Re: Voting and Idea Futures

From: Peter C. McCluskey (
Date: Mon Feb 21 2000 - 10:38:08 MST (Robin Hanson) writes:
>Pain and death should lower GWP. I agree that in principle GWP could
>be improved to measure individual preferences for "freedom", but I'm
>skeptical that this choice is close enough to the border line that
>adding freedom in would actually change the decision. How much larger
>than the pain and death effects do you think the freedom effect would be?

 It isn't obvious that there is any correlation between pain and GWP.
The correlation between GWP and the value most people place on avoiding
death is probably much closer to zero than to one. I assume it's possible
to estimate this by comparing the present value of a person's income to
the value of life implied by how much that person will pay for safety. I
suspect such comparisons will indicate that GWP underestimates the value
of life by one or two orders of magnitude.
 I suspect the freedom effect is roughly the same magnitude as the other

>>You spoke of giving a single agency responsibility for measuring the
>>objective function. Such agencies always have some ability to add their
>>own biases into the decisions involved in producing such indicators. ...
>I could go for having several competing agencies measure things with the
>official measurement being some combination (e.g., median) of them.

 That would certainly improve the incentives and remove the random biases,
and would substantially reduce my objections.

>The later doesn't preclude the former. The public is only willing to attend
>to a small fraction of decisions. So the key is how to let the public
>control all the decisions they don't attend to. I imagine the public using
>decisions like whether to bomb Serbia to tweak existing weights.
>That is, you might see that using the current weights the decision is to
>bomb Serbia. Since you don't like this decision, you might "trace" this
>decision by examining the different components, such as GWP up .001% and 100
>deaths of innocents. You might see that increasing the weight on innocent
>deaths by 20% could tip the decision the other way, and so you might lobby
>for such a change. The people who would oppose you are those who see this
>change reversing other decisions that they like.
>Given some rough equilibrium of political pressure, the weights would settle
>down somewhere. And the big benefit is that all the other decisions, the

 They would settle somewhere, but I'm unconvinced that it would have much
connection with the average person's values.

 I'd rather use something like a science court approach - have economists
compete to see whether they can produce an indicator that reliably predict
what a randonly chosen group of people would decide if paid to study the
question carefully.
 For areas where such predictions have been proven reliable, I expect voter
pressure would be sufficient to produce the right result without a
constitutional rule. For the forseeable future, I expect there will remain
subject areas for which the indicators have not been shown to make reliable

Peter McCluskey          | Boycott until they stop suing | companies that support 1-click shopping.

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