and this can have pos­i­tive effects. Since the logic of these two rea­sons con­tra­dict, would you mind tel­ling me which is your true re­jec­tion? I’m an­other non-voter, largely (or medium-largely) for the rea­sons Konkvis­ta­dor gives. But it’s not the le­gi­t­i­macy of gov­ern­ment that I wish to weaken. Places where gov­ern­ment, even bad gov­ern­ment, is not taken se­ri­ously are not nice places to live. If there’s an in­sti­tu­tion or a cul­tural value that I wish to see weak­ened it’s the peo­ple’s ro­mance. In gen­eral I see noth­ing in­con­sis­tent about a democ­racy where most peo­ple vol­un­tar­ily ab­stain from vot­ing. A norm of not vot­ing would re­quire low amounts of sec­tar­ian con­flict and large amounts of so­cial trust, which don’t ex­ist in very many democ­ra­cies. But as goals go I think low lev­els of sec­tar­i­anism and high lev­els of so­cial trust are su­pe­rior to (and at cross-pur­poses with) high lev­els of vot­ing. • We still want the state to have enough le­gi­t­i­macy to se­cure prop­erty rights and en­force con­tracts. You are right. I con­cede it prob­a­bly isn’t in­stru­men­tally use­ful for the goal of a small, strong and sta­ble gov­ern­ment ca­pa­ble of en­forc­ing con­tracts and pro­tect­ing rights. While the de-le­gi­t­imized state might have a hard time grow­ing even more and in its in­com­pe­tence new de facto free­doms would slip out of its fingers, but the free­dom is the free­dom of an­ar­chy not the liberty of mi­nar­chy. The ar­gu­ment I gave de­gen­er­ates into a ba­sic ar­gu­ment for an­ar­chy and rev­olu­tion in the hopes for change. Some­thing that has his­tor­i­cally al­most never worked out well. Since the logic of these two rea­sons con­tra­dict, would you mind tel­ling me which is your true rejection Good catch. I don’t think peo­ple not vot­ing has a large effect, just that peo­ple not vot­ing also sends a sig­nal to the sys­tem and it doesn’t seem ob­vi­ous that it is much smaller one than the one you send by vot­ing for a party or can­di­date. 1) You’re un­likely to af­fect the out­come any­way. 2) The tiny ex­pected in­fluence you have on the out­come doesn’t go away when you don’t vote, be­cause ab­stain­ing from vot­ing is also a poli­ti­cal act. I would per­haps add 3) that this poli­ti­cal act may have in­stru­men­tal util­ity for cer­tain kinds of goals. But ap­ply­ing 1) and 2) I get a bit of a prob­lem. My value of in­for­ma­tion ar­gu­ment against spend­ing time on think­ing about party poli­tics should then also clearly ap­ply to think­ing about vot­ing or non-vot­ing as well, ad­vice I’m ob­vi­ously not fol­low­ing. My re­vealed prefer­ences point that some part of me thinks that not vot­ing is very de­sir­able. This can’t be ar­gued on con­se­quen­tal­ist grounds for the rea­son you point out. Think­ing about it I seem to con­sider non-vot­ing valuable enough to think and talk about for sym­bolic rea­sons, see­ing it as a sort of Schel­ling fence of per­sonal poli­ti­cal de­tach­ment from one’s so­ciety. If you live in a so­ciety where your val­ues or map of the world rad­i­cally di­verge from the rest of so­ciety, such a thing is per­haps good for per­sonal well be­ing, see­ing one­self as a sub­ject rather than a cit­i­zen helps you deal with the con­stant pain of things go­ing hor­ribly wrong. Look­ing from the out­side I’m us­ing non-vot­ing ar­gu­ments to try and pro­mote aliena­tion from the so­ciety and hope­fully drift to­wards my mind space. My in­side feel­ing to the con­trary is weaker ev­i­dence. Read­ers should then try to cor­rect for this. Tak­ing an­other step up the lad­der, per­haps my self-pro­claimed di­ver­gent val­ues are only a ra­tio­nal­iza­tion for my lack of tribal feel­ing linked to the state. Such a pre­dis­po­si­tion is hardly unique in the mindspace near LW/​OB. Why put so much dis­tance be­tween my­self and the out­side world? Be­cause de­spite my leg­endary op­ti­mism, I find my so­ciety un­ac­cept­able. It is dreary, in­sipid, ugly, bor­ing, wrong, and wicked. Try­ing to re­form it is largely fu­tile; as the Smiths tell us, “The world won’t listen.” In­stead, I pur­sue the strat­egy that ac­tu­ally works: Mak­ing my small cor­ner of the world beau­tiful in my eyes. If you ever meet my chil­dren or see my office, you’ll know what I mean. I’m hardly autarchic. I im­port al­most ev­ery­thing I con­sume from the out­side world. In­deed, I fre­quently leave the se­cu­rity of my Bub­ble to walk the earth. But I do so as a tourist. Like a truffle pig, I hunt for the best that “my” so­ciety has to offer. I par­take. Then I go back to my Bub­ble and tell my­self, “Amer­ica’s a nice place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there.” My poli­tics and val­ues are quite differ­ent from Bryan Ca­plan’s, yet the con­clu­sions seem re­mark­ably similar. Maybe both of us already had our bot­tom line writ­ten out first. • If you live in a so­ciety where your val­ues or map of the world rad­i­cally di­verge from the rest of so­ciety, Have you con­sid­ered mov­ing to a bet­ter so­ciety? such a thing is per­haps good for per­sonal well be­ing, see­ing one­self as a sub­ject rather than a cit­i­zen helps you deal with the con­stant pain of things go­ing hor­ribly wrong. Isn’t it bet­ter to try to fix things than wal­low in your learned hel­pless­ness? My poli­tics and val­ues are quite differ­ent from Bryan Ca­plan’s How so? Near as I can tell, ex­cept for the whole emo/​aliena­tion thing you have go­ing your val­ues seem very similar. • Thus, the ex­pected num­ber of peo­ple you’ll af­fect is . Not vot­ing (es­pe­cially if you tell oth­ers you didn’t vote) also af­fects peo­ple. You are go­ing to need to sub­tract this to get the net effects. • Not vot­ing (es­pe­cially if you tell oth­ers you didn’t vote) also af­fects peo­ple. This af­fect seems like it would be limited to one’s im­me­di­ate ac­quain­tances, also it seems like it would have a smaller af­fect on them than which ad­minis­tra­tion they live un­der. • I don’t vote for hope or be­cause I ex­pect my ac­tions to cause a change in out­come. I vote pri­mar­ily be­cause it feels good, but also be­cause I have a policy of co­op­er­at­ing rather than defect­ing when it doesn’t cost too much. In other words, I vote for the same rea­sons my in­ter­nal model of Dou­glas Hofs­tadter would vote if it could. • Vot­ing as One-boxing If Omega thinks you are the kind of per­son who one-boxes, you will find$1,000,000 in the one box. At this point, you could take two boxes and pick up a small ad­di­tional re­ward, but if you are re­ally the kind of per­son who one-boxes, you won’t do that. If you went for the minor util­ity pickup at the end, you would be a two-boxer and the mil­lion dol­lars wouldn’t’ have been there in the first place.

If par­ties think you are the kind of per­son who votes, they will care about your policy prefer­ences. At this point, you could stay home and pick up a small ad­di­tional re­ward, but if you are re­ally the kind of per­son who votes, you won’t do that. If you went for the minor util­ity pickup at the end, you would be a non-voter and the par­ties wouldn’t care about your policy prefer­ences in the first place.

I think that if you re­ally buy into the one box ar­gu­ments pre­sented el­se­where on this site, you should be vot­ing. (con­di­tional on the as­sump­tion that you have sig­nifi­cant policy prefer­ences; if you don’t care ei­ther way, then there is noth­ing analo­gous to the mil­lion dol­lars)

• I think that if you re­ally buy into the one box ar­gu­ments pre­sented el­se­where on this site, you should be vot­ing.

This meme just will not seem to die.

No, not all the as­sump­tions made in the thought ex­per­i­ments de­signed to show TDT co­op­er­at­ing and CDT defect­ing (and TDT benefit­ing from the differ­ence) are pre­sent in the spe­cific case of a hu­man de­cid­ing whether to vote in a na­tional elec­tion. The other agents are not be­hav­ing re­motely like TDT or UDT agents and a TDT agent would defect and benefit from do­ing so. And then the next elec­tion would come around and they would do the same thing.

TDT doesn’t mean act like a care bear!

(con­di­tional on the as­sump­tion that you have sig­nifi­cant policy prefer­ences; if you don’t care ei­ther way, then there is noth­ing analo­gous to the mil­lion dol­lars)

(Ex­pand­ing on this out of in­ter­est, and as­sum­ing a case where there are enough TDTish agents in your pop­u­la­tion for it to ac­tu­ally be sane to con­sider co­op­er­at­ing.)

The as­sump­tion re­quired is not quite whether you have strong prefer­ences but what the prefer­ences of all the TDTish agents are (or are es­ti­mated to be). If there is a group of agents im­ple­ment­ing de­ci­sion the­o­ries like TDT who are all will­ing to co­op­er­ate if that’s what it takes to make the other peo­ple in that group co­op­er­ate and it hap­pens that half of them are Greens and half are Blues then they do co­op­er­ate by stay­ing home!

• I think that if you re­ally buy into the one box ar­gu­ments pre­sented el­se­where on this site, you should be vot­ing. (con­di­tional on the as­sump­tion that you have sig­nifi­cant policy prefer­ences; if you don’t care ei­ther way, then there is noth­ing analo­gous to the mil­lion dol­lars)

Not at all, if Omega is offer­ing me 1$for one-box­ing I see no need to play its game since I can get more util­ity do­ing other things. Vot­ing prob­a­bly doesn’t get any par­tic­u­lar voter more than a few dol­lars of ex­pected util­ity in gov­ern­ment ac­tion. The delu­sions as­so­ci­ated with vot­ing prob­a­bly give them far more but again like with the lot­tery I find that a waste since they can be gained in other ways (some of which do the world some good). • Not at all, if Omega is offer­ing me 1$ for one-box­ing I see no need to play its game since I can get more util­ity do­ing other things.

To be fair on Billy_Q this par­tic­u­lar ex­cep­tion seems to be ac­counted for in the par­en­thet­i­cal you in­cluded in the quote, at least in the way that he would trans­late “sig­nifi­cant policy prefer­ences” into dol­lar val­ues.

• 20 Sep 2012 17:24 UTC
−2 points
Parent

For­give me if I’m post­ing in ig­no­rance of some well-worn ar­gu­ment that is com­mon knowl­edge on this board, but I think your cyn­i­cism is mis­placed.

Surely you should be con­sid­er­ing vot­ing as a mas­sive pris­oner’s dilemma: when you de­cide whether or not to vote you aren’t just de­cid­ing for your­self, you’re also de­cid­ing for any­one who thinks similarly to you. I’m not say­ing that your in­di­vi­d­ual vote is go­ing to make any no­tice­able differ­ence, but the votes of ev­ery jaded ra­tio­nal­ist in Amer­ica on the other hand...

Of course, that doesn’t con­sti­tute a con­clu­sive ar­gu­ment, but con­sider what vot­ing ac­tu­ally costs you. At worst, it’s an hour of your time, and since you’re prob­a­bly spend­ing half an hour on a fo­rum on the in­ter­net tel­ling peo­ple (amongst other things) how you’re not go­ing to vote, you can’t rea­son­ably say that sac­ri­fic­ing that hour of you life is too big a util­ity loss.

If I had my way, vot­ing would be com­pul­sory in ev­ery democ­racy on the planet. I’m not say­ing that democ­racy is the best way of do­ing things, but if some coun­tries ARE democ­ra­cies then we should at least try to do miti­gate the nega­tive effects of the sys­tem. The prob­lem with non-com­pul­sory vot­ing is it means that only the peo­ple who care strongly enough about the elec­tions to get off the in­ter­net and drive to a pol­ling booth are the ones who have their voices heard. This means that you lose a lot of mod­er­ate, sane, ra­tio­nal vot­ers but keep all of the ra­bid nutjobs. Ar­gentina have the best sys­tem—vot­ing is com­pul­sory once you’re over 18, but you can re­fuse to vote if you for­mally ex­press this in­ten­tion to the au­thor­i­ties at least 48 hours be­fore the elec­tion. That way, no­body is forced to vote if they don’t want to, but it takes the same amount of effort to ab­stain as it does to vote, so you don’t lose mod­er­ates to laz­i­ness.

Of course, I live in one of the ten coun­tries in the world where com­pul­sory vot­ing is en­forced (Aus­tralia), so I’m aware that I could be suffer­ing fa­mil­iar­ity bias. I came up with the above ar­gu­ment in favour of com­pul­sory vot­ing in­de­pen­dently, though, and I’ve never ac­tu­ally heard any­one else say that com­pul­sory vot­ing was im­por­tant (or even a good thing). If any­one has an ar­gu­ment against vot­ing, I’d be in­ter­ested to hear it.

• Surely you should be con­sid­er­ing vot­ing as a mas­sive pris­oner’s dilemma: when you de­cide whether or not to vote you aren’t just de­cid­ing for your­self, you’re also de­cid­ing for any­one who thinks similarly to you. I’m not say­ing that your in­di­vi­d­ual vote is go­ing to make any no­tice­able differ­ence, but the votes of ev­ery jaded ra­tio­nal­ist in Amer­ica on the other hand...

Re­mem­ber you are likely to over­es­ti­mate how much other peo­ple’s de­ci­sion pro­cess is similar to yours. I must have missed the soft­ware up­date when we im­ple­mented TDT on voter brains.

Of course, that doesn’t con­sti­tute a con­clu­sive ar­gu­ment, but con­sider what vot­ing ac­tu­ally costs you. At worst, it’s an hour of your time, and since you’re prob­a­bly spend­ing half an hour on a fo­rum on the in­ter­net tel­ling peo­ple (amongst other things) how you’re not go­ing to vote, you can’t rea­son­ably say that sac­ri­fic­ing that hour of you life is too big a util­ity loss.

I try not to be hyp­ocrite as much as pos­si­ble. If I say vot­ing is a bad idea, I hope most peo­ple who know me will agree this is a good in­di­ca­tion that I don’t vote ei­ther. Also un­like with vot­ing, I ac­tu­ally think I could per­haps change peo­ples minds, I view it as san­ity train­ing. More sane peo­ple is a good thing since they have pos­i­tive ex­ter­nal­ities.

If I had my way, vot­ing would be com­pul­sory in ev­ery democ­racy on the planet.

