Dear libertarian knight seeking to win honor via comment battles with heathen blogger dragons: I range pretty widely in topics here at Overcoming Bias, and sometimes I consider government policies. Sometimes I even consider policies that, gasp, violate your favorite libertarian moral axiom, something like no one must ever affect anyone without a notarized consent form. At which point many of you feel an apparently overwhelming urge to comment on this crucial fact (often
"Liberty" and "efficiency" are both nonsense. You basically have to arbitrarily decide what you want society to look like in outline, figure out of its possible, and figure out how to get there. The ultimate point of anything is power.
The libertarian axiom is well enough known for breach of it to be taken as self-conscious. Complaining about self-conscious breach is, as Robin points out, superfluous.
It's tiring to engage unsuperfluously with axiom violations. Irksome as well. You have to mire yourself in the stuff of statism (considerations of efficiency, utility, optimisation and order) in order to refute the statism - when all the time there is a perfectly good axiom that settles the issue without any need to tax the grey matter.
No wonder so many comments here are so peevish.
"anything useful is said by pointing out that a prescription violates liberty when this happens to be the case?"
Of course. Truth is always served when it is pointed out.
So? Sacrifice YOUR liberty then. But don't impose that on others.
Saying "I am willing to sacrifice my liberty" is categorically NOT the same thing as saying "I am willing to sacrifice YOUR liberty, and impose this on you, and if you don't like it there's a cage waiting". We fully support you doing the first thing, but will consider you a personal enemy and invader if you attempt the second.
So don't go confusing the "a little less liberty is often a good thing" with the "I am going to IMPOSE this little less liberty on everybody else, whether they like it or not". Because they are not the same thing.
(in other words, libertarians don't criticize you because they want their "LIBERTAY" -- they criticize you because they find your proposals immoral and wrong, even if they sometimes can't articulate why thus staying stuck at the "liberty" thing)
To be honest, Robin, to a libertarian, your posts on policies sound like "how often should we beat up slaves?" questions, where a certain type of evil (that you fail to see as evil) has already been assumed to be okay.
I myself understand where you are coming from, and this is why I don't even bother commenting on posts of yours that couldn't possibly be good because it started with fundamental assumptions that are bad. I just ignore them and enjoy whatever other posts that are good.
Anyway: don't be miffed when some people who find your assumptions deeply offensive / immoral go out of their way to remind you of that. To use a dramatic example: rape may be an efficient way to spread your seed, but at least expect some disgruntle and contrarianism when you nonchalantly advocate for certain forms of rape because you find them efficient and you have a hard-on for efficiency.
So? Does that give them the right to take away MY liberty? I happen to think liberty, the extensive "spreading" of life styles, is the best hope we have for the human race to survive potentially existential threats.
What good is liberty if it puts you in danger?
Most humans are willing to forsake liberty for the sake of efficiency if the task at hand warrants it.
If you're interested in the connection between game theory and morality, see the book "Game Theory And The Social Contract" by Ken Binmore.
Robin's right - the comments contained many obnoxious and tiresome objections that he'd already granted. It's natural that he'd be disappointed in the quality of the conversation.
That said, I understand that people who objected on some other ground might feel their comfort+status fall under a penumbra.
For me, the big doubt was in consequences not mentioned by Robin (questions of consent aside): do I want to be the subject of marginal freelance investigators? I mean marginal as in of questionable quality/ethics (hacking my email etc.), although the economic "marginal" would also fit.
Liberty is a fine heuristic, but efficiency is more what I want
I suggest that the Borg society of Star Trek are a fine example of a superbly-efficient society exhibiting no liberty. Yes, its fiction. But it does make me question if efficiency alone might not necessarily be the best parameter to use in optimizing a society. The Borg beehive analogy is worth considering too, for the hive is elegantly efficient. But for humans to live and work like bees would most surely be tragic.
"Silas, the link is at “smug”, not “example”; I’ve corrected the spello."
You shouldn't of bothered. You've been doing a good job as an unchallengeably smart/competent writer helping set the intellectual blogosphere norm that quickly relayed ideas matter more than grammar, punctuation, style.
Comments like Silas on your spello are better left ignored, IMO.
Warren Smith (the Princeon math Ph.D. who did these simulations) used a variety of utility distribution functions. For instance, you can use n-dimensional "issue space" and base utility on L1 or L2 "distance". Picture a Nolan chart where your preference for a candidate is based on your proximity to him. That's 2-dimensional issues space. You can create arbitrarily many dimensions, but it turns out that the more you add, the more the utilities look like they were randomly assigned. Speaking of which, another distribution function was random assignment on a Gaussian.
It turns out that Score Voting (aka Range Voting) was superior to the other common methods (e.g. Instant Runoff, Condorcet, Borda, plurality) regardless of which function was used. That's also true regarding other tunable parameters, like the ratio of strategic-to-honest voters. Tuning those parameters caused the other methods to switch placing, but Score Voting stayed in first place in all 720 "knob settings" (720 different combinations of settings for the 5 parameters).
You can read more at http://scorevoting.net/BayR...
Smith (and I) believe that the social utility function must be additive -- that it is just the sum of the individual utilities. There are some solid mathematical justifications for this, if you treat utility axiomatically (i.e. non-additive models lead to self-contradictions). Here's some discussion of that.
I understand that this stuff can be a little controversial. All I can say is that I began as a vehement opponent of Score Voting, and gradually came to feel that all my arguments against it were (upon extensive deliberation) found to be either self-contradictory, or just weak when compared against its benefits (e.g. being able to always support your favorite candidate without fear, since SV passes the Favorite Betrayal Criterion).
There is a Range Voting discussion group on Yahoo Groups, and the Election Science Foundation discussion group on Google Groups if you're interested in chatting more about it, whether to debate or inquire.
Lately I have neglected to mow my front lawn, been busy, and only the part that is irrigated has grass growing.
Now since that area is shared, my incentive to mow that area is inefficiently low. Obviously a wise bureaucrat god could improve matters by requiring me to mow my lawn. Thus, the superiority of efficiency over liberty is proven.
Now the only thing remaining is to check the observed performance of wise bureaucrat gods. Since there are many, many, many situations where wise regulation will improve on liberty, let us look for some of the doubtless numerous situations where wise bureaucrats sincerely pursuing the greater good of all have succeeded in improving the good of all.
Oh, so it only depends on adding utility functions (which happen to be unique only up to an affine transformation)? Well, if that's all ...
Isn't one problem here that settling on which utility function for each person, and which weighting, and how to aggregate them, are all issues that you need to settle on in some non-arbitrary, rational, non-dictatorial way? (I mean, why not just say you solve Arrow's Impossibility Theorem by doing "the best thing"?)