Some Stanky Thoughts on Political and Economic Systems

“Both Capitalism and Democracy kind of suck but no one’s come up with any better ideas”-Every Reasonably Intelligent Person Ever.

Sorry for the delay. I have been kind of busy and I spent the last week thinking that becoming good at the piano was something I could do. Things started out good. I was practicing for like five hours a day. But then on friday my sister put a pile of her clothes on the piano bench so that ended that. These are some of my ramblings on politics not really organized any way, mostly just a collection of unrelated topics that I thought of while writing this. It is more of an analysis of politics in general rather than just a liberal rant.

Models vs Complexity

When creating a system, there are two roads you can go down. You can either decide on a simple model for how the world works and base all decisions off of that or you can try to embrace the complexity of the world and make all decisions in isolation based off everything you know. There are pros and cons to both.

Model:

Pros: Decisions are easy. Everything is cohesive, efficient and working towards the same goals.

Cons: The world is not simple and bad things can happen if your model is incomplete or even worse, wrong.

Complexity:

Pros: All concerns are addressed. Reflects actual events of the world and can be responsive to change.

Cons: The world is very complex and no human could understand everything. Often different decisions are inconsistent and can negate each other. Additionally, constant problems require fixes which create other problems which leads to an endless cycle. (If I’ve learned anything from math it is that this never works out well.)

So far, every economic and governmental system has, at least in theory, been based on models. For example, Democracy is based on the model that everyone is rational, has complete information and acts in their own best interest. Capitalism is based on of or at least sold using the same model so it is unsurprising that most democracies have a fairly free market economy. (There are other reasons for this too) Communism is based off Marx’s model that human history has been a struggle between the bourgeois and the workers in addition to his model behind human psychology and our desires. Hobbes’s model was that people are inherently selfish and in a state of nature there are many prisoner dilemma scenarios where people will mostly defect.

Of course in reality there are no “pure” forms of any of these. What happens is that the people in charge have a model in mind, pick the according system and then change things that don’t work until things actually are quite complex. Really, there is no true system based off a model or based solely on complexity. It is a spectrum but I think we have fallen too far on the model side and not embraced complexity.

This model vs complexity applies to all issues and it is something to keep in mind when making decisions. I love models and if you do to it is important to be able look past them.

What I propose is to instead of starting with a terribly simplistic model, and then constantly tweaking things that are wrong, we initially start looking for a more complex model and to spend more time finding a system that fits that model. Of course this is much easier said than done. Finding a complex model that accurately describes human behavior and how the world works is no easy task, I am just saying that if one is found, a good model of how things should be run may follow as a corollary.

Our System

The way our government was set of was actually surprisingly good. Lots of thought went into it and the founding fathers are probably accurately rated. This doesn’t mean the system doesn’t have its shortcomings though. And some of the worst aspects of it are coming out now. Whether it’s the system’s, our own, or technologies fault, with all the problems facing humanity, if we don’t address the problems in our system, we are in for some trouble. Many people complain about our democracy being representative and while I do agree it’s stupid, this is not really the root cause of our problems. If we switched to a direct democracy today, our problems would be far from solved. The way I see it, there are two main problems  that our political system is facing right now and those are corruption and tribalism.

Let’s talk about tribalism first. Tribalism is clearly a problem. If you think everyone thinks rationally and makes decisions based off objective logic, you are wrong. If you think liberals are different, beyond tribalism, you are also wrong.

liberal-tribe-1.jpgliberal-tribe-2.jpgliberal-tribe-3.jpgliberal tribe 4

Conservatives of course are no better, my point is just that people from both sides of the political spectrum can behave tribalistically.

For example, there is objectively little correlation between social political and economic politics and yet most people who are socially liberal are economically conservative and people who are socially conservative are economically liberal. Additionally, people are very likely to have the same political views as their parents as well as the people living in their community. Tribalism has always been a problem and it is something that humans do naturally but right now we are seeing it like we haven’t in a long time. The main culprit is our two party system but other things escalate tribalism like social media and filter bubbles. People blindly follow their party without thinking a single thought and refuse to listen to anyone who’s opinion differs on anything. This is made worse by social media where people are only exposed to things reinforcing their tribal mentality.

