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This is probably the greatest argument for big government. If we were to eliminate the supervision of the establishment over the safety and security of everyday life, it would be very time consuming to handle every single aspect of it.

There is always the issue of an overreaching government, and that's where the left/right party split comes in. Each party either creates more regulation and protection or take some away. As voters, we have to recognize this duality of our system and embrace it. It's our only way to control the people we elect.




No, this is one of the greatest arguments for small government or no government. People are more rational when the cost to them of being irrational is larger. Voting for good policies is a public good. When a voter is one among three hundred millions of citizens, only 1/300,000,000 (on average) of the benefits of the vote befall the individual voter. This gigantic externality means that the democratic market will severely underproduce votes for good policies. Simultaneously, social desirability bias means that voters have a strong incentive to believe in policies that are harmful to them but that make them look good to other people. Since the cost to them of being wrong about politics is so small and the benefit large, voters have gravely irrational beliefs. This conclusion is consistent with the results from social science that show that voters are ignorant about politics and with the widespread agreement with protectionist tariffs, price controls, restrictions on immigration, and many other policies that cause great economic harm.


> People are more rational when the cost to them of being irrational is larger.

This isn't strictly true, and I'd love to see you provide extensive data on such a exceptional claim.

There is a lot of evidence showing that harsher punitive measures often have little to no impact on crime and wrongdoing.


I don't think he was referring to harsh sentences or punitive measures when someone breaks the law. I think its more that when its life and not the Government that is going to punish you for failing, you're going to work harder at not failing. In addition to the punishment provided by the Government there is also fall back mechanisms (bankruptcy protection, social security, medicare/medicaid, etc...) that they provide.

I would counter that without those punishments and protections, its possible that fewer people would do things like start businesses, for example. I don't really know. I'd love to see some data on this.

Seems to me that instead of rushing to one extreme or the other (no Government vs big Government), finding a good balance between the two is going to be the most productive for us all.


> I think its more that when its life and not the Government that is going to punish you for failing, you're going to work harder at not failing.

> I would counter that without those punishments and protections, its possible that fewer people would do things like start businesses

Again, the evidence rather strongly suggests the opposite.

As people's brains are more stressed out by the fear of failing, their decision making gets worse not better. There's tons of evidence that shows that being poor severely screws with your ability to make rational, intelligent decisions about long term planning. (https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/11/your-br... ; https://theconversation.com/study-links-poverty-and-poor-dec...)

Likewise, there's data that shows one of the things that's special about entrepreneurs is the fact that they have strong familial safety nets. Part of their risk taking is literally that the risks are less risky for them, because their families will catch them. Which suggests that, if you want to increase the number of new businesses - implement a stronger social safety net (like a basic income). (https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/03/welfare... ; http://www.nber.org/papers/w19276.pdf?new_window=1) . The paper I linked there focused on the "smart" and "illicit" avenues and completely brushed past the "come from wealthier families" part, but I've seen other papers (that google isn't coughing up readily in the 5 minutes I have right now) that focused more on that latter part.

Conversely, you just have to look at the countries that do a good job of taking care of their citizens - Scandinavia, Canada, etc - to see pretty strong evidence for the idea that a well cared for populace is able to make better decisions.


I think the general consensus is that the ineffectiveness of long sentences is mostly about hyperbolic discounting. Hawaii has recently had a lot of success with a program providing small, immediate penalties to people who break their parole conditions. This seems to work far better than large penalties that will only be applied after a large number of offences.


If your choice is between death and jail, or if your life is not significantly better than jail, the duration of incarceration isn't going to matter to you at all.

I'd be willing to bet that harsher punitive measures (and more aggressive enforcement) would have a big impact on white collar crime rates.


I would guess that a higher chance of being caught would be a greater deterrent to first-time white collar offenders than harsher punishment.

