Archive for the ‘Economics’ Category

Ranked-Choice Voting

December 13th, 2016 Comments off

Ranked-choice voting (RCV) means the voter votes for candidates in order of preference.  If there is no clear majority winner, the lowest-ranked nominee is eliminated, and their votes assigned to those voters’ next-highest=ranked candidate, until there is a clear majority winner.

This may not be great for general elections; it is easily used to oust a sitting party for momentary purposes.

But it would be great for primaries!  It would not throw the baby out with the bathwater, if poles were taken more often, giving voters a chance to express their preference without committing to a sudden change in government.

Single-issue candidates, though they may not be eventual winners, would be promoted as champions of their cause, and the other candidates would see the swell of support for that cause.

Financial Strip-Mining

March 7th, 2016 Comments off

The “pro-business” model of capitalism is broken — and getting worse, author and activist Les Leopold tells Salon

Categories: Economics, politicas, Uncategorized Tags:

Fracking and Baysean Calculator

August 11th, 2015 Comments off

Well, we can use the Bayes Probability Theorem to figure out how likely is is that fracking will pollute our water supply.

Suppose the probability of fracking polluting the water supply in any one spot–say, within 500 yards of the fracking site–is originally estimated, before any evidence of pollution has been found, to be only 0.5%.

Now an event happens, such as the real event: water coming from a tap in a house, which draws its water from a well, starts to ignite when an open flame is brought near it.

What are the chances that the fracking caused the pollution?  We can estimate that there is about a 40% chance that fracking is the cause.  We can also posit that, without the fracking, natural causes might cause the water to become polluted; but it’s very rarely that a water supply spontaneously becomes flammable, so let’s put that possibility at 0.05%.

Plugging these values in to the Bayesean Theorem; x=.5, y=50%, z=0.05%

Bayesean Theorem:  P = xy / xy + z(1-x)

Solving for P :  There is a 83% chance that fracking will pollute the water supply.

That is not a trivial possibility.

You can play with these figures, using my Bayesean Calculator.  In any case, you will not find the possibility of pollution from fracking to be anything but frightening.

Hey, nothing wrong with that, right?

Cause for Scepticism

August 25th, 2014 Comments off

One thing is that we are from a generation that was lied to so often, so thouroughly, that it is nearly impossible to blithely accept what scientists are saying.  Scientists are presented as authorities, and the authorities have led us astray so often that we are “fact-shy,” like horses, brushing facts from our eyes.

It was scientists and doctors who were telling us that sure, go ahead and smoke tobacco, it’s good for you, even help dry out overly-moist lungs.  It was scientists telling us of the wonders of leaded gasoline.  Science that told us that nuclear power plants were clean and perfectly safe, don’t worry your little heads.  Experts it was who told us we had to stop communism’s domino-like domination of the world.

Experts told us of the quick in-and-out victory in Iraq, and experts who let Afghanistan’s battle stagnate.  Experts who told us the economy could only expand, and the market would have no limit and could now never collapse.

So when now, “experts” scientists or not tell us that GMO foods cannot possibly harm us, are surely perfectly safe—any wonder there is scepticism?

Categories: Economics, food, general rant, Uncategorized Tags:

An unknown statistic

August 21st, 2014 Comments off

Back in 2011, the most recent year for which data is available, a staggering 83 percent of white murder victims were killed by fellow Caucasians.

This is not to say that white people are inherently prone to violence. Most whites, obviously, manage to get through life without murdering anyone. And there are many countries full of white people — Norway, Iceland, France, Denmark, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom — where white people murder each other at a much lower rate than you see here in the United States. On the other hand, although people often see criminal behavior as a symptom of poverty, the quantity of murder committed by white people specifically in the United States casts some doubt on this. Per capita GDP is considerably higher here than in France — and the white population in America is considerably richer than the national average — and yet we have more white murderers.

Categories: Economics, general rant, Uncategorized Tags:

Long-Time Social Evolution

April 14th, 2014 Comments off

Human beings, Homo Sapiens Sapiens, has been around for some 200,000 years now. But we (assuming you are human, as am I) didn’t just spring up from nowhere. The precursor to Homo Sapiens was Homo Eructus–specifically, the south-east African branch called Homo Ergaster, or Homo Rodesiensis. We are told the story of how humans came into the world from out of Africa some 150,000 years ago. But when we did leave Africa, we found that there were already out in the world other species, all very much like us, and all descendents our our common ancestor Erectus: Homo Neanderthalis, Heidelbergensis, Atecessor, Denisovan…spread all over the Eurasian continent. Humans lived beside, fought against, and sometimes mated with these other groups, and eventurally humans out-survived them.