Even the smartest, the best thinkers in the world fall prey to tribalism. Even I have tribalisic tendencies. I find myself disappointed if I find out someone I admire is conservative. When Trump says “It’s the democrats fault” I immediately think, “No, it’s the republicans fault.” If someone talks about how there is racism against white straight men I’m immediately like “You fucking bitch ass dumb dumb”. But I don’t actually know. I can imagine that it is probably very different than someone who is a minority but I don’t actually know what is happening in the world. This happens with lots of other issues like climate change. I have never actually seen evidence of global warming or read the most compelling counterpoints but I get angry if anyone dares to question it. Again, given that the figures I have been told are true, and what I know about the world, the scientific community, and how there is money to be made if climate change is false, it seems very likely that it is true. But that’s not what I’m thinking about when someone denies climate change. I go immediately tribal. I feel like the denier is an enemy.

Tribalism lets politicians get away with not saying anything of substance. I really wish everyone could come together and demand that politicians not use baseless rhetoric. It is very easy to spot when a politician says something that only appeals to pathos and is a terrible argument but the politicians followers love it which makes it very effective. I think it would greatly benefit everyone if people stopped responding to this type of argument even if it comes from the politician they like. One problem is that the issues of the world are so complex that most people understand basically none of it at a fundamental level. So it would take an exobament amount of time for a politician to make any argument of real substance when that time could be used attacking other canadities or riling up their base.

But if we made politicians actually explain at least one issue and explain themselves all the way down to first principles, we would actually get a sense of how they think about stuff which imo is much more important than what they think. Because even if someone has the same surface view as a politician in a broad sense, it might actually deep down be for different reasons and this will greatly affect how the policies are carried out and it might be in a way you fundamentally disagree with. And if people could really get a sense of why they think what they think, then it would inform people about how that politician would approach other areas and what they would be able to get done.

For example, Bernie Sanders talked about free college and that was effective because it was something a lot of people were angry about. But I think it would be hugely beneficial if he actually talked all the way through to the pros and cons of it and why it should be done. If he actually explained why college is important and addressed counter arguments. If he specifically explained where the money would come from and talk about why it would be a good trade off and what we would be giving up. And the effects of all that. If he reduced everything down to how it would affect human suffering. I think everyone would more accurately understand his ideas and people from the other side would be less angry.

This is probably a pipe dream though. It would not be beneficial to the politician and I don’t see how a movement like that would get started given how tribal we are as a nation. I don’t think most people have even investigated why they truly believe what they believe. Currently, if politicians had to explain down to first principles, they would have to make concessions and talk about all the effects of their policy. It would likely alienate many people without leaving many benefits.

Another obvious thought is to get rid of the two party system. This is one of the root causes and without labels, people would be forced to look at the issues objectively and make their own decision. And while I do think this would be great, getting rid of parties is basically impossible. People with the same views will just naturally come together and there is no real way to stop this. And people love to belong to tribes to give them an identity.

In a democracy, tribalism is inevitable and it is only made worse by our technology. The only hope seems to be education to teach people how to think but the catch-22 is that as long as we remain tribal, education is not going to get better.

This brings us to corruption, the second major problem in our system. Capitalism is half to blame for this but corruption thrives in democracy. Technology has let corporations become huge and small policy changes can have drastic effects on their profits. Luckily for corporations, there is a thing called lobbying. They can talk directly to politicians and as it often happens, after the meeting they like the politician so much that they donate a bunch of money to their campaign. And what a coincidence, once the politician is elected they push policy that directly benefits the corporation. You might say people are not that corrupt. Many people are good, have values and couldn’t be bribed. So why should politicians be any different? The problem is that people that are corrupt are exactly the type of people that do well in politics. I don’t have any exact figures but it seems that to get very far up the latter of politics, some corruption is needed.

This might be all dandy if it weren’t for the fact that policies that help large corporations are often directly in opposition to the good the general population. So we are left with corrupt politicians pushing policy for two reasons. It either helps a corporation that contributes to their campaign, or it is to help their future campaign. The second seems good. After all, policies that would help their future should be beneficial to the people right? Well, actually this just incentives politicians to push policies that will only bring short term benefit or only helps the demographic of people whose votes they think they can get. And things that bring short term benefit often are disastrous in the long run. Just look at all of the environmental regulations that are currently being rolled back.