I spent 6 months in prison as a conscientous objector. One thing I learned was, in the relatively humane nordic penal system, the reality of imprisonment was nowhere near as scary as I'd imagined. If I were to commit a serious crime now, I think the social stigma would be much more serious to me than incarceration, were I to be caught. I think that's probably true for most white-collar types as well. Losing time is one thing, losing standing among your peers is much worse, if you have standing to lose. Shame is a terrible thing. It wasn't an issue for me, fortunately.

Of course, most people in prison don't have the luxury of such problems. The majority of people I met inside were there as a result of psychological and substance abuse issues. One man there reassured me that I was going to be OK because unlike everyone else there, my problems were not with my self. That's got to be about the saddest thing I've ever heard.


I found your comment insightful, but I have to ask about this:

>...I spent 6 months in prison as a conscientous objector.

Could you elaborate? Under what conditions does a conscientious objector face a lengthy prison term?


In Finland, as a male, refusal to perform military or civil service is a crime punishable by approximately 6 months of imprisonment. I understand that very recently that has been put on hold as a result of a legal challenge on the grounds that a certain religious minority is exempted from such service, the claim being that this constitutes inequal treatment.


I guess that is how being a conscientous objector worked in the US during the Viet Nam war - anyone declaring themselves a conscientous objector had to due some kind of public service or face jail time (probably more than 6 months).

In the US the draft just allowed the US government to continue the Viet Nam war far longer than it otherwise would have gone, I am glad we don't have an active draft here.


If anything the draft brought the war to a close sooner. Once kids of upper and middle class parents started getting drafted and killed they started putting pressure on the government to end the war.

Now that American wars are mostly being fought by volunteers from classes without political power they can drag on for decades and most Americans barely even think about them anymore.


>If anything the draft brought the war to a close sooner.

I don't think there is much evidence for this. Over 2.7 million Americans served in Viet Nam. If the politicians could have possibly gotten millions of young people to drop what they were doing and go 5 thousand miles to fight in a civil war in a country most had never heard of before, they would certainly have done so. There is simply no possible way they could have gotten that many troops on a volunteer basis, or they would have done so.

>Once kids of upper and middle class parents started getting drafted and killed they started putting pressure on the government to end the war.

The upper class were able to get out of serving in Viet Nam with deferments, serving in the National Guard, etc. Johnson acknowledged this and that is why they never sent the National Guard to fight in Viet Nam.

The middle and lower classes were dieting in Viet Nam long after the average American had given up on the war. Johnson din't even run for re-election because people were so opposed to the war but the war still dragged on for several more years. The politicians didn't end the war sooner because they didn't want to suffer the political consequences of looking like the person who lost and they knew there was plenty of cannon fodder to replace the soldiers who came back in a body bag.

>...Now that American wars are mostly being fought by volunteers from classes without political power they can drag on for decades and most Americans barely even think about them anymore.

There are differences between the wars of today and the Viet Nam war. The Viet Nam war had literally an order of magnitude more deaths than our current wars. A war zone is never safe but there are at least a few occupations that are a more dangerous than fighting in Afghanistan. Having a volunteer force means the soldiers have to treated better and paid more than a draftee. These wars have been a waste of lives and money but things would have been much worse if there were millions of draftees serving in the middle east and Afghanistan. At a minimum, I think it is very likely there would have been a war for regime change in Iran if there were a draftee army that was forced to fight there.

Having a volunteer force in the 1960s would have meant that the Viet Nam war would have been fought with a lot more concern for the loss of life of the solders, and it likely wouldn't have been fought anything like it was fought.


>a legal challenge on the grounds that a certain religious minority is exempted from such service, the claim being that this constitutes inequal treatment.

Kind of amazing that this is ground for a legal challenge but the fact that female aren't drafted isn't. That's one of the part of Western societies around which I can't wrap my mind.


There's increasing pressure to fix that too. Norway has introduced gender neutral draft two years ago.


I hope this get fixed eventually, either by extending it to both genders or removing it completely.