I’m not say­ing that democ­racy is the best way of do­ing things, but if some coun­tries ARE democ­ra­cies then we should at least try to do miti­gate the nega­tive effects of the sys­tem.

Democ­ra­cies in say Western Europe ac­tu­ally only work as well as they do be­cause of the com­pe­tent civil ser­vice and re­spect peo­ple have for ex­perts, which de facto rad­i­cally limits how much poli­ti­ci­ans can do, es­pe­cially since the pro­cess needed for them to fire any of these peo­ple is usu­ally not worth the effort if it is pos­si­ble at all. How would your re­la­tion­ship with your boss change if he couldn’t fire you?

Ar­gentina have the best sys­tem—vot­ing is com­pul­sory once you’re over 18, but you can re­fuse to vote if you for­mally ex­press this in­ten­tion to the au­thor­i­ties at least 48 hours be­fore the elec­tion. That way, no­body is forced to vote if they don’t want to, but it takes the same amount of effort to ab­stain as it does to vote, so you don’t lose mod­er­ates to laz­i­ness.

That sounds ok.

If any­one has an ar­gu­ment against vot­ing, I’d be in­ter­ested to hear it.

• It is a rit­ual that con­tributes to be­lief. Why do you think Is­lam has obli­ga­tory pray­ing sev­eral times a day?

• It is a waste of time. A small but ob­vi­ous one. Like buy­ing lot­tery tick­ets is a small but ob­vi­ous waste of money.

• Large voter par­ti­ci­pa­tion le­gi­t­imize gov­ern­ment ac­tion that in fact has very lit­tle to do with the poli­ti­cal pro­cess.

• Vot­ing is as­so­ci­ated with democ­racy, democ­racy is a bad idea ask Aris­to­tle.

• I don’t need to ar­gue with friends and fam­ily be­cause I wouldn’t vote for their can­di­date.

• I must have missed the soft­ware up­date when we im­ple­mented TDT on voter brains.

I think you’re hav­ing it the other way around—TDT is par­tially based on the idea that “when you de­cide, you aren’t de­cid­ing just for your­self”, it’s not the idea which re­quires TDT...

In this case, you’re not vot­ing just for your­self, you’re vot­ing for all the peo­ple who’d vote the same party as you for roughly the same rea­sons. And if you don’t vote, you’re not vot­ing for all the peo­ple who like­wise don’t bother to vote for roughly the same rea­sons as you...

• Yes, you can say that you are vot­ing for a block or de­cid­ing to vote for a block, even if those peo­ple haven’t heard of TDT, as long as TDT doesn’t change your de­ci­sion. But if you use TDT to ac­tu­ally make the de­ci­sion to vote, you are now very differ­ent from the peo­ple who have not heard of it and you are not con­trol­ling their de­ci­sion.

For ex­am­ple, say that economists don’t vote, but have poli­ti­cal con­sen­sus ;-)
A lone economist can­not use TDT to vote the block, be­cause the oth­ers haven’t heard of it and aren’t go­ing to vote.

• But if you use TDT to ac­tu­ally make the de­ci­sion to vote, you are now very differ­ent from the peo­ple who have not heard of it and you are not con­trol­ling their de­ci­sion.

For­tu­nately thanks to evolu­tion most peo­ple (at least the ones who haven’t rea­soned them­selves out of it) have an in­tu­itive un­der­stand­ing of TDT even if they haven’t heard the term.

• Yes, it is rea­son­able to an­a­lyze nor­mal peo­ple’s vot­ing in terms of TDT, at least to some ex­tent. If you were go­ing to vote any­ways, you can use TDT to jus­tify it.

But if you ex­plic­itly use TDT to de­cide to vote or to de­cide to put more effort into choos­ing your vote, you are not nor­mal and your vote be­comes less cor­re­lated with the large block of nor­mal peo­ple. I was very se­ri­ous about the economist ex­am­ple. Many economists don’t vote for CDT rea­sons. If an economist uses TDT to re­ject that line of ar­gu­ment, that doesn’t cause other economists to vote. Similarly, most peo­ple can’t use TDT to de­cide to in­vest in more in­formed vote.

If you were swayed against vot­ing only by ar­gu­ments found in the same place you found TDT, it is rea­son­able to let them can­cel out and con­sider your vote en­tan­gled with the votes of peo­ple who have heard of nei­ther.

• you are now very differ­ent from the peo­ple who have not heard of it and you are not con­trol­ling their de­ci­sion.

That’s a false bi­nary view of the is­sue (that you ei­ther con­trol some­thing or not con­trol it). Even the word “con­trol­ling” is highly mis­lead­ing. I’m talk­ing about moral re­spon­si­bil­ity. We are morally re­spon­si­ble for the de­ci­sion we make, which is in­dica­tive of our val­ues and our level of in­tel­li­gence. We’re morally re­spon­si­ble for this de­ci­sion no mat­ter how many times it’s made (for similar rea­sons) through­out the pop­u­la­tion.

A thief is there­fore in a sense par­tially morally re­spon­si­ble for all thefts.
A mur­derer is there­fore in a sense par­tially morally re­spon­si­ble for all mur­ders.
And a non-voter is there­fore in a sense par­tially morally re­spon­si­ble for all non-vot­ings.

• I’m in­clined to think that ev­ery­one af­fects the Over­ton win­dow, but some peo­ple af­fect it more than oth­ers. Peo­ple who com­mit new crimes ex­pand the range of what’s think­able more than peo­ple who com­mit the usual crimes.

• ex­cept none of these things gen­er­al­ize. You’re only morally re­spon­si­ble for peo­ple in the same situ­a­tion as your­self. Shoot­ing some­one who is about to kill you is not morally equiv­a­lent to shoot­ing some­one for fun, and some­one who shoots in self defense is not morally re­spon­si­ble for all shoot­ings, just for all shoot­ings in self defense.

• You’re only morally re­spon­si­ble for peo­ple in the same situ­a­tion as your­self. Shoot­ing some­one who is about to kill you is not morally equiv­a­lent to shoot­ing some­one for fun

Agreed. That’s why I in­di­cated “made for similar rea­sons”.

• This as­sumes non-vot­ers who use the same de­ci­sion pro­cess as me are com­mon. Also as­sumes that for those who do use the same de­ci­sion pro­cess our in­ter­ests and opinions about poli­tics are al­igned.

• My in­di­vi­d­ual vote is un­likely to make a differ­ence. But it’s pretty easy to define rel­a­tively small vot­ing blocs (i.e. farm­ers in Kansas) that would al­ter the re­sults of elec­tions if their vot­ing be­hav­ior rad­i­cally changed. If I re­ally do have prefer­ences in the achiev­able sec­tions of poli­cys­pace, there are things I should do, right? Even if my me­chan­i­cal hard­ware im­poses limits on how ideal my de­ci­sion­mak­ing is.

Of course, none of that ap­plies if one does not have prefer­ences in the achiev­able sec­tions of poli­cys­pace.

• This is why I was su­per fas­ci­nated by the idea of a bunch of liber­tar­i­ans mov­ing to New Hamp­shire to be­come a pow­er­ful vot­ing block and in­sti­tute liber­tar­ian poli­cies, but it seems to have died out.

• See the Free State Pro­ject.

FWIW, so far about 1,000 of the Free Staters have moved to New Hamp­shire, and 12 of the Free Staters have been elected to the New Hamp­shire House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

• If I re­ally do have prefer­ences in the achiev­able sec­tions of poli­cys­pace, there are things I should do, right?

Of course you should! But you should be ra­tio­nal about it. Try to do things that give you more than a nanoslice of power.

• There’s no Omega, so why not take the nanoslice of power that’s read­ily available, in ad­di­tion to what­ever you can get by try­ing for more? It ap­pears to me that do­ing both max­i­mizes the ex­pected pay­off in all prob­a­ble con­texts.

• Op­por­tu­nity costs, in short. If you’re giv­ing up more re­source-equiv­a­lent time on that nanoslice of power than you ex­pect it to re­turn in div­i­dends, it’s not worth your effort—and de­pend­ing on how you do the count­ing, a lot of promi­nent ex­am­ples re­turn so lit­tle that it doesn’t take much time out­lay for this to be the case.

In the spe­cific case of vot­ing, though, there are sig­nal­ing effects to con­sider that might over­whelm its con­ven­tional div­i­dends. Juris­dic­tions like Aus­tralia where vot­ing is manda­tory also change the in­cen­tive land­scape.

• There are a lot of peo­ple. If we di­vide even vaguely evenly, all I get is a nanoslice.

That’s a vast im­prove­ment over most of recorded his­tory, when offi­cial policy was to avoid giv­ing out any power to the ma­jor­ity of the pop­u­lace.

• There are a lot of peo­ple. If we di­vide even vaguely evenly, all I get is a nanoslice.

I don’t re­call men­tion­ing pur­su­ing that goal. I don’t think it is a good in it­self. For starters I bet you agree chil­dren don’t need that nanoslice of power. But ok I’ll ac­cept this tem­porar­ily for the sake of ar­gu­ment.

The thing is if you do this and are a or­tho­dox LessWrong con­squen­tal­ist you get some strange re­sults.

Should one op­pose those greedy ac­tivists grab­bing more nanoslices of power for them­selves? Or those in­ter­net ad­dicts who keep cre­at­ing new poli­ti­cal pro­pa­ganda? Or the NYT ed­i­tor board which de­cides thou­sands of votes with the stroke of a pen? Or that NGO em­ployed ad­vi­sor who has so much power over which policy ends up adopted in Demo­cratic Back­wa­ter­stan?

• Put­ting words in my mouth isn’t nice. :)

This is not an ar­gu­ment about how poli­ti­cal power should be di­vided. It’s an ar­gu­ment about whether vot­ing can ever be a good idea.

Try to do things that give you more than a nanoslice of power.

I’m try­ing to see how you get from this to “Vot­ing is never ra­tio­nal in our cur­rent sys­tem.”

• I’m try­ing to see how you get from this to “Vot­ing is never ra­tio­nal in our cur­rent sys­tem.”

Be­cause vot­ing is so very low on the list of low in­vest­ment ac­tivi­ties that give you more power.

• Non-ex­clu­sive ways to be­come in­fluen­tial in how so­ciety is or­ga­nized.

• Get rich

• Be­come a “pillar of the com­mu­nity” (Ac­tive mem­ber in some quasi-char­ity)

• Spe­cial In­ter­est Litigation

• Be­come a poli­ti­cal activist

Th­ese acts can be mu­tu­ally sup­port­ing. But some of them are more available than oth­ers to par­tic­u­lar peo­ple. And the last choice I listed is heav­ily com­mit­ted to try­ing to in­fluence vot­ing be­hav­iors. Groups like the Sierra Club or the Na­tional Rifle As­so­ci­a­tion are very pow­er­ful—and that power would van­ish or mas­sively de­crease if all their mem­bers com­mit­ted to not vot­ing.

Vot­ing suffers from sub­stan­tial tragedy-of-the-com­mons is­sues. That doesn’t mean it is pointless.

Konkvis­ta­dor, you are on record as be­ing skep­ti­cal of the idea of con­sent of the gov­erned be­cause you think the con­cept is too am­bigu­ous to im­ple­ment. I read­ily ac­knowl­edge that ar­gu­ments for vot­ing rely on con­sent of the gov­erned /​ gov­ern­ment re­spon­sive to the peo­ple be­ing co­her­ent/​im­ple­mentable con­cepts.

I just won­der whether this dis­cus­sion is more than dis­guised dis­agree­ment about the un­der­ly­ing con­cepts. In short, if coun­ter­fac­tual-Konkvis­ta­dor ac­cepted the idea of con­sent of the gov­erned, would counter-K still be as hos­tile as you to the idea of vot­ing?

If not, I re­spect­fully sug­gest we dis­cuss our ac­tual dis­agree­ment rather than talk­ing past each other on this proxy is­sue.

• I’m try­ing to see how you get from this to “Vot­ing is never ra­tio­nal in our cur­rent sys­tem.”

Be­cause there are so many things that reg­u­lar peo­ple who vote aren’t do­ing that could give them more in­fluence over the out­come of the poli­ti­cal pro­cess.

• My in­di­vi­d­ual vote is un­likely to make a differ­ence. But it’s pretty easy to define rel­a­tively small vot­ing blocs (i.e. farm­ers in Kansas) that would al­ter the re­sults of elec­tions if their vot­ing be­hav­ior rad­i­cally changed.

Per­haps a given Kansas voter is ob­struct­ing a policy or can­di­date you fa­vor, and you would be pleased if he changed his vote. Wouldn’t you be fully half as pleased if he merely ab­stained from vot­ing? My in­tu­ition is that it is far more than twice as difficult to change a vote than to dis­cour­age a vote.

• 21 Sep 2012 2:59 UTC
−2 points
Parent

Oh hey, I drafted a re­ply to this com­ment and then ac­ci­den­tally ctrl+w’d the tab be­fore I hit the but­ton. Whoops! Damn, it was a long one too and not I have to re­type it...

I try not to be hyp­ocrite as much as pos­si­ble. If I say vot­ing is a bad idea, I hope most peo­ple who know me will agree this is a good in­di­ca­tion that I don’t vote ei­ther. Also un­like with vot­ing, I ac­tu­ally think I could per­haps change peo­ples minds, I view it as san­ity train­ing. More sane peo­ple is a good thing since they have pos­i­tive ex­ter­nal­ities.

I wasn’t try­ing to con­vince you to keep ar­gu­ing against vot­ing but vote in se­cret, I was pre­sent­ing an ar­gu­ment that vot­ing was ac­tu­ally a good idea and that you should ad­vo­cate it. I also wasn’t try­ing to an­tag­o­nise you or any­thing like that, just try­ing to in­ject a lit­tle hu­mour into the de­bate. Which is not to say that I think I DID an­tag­o­nise you, but un­til some­one in­vents a key­board that can con­vey the emo­tional con­tent of a sen­tence I’m go­ing to err on the side of cau­tion.

I’m not say­ing that democ­racy is the best way of do­ing things, but if some coun­tries ARE democ­ra­cies then we should at least try to do miti­gate the nega­tive effects of the sys­tem.

Democ­ra­cies in say Western Europe ac­tu­ally only work as well as they do be­cause of the com­pe­tent civil ser­vice and re­spect peo­ple have for ex­perts, which de facto rad­i­cally limits how much poli­ti­ci­ans can do, es­pe­cially since the pro­cess needed for them to fire any of these peo­ple is usu­ally not worth the effort if it is pos­si­ble at all. How would your re­la­tion­ship with your boss change if he couldn’t fire you?