Now an obvious idea is to outlaw lobbying. But good people use lobbying and it is the only way people to have a voice and tell politicians about it. Additionally, even if we outlawed lobbying, politicians would still find ways to communicate with large corporations.

The other obvious idea is to restrict donations to campaigns. And you’re right this is an obvious idea and if you think corruption doesn’t exist the fact that our campaign finance laws are what they are is evidence that corruption is alive and well. Additionally, once cryptocurrency becomes a thing, we will not be able to track donations so we’re looking at even more corruption.

Now, I’m not saying we shouldn’t have a democracy. Like the quote at the beginning said, we don’t really have any better ideas but I think it is important to realize democracies shortcomings and find ways to solve/mitigate them.

World Government

The idea of countries seems really dumb to me. It seems like the only reason countries have existed in the past is that it is impossible to govern the whole world because it is so big. But now with technology, we can send information anywhere across the globe and everything is highly organized. So it makes a lot of sense to have a world government.

Word government would allow anyone to travel wherever they wanted. It would provide insurance so that if some area fails, attention can be directed towards that region to help it. Most importantly, it would end all wars. And not only are wars terrible for everyone involved, but technology like nuclear weapons which are only going to get more advanced, pose an existential threat to humanity.

It seems like a no brainer to have a world government with its own military to force diplomacy. We could even have a fairly week world government that does not enforce laws for individuals and lets current governments rule. It would just regulate how different countries act toward each other. We have acknowledged contract theory and that we need enforceable laws to keep individuals out of prisoner dilemma scenarios. So why should we not do the same with countries which have the potential to do much more damage than any individual? I am not surprised that we don’t have a world government because countries don’t want to give up power but I am surprised that no one is even talking about it. Also, I want to point out that Einstein was a proponent for world government so take that.

Some Ideas

Now, after all that talk about how we need to look at more complexities I’m going to present some ideas for government that are based off incredibly simplistic models. These ideas are all ridden with errors and would never work. Still I think it is important to think about new ideas because we might one day come up with something great. Here is the list.

1. Robots

Self explanatory.

2. Randomness

What I am going to talk about is a system of government I came up with a while ago. It’s horribly flawed and not well thought out but I think the key ideas might have merit.

The main idea is to get rid of corruption and tribalism.

This system is built around choosing a good non-corrupt leader and everything follows from that. The leader has unlimited power under some constitution and appoints his staff which appoint their staff and so on until we get to a low enough level where everyone is just hired and people carry over from one administration to the other. But how do we choose this leader?

The key idea is randomness. To start, we want someone who is generally a good person. So we select about 20 million people randomly or about 1/100 of the population.  Oh yea and we make sure they are between 35 and 65 in age. We use an interface like Facebook to send a questionnaire to people who know them best. The way this would work would be choosing kind of randomly from their friend list but using data to weight the search towards people that know them really well. I think this is possible given how much data facebook keeps although I’m not sure about the details. It would take into account if you ever tag them in photos, DM with them, and them liking or commenting on your posts. Anyway, you choose about 20 close friends for every person chosen and send them a questionnaire. The questionnaire is one question: Is this person

a) One of the best people you know

b) a good person

c) I don’t know/ average person

d) a bad person

e) One of the worst people you know

An a) is worth 3 points, a b) is 1 point, a c) is 0 points, a d) is -1 points, and an e) is -4 points. I think weighting the d) the worst is the best because you really want to avoid people who are terrible. Although I didn’t put much thought into the exact scores.

Now, from the 90th percentile an up of scorers, 10,000 people are randomly chosen. The reason the first pool was so big is so that it would be a normal thing to get the questionnaire. If we started with the search narrowed down, getting the questionnaire would be like “Oh my god, this person might become our leader.” This might cause the receiver of the questionnaire to either say

a) one of the best people I know

because they think it would be really cool if someone they knew became supreme ruler or

e) one of the worst people I know

because they are jelly of them.