In Switzerland we had a small reform of our army and copying the Norwegians was considered for a while, but they ended up dropping the idea for just doing small changes. Quite disappointing.


>...I hope this get fixed eventually, either by extending it to both genders or removing it completely.

Every country has abolished private slavery. I'd like to imagine a world where each individual state also relinquished its claim to enslave people.


I thought that in Finland you could do other public works (something along the lines of Americorps in the USA) instead of serve in the army if you were a conscientious objector.


Yes, that's the civil service. I was using "conscientous objector" to describe what are called "total objectors" here, men who refuse to serve in any capacity for a variety of reasons.


Are women not subject to these same requirements?


No. Women may choose to serve in the military, but there is no requirement for them to do so. There's been talk of instituting a "citizen's service" for all citizens, where presumably women mostly would be expected to perform civil service similar to what men can now choose.

The exempted religious group are the Jehova's witnesses. It's my understanding they were granted an exemption because men in the group would by and large all refuse to serve, and putting them all in prison wasn't doing much good. However, recently a conscientous objector was released by a court on the grounds that this exemption constitutes inequal treatment, and the state now has to address the issue. I suppose the options they have are to either extend the exemption to others based on some grounds to be determined, or remove the exemption of Jehova's witnesses.

The ministry of defense has proposed to solve the problem by removing the witnesses' exemption. In general, the state appears to be consistently treating this as a practical matter of maintaining the current policy of general conscription, and not as a rights issue at all.


> There is a lot of evidence showing that harsher punitive measures often have little to no impact on crime and wrongdoing.

Harsher punitive measures are often meted out to those with the weakest reason.


I don’t think the claim is exceptional, but I’d love to see more studies on this. Check out the Centipede Game (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Centipede_game):

“Parco, Rapoport and Stein (2002) illustrated that the level of financial incentives can have a profound effect on the outcome in a three-player game: the larger the incentives are for deviation, the greater propensity for learning behavior in a repeated single-play experimental design to move toward the Nash equilibrium.”

I recall reading somewhere that people also behave more rationally in other games like the Dictator Game (and exhibit fewer cognitive biases) when the stakes are higher, but can’t remember where.


What would the game’s results be if the financial incentives were unknown and/or highly variable? That’s more like real life.


The Nash equilibrium in this case being immediately taking the larger stash, instead of waiting (or even cooperating) with the other player for much higher payouts.


> Voting for good policies is a public good. When a voter is one among three hundred millions of citizens, only 1/300,000,000 (on average) of the benefits of the vote befall the individual voter.

Typically, voting results are highly skewed towards 50/50, say in most elections in democratic regimes with fair elections. This was the case for Brexit or the popular vote in the US 2016 election for instance.

For an election whose expected result is close to 50/50, each voter is highly influential; intuitively, if all but one voter are decided and produce a 50/50 draw, the last undecided voter has complete power. Since a lot of fair elections are approximately 50/50, undecided voters have far better influence than 1/300,000,000 for a population of 300,000,000.

In an approximately 50/50 election with few undecided voters, it is quite cheap to swing the results by bombarding the few undecided voters with ads.

Mathematicians use this concept coined "influence" of a variable, or "influence function" to analyze properties of random boolean functions in percolation for instance.


I don't think that 1/300 million part was about the likelihood of influencing the election, but rather about what percentage of the gains go to the person (not more than the percentage that that person represents of the population, presumably).

Even if you had guaranteed ability to affect the outcome of an election, supposing you knew that by spending many hours researching the correct policy to vote for you could save each person in USA $1, it would not be worth it for you to spend the time figuring it out. Although from a social perspective it would be a worthy thing to spend time on.


One of many reasons that offering false, contrived, binary choices in a world defined by its complexity is always a losing proposition.


That's actually a strong argument for requiring a 'super majority' to decide any major decision.


Then no decision would be made, which is a decision.

When was the last time someone got a supermajority with more than a small number of voters?


Presumably different referenda would be put to a vote if a supermajority were required, namely, ones that are less controversial.


To be fair in some situations where it is not internal political pressure that caused the vote in the first place, large majorities can occur; see the falkland islands referendum on joining argentina


On commenting on an article about why people have difficulty comprehending complex systems, you have just delivered an example of the phenomena.

Your basic point seems to be that a big Government will be so well run that individuals would rely on it to provide them with benefits, even in the case that the Government make poor decisions on policy choices. That is the whole point of a Government: to make life easier for people by taking care of things that are too expensive or complicated for people to do individually.


It's also a regulatory body to ensure that certain functions and services are provided equally to every citizen. E.g. everyone has the same basic human right of access to health care and education for example. Who else should guarantee that access for a whole population if not the government?


I would phrase it as, "The government is the natural monopoly of natural monopolies".


I really wish this notion of "society by survival of the fittest" would die its long-overdue death.

What actually happens, in the real world, in situations like this, is that people suffer and die. They don't become Ayn Rand's ideal man; there's just lots of needless suffering.

And because people are capable of violence, and because people don't like suffering very much, they commit violence against each other to improve their own position -- which increases the suffering.

And then other people, who don't want to suffer and don't want to commit violence, try to leave. And they come to countries like the United States, which they've heard at some point is a great and welcoming land of opportunity, only to discover that it's all a big marketing sham and the majority of the US wants to put up a sign that says, "Go away, we're closed."

Given the number of failing or failed states around the world recently, you have to have your head quite deep in the sand, or maybe far up in some body part, to still subscribe to this idea that anarcho-capitalism is a solution to anything.

There are many complex problems with many governments around the world right now. "Get rid of government" will not make any of it better.


> What actually happens, in the real world, in situations like this, is that people suffer and die. They don't become Ayn Rand's ideal man; there's just lots of needless suffering.

There are many many counterexamples to this. See [Seeing Like a State - Wikiwand](https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Seeing_Like_a_State) for many good ones.

There's a lot of good evidence that people are in fact capable of taking care of themselves pretty well. But violence, especially organized violence, is tho a very real problem for basically everyone. But that's basically what a government is, fundamentally, so it's not obvious that 'more government' always rebounds to the betterment of everyone or even most people. As with everything, there are tradeoffs to be weighed!


This is an unorthodox way of looking at this, and could only be persuasive with actual data.

The economic argument for government providing public services is actually that for public goods, the incentives on the individual lead to sub-optimal outcomes (that’s partly just the definition of a public good).

Just because voters vote for government that may be less good at providing that public good (let’s say police protection) is not an argument that this completely eliminates any benefit from that service being provided as a public good.

From the simple example, the Democrats may provide less optimal policing than Republicans (wasting money on nanny state directives) does not mean the service can effectively provided by the private market.

You’re positing that sort inverse incentives apply when voters are choosing the governmental provision of public services. This seems unlikely to be true in the aggregate because voters do not get to choose politicians who are going to pursue policies to benefit themselves, as an individual, when they vote. As you point out, they may vote for totally psychological benefits.

So the tension is not really over the size of government; it is over making the correct determination of how much of a good or service is comprised of being a “public good.”

Classic public good problems, like imposing the correct costs on pollution, can’t be solved by wishing them away.

What you’re complaint more seems to be with is that democracy allows elements of self, or class, interests into individuals voting choices. The solution to this would be some kind of perfect benevolent dictator, who would make the optimum determination as to which goods should be provided by the government, and dedicate the correct resources to them.

The problem with this, of course, is again the incentives on the holders of power distort their decision making to their own benefit, as had be shown over and over in the real world.


People will be irrational regardless of its cost. Here's some evidence to support my claim with no citation: people will gamble their entire life savings away, regardless of how much money they have.


People are more rational when the cost to them of being irrational is larger

People are not fundamentally rational, and people do not know how rational they themselves are in any given context.


Other commenters have addressed how your claim that people behave more rationally when government is small. I would like to address the fact that even if we assume that citizens behave rationally, this does not mean that behavior maximizing personal benefit translates to behavior maximizing net benefit.

Consider, for example, the international politics arena, wherein there is no government over state actors, and where sufficiently important players pursue sufficiently rational actions, since the cost of not pursuing it is so high. Yet even with good evidence that current human activities are leading to future food and environmental insecurity via climate change, the rational actors have been struggling to coordinate on a plan.


I don't think it's valid to discount the individual's power by the number of voters. If the low impact of any single vote had the sort of effect you're suggesting, people would be much more likely not to vote at all.

When a voter is just one of millions, their share of power is necessarily low. Yet the total power obviously rises linearly. (or even super-linearly, considering the outsize influence the US has in the world). Your comment also suggests that you believe people are fundamentally open to altruistic decisions. It should therefore not matter if the power they have is over themselves, or their compatriots.

I also doubt widespread agreement with the policies you mention. Answers to such survey questions depend on the phrasing more than anything. And to use one recent datapoint: we all know a recent candidate who embodied those policies more than anyone before him. Yet they actually got fewer votes than their free trade / pro-immigration opponent.


> No, this is one of the greatest arguments for small government

Well, soon enough, I am sure, the AI will satisfy both views on the government: it will control everything, and it will fit in your pocket.


"People are more rational when the cost to them of being irrational is larger."

We may need a source on that. Are you are familiar with Thaler's work?


>People are more rational when the cost to them of being irrational is larger.

This was directly negated in the article.


> People are more rational when the cost to them of being irrational is larger.

Do you mean like buying a house they cannot afford for some ideal of home ownership? ;)


Is there more I could read to get educated about this? How can we construct polical systems that are better?


Note that you are still living in the best times humanity has ever seen. That's true in the US, but also world-wide, with few exceptions such as Syria.

There's less war, life expectancies are generally rising (the opioid epidemic being a temporary, and local, blip), the possibility of achieving one's true potential is less dependent on class/gender/race than it has ever been.

It's not perfect, but it's far away from life as it was even 100 years ago: nasty, brutish, and short.


My preferred solution for governance problems is basically to have smaller governing units (nations/states/districts). this gives people better representation and is pretty effective in managing the 'tyranny of the majority'. considering the environment in US today the majority is essentially 51%. Now if one considers how bi-polar favorite policies for each side has become, it (mandate) is nowhere near enough to justify forcing their views on the other 49%.

The subtle mechanism behind most problems in public policy today is collapsing of decision tree into just one yes or no answer (red/blue) that IMO is killing the nuanced policy development (or more accurately used by politicians to do whatever half-aed measures they can come up with). having smaller units also help with even more meta-manipulations like gerrymandering so prevalent in US. if we want to hold congress accountable for their constituents this is pretty much the only sustainable path to it. Until this happens IMHO most good policies will continue to be lost in poor/unimaginative implementation.

ref: https://mises.org/wire/us-should-have-10000-members-congress


We could also collapse the yes/no questions with better voting systems, something not first pass the post.

While local government is totally necessary, I don't think we can afford to not have big government. If wind currents made air pollution a non-issue in say, Ontario because wind currents blew it all down to Nebraska, how would we deal with that? Many of our most pressing societal problems live at the interstate or international level and need a corresponding governing body.


You most certainly could not have big government, in that scenario each state would be its own sovereign nation.


It's a very popular theory that smaller polities have better governance. Picking single examples would maybe not capture it but I'd think of NZ vs Aus, Ireland vs UK, Switzerland vs France, or even Canada vs USA. (All pairs picked to have similar location in the world, but I guess you want to say the (former) empires of USA, France and the UK put them in entirely separate categories..)


Not necessarily "better" governance, because that's very dependent on what "better" means to you. I think you can make a strong argument that federalism results in governance more closely matching the will of the people — to the extent that the will of the people can be captured by representative democracy.