I’m not sure if this was a re­but­tal? I mean, no mat­ter why democ­ra­cies in Western Europe are work­ing well, surely this doesn’t change the fact that we should miti­gate the nega­tive qual­ities of a democ­racy? I ac­tu­ally thought I’d be on firm ground with you here, since you’re ad­vo­cat­ing a change away from democ­racy and I’m ar­gu­ing that while we still have democ­racy we should try to make sure it doesn’t cause too much havoc. AFAIK most Western Euro­pean democ­ra­cies don’t have com­pul­sory vot­ing, if that’s what you were get­ting at. For­give me if I am miss­ing the point here.

It is a rit­ual that con­tributes to be­lief. Why do you think Is­lam has obli­ga­tory pray­ing sev­eral times a day?

I would agree with this point if I thought the effect was sig­nifi­cant, but I think that hav­ing to vote once a year re­duces this effect to com­plete neg­ligi­bil­ity.

It is a waste of time. A small but ob­vi­ous one. Like buy­ing lot­tery tick­ets is a small but ob­vi­ous waste of money.

Sure, but that only mat­ters if you weren’t go­ing to waste the time any­way. I mean, if you were go­ing to lose that money down the back of the couch any­way you might as well blow it on lot­tery tick­ets. I’m not say­ing it’s a good idea to waste re­sources, definitely not, but even the most or­ganised, mo­ti­vated per­son has one hour free a year in which they could vote with­out sac­ri­fic­ing some other im­por­tant ac­tivity. If you gen­uinely do not have an hour free then you’re the sort of per­son I want vot­ing, and I re­spect­fully re­quest that you del­e­gate an hour’s worth of work to me so that you can go vote. EDIT: And of course I don’t ac­tu­ally agree that it’s a com­plete waste of time—I think it pro­duces marginal benefit or I’d be agree­ing with you.

Large voter par­ti­ci­pa­tion le­gi­t­imize gov­ern­ment ac­tion that in fact has very lit­tle to do with the poli­ti­cal pro­cess.

I’m not sure which gov­ern­ment ac­tion you’re talk­ing about here, but gov­ern­ment ac­tion doesn’t need le­gi­t­imis­ing, it’s le­gi­t­imised in al­most ev­ery­one’s eyes. Con­versely, not vot­ing in a sys­tem where it isn’t com­pul­sory to vote doesn’t dele­gi­t­imise the gov­ern­ment. If any­thing, you should want vot­ing to be com­pul­sory so you can flout the rules to draw at­ten­tion to the fact that democ­racy is a bad way of do­ing things. I know that sounds counter-in­tu­itive, but non-com­pul­sory vot­ing isn’t ac­tu­ally a step away from democ­racy, it’s just a step into a differ­ent type of democ­racy. Swap­ping to non-com­pul­sory vot­ing doesn’t make it any more likely that a coun­try will aban­don democ­racy al­to­gether.

I don’t need to ar­gue with friends and fam­ily be­cause I wouldn’t vote for their can­di­date.

I think this was prob­a­bly a bit face­tious, since it’s rel­a­tively small-scale com­pared to your other ar­gu­ments, but on the chance it wasn’t… Ar­gu­ing with your friends and fam­ily about poli­ti­cal alle­giances is ac­tu­ally a big point in favour of com­pul­sory vot­ing if you ask me—it forces peo­ple to think about poli­tics. If my brother has always voted to sup­port Amer­i­cans Against Con­tra­cep­tion (or what­ever), then of his friends who vote, most of them prob­a­bly share his poli­ti­cal views. But if ev­ery­one has to vote, he’ll start meet­ing peo­ple who vote the other way. The more ar­gu­ments he starts with sane peo­ple, the more likely they are to con­vert him.

• I’m not say­ing that your in­di­vi­d­ual vote is go­ing to make any no­tice­able differ­ence, but the votes of ev­ery jaded ra­tio­nal­ist in Amer­ica on the other hand...

By vot­ing, you will not make (or prob­a­bly even en­courage) ev­ery jaded ra­tio­nal­ist in Amer­ica to vote, so from a de­ci­sion the­o­ret­i­cal stand­point that ob­ser­va­tion is ir­rele­vant. The in­stru­men­tal value of vot­ing is zero. There may be other val­ues (sig­nal­ing, plea­sure, moral), but there is no in­stru­men­tal value. You will not in­fluence the elec­tion, so the ex­pected value of any policy changes aris­ing from just your vote is zero. Once you think of it strictly in terms of de­ci­sion the­ory, the rele­vant vari­ables should pre­sent them­selves.

For those of us who don’t care that much about sig­nal­ing in­ter­est in gov­ern­ment and don’t think there’s any par­tic­u­lar moral duty to vote (I think there is fre­quently a moral duty to ab­stain), wast­ing an hour on an in­ter­net fo­rum is a much bet­ter use of our time.

If I had my way, vot­ing would be com­pul­sory in ev­ery democ­racy on the planet.

I know it’s nor­mal in some coun­tries, but I think this is an AWFUL policy. Why? Con­sider it in eco­nomic terms of nega­tive and pos­i­tive ex­ter­nal­ities. Say I’m a good voter who knows a thing or two about policy. When I vote, it very (very very very) marginally af­fects policy out­comes. When a bunch of good vot­ers vote, policy out­comes be­come bet­ter.

Now turn it around. When a bad voter votes, it very (very very very) marginally af­fects policy out­comes. When a bunch of bad vot­ers vote, policy out­comes be­come worse.

This is won­der­fully analo­gous to pol­lu­tion. By leav­ing a fan on all day, you only very marginally con­tribute to global warm­ing. So, even if you’re in­ter­ested in stop­ping global warm­ing for self­ish rea­sons, there’s noth­ing you can per­son­ally do to hin­der it, so why bother? But there’s no per­sonal in­cen­tive for any­body to bother, so global warm­ing hap­pens. Mean­while, global warm­ing af­fects more peo­ple than just you, and bad vot­ing does the same. When you in­dulge your idiotic ideas of good policy, it doesn’t have any effect on the elec­tion, so it doesn’t have any effect on you. But since ev­ery­body’s do­ing it, policy gets dumb.

So the ques­tion be­comes, when com­par­ing vol­un­tary and manda­tory vot­ing, which types of vot­ers are more likely to ab­stain in a vol­un­tary sys­tem?

I don’t see the need to hunt for the stats right now, but if you don’t be­lieve me, I’ll hap­pily scan some rele­vant sec­tions from Scott Althaus’ Col­lec­tive Prefer­ences in Demo­cratic Poli­tics and Carpini and Keeter’s What Amer­i­cans Know About Poli­tics and Why It Mat­ter. The ba­sic story is this: In Amer­ica, peo­ple who are ed­u­cated are way more likely to vote than those who aren’t, and un­e­d­u­cated peo­ple have demon­stra­bly and out­ra­geously bone­headed be­liefs about policy. Forc­ing them to vote is like man­dat­ing bad policy.

(Hence what I said ear­lier about a moral duty to ab­stain. Like there might be a moral duty to re­duce your car­bon con­sump­tion, even though it will have no effect on the en­vi­ron­ment, there might be a moral duty to ab­stain from vot­ing if you’re an ig­no­ra­mus.)

• 20 Sep 2012 18:27 UTC
−1 points
Parent

By vot­ing, you will not make (or prob­a­bly even en­courage) ev­ery jaded ra­tio­nal­ist in Amer­ica to vote, so from a de­ci­sion the­o­ret­i­cal stand­point that ob­ser­va­tion is ir­rele­vant.

That’s not quite what I meant. If peo­ple think similarly to you, then they will most likely make similar de­ci­sions as you. Now that I’ve sug­gested this to you, you think similarly to all the peo­ple out there who re­al­ised this them­selves or had some­one point it out to them. So when you de­cide whether or not to vote, you should do so in the knowl­edge that there are a bunch of peo­ple out there who will prob­a­bly end up mak­ing the same de­ci­sion as you purely be­cause they think similarly to you. You’re not just de­cid­ing for your­self, you’re de­cid­ing for ev­ery­one who thinks like you.

EDIT: Also, I dis­agree with you about the nega­tive effects of com­pul­sory vot­ing. There are definitely some, but I think the nega­tive effects of NON-com­pul­sory vot­ing are po­ten­tially worse. See my com­ment to Drethe­lin be­low.

• The prob­lem with non-com­pul­sory vot­ing is it means that only the peo­ple who care strongly enough about the elec­tions to get off the in­ter­net and drive to a pol­ling booth are the ones who have their voices heard. This means that you lose a lot of mod­er­ate, sane, ra­tio­nal vot­ers but keep all of the ra­bid nutjobs.

OTOH, you lose a lot of ig­no­rant, clue­less, or just lazy vot­ers who have no ba­sis for form­ing an opinion, and the ones who have the voices heard are the ones who cared enough to study the is­sues, even if their study was one-sided.

Push the prob­lem a step back, and my thought here is com­pul­sory poli­ti­cal study rather than com­pul­sory vot­ing.

• See my com­ment re: the Tea Party to Drethe­lin be­low—I think ex­trem­ism is a far stronger mo­ti­va­tor to vote than in­tel­li­gence. Note that Konkvis­ta­dor doesn’t ap­pear to be vot­ing, and for him to be on this board in the first place is a strong en­dorse­ment of his in­tel­li­gence. I definitely agree about com­pul­sory poli­ti­cal study though. Also com­pul­sory episte­mol­ogy, ethics and statis­tics, etc.

• The prob­lem with democ­racy is ra­tio­nal ig­no­rance and the prob­lem of col­lec­tive ac­tion—the fa­mous ex­am­ple is the sugar sub­sidy in the United States. Us­ing toy num­bers, one might sug­gest that the av­er­age Amer­i­can pays $1 more per year for sugar be­cause of those poli­cies. By sim­ple mul­ti­pli­ca­tion, that means the policy is worth ~$300M to the sugar in­dus­try.

Why do situ­a­tions like this per­sist?

1) I’d spend more or­ga­niz­ing the group to end these poli­cies than I’d ever save on sugar (the prob­lem of col­lec­tive ac­tion)

2) Even tak­ing the time to learn about the prob­lem is a waste for the av­er­age in­di­vi­d­ual (ra­tio­nal ig­no­rance).

Forc­ing peo­ple to vote doesn’t solve these prob­lems, it just forces peo­ple to make a de­ci­sion when they would ad­mit they don’t have enough in­for­ma­tion to make the de­ci­sion that truly re­flects their prefer­ences.

Never vot­ing is prob­a­bly the wrong an­swer be­cause be­ing pre­dictably ir­rele­vant to a de­ci­sion is not the way to in­fluence the de­ci­sion in one’s fa­vor. But de­ci­sion-mak­ing when de­ci­sion-mak­ers lack the re­sources to effec­tively con­sider the is­sues is not a very tractable prob­lem. Con­sider the ex­am­ple of the lo­cal poli­ti­ci­ans who change their names (a) to fa­mous names, or (b) to ap­pear ear­lier on the list of names on the bal­lot.

• Forc­ing peo­ple to vote doesn’t solve these prob­lems, it just forces peo­ple to make a de­ci­sion when they would ad­mit they don’t have enough in­for­ma­tion to make the de­ci­sion that truly re­flects their prefer­ences.

Plac­ing con­sti­tu­tional limi­ta­tions on the power of gov­ern­ment might be a bet­ter solu­tion. “No sub­sidies for any­one” seems more sta­ble than ar­gu­ing over each spe­cific sub­sidy.

• “No sub­sidies for any­one” seems more sta­ble than ar­gu­ing over each spe­cific sub­sidy.

It’s more sta­ble, but hard to define, let alone im­ple­ment. All gov­ern­ment spend­ing benefits some­body—and usu­ally there are un-ob­vi­ous benefi­cia­ries. For ex­am­ple, road con­struc­tion helps the con­struc­tion busi­ness and also those who use the roads and those who own prop­erty near the road. So you can’t re­ally put “no sub­sidies” in the Con­sti­tu­tion in a way that’s ju­di­cially or poli­ti­cally en­force­able, at least if you want to main­tain any of the sort of gov­ern­ment ser­vices that so­ciety as­sumes will be there.

• http://​​www.cb­snews.com/​​8301-201_162-57347634/​​poll-nearly-8-in-10-amer­i­cans-be­lieve-in-an­gels/​​

The vast ma­jor­ity of hu­mans are wrong about many, MANY fun­da­men­tal things. The fewer of them con­trol­ling out­comes the bet­ter. Com­pul­sory vot­ing only makes sense if you think the num­ber of smart in­formed peo­ple who don’t vote out of laz­i­ness out­num­bers the num­ber of idiots who don’t vote out of laz­i­ness.

• 20 Sep 2012 18:08 UTC
−3 points
Parent

I think the ma­jor­ity of peo­ple who don’t vote out of laz­i­ness are nei­ther ex­tremely smart nor ex­tremely stupid, nei­ther ex­tremely right-wing nor ex­tremely leftist, nei­ther ex­tremely gay nor ex­tremely straight, etc. That’s the point, they’re not ex­trem­ists.

I know that the lazy mod­er­ates aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed, but I also know that once they’re out of the pic­ture there’s much less bal­last to keep the rad­i­cal lu­natics in line. To use a spe­cific ex­am­ple: I think that the Tea Party does a bet­ter job of con­vinc­ing their lazy sup­port­ers to vote than ei­ther of the ma­jor par­ties do, and if we ac­cept that logic then the in­escapable con­clu­sion is that the Tea Party’s in­fluence is be­ing in­flated by Amer­ica’s non-com­pul­sory vot­ing sys­tem.

It’s not just the dullards who aren’t vot­ing, ei­ther. I think you would be shocked at how smart and well in­formed you have to be be­fore you ac­tu­ally de­cide you care enough to vote. Just look at Konkvis­ta­dor—surely LWi­ans and their ilk are the peo­ple we want MOST to vote?

• To use a spe­cific ex­am­ple: I think that the Tea Party does a bet­ter job of con­vinc­ing their lazy sup­port­ers to vote than ei­ther of the ma­jor par­ties do, and if we ac­cept that logic then the in­escapable con­clu­sion is that the Tea Party’s in­fluence is be­ing in­flated by Amer­ica’s non-com­pul­sory vot­ing sys­tem.

You do know tea party ac­tivists are ac­tu­ally above av­er­age on nearly any stat you’d care to name? Ed­u­ca­tion, poli­ti­cal knowl­edge, …

Just look at Konkvis­ta­dor—surely LWi­ans and their ilk are the peo­ple we want MOST to vote?

Well sure! Any plan on a rev­olu­tion to make sure only we vote? Be­cause oth­er­wise a very elo­quent Church pas­tor or Har­vard pro­fes­sor can sin­gle-hand­edly bring more vot­ing power to bear than we.