All this time, we humans were forming families, grouping ourselves into tribes, co-operating in hunting groups, foraging together, and also fighting amongt ourselves. In short, we were engaging in the formation of societies.  Just as humans evolved over these years–developing lactose toleration, adding to or subtracting from the melanin in our skin, getting taller or shorter–so also our societies were evolving.

Is it any wonder, then, that we cannot, within one generation or less, move ourselves away from the stultifying bifurcation in our political (social) thought between conservative and liberal?

Why Do People Vote Republican?

March 19th, 2014 Comments off

Jonathan Haidt, Edge magazine September 2008,”WHAT MAKES PEOPLE VOTE REPUBLICAN”:

What makes people vote Republican? Why in particular do working class and rural Americans usually vote for pro-business Republicans when their economic interests would seem better served by Democratic policies? We psychologists have been examining the origins of ideology ever since Hitler sent us Germany’s best psychologists, and we long ago reported that strict parenting and a variety of personal insecurities work together to turn people against liberalism, diversity, and progress. But now that we can map the brains, genes, and unconscious attitudes of conservatives, we have refined our diagnosis: conservatism is a partially heritable personality trait that predisposes some people to be cognitively inflexible, fond of hierarchy, and inordinately afraid of uncertainty, change, and death. People vote Republican because Republicans offer “moral clarity”—a simple vision of good and evil that activates deep seated fears in much of the electorate. Democrats, in contrast, appeal to reason with their long-winded explorations of policy options for a complex world.

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Charles Stross Scores on Libertarianism

December 20th, 2013 Comments off

Charlie Stross, quoted in Hullabaloo:

I tend to take the stance that Libertarianism is like Leninism: a fascinating, internally consistent political theory with some good underlying points that, regrettably, makes prescriptions about how to run human society that can only work if we replace real messy human beings with frictionless spherical humanoids of uniform density (because it relies on simplifying assumptions about human behaviour which are unfortunately wrong).

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ACA Blame where it Belongs

October 24th, 2013 Comments off

Ezra says it like it is:

The classic definition of chutzpah is the child who kills his parents and then asks for leniency because he’s an orphan. But in recent weeks, we’ve begun to see the Washington definition: A party that does everything possible to sabotage a law and then professes fury when the law’s launch is rocky.

On Tuesday, Rep. Paul Ryan became the latest Republicans to call for HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to step down because of the Affordable Care Act’s troubled launch. “I do believe people should be held accountable,” he said.

Okay then.

How about House Republicans who refused to appropriate the money the Department of Health and Human Services said it needed to properly implement Obamacare?

How about Senate Republicans who tried to intimidate Sebelius out of using existing HHS funds to implement Obamacare? “Would you describe the authority under which you believe you have the ability to conduct such transfers?” Sen. Orrin Hatch demanded at one hearing. It’s difficult to imagine the size of the disaster if Sebelius hadn’t moved those funds.

How about congressional Republicans who refuse to permit the packages of technical fixes and tweaks that laws of this size routinely require?

How about Republican governors who told the Obama administration they absolutely had to be left to build their own health-care exchanges — you’ll remember that the House Democrats’ health-care plan included a single, national exchange — and then refused to build, leaving the construction of 34 insurance marketplaces up to HHS?

How about the coordinated Republican effort to get the law declared unconstitutional — an effort that ultimately failed, but that stalled implementation as government and industry waited for the uncertainty to resolve?

How about the dozens of Republican governors who refused to take federal dollars to expand Medicaid, leaving about 5.5 million low-income people who’d be eligible for free, federally-funded government insurance to slip through the cracks?

The GOP’s strategy hasn’t just tried to win elections and repeal Obamacare. They’ve actively sought to sabotage the implementation of the law. They intimidated the people who were implementing the law. They made clear that problems would be exploited rather than fixed. A few weeks ago, they literally shut down the government because they refused to pass a funding bill that contiained money for Obamacare.

The Obama administration deserves all the criticism it’s getting for the poor start of health law and more. Their job was to implement the law effectively — even if Republicans were standing in their way. So far, it’s clear that they weren’t able to smoothly surmount both the complexities of the law and the political roadblocks thrown in their path. Who President Obama will ultimately hold accountable — if anyone — for the failed launch is an interesting question.

But the GOP’s complaints that their plan to undermine the law worked too well and someone has to pay border on the comic. If Republicans believe Sebelius is truly to blame for the law’s poor launch, they should be pinning a medal on her

The Bystander Effect

October 17th, 2013 Comments off

Does this explain the revulsion of some at collectivism?  That is, does colective action appear to be an instance of the bystander effect?

Categories: Economics, politicas, Uncategorized Tags: