Argument For Open Borders Bingo
August 12, 2014, 11:03 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Econlog is known for policing its comments section quite heavily. That’s fine. Elevates the discourse, and all. (The discourse is so elevated that I never have to read it anymore.) It does make it ironic, however, that something like this passes muster as an actual blog post, since it’s based entirely on snark and lacks anything resembling any actual argument.

To be sure, I would agree that some of the anti-open-borders arguments hinted at in Art Carden’s “Open Borders Bingo” indeed are not very good. Some though, I would protest and say they are fine. Many more though are merely debatable or, more to the point, are sketches of larger points thus would open up larger, deeper conversations, for those so interested.

Or if not you could, of course, just play “Bingo”. Because ha ha!

“EconLog aims to educate, entice, and excite readers into thinking about economics in daily analyses.”

Obviously, what’s I’m getting at here is that I’ve taken the liberty of drafting entries for a hypothetical “Argument-For-Open-Borders Bingo” game. One that I might put forth if, instead of being banished from Econlog, I were deemed fit and civil enough to be an Econlog blogger like Art Carden, that is.


Put one of these on each square of a 5×5 grid and mark each you hear.

  1. We have no right to interfere with the sacred, inalienable freedom of association between this immigrant and the nonexistent domestic employer that I am pretending has extended a job-offer to him.
  2. From now on you can just blindly extrapolate the likely outcome of pretty much any future group-mixing dynamic from the experience of circa-1900 Irish- and Italian-Americans.
  3. Admitting an immigrant is just like having a baby. Same thing. Limit one, gotta limit t’other.
  4. Someone in your ancestry must have been an immigrant, therefore it must be ok to allow infinitely.
  5. It will help our economy, according to this first-order, unauditable black-box economic model that some guy made and which I choose to believe sight-unseen because I read a blog post [LINK].
  6. You say there can be frictions and troubles between people from drastically different cultures, but I get along with my fellow faculty members just fine.
  7. There is an inalienable Freedom Of Movement that I just made up.
  8. It will improve, oh, let’s say, employment on average, and aggregates are all that matter – you are not allowed to think about or take into account any micro or distributional effects, especially those upon yourself. (Why should you as a member of a democratic society be allowed to take into account how your government’s policy would affect you?)
  9. I’ve seen no ill effects from immigration from where I sit, at my home in, like, Chevy Chase Maryland. And I’ve seen stats that suggest there are lots of immigrants in some town I barely ever go to somewhere near me, let alone would I ever even think of living there. (“Bad Schools”). But it’s close. So you see I have a lot of immigrant experience, I mean I really know whereof I speak.
  10. Those complaints you have about the unfairness inherent in the fact that some people (say, your loved one) did all the proper procedures & paid the costs (which can mean you yourself literally paid those costs), whereas those who came illegally did and paid none of that? They’re dumb. I spit on them, and by extension, on you.
  11. The nation-state doesn’t literally own the land within it, so it must have no right whatsoever to impede movement across borders, and there’s no excluded middle whatsoever in my saying that.
  12. I had the most fascinating conversation with my immigrant cab driver on the way from LaGuardia to my downtown conference at the Hilton in New York, and from there I just extrapolated a bunch of stuff, let me tell you all about it. P.S. Open borders
  13. Racist! (Center square – free space)
  14. We are a ‘nation of immigrants’ in some kind of metaphorical albeit not really even close to literal sense, so that beautiful platitude trumps everything.
  15. Look at these econ stats – that’s effectively a dividend we’ve received by exploiting illegal immigrants’ second-class status; don’t you want that to continue indefinitely like I do in all my generosity?
  16. It is paranoid to think that other humans might have diseases that could spread to your community. That’s never happened! Certainly not here, in, er, America.
  17. Look at how many Indians we have to import for IT jobs to do stuff like write SQL queries, a thing no American could possibly do** (**at the same wage you can pay someone when you have them under H-1B indentured servitude).
  18. It is stupid and ignorant to think some individuals might be different than other individuals in any way, so distinctions are impossible between would-be immigrants and we therefore must admit them all if we admit any.
  19. Immigrants buy stuff too, like magazines and sandwiches, which circulates around and multiplies, thus boosting the economy, because I’m suddenly a Keynesian for some reason?
  20. There are ‘jobs Americans won’t do’. Price mechanisms don’t work and markets don’t clear. I’ve never even heard of such things, and I’m often even an actual economist or at least an ‘econo blogger’ with no meaningful econ training who likes to fancy myself as being somehow econ-savvy.
  21. Oh come on, open borders doesn’t literally mean open borders. It just means that everyone who wants to be is admitted.
  22. We mathematically need more immigrants to pay into our national pyramid-schemes, which I suddenly care about even though I’m often a libertarian. Anyway, that’s literally my only idea to address them: more levels in the pyramid, regardless of other effects.
  23. Jose Antonio Vargas. Need I say more??
  24. More immigration would increase the World Utility Function, and isn’t that why the federal government of the United States was constituted and given power over Americans? To tax them, tell them what to do, and then use those resources to go out and try to help The World (=mostly non-Americans)? the process of taxing Americans but basing actions on what helps The World to recur indefinitely and without end?
  25. The lettuce will wither. You like your salads don’t you? WHAT ABOUT THE LETTUCE?