• 21 Sep 2012 1:49 UTC
−6 points
Parent

You do know tea party ac­tivists are ac­tu­ally above av­er­age on nearly any stat you’d care to name? Ed­u­ca­tion, poli­ti­cal knowl­edge, …

It’s weird, I had con­sid­ered us­ing that same fact as an ar­gu­ment for MY side of this de­bate, but I cut it for the sake of brevity. To be clear, are you sug­gest­ing that the Tea Party is a good in­fluence on Amer­i­can (or world) poli­tics? Sure, they’re smarter than the av­er­age Amer­i­can, but clearly be­ing slightly smarter doesn’t trans­late to a similar in­crease in san­ity. Glenn Beck him­self is definitely smarter than most Amer­i­cans, but he’s never let that get in the way of be­ing a froth­ing lu­natic. I could men­tion a whole swathe of ex­am­ples of how de­spite be­ing smarter, the Tea Party is also far more rad­i­cal and morally ob­jec­tion­able than Amer­i­cans on av­er­age, but I’ll just link some ar­ti­cles be­cause I have class in half an hour and want keep this quick.
http://​​voices.wash­ing­ton­post.com/​​poli­ti­cal-book­worm/​​2010/​​05/​​10_fic­tious_tea_party_be­liefs.html http://​​pewre­search.org/​​pubs/​​1903/​​tea-party-move­ment-re­li­gion-so­cial-is­sues-con­ser­va­tive-christian

The rea­son we want to raise av­er­age voter IQ is be­cause we think this will make the vot­ers saner on av­er­age, but in the case of the Tea Party this clearly hasn’t hap­pened. This is ex­actly why I brought them up—these peo­ple haven’t been mo­ti­vated to vote by an ap­peal to their in­tel­li­gence, or there’d be a hell of a lot more of them and their poli­cies would be differ­ent. Rather, they’ve been mo­ti­vated by an ap­peal to their fear and anger and rad­i­cal­ism. You can’t get lazy mod­er­ates to the vot­ing booths by whip­ping them up into mis­guided fury, but you CAN get lazy rad­i­cals like that, so by mak­ing vot­ing non-com­pul­sory you hand peo­ple like Glenn Beck, Michelle Bach­man, Sarah Palin, etc, a much greater pro­por­tion of the votes than they de­serve. You don’t have to be smart to re­al­ise the Tea Party is wrong, just sane. Con­versely, you don’t have to be dumb to be in­sane.

• It’s weird, I had con­sid­ered us­ing that same fact as an ar­gu­ment for MY side of this de­bate, but I cut it for the sake of brevity. To be clear, are you sug­gest­ing that the Tea Party is a good in­fluence on Amer­i­can (or world) poli­tics?

I can’t speak for Konkvis­ta­dor but I cer­tainly do.

Glenn Beck him­self is definitely smarter than most Amer­i­cans, but he’s never let that get in the way of be­ing a froth­ing lu­natic.

What you mean is that you dis­agree with him on a lot of is­sues, for each one con­sider the pos­si­bil­ity that it is you who is be­ing a lu­natic.

http://​​voices.wash­ing­ton­post.com/​​poli­ti­cal-book­worm/​​2010/​​05/​​10_fic­tious_tea_party_be­liefs.html

Wow, 6 of the 10 “fic­ti­tious” be­liefs ap­pear to ac­tu­ally be true (Edit: I sus­pect you dis­agree but de­bat­ing them here might run even for afoul of the taboo against poli­tics, or not what­ever). As for the other 4 I don’t have enough in­for­ma­tion to as­sign prob­a­bil­ities ei­ther way.

• Which 6? I know very lit­tle about any of these is­sues, but my pri­ors on how poli­tics work in gen­eral (mostly suc­cess­ful-poli­ti­ci­ans-are-never-too-rad­i­cal and they-always-main­tain-sta­tus-quo) make it difficult to score any 6 of these as be­ing prob­a­ble.

• Which 6?

2 through 7, al­though now that I read it again 10 is at least par­tially true, i.e., the Tea Party is in fact a gen­uine grass roots move­ment.

I know very lit­tle about any of these is­sues, but my pri­ors on how poli­tics work in gen­eral (mostly suc­cess­ful-poli­ti­ci­ans-are-never-too-rad­i­cal and they-always-main­tain-sta­tus-quo)

And yet the poli­ti­cal sta­tus quo to­day is differ­ent from what it was 50 years ago and very differ­ent from what it was 100 years ago.

• I would be in­ter­ested to see your sup­port­ing ev­i­dence for 2, 4 and 6. Don’t feel that you have to ar­gue them, I won’t ar­gue against them, but if you could link me to some sources or some­thing in the spirit of ed­u­cat­ing me I would be ap­pre­ci­a­tive.

• Really? Some­one voted this down? I was ex­pect­ing to take a pretty big karma hit for ex­press­ing ex­plicit poli­ti­cal opinions on here, but this post didn’t even offer any­thing that could be dis­agreed with, let alone fal­la­cious rea­son­ing. I was hon­estly and humbly ask­ing for more in­for­ma­tion. I’ve lost 23 karma points to­day. 22 of those losses I wouldn’t have minded, but this one is just non­sense. Did some­body just go through and down­vote ev­ery­thing I’ve ever said or some­thing?

• Did some­body just go through and down­vote ev­ery­thing I’ve ever said or some­thing?

You may have a stalker. As far as I can tell, there are a small num­ber of peo­ple us­ing the vot­ing sys­tem against per­sons they dis­like rather than against low-qual­ity com­ment con­tent.

• against per­sons they dis­like rather than against low-qual­ity com­ment content

Th­ese are not mu­tu­ally ex­clu­sive. In­deed, they can go to­gether, the lat­ter form­ing the ba­sis for one pos­si­ble sense of the former.

• No­tice that Eug­ine_Nier’s com­ments have also been voted down en masse. My guess is that at least one per­son thought that the whole dis­cus­sion was too close to par­ti­san poli­tics for LessWrong and down­voted all the com­ments in the thread.

I think that a good policy would be to move this kind of dis­cus­sions to the monthly Poli­tics thread. (By which I mean not only that Stu­art’s origi­nal post should have been on there, as some­one else said, but also that when a dis­cus­sion like this one about the Tea Party emerges or­gan­i­cally in a non-poli­tics post, a mod­er­a­tor should move the whole sub­thread to the Poli­tics thread).

• Haha, and now the ev­i­dence re­quest com­ment has been voted back up to zero but the one ask­ing why the origi­nal was down­voted has been down­voted. Pre­dic­tion: this post will also be down­voted.

Ah well, whether or not some­one out there dis­likes my con­tri­bu­tions to it, this thread has been worth­while be­cause it has pro­vided me with im­por­tant data-points. The most im­por­tant data-points are always the ones that sur­prise you. Data-point: some mem­bers of Less Wrong are Glenn Beck fans.

• Hon­estly I’m get­ting tired of peo­ple gasp­ing in a hor­ror at the idea that in a read­er­ship of hun­dreds, a sin­gle per­son down­voted them. I also get down­voted. I don’t always feel those down­votes are de­served. Some­times those com­ments get up­voted back to zero or be­yond, some­times not. I don’t keep com­plain­ing about ev­ery sin­gle down­vote that I feel is un­de­served, wast­ing time and space.

I’ve not down­voted you, but speak­ing gen­er­ally I’m very likely to down­vote peo­ple com­plain­ing about down­votes.

• Your an­noy­ance has been noted. Keep in mind, though, that I had asked a ques­tion in an at­tempt to see things from Eug­ine_Nier’s point of view, and that at the time I made the com­plain­ing post I hadn’t got­ten an an­swer yet, but had been down-voted for my trou­ble. It’s poor prac­tice for the com­mu­nity to pun­ish peo­ple who make an effort to ex­am­ine the ev­i­dence against their strongly-held opinions, and it’s in my best in­ter­ests to rail against com­mu­nity be­havi­our that gets in the way of my own learn­ing. I cer­tainly don’t make a habit of whinge­ing about ev­ery loss of karma that seems un­jus­tified to me—if I thought the loss of karma was de­served then I wouldn’t have made the post in the first place—but I re­serve the right to kick up a stink if I think peo­ple’s down-votes are ob­struct­ing ra­tio­nal pro­cess. And, of course, I’m will­ing to cop any fur­ther karma loss that I take as a re­sult as hav­ing been sac­ri­ficed for a wor­thy cause. So, go ahead down-vot­ing com­plain­ers if that’s what makes you happy, but I’d re­spect­fully like to ten­der the sug­ges­tion that oc­ca­sion­ally com­plain­ing is the right thing to do.

• 2) Death panels

Well ob­vi­ously this de­pends on what one means by “death pan­els”, this ar­ti­cle for ex­am­ple pro­vides a de­cent ar­gu­ment.

4) Obama is go­ing to take away our guns.

This one is hard to score since I sus­pect he’d be push­ing this much harder if the Tea Party didn’t ex­ist.

6) Fas­cism is a left-wing phe­nomenon.

Edit: Note this state­ment will de­pend on what one means by “left-wing”. I in­ter­pret the state­ment to mean “the most nat­u­ral cluster in thing-space that in­cludes move­ments gen­er­ally called ‘left-wing’ also in­cludes fas­cism.”

• Edit: Note this state­ment will de­pend on what one means by “left-wing”. I in­ter­pret the state­ment to mean “the most nat­u­ral cluster in thing-space that in­cludes move­ments gen­er­ally called ‘left-wing’ also in­cludes fas­cism.”

The thing is that AFAIK fas­cism never de­scribed it­self as left-wing. It some­times de­scribes it­self as a third po­si­tion, a mix­ture/​im­prove­ment of both left-wing and right-wing ideas, but when­ever it ac­tu­ally chose be­tween the two it preferred to de­scribe it­self as right-wing.

It tends to be treated as “left-wing” only by those peo­ple who define left/​right only by the crite­rion of statism—a treat­ment which re­ally isn’t the his­tor­i­cal us­age...

• It tends to be treated as “left-wing” only by those peo­ple who define left/​right only by the crite­rion of statism—a treat­ment which re­ally isn’t the his­tor­i­cal usage

That part in bold should be nom­i­nated for un­der­state­ment of the year.

• I’m ac­tu­ally read­ing Sow­ell’s In­tel­lec­tu­als and So­ciety right now, play­ing the game ‘record all in­stances where he crit­i­cizes con­ser­va­tives or liber­tar­i­ans’ - so far 0.

Last night, I thought I could at least chalk up his crit­i­cism of Naz­iism & Ital­ian fas­cism as in­stances 1 & 2, ex­cept he im­me­di­ately launched into the stan­dard ar­gu­ment that ‘no, ac­tu­ally those are so­cial­isms don’t you see’. Oy vey.

(It’s re­ally not a good book so far.)

• Sow­ell is one of the best in­tel­lec­tu­als in Amer­i­can con­ser­vatism right now, but that’s also clearly where he makes his home, which is dis­ap­point­ing from a LW per­spec­tive. The two books by him that I like best are Knowl­edge and De­ci­sions and A Con­flict of Vi­sions. The first is, if I re­mem­ber cor­rectly, an up­dated ex­pla­na­tion of Hayek’s in­sights, al­though the sec­ond ~60% of the book is spent on ‘his­tor­i­cal trends’ and is prob­a­bly about as bi­ased as you would ex­pect. The sec­ond is ex­plic­itly about poli­tics, but its first chap­ter is tremen­dously in­sight­ful. (The lat­ter sec­tions of that book are ba­si­cally more de­tailed rep­e­ti­tion, and again I would ex­pect the ex­am­ples to be solidly con­ser­va­tive-lean­ing.)

• The thing is that AFAIK fas­cism never de­scribed it­self as left-wing.

Na­tional So­cial­ism.

• You’ve defini­tively solved the is­sue of the poli­ti­cal ori­en­ta­tion of Nazism by merely not­ing the word “So­cial­ism” in its ti­tle, just like a stereo­typ­i­cal Amer­i­can con­ser­va­tive does, with­out even the need to know any­thing about Otto and Gre­gor Strasser or how the left wing fac­tion of the Nazi party was defeated, ex­punged and purged.

• I was re­spond­ing to the claim I quoted. If you’re go­ing to in­ten­tion­ally mis­in­ter­pret any­thing I write, I don’t see what the point of con­tin­u­ing this dis­cus­sion.

• The claim you quoted said “left-wing”, it didn’t say “So­cial­ist”.

And the parts that you didn’t quote men­tioned that fas­cism did some­times de­scribe as a mix­ture of both left-wing and right-wing ideas, just like “Na­tional So­cial­ism” in­cluded the word “Na­tional” to ap­peal to right-wing na­tion­al­ists, and “So­cial­ism” to ap­peal to left-wingers.

If you want to make a re­but­tal to my ac­tual claim, find a place where Nazism or Fas­cism de­scribes it­self as “left-wing”—just left-wing, not “a re­sponse to both left and right” or “a syn­the­sis of both left and right”, or in­deed “Na­tional So­cial­ist”.

• Na­tion­al­ism is not limited to the right. Depend­ing the time and place na­tion­al­ism can be ei­ther right or left wing.

• Thanks! :)

• I guess I don’t see how to prop­erly in­ter­pret 3. Is it that Obama is a mus­lim AND a so­cial­ist AND a facist (which is how I took it). The first is very un­likely to be true given Obama’s record of at­tend­ing Jeremiah Wright’s ser­vice.

• Un­less Wright is also a mus­lim, I sup­pose.

• I was in­ter­pret­ing the slashes as ORs.

• 21 Sep 2012 5:15 UTC
−3 points
Parent

I can see three or four that are vaguely dis­putable:

• Obama did lower taxes for 95% of work­ing Amer­i­cans, but per­haps he raised the to­tal amount of tax rev­enue the the gov­ern­ment takes in? Maybe the Tea Party were never claiming that he would raise taxes over­all, but were in­stead claiming that the ar­eas in which he would raise taxes would cause a lot of harm? I can see some­one defend­ing ei­ther of these the­ses.

• Per­haps Eug­ine_Nier ac­tu­ally does be­lieve that global warm­ing is a hoax.

• He al­most cer­tainly does think that the Tea Party is a grass-roots move­ment. I can mount an ar­gu­ment against this but at the end of the day it de­pends what your crite­rion for “grass-roots” is. I think this one was the weak­est one on the list and I wouldn’t have put it there if I was the au­thor.

I guess maybe you could add the one about the Wash­ing­ton march—al­though the num­ber of peo­ple who at­tended is a mat­ter of fact, not opinion, per­haps the ar­gu­ment could be mounted that the 70000 figure ex­cludes peo­ple who should count to­wards the tally, or was taken dur­ing a lull in pro­ceed­ings. The rest, though? If there are Birthers on Less Wrong then… Well, that would be a dis­ap­point­ing dis­cov­ery. We’re sup­posed to be good at weigh­ing up ev­i­dence.

• If there are Birthers on Less Wrong then… Well, that would be a dis­ap­point­ing dis­cov­ery.

Frankly, the whole Birther thing re­minds of how, back in the day, de­bates about whether a prince was ac­tu­ally the king’s son served as prox­ies for de­bates about whether the prince would make a good king. I think this ex­plains why both sides seem to be much more sure of their po­si­tion than the ev­i­dence war­rants. (Although most of the “birthers” whose blogs I read don’t claim to know for sure that Obama wasn’t born in the US)

As for the mat­ter of fact, I don’t know where Obama was born How­ever, it is in­ter­est­ing that un­til he went into poli­tics, Obama him­self claimed to be born in Kenya.

• As for the mat­ter of fact, I don’t know where Obama was born.

You may have just dis­qual­ified your­self for a Bayesian...

How­ever, it is in­ter­est­ing that un­til he went into poli­tics, Obama him­self claimed to be born in Kenya.

The link you gave doesn’t say “Obama him­self claimed to be born in Kenya”, it says that Obama’s liter­ary agent said Obama was born in Kenya. In fact the very link you gave even offers a fur­ther link from an ear­lier 1990 in­ter­view that says clearly “He was born in Hawaii”

So, I’m down­vot­ing this, as even a cur­sory ex­am­i­na­tion of the links you gave in­di­cate your state­ment to be in­ac­cu­rate and mis­lead­ing.

• 21 Sep 2012 6:15 UTC
−3 points
Parent

Frankly, the whole Birther thing re­minds of how, back in the day, de­bates about whether a prince was ac­tu­ally the king’s son served as prox­ies for de­bates about whether the prince would make a good king.

You are be­ing un­rea­son­ably gen­er­ous to Birthers. If they wanted to dis­cuss Obama’s qual­ifi­ca­tions and abil­ities then they would be dis­cussing them ex­plic­itly. A crown prince has the lawful right to take the throne when the reign­ing monarch died—one of the few ways to get rid of a bad prince was to have him de­clared ille­gi­t­i­mate. If Obama is a bad pres­i­dent then he can be voted out, no need to in­vent spu­ri­ous rea­sons for his dis­qual­ifi­ca­tion. Birthers are man­u­fac­tur­ing doubt about Obama’s birth­place and then de­mand­ing bal­anced cov­er­age of both sides of the story. That’s also what you’re do­ing in the last para­graph of your post: “I don’t know the truth, but I find it in­ter­est­ing that...” You have all the ev­i­dence you need to come to an in­formed opinion. Balanced cov­er­age would be re­port­ing the fact that he was born in Hawaii and has the birth cer­tifi­cate to prove it.

• That’s also what you’re do­ing in the last para­graph of your post: “I don’t know the truth, but I find it in­ter­est­ing that...”

This strikes me as an ex­cuse to avoid look­ing at the ev­i­dence be­ing pre­sented.

Balanced cov­er­age would be re­port­ing the fact that he was born in Hawaii and has the birth cer­tifi­cate to prove it.

Birthers were claiming that the cer­tifi­cate was fake. That was at about the point I stopped pay­ing at­ten­tion.

• 21 Sep 2012 6:48 UTC
−1 points
Parent

This strikes me as an ex­cuse to avoid look­ing at the ev­i­dence be­ing pre­sented.

No, the ev­i­dence is the birth cer­tifi­cate. I’ve looked at it. Say­ing “I don’t know, but I find it in­ter­est­ing...” is offer­ing in­nu­endo in the place of ev­i­dence, since you seem to be­lieve the birth cer­tifi­cate is real, which means the “born in Kenya” claim has to be in­cor­rect.

• 21 Sep 2012 3:42 UTC
−5 points
Parent

Glenn Beck him­self is definitely smarter than most Amer­i­cans, but he’s never let that get in the way of be­ing a froth­ing lu­natic.

What you mean is that you dis­agree with him on a lot of is­sues, for each one con­sider the pos­si­bil­ity that it is you who is be­ing a lu­natic.

Let me be very clear, I’m not call­ing Beck a lu­natic solely on grounds of his policy. His policy is rad­i­cal and I dis­agree with it, but that isn’t my main piece of ev­i­dence, it’s the cherry on the top. This is my main ev­i­dence:

This pres­i­dent I think has ex­posed him­self over and over again as a guy who has a deep-seated ha­tred for white peo­ple or the white cul­ture....I’m not say­ing he doesn’t like white peo­ple, I’m say­ing he has a prob­lem. This guy is, I be­lieve, a racist.

–on Pres­i­dent Obama, July 28, 2009

I’m think­ing about kil­ling Michael Moore, and I’m won­der­ing if I could kill him my­self, or if I would need to hire some­body to do it. … No, I think I could. I think he could be look­ing me in the eye, you know, and I could just be chok­ing the life out. Is this wrong? I stopped wear­ing my What Would Je­sus—band—Do, and I’ve lost all sense of right and wrong now. I used to be able to say, ‘Yeah, I’d kill Michael Moore,’ and then I’d see the lit­tle band: What Would Je­sus Do? And then I’d re­al­ize, ‘Oh, you wouldn’t kill Michael Moore. Or at least you wouldn’t choke him to death.’ And you know, well, I’m not sure.

–re­spond­ing to the ques­tion “What would peo­ple do for \$50 mil­lion?”, “The Glenn Beck Pro­gram,” May 17, 2005

Al Gore’s not go­ing to be round­ing up Jews and ex­ter­mi­nat­ing them. It is the same tac­tic, how­ever. The goal is differ­ent. The goal is global­iza­tion...And you must silence all dis­sent­ing voices. That’s what Hitler did. That’s what Al Gore, the U.N., and ev­ery­body on the global warm­ing band­wagon [are do­ing].

–”The Glenn Beck Pro­gram,” May 1, 2007

So here you have Barack Obama go­ing in and spend­ing the money on em­bry­onic stem cell re­search. … Eu­gen­ics. In case you don’t know what Eu­gen­ics led us to: the Fi­nal Solu­tion. A mas­ter race! A perfect per­son. … The stuff that we are fac­ing is ab­solutely fright­en­ing.

–”The Glenn Beck Pro­gram,” March 9, 2009

I don’t think we came from mon­keys. I think that’s ridicu­lous. I haven’t seen a half-mon­key, half-per­son yet.

– May 18, 2010

They [Democrats in Congress] be­lieve in com­mu­nism. They be­lieve and have called for a rev­olu­tion. You’re go­ing to have to shoot them in the head. But warn­ing, they may shoot you.

– June 9, 2010

The most used phrase in my ad­minis­tra­tion if I were to be Pres­i­dent would be ’What the hell you mean we’re out of mis­siles?″

—Jan. 2009

I can’t be both­ered writ­ing up a sum­mary of his con­spir­acy the­o­ries, but it’s worth googling his Cal­iphate the­ory. That is, google it if you don’t be­lieve his other the­ory about how Google is part of a sep­a­rate but equally evil con­spir­acy.

Wait, did I just get punk’d? Was this a se­ri­ous re­ply that I re­sponded to? I’m gen­uinely won­der­ing, I’m not try­ing to make fun of you. Poe’s Law and all that.

• Quotes on a tv show that achieves rat­ings based on sen­sa­tion­al­ism aren’t great ev­i­dence for the san­ity of the main char­ac­ter.

• For­give me, I should have been more care­ful with the word­ing of my the­sis.

Either Glenn Beck is ac­tu­ally un­bal­anced, or he is do­ing a fairly good job of pre­tend­ing to be mad for rat­ings, in which case the char­ac­ter he plays is a crazy per­son. Either way, the “Glenn Beck” per­sona is still a bea­con of the Tea Party and I think that is good ev­i­dence that the Tea Party is ir­ra­tional.

• His policy is rad­i­cal and I dis­agree with it,

I agree that Beck has a ten­dency to use let’s say “evoca­tive rhetoric” that would cer­tainly not pass muster on LW.

This pres­i­dent I think has ex­posed him­self over and over again as a guy who has a deep-seated ha­tred for white peo­ple or the white cul­ture....I’m not say­ing he doesn’t like white peo­ple, I’m say­ing he has a prob­lem. This guy is, I be­lieve, a racist.

What ex­actly is so “lu­natic” about this quote? Yes, the rea­son­ing isn’t up to LW stan­dards, but that’s true of nearly all rea­son­ing out­side LW.

I’m think­ing about kil­ling Michael Moore, and I’m won­der­ing if I could kill him my­self, or if I would need to hire some­body to do it. … No, I think I could. I think he could be look­ing me in the eye, you know, and I could just be chok­ing the life out. Is this wrong? I stopped wear­ing my What Would Je­sus—band—Do, and I’ve lost all sense of right and wrong now. I used to be able to say, ‘Yeah, I’d kill Michael Moore,’ and then I’d see the lit­tle band: What Would Je­sus Do? And then I’d re­al­ize, ‘Oh, you wouldn’t kill Michael Moore. Or at least you wouldn’t choke him to death.’ And you know, well, I’m not sure.

He is by no means the only pub­lic per­son­al­ity to fan­ta­size about kil­ling a promi­nent mem­ber of the op­pos­ing poli­ti­cal fac­tion.

I don’t think we came from mon­keys. I think that’s ridicu­lous. I haven’t seen a half-mon­key, half-per­son yet.

I dis­agree with him, but you may want to read this be­fore de­cid­ing that this is ob­vi­ously “lu­natic”.

I can’t be both­ered writ­ing up a sum­mary of his con­spir­acy the­o­ries, but it’s worth googling his Cal­iphate the­ory.

Near as I can tell, this the­ory stripped of the flow­ery lan­guage boils down to the pre­dic­tion that the Mus­lim spring up­ris­ing will re­sult in theo­cratic Is­lamic gov­ern­ments that will at­tempt to im­pose Is­lamic theoc­racy on the rest of the world to the best of their abil­ities. Well, in light of re­cent events this pre­dic­tion is look­ing in­creas­ingly prob­a­ble.

Wait, did I just get punk’d? Was this a se­ri­ous re­ply that I re­sponded to? I’m gen­uinely won­der­ing, I’m not try­ing to make fun of you. Poe’s Law and all that.

Let me guess, this is the first time you’ve been in a dis­cus­sion with some­one whose poli­ti­cal views are vastly differ­ent from your own.

• 21 Sep 2012 5:59 UTC
−3 points
Parent

Noth­ing’s wrong with be­ing rad­i­cal. I’m rad­i­cal my­self on many is­sues. But his policy is rad­i­cal and I do dis­agree with it, so it ap­pears to me to be rad­i­cally wrong. I am mak­ing the case that read­ers should agree with me on this point.

What ex­actly is so “lu­natic” about this quote? Yes, the rea­son­ing isn’t up to LW stan­dards, but that’s true of nearly all rea­son­ing out­side LW.

I think the sug­ges­tion that the Pres­i­dent has a deep-seated ha­tred for white peo­ple is lu­dicrous. If you have any se­ri­ous ev­i­dence that Obama is con­ceal­ing a burn­ing em­nity to­wards peo­ple of Euro­pean de­scent then I am will­ing to weigh it against the ev­i­dence I have already seen to the con­trary, but at the mo­ment it seems so un­likely to be true that I strug­gle to imag­ine how a per­son could se­ri­ously be­lieve it with­out suffer­ing from some se­vere cog­ni­tive hand­i­cap. Thus: it seems like the sort of thing only a lu­natic could be­lieve.

He is by no means the only pub­lic per­son­al­ity to fan­ta­size about kil­ling a promi­nent mem­ber of the op­pos­ing poli­ti­cal fac­tion.

Sure, I’m cer­tain plenty of peo­ple fan­ta­size about kil­ling their poli­ti­cal op­po­nents, but how many of them ac­tu­ally sug­gest on tele­vi­sion that they would like to do so? I’ve seen Chuck Nor­ris do it, I’ve seen Glenn Beck do it. I’m sure there are oth­ers, but again, I think that tel­ling the na­tion about how you would en­joy star­ing into a man’s eyes as you choked the life out of him is not the sort of thing a sane, ra­tio­nal per­son would do with sincerely.

I dis­agree with him, but you may want to read this be­fore de­cid­ing that this is ob­vi­ously “lu­natic”.

I agree that not be­liev­ing in evolu­tion doesn’t make him in­sane, just rad­i­cally in­cor­rect. Per­haps that par­tic­u­lar quote was poor ev­i­dence for the “lu­natic” the­sis.

His Cal­iphate the­ory pre­dicts that hard­core so­cial­ists and com­mu­nists will work to­gether with Mus­lims to over­throw Is­rael, cap­i­tal­ism, The West, and any other sta­ble coun­tries. He posits a con­spir­acy.

Let me guess, this is the first time you’ve been in a dis­cus­sion with some­one whose poli­ti­cal views are vastly differ­ent from your own.

No, I of­ten en­gage in poli­ti­cal de­bate. I en­joy it! I am an ac­tive mem­ber of a minor­ity poli­ti­cal party, I at­tend a Univer­sity full of in­tel­li­gent peo­ple with varied opinions, I have a wide cir­cle of friends from a range of back­grounds, many of whom dis­agree with me quite strongly. I have had this ex­act con­ver­sa­tion dozens of times. The fact that you con­sider it a pos­si­bil­ity that I have never en­coun­tered some­one who dis­agreed with me is bizarre to me. My as­sump­tion was that you are in the same po­si­tion. I asked if you were jok­ing be­cause I was sur­prised to find a Glenn Beck apol­o­gist in one of the most ra­tio­nal fo­rums on the in­ter­net, and I didn’t want to look silly if it turned out you were be­ing sar­cas­tic.

• I’ve seen Chuck Nor­ris do it, I’ve seen Glenn Beck do it. I’m sure there are others

All the celebri­ties fan­ta­siz­ing about kil­ling Bush.

His Cal­iphate the­ory pre­dicts that hard­core so­cial­ists and com­mu­nists will work to­gether with Mus­lims to over­throw Is­rael, cap­i­tal­ism, The West, and any other sta­ble coun­tries.

Well, to a large ex­tent hard­core so­cial­ists and com­mu­nists are work­ing to­gether with Is­lamists.

I asked if you were jok­ing be­cause I was sur­prised to find a Glenn Beck apol­o­gist in one of the most ra­tio­nal fo­rums on the internet

The fact that you were sur­prised to find a Tea Party sup­porter here is pre­cisely why I won­dered whether you’ve had any pre­vi­ous ex­pe­rience with peo­ple who aren’t on the left.