> This is probably the greatest argument for big government

The article talks about institutional inertia. The advantage of a market economy is your Blockbusters get replaced by Netflix. Imagine if film renting were a public agency. It would be much harder to disrupt. Governments are, by design, immortal. A crucial design decision is choosing what, in our society, we want to be immortal and what we want to be replaceable.


Netflix is still mailing out DVD's and library's have both computers and books. Which is very telling, most often new methods supplement existing systems not simply replace them. The real transition has been cheaper shipping costs replacing the need for local retail and that's been spreading across the economy for decades.

Further governments are often first adapters. Many legacy government IT systems exist, but as they generally work and cost less to maintain than replace. Really the advantage of free markets is information exchange and diminishing returns not simply building large scale systems.

Consider, some cars come with built in refrigerators yet we ended up with roadside stores selling cold beverages. That's the kind of tradeoff markets are great for identifying.


The elected component of the government sector in a properly functioning democracy is far more mortal than large corporations and newly elected Cabinets generally more zealous about reforming (for better or worse) the way agencies and services are run than newly appointed corporate board members. Sure, some services are prioritised more than others; no government is going to get voted out of office solely for running the nationalised film rental agency into the ground, but the main reason for the institutional inertia is the same scale, complexity and principal/agent problems large corporations also suffer from.


> the elected component of the government sector in a properly functioning democracy is far more mortal than large corporations

The elected component of any modern government oversees a vast administrative bureaucracy. This is the part people refer to when comparing "big" and "small" governments.

> the main reason for the institutional inertia is the same scale, complexity and principal/agent problems large corporations also suffer from

Federal bureaucracies only die if (a) the legislature explicitly kills it or (b) the government collapses. Large companies, on the other hand, can go bankrupt. Shareholders are motivated to be ruthlessly efficient in a way lawmakers, somewhat by design, are not.


I'm not convinced the legislature explicitly killing or dramatically reconstituting agencies is a significantly rarer event than large companies going bankrupt. More to the point, the executive is seldom shy about embarking upon restructuring or adjusting funding and objectives of its administrative bureaucracies, not least because it faces its own acute existential threat from not being seen to give its taxpayers value for money and the operations and future direction of its bureaucracies is the subject of open public debate; obviously more for pensions and prisons than vehicle registrations or waste transfer licensing

Ruthless efficiency for maximising long run profit is only useful in cases that particular metric happens to align closely with the goal of society. For film distribution this might be a reasonable assumption. For promoting health or learning outcomes or facilitating retirement, it almost certainly usually isn't.


> I'm not convinced the legislature explicitly killing or dramatically reconstituting agencies is a significantly rarer event than large companies going bankrupt

In Western European and North American history, at least, it dramatically is. Look at a list of the Dow or S&P 500's founding components. Look at those lists now. Now look at a list of U.S. departments in 1850, and compare them to today.


My reference point is the UK, where we killed 89 civil service departments in the early 90s alone.


There is a difference between immortal and slow to change. I don't think people want government to fail fast and be replaced with another government in the span of two years.


The "immortal" term and Blockbuster are great concreate examples. I will have to keep those in mind as it accurately portrays some of the pros and cons of government


I don't think economists agree with the concept of Big Government. Here's an entertaining back and forth between Thaler and Gene Fama about the efficient market theory [1]:

> Q: So policy makers should use bubbles as a way to step in?

> Thaler: Yes, but very gently. It’s not like I think policy makers know what’s going to happen, but if they see what looks disturbing, they can lean against the wind a little bit. That’s as far as I would go. We both agree that markets, good or bad, are the best thing we’ve got going. Nobody has devised a way of allocating resources that’s better.

> Fama: We disagree about whether policy makers are likely to get it right, though. On balance, I think they are likely to cause more harm than good.

[1] http://review.chicagobooth.edu/economics/2016/video/are-mark...


Economists rarely have a good solution to societal problems. They have good solutions for facilitating trade but offer nothing with respect to social norms, nationalistic sentiment, etc.