Our new, unwritten Constitution
August 1, 2014, 9:56 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

By now it should be clear that in the minds of Smart People the text of the statute that begat Obamacare is absolutely irrelevant. It literally does not matter. You can scrape out and point at some of the text, and they themselves will scoff. You’re being stupid. State doesn’t mean State, they say. You have to read it all in the larger ‘context’.

What is this context? Whatever they say it is.

This was, of course, obvious from the time the law was first put forth and shoved through. Legislators voted on it without knowing what was in it. Millions of lefties supported it without knowing what was in it. To the extent they did know what was in it, some of them even purported to have problems with it – but insisted the law be passed anyway, and then rabidly defended it afterward against all attack.

What was in the law, textually, was never important. What was important was simply that it was some sort of National Health Care Thing. That was enough. That sufficed. That’s all that mattered. From that point, game on.

In the mind of a run of the mill lefty Smart Person, once a Health Care Thing was passed, it was as if we had amended the Constitution. Scratch that; it was as if we had, instead, adopted a new, unwritten Constitution. It was a sort of infinite enabling-act allowing for a complete overhaul of our society, to do whatever it takes to cause it to have a National Health Care Thing. Having a National Health Care Thing, in other words, represented a sort of phase transition from our previous, nominally Constitutional arrangement, to our new, glorious National Health Care Thing-having arrangement.

What are the rules of this arrangement? None! There are none. There are no actual rules. You will search in vain for them, to identify them logically, the parameters or boundaries governing what government has now been empowered to do. There are no limitations on what government can or cannot do in the service of building a National Health Care Thing. Rules and limitations are a thing of the past. Now it’s the future. Now, the only rule that matters is to make the National Health Care Thing ‘work’.

What does ‘work’ mean exactly? We’re not quite sure, but we’re working on it. Top men are working on it. Top. Men.

Oh yes, they’re working on it. Figuring it out. Crunching numbers. Wonking. Voxsplaining. Commentating. Tweeting each other. Writing memos. Issuing interpretations and ‘rules’. Giving contracts to each other. All in the service of Making Our National Health Care Thing Work. Because remember, that – and that alone – is the guiding principle of our nation now.

I know, it didn’t seem like any of this was part of the text of the statute of PPACA, or Obamacare. You didn’t think this is what was being agreed to at the time. Nothing like this appears in the actual statute. But remember: text doesn’t matter. What matters is what people thought we were agreeing to when ACA was shoved up our asses democratically passed. What who thought? What Smart People thought of course.