My as­sump­tion was that you are in the same po­si­tion.

Given how dom­i­nant the left is at uni­ver­si­ties this a much less likely state­ment.

• 21 Sep 2012 6:40 UTC
−2 points
Parent

All the celebri­ties fan­ta­siz­ing about kil­ling Bush.

I count a pro­fessed de­sire to as­sas­si­nate Bush as a mark against the san­ity of who­ever pro­fessed it, too. More peo­ple do­ing it doesn’t make it saner.

The fact that you were sur­prised to find a Tea Party sup­porter here is pre­cisely why I won­dered whether you’ve had any pre­vi­ous ex­pe­rience with peo­ple who aren’t on the left.

It is my ex­pe­rience with peo­ple who aren’t on the left that made me sur­prised. I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but you will strug­gle to find peo­ple out­side the US (from ei­ther side of poli­tics) who don’t think that the Tea Party are wingnuts. That said, by the won­ders of the in­ter­net I have spo­ken to a num­ber of Tea Party sup­port­ers, as well as read­ing the work of Tea Party lead­ers. My ex­pe­riences did not dis­pose me to ex­pect to find a Tea Party sup­porter here.

My as­sump­tion was that you are in the same po­si­tion.

Given how dom­i­nant the left is at uni­ver­si­ties this a much less likely state­ment.

What I meant was “I as­sumed you had had plenty of dis­cus­sions with peo­ple who dis­agreed with you poli­ti­cally, too.” I’m not im­ply­ing that I’ve changed that as­sump­tion, ei­ther, just that I was sur­prised you didn’t re­cip­ro­cate it.

• I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but you will strug­gle to find peo­ple out­side the US (from ei­ther side of poli­tics) who don’t think that the Tea Party are wingnuts.

I’m perfectly aware of this, that’s why I con­sid­ered you never hav­ing en­coun­tered a Tea Party sup­porter be­fore a rea­son­able pos­si­bil­ity.

• I don’t un­der­stand why you think dumb peo­ple with no in­ter­est in poli­tics will keep things more mod­er­ate rather than vot­ing for whichever ex­trem­ist al­igns with their poorly thought out no­tions. Again, it doesn’t mat­ter if smart peo­ple are the peo­ple we want most to vote if in­creased vot­ing causes them to be more out­num­bered by the peo­ple we want LEAST to vote. It’s also not just smart peo­ple I care about, it’s smart peo­ple who share my views. If the base rate for peo­ple to be similar to me is 1 in a thou­sand, and 200 out of a thou­sand are peo­ple I hate, and the rest are neu­tral, then in­creased per­centage of peo­ple vot­ing causes WAY more peo­ple to vote for things I hate than it does peo­ple to vote for things I like. Even if out of that 200 you claim 150 of them already vote so that doesn’t mat­ter, I still think the re­main­der of lazy peo­ple with opinions I hate still hugely out­num­ber those of peo­ple whose opinions I like.

• It’s also not just smart peo­ple I care about, it’s smart peo­ple who share my views.

What’s wrong with stupid peo­ple who share your views? In a bi­nary elec­tion, they could eas­ily form more than half the elec­torate.

I’m hon­estly un­de­cided this time around. My gut tells me the in­creased en­ter­tain­ment value of can­di­date A over can­di­date B out­weighs their minor policy differ­ences...

• The prob­lem is that es­sen­tially no­body thinks similar to you. In par­tic­u­lar, there are only a few hun­dred LWers, who are ge­o­graph­i­cally scat­tered, not poli­ti­cally unified, and who don’t all even think similarly enough to agree that one should vote for the rea­sons you’ve given.

Com­pul­sory vot­ing has a down­side, in­so­far as it re­quires poorly mo­ti­vated vot­ers, who will also know less, to vote.

• I agree that that is a down­side of com­pul­sory vot­ing, but at the mo­ment my strong sus­pi­cion is that it’s offset by the dilu­tion of the cra­zies—see my re­ply to Drethe­lin above re: the Tea Party.

Note also that LWers are not nec­es­sar­ily the de­mo­graphic that I as­so­ci­ate most strongly with, and in fact that I don’t as­so­ci­ate with any rigidly defined de­mo­graphic at all. There are definitely peo­ple out there who think like me, though, and if we vote as a bloc then we have more power than just me alone. This is why peo­ple un­der­es­ti­mate their own vot­ing power, and this is why peo­ple who care at all about not be­ing lead by lu­natics should vote.

• One doesn’t have to op­pose democ­racy to ad­vise folks not to vote. Ja­son Bren­nan makes a lot of pro-democ­racy, pro-civic en­gage­ment ar­gu­ments along these lines. Here’s the ab­stract to his pa­per “Pol­lut­ing the polls”

Just be­cause one has the right to vote does not mean just any vote is right. Ci­ti­zens should not vote badly. This duty to avoid vot­ing badly is grounded in a gen­eral duty not to en­gage in col­lec­tively harm­ful ac­tivi­ties when the per­sonal cost of re­straint is low. Good gov­er­nance is a pub­lic good. Bad gov­er­nance is a pub­lic bad. We should not be con­tribut­ing to pub­lic bads when the benefit to our­selves is low. Many demo­cratic the­o­rists agree that we shouldn’t vote badly, but that’s be­cause they think we should vote well. This de­mands too much of cit­i­zens.

• When I vote, I get the moral right to com­plain about other peo­ples’ votes, and there­fore to com­plain about the ac­tions of the gov­ern­ment these votes elect.

That right is worth the 20 min I need to spend to go vote, even with­out any con­sid­er­a­tion of the con­se­quences of vot­ing col­lec­tively.

• In my coun­try, we have the right to com­plain about any­thing we want, re­gard­less of vot­ing.

• In my coun­try, you’re eyed with sus­pi­cion if you don’t com­plain.

• I’m talk­ing about the moral right, not the le­gal right. If you don’t be­lieve in the con­cept of moral rights, that’s okay, but it was what I was refer­ring to.

• When I vote, I get the moral right to com­plain about other peo­ples’ votes, and there­fore to com­plain about the ac­tions of the gov­ern­ment these votes elect.

That right is worth the 20 min I need to spend to go vote, even with­out any con­sid­er­a­tion of the con­se­quences of vot­ing col­lec­tively.

How re­mark­able, a 20 minute rit­ual can con­fer on me new moral rights, I feel like be­ing a Catholic all over again! But let us now dis­cuss how many an­gels can dance on that par­tic­u­lar pin.

Do peo­ple who aren’t al­lowed to vote al­lowed to com­plain? Like chil­dren, teenagers and con­victs? Also ille­gal im­mi­grants and for­eign­ers who live legally in the coun­try but don’t have cit­i­zen­ship?

Do I still get to com­plain about ju­di­cial de­ci­sions that aren’t in­fluenced by votes? Do I get to com­plain about old laws? Do I have the moral right to com­plain if I’m wronged, say my hu­man rights vi­o­lated?

If the per­sonal is the poli­ti­cal as some claim, have I lost all right to moral judge­ment be­cause I’m a non-voter? Us non-vot­ers if you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poi­son us do we not die? And if you wrong us shall we not re­venge?

Also I should re­mind you that un­for­tu­nately (since I want to get rid of all poli­tics), de­cid­ing not to vote is a poli­ti­cal act as well. By not vot­ing I show I do not think this whole democ­racy thing is a le­gi­t­i­mate regime, I will obey its laws for I am small and the state is big. I am the regime’s sub­ject of this there is no doubt, but I have no wish, and there is of yet no law, to force me to play in the mum­mer’s farce of cit­i­zen­ship.

• I am gen­uinely in­ter­ested to know what your preferred al­ter­na­tive to poli­tics is. Don’t get me wrong, I have a cou­ple of preferred al­ter­na­tives my­self. I want to see how closely our al­ter­na­tives match.

• Futarchy for starters. Neo­cam­er­al­ism pro­posed by Men­cius Mold­bug might work bet­ter but is risky. City state oli­garchies. Anar­chy-Cap­i­tal­ism if you can get it. A Repub­lic with limited fran­chise if you can keep it. A prop­erly set up monar­chy. Even demo­cratic tech­noc­racy, where demo­cratic el­e­ment would have about as much role in gov­er­nance as the Monar­chy part does in the Con­sti­tu­tional Monar­chy of the United King­dom. Ar­guably we are nearly there any­way.

• Futarchy for starters

Which sur­pris­ingly does not mean “the rule by women with male gen­i­talia”.

• Nor rule by fút­bol.

• How re­mark­able, a 20 minute rit­ual can con­fer on me new moral rights,

You find such a thing strange? When I buy a coffee, the rit­ual of giv­ing the coffee-shop owner a coin of spe­cific worth con­fers on me the moral right to drink the coffee I just bought.

Do peo­ple who aren’t al­lowed to vote al­lowed to com­plain?

Yes.

Do I still get to com­plain about ju­di­cial de­ci­sions that aren’t in­fluenced by votes?

Yes.

Do I get to com­plain about laws?

Only if you choose to vote against the laws you com­plain about, when given said chance.

• You find such a thing strange? When I buy a coffee, the rit­ual of giv­ing the coffee-shop owner a coin of spe­cific worth con­fers on me the moral right to drink the coffee I just bought.

I don’t re­call buy­ing a cup of democ­racy. I don’t re­call agree­ing to this sys­tem of gov­ern­ment at all, and darn it I can’t seem to find a party that wants to abol­ish it ei­ther.

• I don’t re­call buy­ing a cup of democ­racy.

The thing I was sug­gest­ing you were buy­ing with your vote was the “moral right to com­plain”, not democ­racy. Democ­racy in this case is the es­tab­lished coffee-shop. You pay with your vote (or other at­tempts to in­fluence the poli­ti­cal out­come), you get the moral right to com­plain about the col­lec­tive idiocy of oth­ers.

“I don’t re­call agree­ing to this sys­tem of gov­ern­ment at all”

I don’t think that any of your preferred forms of gov­ern­ment re­quire many peo­ple’s “agree­ment”. And most of those would prob­a­bly de­prive you of the le­gal right to com­plain as well. (you would have already lost the moral right to com­plain by helping de­priv­ing the le­gal right to com­plain from oth­ers)

If you re­ally re­ally want the right to com­plain (whether le­gal or moral), it’s un­likely you’ll find a sys­tem more suited for it than democ­racy.

• You pay with your vote (or other at­tempts to in­fluence the poli­ti­cal out­come), you get the moral right to com­plain about the col­lec­tive idiocy of oth­ers.

I dis­agree. I’m hav­ing trou­ble un­der­stand­ing it, could you per­haps just stay away from metaphors and ex­plain your moral rea­son­ing here?

(you would have already lost the moral right to com­plain by helping de­priv­ing the le­gal right to com­plain from oth­ers)

First off I’m not sure which pro­cess you are us­ing to make this moral judge­ment, so I’m un­sure whether I grant your moral rea­son­ing any weight or not. Se­condly can you please make this for the sake of the de­bate a bit less per­sonal? Con­sid­er­ing the spirit of gen­eros­ity we usu­ally see on LW I’m quite shocked to see state­ments like this. You re­ally won’t be chang­ing minds with this, least of all mine. I find if funny that fewer un­favourable things where said about my moral­ity when I was ar­gu­ing in favour of in­fan­ti­cide in a differ­ent thread… Vot­ing is prob­a­bly sa­cred to some peo­ple.

Re­gard­less, If you check out my com­ment his­tory I’ve strongly favoured free­dom of speech and free­dom of con­science in nearly ev­ery dis­cus­sion I’ve had. Doesn’t that buy me some­thing in your moral sys­tem too?

If you re­ally re­ally want the right to com­plain (whether le­gal or moral), it’s un­likely you’ll find a sys­tem more suited for it than democ­racy.

I dis­agree here. Futarchy would provide at least as much and Neo­cam­er­al­ism should in the­ory provide more free­dom of speech than I cur­rently have.

• Futarchy would provide at least as much

I’ll grant this, though I don’t know how ex­ist­ing rules about in­sider trad­ing would con­flict with be­liefs about so­ciety it­self be­com­ing offi­cially the ob­ject of trade and profit.

and Neo­cam­er­al­ism should in the­ory provide more free­dom of speech than I cur­rently have.

If I un­der­stand Mold­bug’s neo­cam­er­al­ism, it would give the gov­ern­ment the perfect right to be­head you if it doesn’t like your taste in shoes—be­cause in Mold­bug’s view there’s no differ­ence be­tween the right to do some­thing and the power to do some­thing. And Mold­bug ad­vo­cates in favour the gov­ern­ment hav­ing com­plete and to­tal power over all its sub­jects.

He just ar­gues that the gov­ern­ment won’t bother ex­er­cis­ing such power be­cause it wouldn’t be prof­itable for them to do so. But un­for­tu­nately Mold­bug’s view that a gov­ern­ment to­tally in con­trol wouldn’t bother to con­trol peo­ple’s thoughts goes in con­trast with pretty much ev­ery­thing we know about his­tory. He ar­rives at a purely “log­i­cal” con­clu­sion which just isn’t backed up by his­tor­i­cal ex­pe­rience.

Not that I wouldn’t love cities that would be in­di­vi­d­u­ally run as cor­po­ra­tions—e.g. this . It’s the Neo­cam­er­al­ist vi­sion of them hav­ing ab­solute power of life and death over their sub­jects that scares the hell out of me.

I note that Mold­bug’s ex­am­ple of Sin­ga­pore as a well-run state which is run on non-Univer­sal­ist and non-Demo­cratic prin­ci­ples was hilar­i­ously backed by a Sin­ga­pore res­i­dent’s let­ter which was so ter­rified of be­ing seen to crit­i­cize Sin­ga­pore, that even in his mostly-praise­ful let­ter he felt he had to use the name “Nar­nia” in­stead of the name “Sin­ga­pore”. Such free­dom of speech in a well-run au­thor­i­tar­ian state...

• I’m hav­ing trou­ble un­der­stand­ing it, could you per­haps just stay away from metaphors and ex­plain your moral rea­son­ing here?

Okay,

• “com­plain­ing about a per­son’s vote” can mean two things: Either that I be­lieve “they should have voted differ­ently” or that I be­lieve “they should not have voted at all.”.

• There­fore to have the moral right to hon­estly com­plain about their vote, I must ei­ther be­lieve “ev­ery­one should have voted differ­ently” or I must be­lieve “ev­ery­one should not have voted at all.”

• Since I don’t be­lieve so­ciety would be bet­ter if no­body voted, then the only op­tion I have if I want this moral right to com­plain is “they should have voted differ­ently”.

• And there­fore it would be hypocrisy if I like­wise hadn’t my­self gone to vote differ­ently.

Now, the thing you’re not get­ting is that I’m not re­ally judg­ing you. My first com­ment was about how it bought me the moral right to com­plain. Some­one who re­ally thinks the world would be bet­ter if no­body voted is ex­empt from this par­tic­u­lar line of rea­son­ing. Be­cause as you said, non-vot­ing can be a poli­ti­cal act too.

• Up voted for cor­re­spond­ing to my re­quest for elab­o­rat­ing your ar­gu­ment.

Edit: Is it wrong to re­ward peo­ple elab­o­rat­ing their ar­gu­ment?

• Since we just agreed rights are mostly in­co­her­ent, can you please restate the ar­gu­ment for vot­ing with­out refer­ence to them?

• 20 Sep 2012 21:19 UTC
−2 points
Parent

By not vot­ing I show I do not think this whole democ­racy thing is a le­gi­t­i­mate regime

No, you only show that you can’t be both­ered to spend 20 min­utes to vote. Other­wise you would vote and spoil the bal­lot.

• I kind of con­sider that the same as non-vot­ing, but yeah I’ve done that too when I ac­com­panied oth­ers on their way to vot­ing.

• 20 Sep 2012 18:11 UTC
−2 points
Parent

Ri­tu­als that con­fer new moral rights? That’s Catholic!

• Down­voted for un­nec­es­sary lev­els of dis­dain.

• I don’t think so, I was re­spond­ing to an ar­gu­ment free as­sert­ing that ba­si­cally called my be­havi­our im­moral.

• The ar­gu­ment as­serts that my be­hav­ior is im­moral as well, and yet some­how I man­aged to re­strain my­self from caus­tic, un­helpful lan­guage.

• When I vote, I have reg­istered ap­proval of one fac­tion of poli­ti­ci­ans and have ar­guably lost my right to com­plain about the poli­cies they go ahead and en­act. (If they lose, I should not com­plain ei­ther, and I should humbly sub­mit to the out­come of the demo­cratic pro­cess.)

Good thing the idea of “rights” is mostly in­co­her­ent any­way.

• You prob­a­bly have in­deed lost the right to com­plain about that par­tic­u­lar fac­tion of poli­ti­ci­ans you voted for, if they acted ac­cord­ing to how you can rea­son­ably have pre­dicted them to act. (e.g. in my own home­land I don’t think any­one who voted for the Neon­azi party has the right to com­plain about them when they pre­dictably started mur­der­ing im­mi­grants)

• You should fac­tor in that un­cer­tainty be­fore vot­ing! Con­se­quen­tial­ism, dude.

• I think peo­ple have a right to find out that they were wrong, and say so.

• If a psy­chopath says “tell me which of your kids you want me to shoot, or I shoot them all any­way”, you don’t be­come an ac­ces­sory to mur­der by an­swer­ing him, be­cause ev­ery­body rec­og­nizes that you were un­der duress and just try­ing to re­duce the dam­age.

If you are faced with a choice of “tell us which jerk gets to or­der ev­ery­one around, or we’ll pick some­one any­way with­out your in­put”, then at­tempt­ing to pick the lesser evil also does not make you cul­pable of any­thing, for similar rea­sons.

(If it was pos­si­ble to send a “protest” mes­sage by not vot­ing, things might be more com­pli­cated, but in prac­tice any such protest sig­nal would be undis­cern­able from ap­a­thy and cyn­i­cism noise)

• When I vote, I have reg­istered ap­proval of one fac­tion of poli­ti­ci­ans and have ar­guably lost my right to com­plain about the poli­cies they go ahead and en­act.

I’m con­fused, what if I reg­ister my ap­proval or dis­ap­proval by protest­ing, dis­tribut­ing leaflets, mak­ing pe­ti­tions to var­i­ous courts or writ­ing an­gry blog posts? Surely I’ve made more im­pact on poli­tics by en­gag­ing in pro­pa­ganda, ac­tivism and le­gal ac­tion than if I merely voted. Per­haps I can even get a job as a gov­ern­ment ad­vi­sor and thus di­rectly reg­ister my ap­proval or dis­ap­proval to the poli­ti­ci­ans them­selves. Why is vot­ing magic?

(If they lose, I should not com­plain ei­ther, and I should humbly sub­mit to the out­come of the demo­cratic pro­cess.)

Why? May I re­mind you who can win elec­tions in a democ­racy…

Good thing the idea of “rights” is mostly in­co­her­ent any­way.

On this we agree, but I won­der why you then made your ar­gu­ment in that lan­guage?

• When I vote, I get the moral right to com­plain about other peo­ples’ votes, and there­fore to com­plain about the ac­tions of the gov­ern­ment these votes elect.

I see com­plain­ing as a ba­sic hu­man right. Say­ing that peo­ple who don’t vote shouldn’t com­plain is an effort to elimi­nate a ma­jor source of feed­back about how a so­ciety is go­ing.

Say­ing that peo­ple who don’t vote shouldn’t com­plain (or pos­si­bly shouldn’t be listened to by vot­ers) seems to me like a claim that was trumped up to get peo­ple to vote. Vot­ing makes rel­a­tively lit­tle differ­ence. How about “peo­ple who don’t vote in pri­maries shouldn’t com­plain”? Peo­ple who don’t re­search their votes shouldn’t com­plain? Peo­ple who don’t take an ac­tive part in poli­tics by re­search­ing and then try­ing to in­fluence other peo­ple shouldn’t com­plain?

• Stu­art, there are now ap­par­ently monthly poli­tics dis­cus­sion threads. In fu­ture you could tuck some­thing like this in one of those.

• Pos­si­bly. I wasn’t re­ally that in­ter­ested in the poli­tics, just won­der­ing whether there was an Xrisk an­gle I hadn’t no­ticed.

• The threads are in­tended for such non­stan­dard dis­cus­sions of poli­tics, not color wars.

• Ok. I’ll bear that in mind in fu­ture.

• 20 Sep 2012 16:35 UTC
9 points

I kind of con­sider democ­racy a ma­jor source of ex­is­ten­tial risk es­pe­cially look­ing at the op­por­tu­nity costs, nei­ther can­di­dates are promis­ing to get rid of it.

Edit: This isn’t spur of the mo­ment con­trar­i­anism, at one point I in­tended to write a se­ries of ar­ti­cles on democ­racy for the site. The pub­lic draft for the first part of that se­ries is here.

• Have you ever read any of the Vorkosi­gan saga by Lois Bu­jold?

Just cu­ri­ous whether you think that the gov­ern­ment of Bar­ra­yar is an im­prove­ment cur­rent Western gov­ern­ments.

• This is an am­bigu­ous ques­tion. At the time the nov­els are set, Bar­ra­yar has a pop­u­lar, clever, benev­olent, and ca­pa­ble em­peror. A longer his­tor­i­cal view would in­clude a num­ber of tyrants and dev­as­tat­ing civil wars.

• So a great case study for the the­ory and prac­tice of monar­chy?

• I think fic­tional ev­i­dence isn’t ter­ribly con­vinc­ing. Note also that monar­chy in the cur­rent era is con­stantly at risk of turn­ing into ei­ther democ­racy or tyranny. “An­cient blood” hasn’t been a re­li­able source of le­gi­t­i­macy since 1789. As a re­sult, monar­chs need ei­ther elec­tions or raw force to keep their grip. And tyranny is un­sta­ble and tends to re­sult in great wasted effort in pre­vent­ing coups and in­sur­rec­tions.

• I think fic­tional ev­i­dence isn’t ter­ribly con­vinc­ing.

In­deed. Try Hans-Her­man Hoppe’s Democ­racy: The God that Failed or Gra­ham’s The Case Against Democ­racy. Nei­ther is all that con­vinc­ing that monar­chy is much bet­ter than democ­racy, but they make a de­cent case that it is at least marginally bet­ter. Note that Hoppe’s book ob­vi­ously started as a col­lec­tion of ar­ti­cles, it is se­ri­ously repet­i­tive. Both books are short and fairly easy reads.

• No I haven’t, is it a good read?

• They’re widely con­sid­ered out­stand­ing sci­ence fic­tion. Four of the Vorkosi­gan nov­els have won Hugo awards.

• As a non-USian, my main in­ter­est in the elec­tion is watch­ing the num­bers go up and down on Nate Silver’s blog.

• May I sug­gest In­trade as a past­time?

• I was un­der the im­pres­sion from read­ing stuff Gw­ern wrote that In­trade was a bit ex­pen­sive un­less you were us­ing it a lot. Also, even as­sum­ing I made money on it, wouldn’t I be li­able for tax? I in­tend to give own­ing shares via a self-se­lect ISA a go.

• If In­trade were an effi­cient mar­ket that made use of all of the in­for­ma­tion in the world, that would be true. Peo­ple make enough bad bets of­ten enough that it’s not too hard to find pre­dic­tions that are ob­vi­ously priced wrong.

• Why do you think space ex­plo­ra­tion mat­ters? Self-sus­tain­ing space coloniza­tion is decades away, and wouldn’t help against UFAI. OTOH, it might help in the case of global war, if there are some colonies that all sides are nice enough not to at­tack.

I can’t think of any risks that space coloniza­tion helps against that deep un­der­ground colonies wouldn’t, though space coloniza­tion has the huge ad­van­tage of be­ing much more pop­u­lar.

(Also, as­ter­oid min­ing is a WMD and might in­crease x-risk for that rea­son. On the other hand, cheaper more abun­dant min­er­als might be geopoli­ti­cally sta­bi­liz­ing — or desta­bi­liz­ing, for all I know.)

• Why do you think space ex­plo­ra­tion mat­ters?

Prob­a­bly mostly in­di­rectly, as a cat­a­lyst for sci­ence, en­g­ineer­ing, and in­dus­try in gen­eral, with con­comi­tant benefi­cial effects on ed­u­ca­tion and liv­ing stan­dards, thus po­ten­tially al­low­ing more at­ten­tion and re­sources to be al­lo­cated to x-risk miti­ga­tion in the long term.

On the other hand, tech­nolog­i­cal ad­vances bring risks of their own, so it’s not ob­vi­ous what the net benefit is. My in­tu­ition tends to fa­vor ad­vance­ment, but I’m open to per­sua­sion if there are good (par­tic­u­larly in­side-view) ar­gu­ments against it.

• Other ex­is­ten­tial risks that are im­pacted by space coloniza­tion in­clude as­ter­oids and sud­den dis­eases. One other thing to keep in mind is that if the Great Filter is some spe­cific ad­vanced tech­nol­ogy that we haven’t yet con­structed, then it is likely that space coloniza­tion will al­low some avoidance of that. This fol­lows since any such tech­nol­ogy will likely not be able to spread much be­yond the planet where it oc­curs (oth­er­wise we would have started to see signs of its spread in the star sys­tems that are the graves of civ­i­liza­tions). Thus for ex­am­ple, the Filter prob­a­bly is not some­thing like a slow false vac­uum col­lapse made by a spe­cific tech­nol­ogy. In that re­gard, space coloniza­tion helps pro­tect against a lot of un­known un­knowns.

if there are some colonies that all sides are nice enough not to at­tack.

The tech level to at­tack a Mars colony is as high as the tech level to send colonies. And no colony would be a sub­stan­tial mil­i­tary threat. De­liber­ately con­struct­ing weapons to speci­fi­cally at­tack a colony well be­fore hos­tilities break out seems not just not nice but well be­yond so­cio­pathic. The level of out­right vin­dic­tive­ness seems even be­yond that of any clas­si­cal dic­ta­tor.

• these all seem weak fac­tors.

In­deed, and more­over they can­cel each other out.

the fact the the Repub­li­cans have gone so strongly anti-sci­ence is cer­tainly a bad sign.

Only in their rhetoric, which is at most weakly cor­re­lated with their ac­tual policy de­ci­sions.

are the things I should care about in the elec­tion, or can I just lie back and en­joy it as a piece of in­ter­est­ing the­atre?

Pure the­ater. En­joy the show. Think of it as the Sta­tus Olympics, which oc­cur ev­ery four years along with the sum­mer games.

• In­deed, and more­over they can­cel each other out.

They don’t ex­actly can­cel out. I think that brains tend to use “these things can­cel out” as an ex­cuse to do less think­ing.

• Only in their rhetoric, which is at most weakly cor­re­lated with their ac­tual policy de­ci­sions.

Yes, but in this case, the rhetoric mat­ters. I be­lieve this was Stu­art’s point. If we want to raise the “san­ity wa­ter­line”, then, all else be­ing equal, saner poli­ti­cal di­a­log is a good thing. Right?

• saner poli­ti­cal di­a­log

oxy­moron.

• No, sane poli­ti­cal di­a­log is an oxy­moron. Saner poli­ti­cal di­a­log isn’t, just as “big­ger shrimp” isn’t.

• The risk of global war is the pre­dom­i­nant one to con­sider. I put that at a slight edge for Rom­ney, since I think Obama will be seen as weaker abroad, and per­ceived weak­ness is a ma­jor risk.

• 20 Sep 2012 20:13 UTC
4 points

Robin Han­son re­cently wrote a rele­vant ar­ti­cle on our sister site Over­com­ing Bias. I must in­sist that any­one who wants to com­ment it to read the whole thing and be fa­mil­iar with the ma­te­rial he cites and links to, but for those who are just seek­ing a low cost con­clu­sions from a vet­ted ra­tio­nal­ists like him, the last para­graph sum­mary:

So, as a pro­fes­sor of eco­nomics who has stud­ied poli­tics, my ad­vice is to not vote if you know an av­er­age amount or less, to copy a bet­ter in­formed close as­so­ci­ate if you are will­ing to ap­pear sub­mis­sive, and oth­er­wise to just re­elect in­cum­bents when your life goes bet­ter than you ex­pected. And if you care a lot more about the out­come than most do, help cre­ate pres­i­den­tial de­ci­sion mar­kets, so other info-seek­ers will have a bet­ter place to turn.

1. Global co­or­di­na­tion and agree­ment im­proves the out­look for some ex­is­ten­tial risks; dam­ages the out­look for oth­ers.

2. Put­ting aside for a mo­ment the ques­tion of whether Obama or Rom­ney is more awful in gen­eral: Obama has ac­tu­ally been rel­a­tively good at space policy. Gin­grich prob­a­bly would have been able to do bet­ter, but if the cur­rent crop of Repub­li­can con­gress­men was in charge, SpaceX et. al. would have been shut out long ago in fa­vor of more pork for solid rocket booster com­pa­nies.

