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The Information Problem of Voters

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Ancap66 posted on Wed, Jul 18 2012 8:17 PM

Every year, opposing political think-tanks pump out voluminous research on economics. What percentage of voters bother to study research from opposing think-tanks in order to make an informed decision? Not many, if any.

Even if the layman did this research, by the time he has enough information to make an informed opinon, it will be time for the next election and many of the variables will have changed. When you throw ideological bias and political deception into the mix, it is improbable that most voters - whether they be pro- or anti-market - know the best way to allocate resources in an economy.

Since voters are poorly informed, their decisions must result in unintended consequences (i.e. not allocating resources effectively). Since many voters are ideologically biased towards deceptive politicians, they are likely to treat these unintended consequences as symptoms of the original problem. Thus, they vote for more of the same policies. [Of course, the relevant comparison is people making decisions about resources in their own hands.]

In addition, the more that voters make decisions about efficiently allocating resources, the less capable they are of doing so. This is because the quantity and interdependence of the relevant variables increase, i.e. the guesswork of voters is more likely to be wrong. There is also not much hope that voters will become less ignorant about electoral politics, because they're more likely to get hit by a car on the way to the polling booth than they are to effect the outcome of a national election.

For example, a debate about something as simple as the minimum wage is complicated by other state interventions such as welfare programs, price controls, immigration laws, etc. It would be much easier to study the effects of the minimum wage if it was only one of a few regulations. But because it is one of many, it isn't possible for the typical voter to make an informed judgement about it.

Is this a simple way of showing how bigger governments will always be less effective at allocating resources? Arguments like these avoid wading into the statistical paralysis of opposing think-tanks, and Austrians already know that statistics are flawed in the social sciences.

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What difference does information make when the voter has little actual control over the expression of their preferences via a vote anyway?  The voter did not ask for two evils from which to choose the lesser of, the powers that be left them that choice.

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cab21 replied on Wed, Jul 18 2012 9:15 PM

voters have all the choice, it's a matter of persuasion. there are no laws against efforts to try and persuade other voters to vote your way. being unsuccessful does not mean a person did not have the ability to try. who wins is up to numbers, get more numbers, win. to say people had little control is a lie i think, to say they failed to persuade other voters is more accurate. what types of control are people asking for? the ability to control what others vote, or the ability to try and persuade people to vote a certain way?

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If vast majority of voters were educated and strove for "proper" solutions then they would come about, but this has never happened on a mass scale.

At any rate, the incentive structure within a democracy is absolutely terrible... The fact that it is a value is an abomination, both from a utilitarian and moral sense.

At last those coming came and they never looked back With blinding stars in their eyes but all they saw was black...
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voters have all the choice, it's a matter of persuasion.

Mathematically voters don't have all the choice.  The plurality voting system is well known to be one of the, if not the most inequitable of voting methods, and people inside the U.S. political system have become quite adept at using that to guide people's choices well in advance of the final decision vote.

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Anenome replied on Wed, Jul 18 2012 10:26 PM
 
 

Ancap66:

Every year, opposing political think-tanks pump out voluminous research on economics. What percentage of voters bother to study research from opposing think-tanks in order to make an informed decision? Not many, if any.

Even if the layman did this research, by the time he has enough information to make an informed opinon, it will be time for the next election and many of the variables will have changed. When you throw ideological bias and political deception into the mix, it is improbable that most voters - whether they be pro- or anti-market - know the best way to allocate resources in an economy.

Since voters are poorly informed, their decisions must result in unintended consequences...

This is all quite correct. It is a major problem.

Libertarians and others of our stripe have been engaged in an information battle since we've been a movement, for at least the least 70+ years.

The results have not been encouraging. For every person sufficiently educated in libertarian principles and good economics, another probably 200 are graduated into adulthood by turnng 18 without the slightest hint of these ideas.

Thus, we've been losing the battle.

The heart of the problem is actually inherent in democracy itself. Democracy is based on the idea that the majority should be able to tell the minority what they can and cannot do--which constitutes institutionalized soft aggression on a systematic basisc, pervading all of society. It's a socialists wet-dream, and explains why political systems based on democracy tend towards socialism/statism--because they're predicated on socialism in the first place.

The answer to this problem lies within the right of free association. That is, a group of knowledgeable people must, by some means, gain enough political power to install good policies in a particular jurisdiction--AND keep a majority from changing those principles within that jurisdiction.