We all agree that economists are good at maximizing resource allocation. Sysops are good at maximizing hardware allocation but we should let them dictate national policy :)

Politics is about taking all of the science and all of the human components of administrating a country and merge them into an ideal outcome. Economics is just one part of a bigger picture.


I disagree that economists are good at maximizing resource allocation as they largely ignore externalities.


but economists invented the term "externalities" and the analysis of such..


How good are they, especially with dealing with the unknown unknowns to quote a famous contemporary American philosopher (/s)? Even for the known unknowns, they have to make assumptions to start somewhere. Yes, they create a lot of models for all kinds of stuff, and I'm sure all those models work out well.

I must say though that I have doubts about the parent's "they largely ignore externalities", I think that is too negative a claim.


Politicians and civil servants are subject to behavioral concerns too. Who will watch the watchmen?


it doesn't have to be an endless hierarchy of people looking over one another. For example, we could watch the people that watch us.


We watch, we note abuses, they launch internal investigations, and they conclude that nothing was wrong.

Case closed. Pay your taxes, citizen. Thank you; drive through.


> We watch, we note abuses, they launch internal investigations, and they conclude that nothing was wrong.

And then, occasionally, there are protests in the streets, people start running for office pledging to fix the abuses, we vote for them, and things slowly start to change.

Alternately, sometimes we sue them, or else a state or federal attorney general sues them; the matter ends up in the judicial system, and the behavior is reviewed by an independent judge – albeit only for violations of law, not of sense.

As avenues for redress, both of these are highly imperfect, with well-known limits and failure cases; but they’re not nothing.


Exactly: soap, ballot, jury, and hopefully we never get to the last step.


Yes, that's basically democracy in a nutshell.


Even if we're all watching each other, we still all have our own incentives and not so obvious irrationalities.


Then the problem becomes identifying and accounting for these incentives and irrationalities.


We solved these kind of problems: electronic systems in space have multiple redundancies, where the result returned by most of them is picked as input to other systems. This ensures that one system's quirks are kept in check


We don't even have a handle on what constitutes rational incentives/behavior, let alone irrational ones.


>we could watch the people that watch us.

If this were possible, there would be no authority


Careful, this might sound intuitive but be deathly wrong


Care to elaborate on your concerns? We're obviously speaking theoretically here at a high level of abstraction


My concern is that it might be possible to watch each other while keeping authority. You say it's not possible as if there was some kind of proof.


If everyone can watch everyone with equal transparency, that would seem to imply a distributed system with information symmetry, which is antithetical to centralized authority. If there was a central authority/super admin in such a system, how would you keep them from covertly creating information asymmetry?


That's why free/leisure time to figure WTF is going on politically/economically socially and an education not to get lost on the way of getting there have been considered as pre-requisites for a functioning democracy.


Ideally, the electorate.

In a small government scenario, who watches those providing services?


I seem to recall running into a claim that the original idea of the republicans was that the government would be a check against coercion, be it physical, emotional, economic, or otherwise.


Seems the current Republican establishment is the exact opposite of that ideal.


Libertarians are the new advocates for small government.

Libertarians = Arch Linux (lean, mean, minimal)

Everybody else = Windows or Mac (i.e. huge operating system that tries to protect users from everything under the sun)


This is what happens when engineers receive very little formal liberal arts education.

Cringe.


Cringe away, but please don't comment that you did—it's not on topic.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


My experience with liberal arts education is that it teaches you how to talk and what to say, but not how to think.


That's the anti-college talking point that republicans like to preach to the uneducated masses. It's absolutely designed to devalue what is actually being taught in higher education, allow for the easy dismissal of soft sciences. And once you can dismiss soft sciences, you can certainly dismiss the hard sciences with guilt by association.

I earned my CS degree from a liberal arts college and took my share of liberal arts classes. But the name doesn't directly infer a political slant - there isn't an indoctrination that the right would like to say happens. Certainly some departments will have slants to them (women's studies, african american studies, etc.) but that doesn't mean that the scientific method gets forgotten at the door. Research still gets done and still gets reviewed. Certainly moreso than what happens on Fox News.