But, if you start out with 20 million people, it is extremely unlikely that getting chosen will lead to you becoming the SR so people will, in theory, be more honest. Now, this is of course not a perfect morality test because lots will depend on who you choose to give the questionnaire to and subjectivity but you will get generally good people. I’m not sure the top 10% is the best percentile to choose from but I think it is important to not just choose “top 10,000 scorers” because this could lead to 1) bad people gaming the system and 2) it would be selecting a very specific homogenous group of people and the point of this is that we do not know the exact type of people who would make the best leaders. We want a variety to choose from in the future tests. We just want “generally good”

Ok, so we are left with 10,000 people. What we now do is randomly select 100 universities and task each of them with coming up with a question that measures intellect. I’m biased so I think the task should go to the math department but maybe mathematicians aren’t best at coming up with questions to test intelligence. Anyway, about 30 of the 100 questions that are received are randomly chosen make up the big Test. All 10,000 people take the test and we randomly select 50 people from the 95th percentile. These people become the candidates. Again, I know that IQ tests are not the best measure of intelligence but again, we are just choosing people who do generally well so on the balance we will get “generally intelligent.” I think it is also important to not centralize the creation of the test because this could lead to corruption. We want a bunch of different independently made questions, a lot so any one is not that important or worthwhile to target, made by different independent ethical groups good at testing intelligence. I think universities are good at this.

Now, we basically do the same thing for the voters. We start by randomly choosing 10 million people over the age of 18 and send their friends a questionnaire. We take 50,000 randomly selected people, choose 25 other random universities and tell them each to come up with a question which altogether makes up the voter test. Now, we choose 500 people from the 80th percentile of scorers, making sure to include every demographic as it appears in the U.S. So the number of Mexican voters corresponds to the number of Mexicans in the U.S. Same with socioeconomic status, age, gender, religion, etc.

It is possible, that to achieve this we need to start with more than 50,000 people but that is my rough estimate as to how many people we need so that after the test, we are able to choose equidistributed from our demographics to make up the voters.

Ok, so now we have the voters and the canadities. immediately after they are chosen, everyone is shipped off to two remote islands, one for the candidates and one for the voters where neither will have any contact with the outside world. It is important that they do not have contact with the world so that they are not corruptible. Now, we again use randomness to take 50 history/political science/economic professors from universities. It is also important that immediately after these professors are chosen, they are shipped off to the island so that others cannot influence them. And I think 50 is enough so that we would get professors with different political ideas.

For the next four years both the candidates and the voters learn from these professors about our history, our government, and current events happening. Once these four years are up, for the next two years, the voters learn about the candidates. But they never see them, this mitigates bias. The way they learn about the candidates is that the candidates send them letters but the candidates never know anything about the voters. This stops them from just writing what they think the voters will want to hear.

The letters are about policy and the set of professors who have taught the voters (they don’t know anything about the candidates) choose the subject of each letter. We could even have some objective computer program check the letters to make sure there are no fallacies or emotion appeals. Though I’m not sure who would get to write the computer program..

At the end of the two years, the voters rank their top 5 choices for who they think should be the leader and also their  bottom 3 worse choices for who they think should definitely not be leader. Their top choice gets 5 points, second gets 4, third gets 3, fourth gets 2, 5th gets one. And their third worse gets -1, second worse gets -2, and third worse gets -3. The candidate with the most points becomes supreme ruler. This person then chooses 10 of the remaining candidates to become their cabinet.

I think it is important to have bottom 3 choices. This can help prevent really radical candidates from getting elected. For example, if one is from the alt-right, they will get -3 points from basically everyone which will ensure they would not become SR even if they get 5 points from a few voters.

I think this is a good way to choose for the cabinet because it will be people who the candidate knows well, understands our system, and is not someone corrupt from the establishment.

From there, the cabinet chooses people they know to run different things and it goes down until there are just lower level employees who keep their jobs. We can do the same thing but at a smaller level for lower territories like states.

The Supreme Ruler’s terms is 8 years long but every year there is a chance for the general population to vote them out of office. Everyone gets a survey and if 75% of people vote for them to be removed, they are. This is just another safeguard against a dictator.

We could have the same system but on a smaller scale for the selection of governors.