This amounts to the rejection of democracy, for you'll never have that with democracy.

Plus, libertarians and the like reject the NAP, so we will not take political power by force.

That means we've got to move to a place where there currently is no state jurisdiction and begin a voluntaryist legal order there. I suggest seasteading.

But, beyond that, we must return to the idea of free association and how to institute libertarian ideas in a territory.

Because we would build a voluntaryist system, we must allow the masses to continue doing stupid things with policy. But we want to be able to insulate ourselves from those policies and live under our own policies. Not an easy thing to do.

Unless you abandon the concept that legal jurisdictions own a particular territory for all time. It's this assumption that makes democracy virtually a necessity, for it would be unjust otherwise to force policies on people whom live in an area.

I suggest that jurisdictions should have boundaries that free flow and change according to the property boundaries of those whom accept the laws of that jurisdiction.

Thus, if we had a group of libertarians, we could group together and say, okay, this is how we want to run the territory bounded by our collective property. There will be no economic intervention, no restriction of buying or selling, no price fixing of products, services, or wages--etc., etc.

And anyone who accepts these ideas can voluntarily join our jurisdiction, live there, setup shop, and participate socially. Anyone outside who wants to visit and perhaps do business must accept the rules of our jurisdiction during their visit, or else be escorted off the premises as no longer welcome.

There would be no community property and thus no common claim to ownership which creates all sorts of messes generally.

In such a society, I fully accept that some people, coming from the current system, might setup a jurisdiction where they try to institute taxation, various institutional coercion of all sorts and the like.

These jurisdictions need some sort of oversight, some sort of limitation to keep them honest.

For that I propose the idea of a confederal government which would tie all these micro-jurisdictions into a national whole and would be charged with one main idea: enforcing voluntaryism. It's sole role would be to ensure that, whatever system is set up by any jurisdiction, everyone within it must be voluntarily under its power and willing to be there and follow the laws.

I think without this, we would find people setting up coercive jurisdictions.

For that reason some have called this idea a minarchist construct--I'm fine with that. It lacks the other features for which government is typically condemned: there is no monopoly on law or jurisdictin as anyone can start one, and it has no taxation.

It is, instead, a political order predicated on individualism. And for that reason should tend over time towards increasing individualism in the same way that a society predicated on socialism tends towards socialism.

The reason it would tend towards invidualism is because the system, as I conceive it, allows those with savvy about good economics and good law to fully benefit from their knowledge. Thus, such jurisdictions would prosper greatly. We have very good reason for expecting exactly this to happen.

The second reason this society would tend towards individualism is that its legal structure allows you to escape laws that you do not think would be helpful to you personally. Without majority rule, the laws each person lives by are chosen by them explicitly--no one can force law on you (with the sole rule of voluntaryism being the condition of membership in the confed itself, but you can always secede!).

And when no one can force law on you, then Bismarckian politics is finished!

This means redistributionist schemes would be impossible to force on society as a whole. It's true that people could set-up jurisdictions where they voluntarily gave portions of their income to help the indigent and the like on an institutional level--no one would be against that assuming it is voluntary. We object to it only as a coercive policy, for no ideal end can redeem immoral means.

The scam that is socialized healthcare is impossible if law cannot be forced on you. Social security would be done for. Taxation generally would be gone, sales tax as well. Eminent domain--illegal.

Libertarian enclaves in such a society would grow prosperous far beyond the nation states of the neuvo "old world" such as the USA and other so-called "modern" democracies. It would redefine what it means to be modern, from democracies to this new structure which I call "autarchy." From government to 'autonoment'.

In such a society, political and economic knowledge and experience would have a direct impact on each individual's personal life and standard of living. And for that reason people would have incentive to invest in learning it and choosing the system that seems best to them, so that they could join that jurisdiction and live out their values.

Rather than having a shadow of a choice, such as in modern voting schemes, involving the sham of representative democracy, people would have direct and total power over their own legal environment.

Suddenly, the question of which economic system is going to result in the best earnings potential for me is a relevant question. Suddenly the question of how much freedom I want in a political environment is entirely decided by the individual.

It gets even better when you realize that allowing people to group up by ideology and belief systems and have basically total control over their legal system means an end to political fighting.

You meet a communist who thinks it would be better to live in a communist system? Fine, let him start his own jurisdiction with fellow communists and run it themselves, with the willing. They will not be able to coerce anyone into joining them, or force anyone to stay who wants to leave--as voluntaryism would be the highest value of such a society.

No longer does a communist need to think in terms of taking power or deceiving the masses into voting for them. Simply start your own thing and see if you can attract people. Given history, they will indeed attract plenty of people, mostly the young, and live out a hippie-style life, but they won't attract the masses.

And libertarians will be able to live in a state of true liberty, such as few have ever experienced, with a complete lack of statism or economic intervention. Not even a national currency to deal with!

And, too, the anarchs can start their own jurisdiction and simply have no law at all, finally achieving their hoped-for nirvana.

And we'll let the chips fall where they may; people will have a true choice once and for all, and no one will be able to claim that their policy was watered down by the opposition and thereby if implemented fully wouldn't have led to the results they actually got (despite Austrians telling them over and over what will inevitably result :P).

Limited Democracy has been okay, but not until the world sees with its own eyes what a truly free society is like will they be able to accept the ideas behind one.

 
Autarchy: rule of the self by the self; the act of self ruling.
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Anenome replied on Wed, Jul 18 2012 10:46 PM

cab21:
voters have all the choice, it's a matter of persuasion. there are no laws against efforts to try and persuade other voters to vote your way.

No, voters are only offered the choice of whom will rule them. They cannot choose policy in any way. It's also rather silly to try to elect people into government and asking them to restrain themselves and government. Once in power, they need not adhere to any statements or supposed principles they claimed during the campaign, and removing them from office is near impossible.

cab21:
being unsuccessful does not mean a person did not have the ability to try. who wins is up to numbers, get more numbers, win.

Smacks of the Fabian's great scam: "We don't care how you vote, just vote."

Again, voting doesn't put in place -any- policies. Only people whom say they want a particular policy. And contains zero warranties or guarantees that the person thus elected can or will actually implement that policy.

cab21:
to say people had little control is a lie i think,

We have as much power via the vote over our government as if you gave prisoners a choice of whom they want to be warden. Either way you vote, left or right, you're still choosing your own dictator who rules you, immorally, by majority vote, and forces laws and policies on you, whom expropriates income from you.

What greater fact could there be than the existence of taxes. No one actually wants to pay taxes, save a couple crazies. Yet taxes continue to be demanded. Why? Because the people cannot actually directly control the rate of taxation.

cab21:
to say they failed to persuade other voters is more accurate.

You accept the socialist ethic that others should be able to tell you what to do in all aspects of your life. I do not. Only those whom accept such an ethic can place any hope in voting to produce change.

cab21:
what types of control are people asking for? the ability to control what others vote, or the ability to try and persuade people to vote a certain way?

I ask only for the ability to control myself, and even that is denied all of us in any modern democracy.

Autarchy: rule of the self by the self; the act of self ruling.
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The solution is to improve education among people. First we must reduce the size of government and influence others to a sensible candidate such as Ron Paul. This is a major step, while not abolishing the federal government, it is a good step to minimize its role.

 

 

“Since people are concerned that ‘X’ will not be provided, ‘X’ will naturally be provided by those who are concerned by its absence."
"The sweetest of minds can harbor the harshest of men.”

http://voluntaryistreader.wordpress.org

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cab21 replied on Thu, Jul 19 2012 12:38 AM

the problem of voters is voting

the problem of voting is voters

solution- no voters and  no voting

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Libertarians and others of our stripe have been engaged in an information battle since we've been a movement, for at least 70+ years.. we've been losing the battle.

The heart of the problem is actually inherent in democracy itself.

@ Anenome

I think the problem is that the masses have been focused on democracy/electoral politics, rather than thinking outside the square.

I agree that setting up our own society may be a better transitional option, since you often have to "see it to believe it".

 

My main point is that almost all voters, whether they support more or less government, are not economists - and even economists get it wrong. I've looked at research on both sides of certain issues, and understanding all the interdependent and changing variables is way too complicated for the vast majority of voters. In the areas of the economy that they have power over, they will never make smart cost/benefit analyses in favor of the "greater good" (nor do they have any reason to, given the incentive structure). If there's one thing voters can agree on, it's that they are mostly clueless about economics.