Mind you, I’m not saying it matters what I thought or what you thought. We don’t count. We’re not Smart. No; what matters is what Smart People thought. You know. Smart People. Ezra Klein. Josh “The Journalist Formerly Known As Joshua Micah” Marshall. Sarah Kliff, the “healthcare journalist” (like, that’s literally what she says her job is, a “healthcare journalist”, she “reports on healthcare”, and as far as I can tell that’s like an actual valid career now, like for all we know she’ll do that for the next 50 years, be a “healthcare journalist”).

Notice what all these people are saying now. They’re saying, Wait! None of us who did our noble Work (because it is totally a real job totally worthy of respect) of Talking About Obamacare On Websites thought it limited tax credits to state-exchange-users!

And notice that they actually think that’s a trump card. They think that should settle matters. What they thought. There’s your first clue. It’s not what’s in the bill that’s important. Indeed, that entire talking-point is nothing more than an admission that none of these people actually read the bill, because if they had – if these “healthcare journalists” had actually read the thing they were supposedly doing so much ‘work’ ‘reporting on’ – they’d have seen and understood the problem with the disputed section and, well, actually reported on it.

But why should any of these people read a National Health Care Thing law merely in order to ‘report on’ it? The text itself doesn’t matter. It’s what they and their friends and people they had lunches with thought that’s important. They. Not you. Not me. Not conservative-minded lawyers who might (in what can only be described, in retrospect, as a silly waste of time) actually read the text of the statute. No; what matters is they. Smart People. The Sarah Kliffs of the world.

So what does the law mean, then? We’ll just have to let Smart People tell us. From now on. They’ll figure it out, they’ll make stuff up in their heads, they’ll reverse their prior decisions, they’ll fling money around at some people and tax money away from other people, they’ll come up with all sorts of arbitrary and ad hoc ideas for how our society should be run, and then they’ll kindly tell us.

It’s all part of our new National Health Care Thing that we passed. Not in the text of the thing, but in the idea of the thing, the idea that exists in the collective heads of Smart People. Obamacare was an infinite, empty vessel into which they are now all free and enabled to pour unfettered any ideas or dreams they might have about how our society, with its National Health Care Thing, should be arranged.

This was all clear, of course, from the moment Obamacare was first discussed and shrilly, ferociously, zealously advocated by throngs of people who didn’t know diddly-squat about what the hell was in it. But I’m being unfair; why should they have known what was in it? It was never what was ‘in it’ that mattered in the first place. Or rather, what’s ‘in’ Obamacare, is whatever Smart People want or need to be in Obamacare, at any particular time. That’s how things are going to be from now on.

So now you know, if you didn’t before.

MIT Professor Jonathan Gruber is a transparent liar
July 28, 2014, 11:42 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Why isn’t this being said more explicitly? MIT Professor of economics and (we are told) one of the key ‘architects’ of what became Obamacare, while also reaping reqards like a $297k grant from HHS, is obviously and clearly and transparently being a big fat fucking liar when he says that his 2012 state-exchange-subsidy comments were just a ‘mistake’.

IMHO he’s clearly just lying about that. He’s fucking lying. Lying through his teeth. Lying to the hack reporter he tells that to, who happily pretends to believe it, and (implicitly) to any of the Americans who read it and are, willingly or not, subject to the Smart policy he (we are told) helped to ‘architect’ using his Smartness.

Professor Jonathan Gruber, why are you lying? Why can’t your Smart and noble cause survive the truth? Lefties, why is it just fine and dandy with you that this guy is (as you well know) lying? Why does your Smart policy require all sorts of noble lies?

These, of course, are just some of the questions I would ask of Gruber and of Obamacare-koolaid-drinking lefties if I believed they were intellectually honest and if I had any respect for their opinions. In the event, though, I guess there’s no real point in asking them.

There is just the simple, obvious observation that this Smart wealthy influential professor man, named Jonathan Gruber, feels the need to lie to all of us.

Statutes are written by actual people who exist
July 23, 2014, 11:05 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

The statute that became ‘Obamacare’ was not generated by robots or ominously-self-aware AI. It was created by humans.