"soft" sciences are not sciences.


Majoring in a soft science is one of the least helpful things a human can do to themselves and society. As an engineer, sitting in on the required liberal arts classes felt like a seminar on group think and what aboutism


It's not so bad if you stick to some of the harder, or at least more rigidly defined liberal arts areas. Philosophy, Classics, and History (if you pick your way carefully) can be among the less squishy. If you go back to things that are at least 100, 150 years old, but not so far back that written records no longer exist, you can avoid most of the worst excesses of critical theory and similar politicized stances.


You know, there's a certain classist dismissal here of people who just plain did not attend university, let alone take "liberal arts classes" (someone please tell me what the normative value of my Chinese mythology course was!). How about we stop assuming the working class can't think for itself, eh?


It's not a dismissal of those who 'did not attend university'. It's a dismissal of people who are devaluing a university education because they did not attend university. There is no reason to believe that 'the working class' (not sure what that means really, many of us all work for a living) can't think for itself, but we have to be honest in an uneducated person thinking they know more about economics, climate change, business, etc., than those who have studied it and/or had careers in it.

Look at net neutrality, it's been completely framed by the republicans as anti-business, and they have appealed to the masses that are uneducated in how the internet works and why it was successful in the first place. But what would those of us who are educated and/or do development know? We just work using the internet all day, every day.


>and they have appealed to the masses that are uneducated in how the internet works and why it was successful in the first place.

I question this premise. How much of the public actually buys the Republican line on net neutrality?


Are people disapproving of my experience or that I'm talking about it?


[flagged]


Keep /pol/ memes on /pol/.


>it would be very time consuming to handle every single aspect of it.

Life is complicated. It is time consuming to become an knowledgeable, aware person capable of contributing intelligently to society. It is also absolutely necessary if we want to have a self-governed society worth living in. You can't have a worthwhile government - let alone a big government - governed by the will of the masses when the masses are largely ignorant and unable to offer informed consent due to lack of understanding.


That is where domain experts come in. It would be impossible for me, as an individual, to understand the repercussions of tax credits on the solar energy industry. I vote instead for competent people who I believe are best positioned to find the right people to answer these questions on my behalf.


If you don't have a general understanding, how can you decide who is competent? Staying informed and aware is hard, but necessary, work. Our reliance on pundits to recommend "experts" in the information age has led to our current society - where the overwhelming majority of voters are pushed, pulled, and manipulated by various government and corporate interests. I would contend that in order to judge who is competent to lead we as a people have to work harder to have a far better grasp of all the issues. We have fallen short in this way and we are suffering the consequences, on every level of government.


And that right there is the reason that technocrats are dumber than they think.


I don't think this follows at all. True, I probably don't want zero health and safety regulations. But government--an institution notorious for both pervasiveness and inertia--can get things wrong just like individuals and market institutions. And when the government does it, it does it at massive scale and for a very long time.

Thaler's "libertarian paternalism" is not about controlling choices, but making better choices easier to make while allowing people to still choose something else. Big government in practice is typically about picking an option and not allowing anything else. And if that one chosen option turns out to be wrong, it will take ages to undo it as the now-vested interests who manage to benefit lobby to keep the status quo.


Centralized systems can only handle so much complexity before the collapse. You can only handle the kind of society we have today through a distributed, decentralized model. The complexity of modern society is emergent, not the result of central planners. This is a foundational finding of economics and one of the primary reasons why communist dictatorships tend to fail to function.


What makes you think government is immune to these concerns? If anything, they can be more susceptible to certain kinds of adverse effects.


I agree with both you and the original poster. It's really important to have a culture of government accountability and iterative improvement. This has proven difficult in practice, as a sense of continuity and tradition is a hallmark of stable governments. But I think it's important to keep working toward that goal.




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