Re: Voting and Idea Futures

From: Robin Hanson (
Date: Fri Jan 21 2000 - 07:22:36 MST

Hal Finney commented on my proposals:
> > 1) Have courts enforce a rule that policy makers must always (except for
> > specific exceptions) prefer a market estimate over other sources when
> > estimating matters of fact.
>This seems the most reasonable approach to me, although as I wrote I don't
>see why it has to be enforced by courts. Ultimately, if IF proves its
>value the system should be self enforcing.

Self-enforcing? That depends on how you think democracy works. Maybe, if
you thought voters would always severely punish any politician who ever
deviated from following what voters abstractly thought was the best source
of information. But there are reasons to suspect politics isn't like this.
(And if voters perfectly disciplined politicians, why have any court review
of political choices?)

> > 2) Have the rule be that decision D must be enacted whenever a market says
> > that there is more than an X (=75%?) chance that a random jury, chosen
> > twenty years later ... would agree that D was better ...
>I suspect it would be hard to find this much certainty on most
>controversial issues. So this rule would probably not be used much.

The more this was a problem, the lower a value of X one might choose.

> > 3) Choose ... something like GDP ... independent ... agency ... update ...
> > rule be that decision D must be enacted whenever a market says that ...
> > D gives the highest conditional estimate for this national objective.
>Choosing that objective function would be a massive political battle.
>Chances are people would want to change it from year to year, too, as
>their concerns change. Education is the big issue one year; the next
>it's crime, the next it's taxes, then it's growth. People wouldn't want
>to turn their political decisions over to a formula that they couldn't
>change as needed.

I'm not sure changing the objective yearly would be that much of a problem.
As long as the time when the objective is measured is several decades in
the future, I don't think sort of annual variation politics would induce
would make that much difference in which decisions this system (which
I'm calling "futarchy") would prefer, at least compared to our current
system. There is a lot of correlation across countries in GDP, lifespan,
education, environmental cleanliness, etc. Bad decisions that governments
make mostly hurt all these things, rather than trading one for another.

>But aside from these issues, the more important first step is to
>have some way for IF to be tested. I don't think the online game at
> has had very meaningful results ...
>If there is to be significant support for using IF in the political
>process then it must be given an opportunity to prove its worth.
>I don't see that happening any time soon.

Yes of course we need better tests, and yes the value of ideosphere as
a test is greatly limited because its only play money. Anyone help in
arranging better tests would be greatly appreciated.

Robin Hanson
Asst. Prof. Economics, George Mason University
MSN 1D3, Carow Hall, Fairfax VA 22030
703-993-2326 FAX: 703-993-2323

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