I don’t know much about the process but I have to assume these humans were people who worked in various Senators’ offices. 26 year olds named Amy with law degrees and the like. (Look, in my mind, she’s named Amy, ok?)

Here’s how it went. At some point, our pants-suited hero Amy created a Word document called Document1.doc. Then she saved-as so that she could rename it to NationalHealthCareYay.doc. Some boilerplate introductory language, the stuff about how/why Congress shall be deemed to have the authority to pass this bill and such, was copy-pasted in from a farm bill. There may be a standard template used around the office, to make sure all the sections are numbered and fonted propertly, a table of contents generated, etc.

Then the real horse-trading in Congress started. Senator so-and-so wanted a bridge to nowhere so that section was copy-pasted in. Congressman whatsherface wanted to her people to look through it so it was emailed over, and sent back. Someone somewhere had a file with Hillary Clinton’s old health plan from 1991 so some sections from that were incorporated. Numerous sharings, branchings, copy/paste, edits, emails, save-as’es took place. Basically all of these people were (D)s and were in favor of the bill, not (R)s who were somehow diabolically trying to spike the bill.

By now the document was called NationalHealthCareYay – v73 for Brenda (Copy) (Copy) (COPY) – NEW VERSION[Removed bridge funding] DO NOT SHARE (edited for sharing)[version B2].doc. The text had all those strikethroughs and red fonts and side-column notations that you see when you edit documents with the ‘history’ option or whatever it’s called turned on.

I made basically all that up but I’m pretty sure it’s basically correct, in broad strokes.

And anyway, at the end of that process, whatever it was, a part of the statute that was sent to the floor and actually got passed said this:

…through an Exchange established by the State under 1311

Someone somewhere consciously typed and/or pasted that, or the words that eventually became that – each and every word – in to our Word doc. It was not put there by a bot or an act of God.

That person, whoever he/she is (SPOILER: it’s Amy!), had a reason for typing that in, and must have done so consciously. It was not done, presumably, as an exercise in psychography or while on a vision quest under the influence of hallucinogenic mushrooms. There was a reason for writing ‘by the State’ and there was a reason for writing ‘under 1311′, the very first time each of those words were written in our ancestral .doc, the ‘Q source’ of Obamacare if you will. Those reasons had to have been conscious and deliberate ones. (After all, why 1311? Why not some random number? Why mention another section at all? Why ‘by the State’? Why not just ‘exchange’? Etc etc.)

The plaintiffs in the recent Halbig court case have a theory as to that reason: it’s because at some point, the creators of Obamacare had this idea that only offering tax-credits to state-exchange buyers would be a ‘carrot’ to induce states to create exchanges. Maybe later the whole ‘carrot’ theory was dropped or forgotten but the reason it was put there originally does indeed trace to the ‘carrot’ strategy. Now: I don’t know that this theory is true, but it’s a totally plausible one, has grounding in some actual documented discussion that did take place amongst/witnessed by at least some (D) lawmakers, and it explains literally all the facts.

The Reality-Based Community does not have a theory as to how ‘by the State’ got there. They call it a ‘drafting error’ and/or a ‘mistake’ and/or a ‘glitch’. Senators, like Pelosi et al, ‘wrote’ (nominally – I’m guessing Amy wrote this too) an amicus brief claiming that ‘by the State’ is not what they meant. But they do not actually explain how or why it got there.

But again, the statute that became ‘Obamacare’ was not generated by robots or ominously-self-aware AI. It was created by humans. And someone, somewhere, at some point in the legislative history of creating this law, wrote ‘through an Exchange established by the State under 1311′. And they had a reason for doing so.

If the Smart People’s rebuttal to this court case is correct, that reason is ‘simple, dumb, but weirdly specific mistake’. In other words, our Amy had to have written ‘by the State’ when there was no reason to and no one instructed her to. And she had to have referenced section ‘1311’ out of the clear blue sky. This seems unlikely. It is, on the face of it, far less likely than the plaintiffs’ theory of what happened. Nevertheless that’s Smart Peoples’ story and they’re sticking to it.