I think we can keep local politics as they are even though they can be corrupt. This is because 1) I think they are generally less corrupt than big politicians 2) it would be hard to reproduce the presidential election on that small of a scale and 3) I hope this would not lead to a national two-party system. There would be no members of a corrupt party above the local politicians and local issues would dictate where the politicians would stand. So we might get local parties, but this is much less bad than national parties.

3. A Data Based Approach

This is a method that definitely won’t work but I’ll mention it because I thought of it and this is my blog so I can say anything I want. The idea would be to start with no bias and have trials of different policies and see how well we do. We would have to have some objective measure for how well we are doing. This could be done by surveys of the people asking how happy they are with society. We could have different cities have different laws that are constantly changing due to the overall data. The reason that this is a terrible idea is that policy is very complicated and there doesn’t seem to be a big enough sample size to reach conclusions.

Economics

First lets go over capitalism. Capitalism is really good at motivating people to work, producing lots of stuff, and creating innovation. The downside is that unregulated it leads to a ton of inequality.

Brief Overview of Economics:

I don’t really know much about economics but I took APES and I’m good at math so this is what I guess economics is like. The normal way of explaining things seems to be with the intersection of supply and demand curves but I’m going to explain things using a different model which I’m not sure is accurate but will be more useful for analysis later in the article. The basic idea is to assume that sellers are completely rational and that they will price their products in order to maximize profits. Profits are simply

(\text{Number of units sold})(\text{price}-\text{cost to make one unit})

And since a seller will make as many units as demanded, we can change “Number of Units Sold” to demand. But demand is a function of price and the higher a seller prices a unit, the lower the demand will be. This can be seen visually in supply demand graphs

The Y-axis is the price and the x-axis is quantity. So see how if the price is very low, then the demand is very high but if the price is high then the demand is low. We also have this “Supply” curve which we will ignore for now. So for example, in this case the demand curve is linear so if price is p, then \text{demand} = c_1-p. If we let P = p-\text{cost to make} and c_2 = c_1-p + P then we want to maximize the quantity

(c_2 - P)(P)

Let us rewrite the equation as

(\frac{c_2}{2} + (\frac{c_2}{_2}-P)(\frac{c_2}{2} - (\frac{c_2}{2} -P)) = (\frac{c_2}{2})^2 - (\frac{c_2}{_2}-P)^2

So we see the terms are maximized when P =  \frac{c_2}{2} and in particular when the two terms c_2 - P and P are equal. This is an important example. And we’ll see that products get bigger when the terms are close to equal. So in economics there will always be a pretty even balance between the price of something and the demand for the product. This explains why places price things so that they are reasonable and about what you value it at. Also this implies that if something causes a sudden decrease in demand, then the price will drop because all of a sudden price and demand are not in balance and the seller needs to drop price to increase demand to make them in balance again. So for example, if all of a sudden there was a shift in the mindset of consumers and the demand became c_2 + c+3 P then the optimal price the seller would be \frac{c_2+c_3}{2} so the price would increase by \frac{c_3}{2}. ,Similarly this explains why, if all of a sudden something costs more to make, then the seller will increase the price to keep everything in balance.

With that out-of-the-way we can look at our own system. We want an economic system that maximizes the well-being of everyone involved. We can think of well-being as the product (\text{production}) (\text{equality}) which of course means nothing but the idea being that we want both a productive economy and to have the profits evenly spread amongst society. So we can think of those two things like numbers and we want to maximize the product. We use product because either extremes (complete inequality with great production or complete equality with no production are both terrible.) To maximize well-being we can use regulation. Roughly what regulation does is it will decrease total production but it will also decrease inequality. To see why this is the case take minimum wage for example. Increasing minimum wage decreases the total profit a company makes per unit sold because they have to pay someone more to make that unit. And if the profit is less than all of a sudden demand and price are out of balance so they will increase the price which will decrease the demand which will decrease the total units made. It will decrease inequality for the obvious reasons. Another side effect of increasing the minimum wage is that all industries will be out of balance with respect to price and demand so they will have increase price to put things back in balance, this will actually cause inflation because all of a sudden all products will cost more.