Every bureaucracy in power is the product of clueless and biased voters, and is therefore most likely to be an inefficient allocation of resources - compared with the actions of private individuals looking after their own personal and business finances.

 

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TEDxMileHighSalon - Michael Huemer - The Irrationality of Politics

 

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Anenome replied on Thu, Jul 19 2012 10:12 AM
 
 

Ancap66:
@ Anenome

I think the problem is that the masses have been focused on democracy/electoral politics, rather than thinking outside the square.

The masses still think democracy is what makes the modern republic great... it's actually what keeps modern government in debt and aggressive, and a hundred other problems.

Ancap66:
My main point is that almost all voters, whether they support more or less government, are not economists

Certainly. And we can't ever expect that they will do their homework and suddenly decide that 'libertarians know what's up, we should hand them enough political power to change things.'

Ancap66:
and even economists get it wrong. I've looked at research on both sides of certain issues, and understanding all the interdependent and changing variables is way too complicated for the vast majority of voters. In the areas of the economy that they have power over, they will never make smart cost/benefit analyses in favor of the "greater good" (nor do they have any reason to, given the incentive structure). If there's one thing voters can agree on, it's that they are mostly clueless about economics.

Every bureaucracy in power is the product of clueless and biased voters, and is therefore most likely to be an inefficient allocation of resources - compared with the actions of private individuals looking after their own personal and business finances.

Right, so the shift I want to make is to allow anyone to set up a legal jurisdiction reflecting their principles, not simply those whom are good at building political power in a democracy (mainly, as we know, by promising the moon).

Ancap66:
I agree that setting up our own society may be a better transitional option, since you often have to "see it to believe it".

I've come to believe that it's the only way we will ever see any libertarian principles embodied in law. Freedom philosophy works as a system. We wouldn't get very far by convincing any government to uptake only one part of our economic and legal prescriptions. What would it profit it us if we won the war on, say, the minimum wage, and everyone abolished the minimum wage?

That would accomplish virtually nothing, except being a feather in our cap.

Think of how much effort and political capital would need to be expended just to accomplish that, and how it would instantly become ammunition for the leftists' class warfare program, by which they don't intend to say anything logical but merely to gain political power, a sort of political ignorance arbitrage! That's a good way to put it :P

The more intellectual effort a policy requires for it to be understood, the less likely it will be accepted and made law in any democracy.

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Wheylous replied on Thu, Jul 19 2012 11:56 AM

Austrians already know that statistics are flawed in the social sciences.

Not all statistics. I think the focus is on correlation/causation.

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I think I come across here as a bit paternalistic, as if I have looked at all the research and concluded that every voter is an idiot. Rather, I have looked at some research and concluded there is no way in hell that most voters have seriously investigated all of that. In which case, liberal and conservative voters who comprise the statist quo, are uninformed about the consequences of most of the economic policies that their elected politicians implement. Therefore these policies must result in unintended consequences, which they then blame on the original problem.

So there is enough prima facie evidence to have some faith in the counter-intuitive perspective that: most of the political policies of the day are counter-productive at achieving their supposed ends.

 

That would accomplish virtually nothing, except being a feather in our cap.

I agree that this is typically how things have played out, since the size of government has always been to grow. However, the success of RP has shown that political ideas can come back in fashion. I have the impression that there are a lot of myths out there just waiting to be shattered. Of course, there will always be a percentage of free loaders, but I still like the idea of getting enough political support to throw a new tea party. However, this may only be possible once a small-scale libertarian society has been established and proven to work much better than the statist quo.

 

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Anenome replied on Thu, Jul 19 2012 11:27 PM
 

John James's Huemer link was an awesome listen/read.

Huemer makes a very insightful point, that gaining political knowledge has a high cost. And that people typically will only invest in something if they expect to get a return out of it. Yet, they know that regardless of anything they learn, their ability to influence political decision-making is exceedingly marginal, and therefore they don't bother.

This is yet another area where my proposal for multitudinous experimental seasteading jurisdictions would truly benefit a society, since living in a place where anyone can start their own jurisdiction means that there could be enormous benefit to individual political and economic education.

Furthermore, the argument of reality is much harder to ignore than merely going head to head on theory, meaning that the socialists would be forced to confront the actual outcome of their own systems, and its results failures, and thereby its failure to attract citizens to its systems, despite their "good intentions" (which will no doubt mystify them for awhile, lol).

 

 
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