3. “Lie back and en­joy it” re­ally isn’t on the table, but “don’t worry about the things you can’t change” might be de­cent ap­pli­ca­ble ad­vice.

• Any ex­is­ten­tial risk an­gles to the US pres­i­den­tial elec­tion?

Let me see… I think Obama has only served one term, which means he is qual­ified to try again so he is prob­a­bly one of the can­di­dates.

• Con­firmed.

• On the as­sump­tion that the most likely UFAI is in­tended to max­i­mize in­vest­ment re­turns, which can­di­date would make it more prob­a­ble?

• Rom­ney would likely be more pro-busi­ness than Obama in part by fa­vor­ing lower cor­po­rate taxes, less bur­den­some reg­u­la­tions, and pri­ori­tiz­ing high skil­led vs. low skil­led im­mi­grants. So com­pared to Obama, un­der Rom­ney the U.S. would prob­a­bly have more eco­nomic growth (but also more eco­nomic in­equal­ity). As eco­nomic growth is vi­tal for sci­en­tific ad­vance­ment, Rom­ney would prob­a­bly cre­ate a bet­ter en­vi­ron­ment for sci­en­tific progress than Obama would.

• I don’t think the ev­i­dence of pres­i­den­tial in­fluence on growth rates is enough to sup­port the con­tention (in ei­ther di­rec­tion). Yes, fa­mously, the econ­omy grows bet­ter un­der demo­cratic pres­i­dents—but that’s a very small sam­ple, with no clear causal­ity. But cer­tainly enough to re­ject the idea that a Rom­ney pres­i­dency would be nec­es­sar­ily bet­ter for the econ­omy.

• I’m not go­ing by past trends. De­mo­graph­ics com­bined with en­ti­tle­ments are go­ing to cre­ate a mas­sive prob­lem for the U.S. My per­cep­tion is that Rom­ney would han­dle this by re­duc­ing the rate of growth of en­ti­tle­ments and do­ing ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to in­crease eco­nomic growth whereas Obama wants to han­dle the prob­lem by in­creas­ing taxes on the rich.

• You’re mix­ing up lev­els.

EDIT: To be clearer - You’re com­par­ing a high-level goal/​plan of can­di­date A (“make econ­omy good”) to a low-level plan of can­di­date B (“get money from peo­ple”). Ex­am­ple: “Can­di­date X wants to safe­guard our free­dom and pros­per­ity, but can­di­date Y wants to send Amer­i­cans to fight and die over­seas.” The rea­son this leads to a false im­pres­sion is be­cause we read­ily at­tribute low-level plans to high-level plans/​goals (“if he wants free­dom and pros­per­ity, that means he’ll do good things”) but don’t at­tribute high-level plans/​goals to low-level plans (“If he’s go­ing to send Amer­i­cans to fight and die over­seas, how can you say he wants free­dom and pros­per­ity?”).

The rhetor­i­cal effect of com­par­ing plans on differ­ent lev­els may be diminished by re­mem­ber­ing that nei­ther can­di­date is an evil mu­tant—they both have high-level plans that are pretty much “make good things hap­pen, stop bad things from hap­pen­ing.”

• Yes, fa­mously, the econ­omy grows bet­ter un­der demo­cratic presidents

The data I’ve seen says the op­po­site, e.g., com­pare the economies un­der Carter and Rea­gan.

• That is a par­tic­u­larly bad com­par­i­son. Rea­gan had the best growth rate among Repub­li­can pres­i­dents since WWII and Carter had the sec­ond worst growth rate among Demo­cratic pres­i­dents.

You can see the an­nu­al­ized GDP growth rates un­der all the post-Tru­man pres­i­dents here. Four of the top five growth rates were un­der Demo­cratic pres­i­dents (and that in­cludes Carter). The only Demo­crat who isn’t in the top five is Obama, who is at the ab­solute bot­tom. The only Repub­li­can in the top five is Rea­gan at no. 4.

• Yes, but sci­en­tific¹ progress would make both FAI and uFAI more likely.

1. Ac­tu­ally you mean “tech­nolog­i­cal”—figur­ing out whether neu­trinos are Ma­jo­rana par­ti­cles isn’t go­ing to be very rele­vant to ex­is­ten­tial risk in the short and mid­dle term, but your ar­gu­ments still ap­ply (even more, be­cause pri­vate en­ter­prises are usu­ally more in­ter­ested in ap­plied re­search than in pure re­search).

• I don’t think that this is com­pletely ob­vi­ous to me. It wouldn’t have been ob­vi­ous in say 1930 that in­ves­ti­ga­tion of atoms would lead to a se­ri­ous ex­is­ten­tial risk, or any sub­stan­tial new tech­nolo­gies for that mat­ter. If some as­pect of ba­sic physics pre­sents a more effi­cient com­put­ing sub­strate, or a new source of en­ergy, that could eas­ily have an im­pact (albeit not nec­es­sar­ily di­rectly).

• Why would more less-skil­led im­mi­grants be bad for busi­ness? Wouldn’t that mean both more con­sumers and cheaper la­bor?

• I’m not claiming that low skil­led im­mi­grants harm busi­ness just that higher skil­led ones are bet­ter for eco­nomic growth than lower skil­led im­mi­grants are.

• If they’re available in equal num­bers, sure. But that seems un­likely to be the case.

• Just for my clar­ity: do you mean to as­sert that other fac­tors won’t sig­nifi­cantly af­fect the en­vi­ron­ment for sci­en­tific progress com­pared to the effect of eco­nomic growth? Or are you just not think­ing about them here?

• I think that eco­nomic growth is by far the most im­por­tant fac­tor, but it’s not the only fac­tor.

• So don’t vote for Rom­ney then.

• Democrats are more likely raise taxes on tech star­tups, which re­duces the in­cen­tives to cre­ate new (pos­si­bly dan­ger­ous) AI.

• Repub­li­cans are more likely to ap­prove of im­mi­gra­tion re­stric­tions, which also slows de­vel­op­ment.

• Either side might sup­port a “Man­hat­tan pro­ject” that dumps a trillion dol­lars into a sci­en­tific goal, in­creas­ing the risk of UFAI.

• Iran could go ei­ther way. Repub­li­cans were more war-mon­ger­ing and more Zion­ist last decade, but Democrats are catch­ing up.

• Democrats are more likely to take the risk of a global pan­demic se­ri­ously.

• Democrats are more likely to take the risk of a global pan­demic serious

If its a for­eign plague I ac­tu­ally ex­pect Repub­li­cans be bet­ter at quaran­tine.

• Stag­na­tion → re­duced ex­is­ten­tial risk is not a well-es­tab­lished fact. Our abil­ity to cope with tech­nolo­gies that would be more de­layed in stag­na­tion can go down as well as up, stag­na­tion will not af­fect all tech­nolo­gies equally and can skew the dis­tri­bu­tion worse, and there are other risks in the mean­time. Not to men­tion that one ought to be very cau­tious about fram­ing progress as a prob­lem when there is so much chance of a false-pos­i­tive, as op­posed to fram­ing things as an in­ves­tiga­tive/​re­search ques­tion.

might sup­port a “Man­hat­tan pro­ject” that dumps a trillion dol­lars into a sci­en­tific goal, in­creas­ing the risk of UFAI.

Why think that this in­creases the risk of UFAI, rel­a­tive to the ex­pected dis­tri­bu­tion of de­vel­op­ment in in­dus­try, academia, or non­prof­its ab­sent such a pro­ject?

• Repub­li­cans are more likely to ap­prove of im­mi­gra­tion restrictions

Not on high skil­led im­mi­grants.

Democrats are more likely to take the risk of a global pan­demic seriously

But they de­mo­nize the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal in­dus­try which pro­vides our best defense against pan­demics.

• Again I’m not sure why this is down voted. This was a poli­ti­cal dis­cus­sion af­ter all and Repub­li­cans re­ally haven’t men­tioned any re­stric­tions on high skil­led im­mi­gra­tion at all.

Is it re­ally so im­po­lite to point out that fruit pick­ers and start up founders mostly come from differ­ent pools?

• Our best defense against pan­demics would be to raise oil prices. Fight­ing travel that al­lows ill­nesses to spread rapidly.

• .

• 20 Sep 2012 19:19 UTC
−4 points

Democ­racy in a mul­ti­cul­tural place like mod­ern Amer­ica is in­creas­ingly a sham. When you have, say, black peo­ple vot­ing as a 96% bloc, it be­comes clear that this is not an ab­stract choice so much as a state­ment of tribal iden­tity and power. And in re­sponse to this, other groups form tribal blocs. Well guess what: even you ra­tio­nal­ist white guys aren’t ex­empt from this dy­namic! Democ­racy is a nice idea, but it is trumped for most peo­ple by deeper tribal and re­li­gious alle­giances. Mul­ti­cul­tural democ­racy sim­ply de­volves into con­tests be­tween com­pet­ing tribes. And if you don’t think of your­self as a mem­ber of a tribe, then you will sim­ply lose power. So I first iden­tify my tribal alle­giances, then I look at the can­di­dates and ask: Which one will give me and my tribe more power? To me this is the cor­rect and ra­tio­nal way to vote, and it has noth­ing to do with ab­stract is­sues like “ex­is­ten­tial risk.” The ex­is­ten­tial risk that mat­ters most to me is tribal dis­em­pow­er­ment!

• The cor­rect and ra­tio­nal way to vote is to stay home and do some­thing pro­duc­tive in­stead, un­less you’re a weirdo like me who gets some util­ity (en­ter­tain­ment value?) from spend­ing hours re­search­ing can­di­dates in the rue­ful knowl­edge that there’s effec­tively zero prob­a­bil­ity of ac­tu­ally af­fect­ing any­thing via the effort.

The only way I can see to elimi­nate the tragedy of the com­mons of vot­ing (any­body can have more per­sonal time for them­selves at the cost of mak­ing the com­mons of “how good is the elec­tion out­come” worse) would be al­low­ing peo­ple to del­e­gate their votes. If peo­ple who re­spect my in­tel­li­gence can eas­ily del­e­gate to me, and there’s no ma­jor trans­ac­tion costs for me to del­e­gate our votes to some­one whose de­ci­sion mak­ing abil­ity I re­spect, and so on, then even­tu­ally the elec­tion “shares” en­trusted to non-del­e­gat­ing vot­ers grows to the point where they start to have ra­tio­nal in­cen­tives to put in the time to val­i­date that trust.

Of course, in prac­tice this would just make trib­al­ism worse, make se­cret bal­lots im­pos­si­ble, and leave elec­tions in the hands of whichever bosses and/​or union lead­ers were the best at bul­ly­ing votes out of peo­ple. So now I’m out of ideas.

• Ac­tu­ally I don’t vote, I was just hav­ing some fun with words. The cor­rect way to win in a demo­cratic sys­tem is to ma­nipu­late peo­ple on a large scale via pro­pa­ganda, fear-mon­ger­ing, “dirty tricks”, strate­gi­cally timed scan­dals, etc. This is pre­cisely how the game is played by the Sith Lords be­hind the scenes, and the rea­son why vot­ing is a to­tal in­sult to the more in­tel­li­gent cit­i­zens of a democ­racy.

• Cer­tainly.

The main ques­tion is: will Obama’s dis­as­trous for­eign poli­cies turn catas­trophic? In other words, will there be a ma­jor ter­ror­ist at­tack or war in the near fu­ture as a re­sult of crip­pling Amer­i­can mil­i­tary and in­tel­li­gence agen­cies, apol­o­giz­ing, ap­peas­ing, and em­pow­er­ing ter­ror­ist groups and rad­i­cal coun­tries? The prob­a­bil­ity has been creep­ing up dan­ger­ously over the last few years, and seems to be at an all-time high to­day.

The sec­ond ques­tion is: will Obama’s dis­as­trous eco­nomic poli­cies turn catas­trophic? In other words, will there be a ma­jor eco­nomic col­lapse in the near fu­ture as a re­sult of Obama’s ex­tremely loose fis­cal poli­cies of print­ing and bor­row­ing money at an un­prece­dented rate, while at the same time stran­gling eco­nomic growth with ir­ra­tional tax­a­tion, reg­u­la­tions, and other gov­ern­ment in­terfer­ence? Again, the prob­a­bil­ity of such a catas­tro­phe has been es­ca­lat­ing in the past few years and is also at an all-time high to­day.

Bot­tom line: ex­is­ten­tial risk is es­ca­lat­ing at an alarm­ing rate un­der Obama due to his ir­ra­tional eco­nomic and for­eign poli­cies and ju­di­cial nom­i­na­tions, and this would change dra­mat­i­cally by elect­ing Rom­ney. Just vot­ing for Rom­ney isn’t enough (es­pe­cially if you’re not in a swing state) - you need to be donat­ing money to his cam­paign and other PACs, and knock­ing on doors in swing states.

• I should also men­tion the Democrats’ ju­di­cial nom­i­na­tions:

Jus­tices Kennedy and Scalia are in their late 70s, and both are the crit­i­cal fifth vote on tremen­dously im­por­tant liber­tar­ian prin­ci­ples:

There are four jus­tices on the Supreme Court ready to hold that the First Amend­ment does not bar Congress from reg­u­lat­ing poli­ti­cal speech against in­cum­bents.

There are four jus­tices on the Supreme Court ready to hold that the Se­cond Amend­ment does not cre­ate any in­di­vi­d­ual rights against the gov­ern­ment.

There are four jus­tices on the Supreme Court ready to hold that the Com­merce Clause cre­ates no con­straint on Congress’s reg­u­la­tory pow­ers.

There are likely at least four jus­tices on the Supreme Court ready to hold that the gov­ern­ment can choose to dis­crim­i­nate on the ba­sis of race if “di­ver­sity” is at is­sue. [Ac­tu­ally, I think there are four votes will­ing to al­low the gov­ern­ment to use race for all sorts of pur­poses.]

One can point to in­di­vi­d­ual un­happy re­sults from Repub­li­can-ap­pointed jus­tices, but it is a math­e­mat­i­cal cer­tainty that Obama-ap­pointed jus­tices will flip the Court on these crit­i­cal is­sues of the rights of in­di­vi­d­u­als against the gov­ern­ment—none more crit­i­cal than First Amend­ment pro­tec­tion for poli­ti­cal speech. Once that falls, the game is over and liber­tar­i­ans have lost per­ma­nently. This alone is a dis­pos­i­tive liber­tar­ian case for Rom­ney, even be­fore one gets to the differ­ence be­tween a Rom­ney and Obama on eco­nomic free­dom and reg­u­la­tion.

http://​​www.volokh.com/​​2012/​​10/​​02/​​ted-frank-the-sin­gle-is­sue-liber­tar­ian-case-for-rom­ney/​​