So should there be increase the minimum wage? Well, another thing we have to look at is any other externalities that may be happening. With the advent of technology, all of a sudden it is much cheaper to make products and as a result more products will be made. This means that as time goes on and technology makes stuff easier to make, we can actually increase the minimum wage as well to make equality and products produced in balance. In other words suppose that 50 years ago, the minimum wage of 8$. So equality was, say a 10. And at that time the minimum wage was the correct amount to maximize (equality)(production) so production was also a 10. From then, technology has made it easier to produce stuff so now production is a 12 but equality is still a 10. (In real life you could argue that equality has actually gone down for other reasons but for this exercise suppose it is the same). So now (production)(equality) is 120. But if we raised the minimum wage so that equality would be an 11, then production would go down by about 1 so it would be also be an 11. But then (production)(equality) = 121. So we have increased the quantity that we wanted by increasing the minimum wage. This suggests that it may be a good idea to increase the minimum wage.

Now of course the above model is way over simplified but I think the idea holds true. As time passes and we develop better technology, we can also afford to increase the minimum wage without stifling business too much. So minimum wage is not something in a vacuum. The context of how business is already doing affects what the minimum wage should be.

Then, of course there are other types of regulation. I hear a lot of people making arguments about how we need this regulation specifically because of the thing the regulation is supposed to do. For example people might argue we need regulation to make sure companies don’t pollute in the ocean and their argument is entirely based around all the damage it’s doing. But we should look at it like “can we afford the regulation?” Is business doing well enough that we can preserve these things and still have a functioning economy?

Different Systems

UBI

A universal basic income or UBI is where everybody is just given a livable wage for doing nothing. It is an extreme prospect that would have been outlandish at any other point in history. But with the onset of automation and more efficient technology, we just don’t need everyone to work. And we are producing enough that with the right way, this might be a possibility.

There are of course some concerns. If we do implement such a system it must be with care. First we must ask where the government is to get the money?  One answer is that as more automation takes over, corporations become more profitable which allows the U.S. to be able to tax them higher. It could use those taxes to subsidize a universal basic income. The problem is that automation does not cost nothing. If automation costs n and the company was paying people m before, the government can only tax them an additional m-n without having bad effects on the economy. This means that the UBI would have to be less than what the people would be making if they were working.

And even if they could find a way to get people enough money another problem is that this has the potential to cause inflation. As our poorest class gets more money, companies can raise prices and there will still be the same demand. They can raise prices to a level where the UBI is comparable to welfare now and the sellers wills still get business because these people are forced to buy the products even if it means living in terrible conditions, not eating healthy, and having no security. In other words, sellers of necessities like food and housing can price their products so that the poorest class can barely afford them. The corporations will not lose any business though because demand doesn’t change as a function of price when the thing is a necessity. The people living off of the UBI would technically have the money to pay for the worst product.

Another problem is that it will encourage people to not work. And while automation may make it so that this doesn’t cause our economy to crash, we would be left with a huge population of people without anything to do with their time. This could detriment them because their life might become meaningless and empty. They might also dedicate their time to something like politics which could be dangerous because these will be the people with the least education. This could lead to even more tribalism in our political system.

I’m not saying that a UBI is a bad idea. It may be very good. It is just very dangerous and we can’t just implement it willy nilly.

Communism and Capitalism Together

This is similar to a UBI but less extreme. It is also probably not feasible or a good idea. The idea is that we keep capitalism around so that we have production and innovation.

But we also have a system that anyone can opt into run by the government that will pay them a livable wage. But in exchange they have to work. The reason this might work now is that we have technology to keep the system organized and hold people accountable. We would be to have someone keep track of all the work needed to be done in order to feed and house everyone in the program. Then a computer could equally distribute the work. So if you were in the program, everyday you would get a message on your phone telling you what jobs you had to do. For example you might be farming, working in a factory, or doing construction. At the end of the day, it can be checked if your jobs were done. If they are not you get a strike, and if you get enough strikes you get kicked out of the system. A computer couldn’t run it alone so they would have to hire people from the capitalism side to oversee everything. This would be inefficient for sure and could easily go wrong, but it would at least gives any poor person a way to get the resources they need.

Ok, I can’t think of anything else I want to say so good-bye. One more thing though. I want you to take ten seconds to center yourself before reading the following sentence and make sure you are 100% present to absorb it…

Follow this blog.

 

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