Peter Norvig's Election 2008 FAQ. Not what you were asking for, but the closest I've seen so far.

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Does this come close to what you were seeking, Robin?

"For the first time in his adult life Steven Landsburg, economic and columnist for Slate, professor at the university of Rochester, and author of 'The Armchair Economist,' did not know what candidate he should support. The choice was normally clear for him, but when John McCain became the Republican nominee and Barack Obama the Democratic, Landsburg became a fence-sitter.

So he decided to do extensive research on both candidate; what are their positions, what are their plans? Whose plans are more realistic and effective?

The result of this research: McCain is the better choice."


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Put me down with the others above who have no meaningful degree of uncertainty about this question.

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On a less obnoxious note, here's an article about why people vote republican from a cognitive science standpoint which approaches the issue in a way readers of this blog should find suitably objective: http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/haidt08/haidt08_index.html

It's somewhat tangential to the original question, but worth a read.

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But seriously folks, demonizing the bush administration is irrational and undignified. They may have lied us into a catastrophic war, destroyed the economy, secret torture prisons etc. etc., but the whole false flag terrorism thing is actually very good fodder for a growing rationalist to sharpen their teeth on.

There's no record of the hijackers boarding the planes, they're not any airport security footage, and some of them turned up alive later. So does that mean the planes were switched with drones, or were the passengers simply knocked out with some kind of gas and the planes flown into the towers by remote control? Why did WTC 7 fall down when it wasn't even struck by an airplane? There are a lot of interesting brain teasers here.

But oh wait, john mccain will be totally different you guys!!! It's not like he voted with the president 95% of the time or gave him a big hug or anything!!!!! THIS IS SUCH A HARD DECISION I WISH SOME ACADEMIC WOULD WRITE A REVIEW ARTICLE SO I COULD COMPARE THE PROS AND CONS!!!!!!!!1111147^$^@#$

I would go into WHY I hate everyone, but I think you can probably figure that out without a review article.

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I basically agree with doug, but I'm voting for mccain anyway because I hate everyone and I think he's the president they deserve.

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Tom Breton, I completely agree. It seems many people don't know how to think impartially. I myself had a process over the last year where I consciously had to will myself to look at both sides of arguments on trivial things, then slow apply it to things more important to me.

I'd love to see something like this in action. Please, somebody start this up. I have no doubt that it would be at least a little partisan, but so is everything.

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This thread is, alas, another example of a pattern I have noticed on this blog. When a topic has political overtones, many posters seem ready to ignore the blog topic - both the overall topic of overcoming bias and the point of the immediate post. Not even in a "drifting towards political talk" sort of way. It's mostly not people reluctantly getting dragged into a political discussion, it's people who immediately come out swinging. They seem to treat a thread as a skirmish in an ongoing societal war.

To be clear, I'm not scolding this trend for not being nice, I'm scolding it for being noise and often being lies. "The first casualty of war is truth", and that applies here.

To avoid creating yet another opportunity for politicization, I'm not naming the characteristics I think the most serious offenders have in common, but I do see some common themes.

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"And yet most everything I see academics doing on this election is overtly partisan - folks act as if it were obvious who is the best candidate, and just wonder how best to help that candidate."

Well, that's because, starting with an assumption of values and priorities (especially the institutional priorities of academia), the choice of candidate is obvious. Arguably, people should be trying to decide how to transmit their value systems to others, as that will easily predict which way that person will vote.

As to the arguments over efficacy, they're addressed (at least in part) by the James Fowler piece on this page (a response to a larger question, but, in my opinion, the response most worth reading).

Further, to do as Jay does and not recognize the fairly significant differences between the two major candidates bespeaks either ignorance, contrarianism or an inability to reason. That the differences may be subtle does not mean that they are not real, and anyone reading his comment should be reminded of similar rhetoric prior to the 2000 election from Nader supporters. A war in Iraq is definitely a difference between Gore and Bush (it can be reasonably assumed that Gore would not have responded to 9/11 by attacking Iraq, and would have likely continued the sanction and bombing regime of Clinton).

One more point—While I concede that the long-term effects of any particular election are hard to judge, I would not concede the causal string that Leonid posited regarding Carter. Even a casual student of Russian politics should know that Carter's election had little to do with the invasion of Afghanistan, and that the invasion of Afghanistan had less to do with the collapse of the Soviet Union than did, say, internal agricultural research policy debates (from whence Gorbachev sprang, and where he attempted to bring a rational, experimentally-based approach to governance, leading to Perestroika, which emboldened internal schisms—the myth that the USSR was seriously undone by Reagan's outspending them is a pernicious one, but it is still a myth).

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Augmented human? They could probably eyeball it.

You mean visual input sensor it, right?

Anyway, on reflection, the correct answer is the word count feature in MS Word, which has a character count bit. If you don't have a proper word processor on the machine you're using, you double lose.

Just while we're clogging Robin's excellent post with nonsense (apologies Robin), the small area of London that I patrol working for the local council contains a cemetary, Bunhill Fields. I found out earlier today that interred therein is a certain Reverend Bayes, to whom I paid a brief visit a moment ago. And before you ask, yes, there is an indescribable but very real air of rationality that just seeps into your very pores.

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"I was hoping disinterest in presidential decision markets came from inertia and novelty-aversion"

In the case of McCluskey's markets to which you link, thinness probably doesn't come from inertia or novelty-version. More likely, it comes from lack of publicity as to their existence, the complexity of the contract wording, and the famous frustrations of the Intrade interface, as well as the internet gambling laws that have frightened so many away from prediction markets generally.

A better-worded contract, a friendlier interface, a different location, different sponsorship, and play money with a social hierarchy component would perhaps generate the thickness you seek.

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Also, I don't know if this matters, but the rest of the world prefers Obama by a large margin.

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(My post got caught up in the spam filter, probably because it had too many links. Trying a third time)

On a somewhat less partisan note, a blogger I respect has posted a series of essays on ways that he expects politicians of each major party to go wrong in the next four years.

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"What was your algorithm for doing this as quickly as possible? Paste into Notepad, press return after every tenth zero, then count the lines."

That's what I did. After the first line break, the key sequence "left, down, return" repeated in quick succession will make short work of the remaining line breaks. Incidentally, this is also useful for any file containing many records of a fixed length that doesn't already have line breaks.

"How would a Bayesian Master have come up with 10^-165?"

If they're human? It would depend completely on what tools they have at their disposal. Augmented human? They could probably eyeball it.

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Robin, just think of it as corroborating evidence for your suggested paradigm that people find it so difficult to comment here without being partisan. Actually, scratch that, most haven't even tried.

Maybe there just aren't enough unbiased people in the world to be able to peer-review an article on the upcoming US election.

Jay: You assign a probability of 10^-165 that your vote will swing the election?

pdf, you totally counted the zeros. What was your algorithm for doing this as quickly as possible? Paste into Notepad, press return after every tenth zero, then count the lines. That's where I'd start. How would a Bayesian Master have come up with 10^-165?

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Not to knock you, Robin, but it seems like you would have given more thought to how you want your government run.

For me the biggest issue is income redistribution, as far as I can tell it needs to happen more than it does now... the marginal utility of money for rich people must be extremely low compared to the marginal utility of money for low income people. It's a no brainer for me and it makes me want to see a democrat (or a third party, but I don't think it will happen in my lifetime even though I have hope) in office. It also seems that the only arguments I've seen against it are "that's socialism!" as if this is a real argument or a valid point.

Can you explain how a thoughtful person doesn't have opinions at least on which way he leans on most issues? (or do you?)

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