Very well then. Let’s hear from Amy. Let’s have her tell us, in plain English, that it was a ‘mistake’. I mean right? Amy is the one who wrote this thing (not Nancy Pelosi, gimme a break). She knows why she wrote it. And if she just made a (weird and oddly specific) ‘mistake’ then she is best positioned to attest to that fact.

This would be the simplest and easiest way to smackdown ACA’s critics and shove it in their face. Reporters like Sarah Kliff who appear to be trying to build an entire journalistic career on simultaneously reporting on and cheerleading (but I repeat myself) this law would have a nice feather in their cap if they could just track down and interview Amy. Money quote: “It was just a mistake. I wrote ‘by the State under 1311′ for no real reason. I don’t even know why. No one told me to. It’s not like it was part of the early discussions of the law or anything. I was just feeling weird that day, wasn’t getting any good matches on Tinder, so I decided to throw in a reference to 1311 for the heck of it. I didn’t even know ‘1311’ was a real section of the law”.


Take that, Obamacare truthers! Science wins again!

Well? So? Where is ‘Amy’? Why haven’t we heard from her? Remember, whoever she is, she’s some staffer with a law degree and career aspirations who works/worked for some (D) Senator or Congressman. She totally believes in Obamacare. She could totally heroically defend Obamacare against evil righties by stepping forward now and telling her side of the story. And literally all the players who would need to be involved have every incentive in the world to step forward and convey to us this crucial information, which could save the insurance plans of millions of poor Americans, that ‘by the State under 1311′ was Just A Mistake.

And they haven’t! Not for months and months! As a whole case about it has dragged through the courts!

Under the Just A Mistake theory, this is pretty inexplicable.

Under the ‘carrot’ theory, however, it makes perfect sense: there is no ‘Amy’ to find to testify to the ‘mistake’, because it wasn’t a ‘mistake’.

This is all you should need to know in order to know which way to bet. I’m not saying it’s a sure thing, mind you, I’m just saying: you know which way to bet. The ‘carrot’ theory is actually an explanation and fits the facts and raises no other problems. None of this can be said about the ‘mistake’ (non-)theory.

If you’re genuinely scientifically-minded, and ‘reality-based’, this is the part where you say QED.


Volcker Rule still stupid, still incoherent, still not enforced
July 16, 2014, 11:39 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Remember how ‘prop trading’ was banned by the Volcker Rule? That was awesome. ‘Prop trading’, as we all know, is when a bank does a trade ‘for their own account’ rather than on behalf of a client. (It’s evil and bad. It caused all bad things.) We all agree. Smart People agree. Smart People are Smart for agreeing. We’re Smart.

Meanwhile, in unrelated news, a bank just went out and bought like billions of dollars worth of mostly seasoned non-agency subprime mortgage bonds, for 73 cents on the dollar. Bloomberg helpfully explains that them and a buncha other banks were asked to bid on the block of bonds directly, ‘either to hold on their own books or to fill client orders’.

Wait, what? ‘Either’? How on earth could it be that first thing, legally-speaking? Does not compute.

Or do they have literally $3 billion some-odd worth of client orders lined up that they crossed literally all these bonds to yesterday? Did all the other banks line up (different?) $3 billion some-odd worth of client orders yesterday too?

Because whichever bank won the auction would’ve had to take delivery of a bunch of bonds T+3 or whatever, and if those bonds weren’t all immediately crossed to end-clients, the remainder would then, by definition, be sitting – as Bloomberg says – on their own books. Right there in ‘their own account’, so to speak.

Do you see? Is anyone getting this yet?

Oh, why do I bother.

UPDATE 7/17: If this followup is any indication I have a heaping helping of crow to eat. Hard to tell, but it seems to imply that the entire block was sold to clients (or in part to other dealers, who sold to their clients?):

Data on market trades yesterday from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority signal Credit Suisse placed the bonds with clients, with a similar amount of debt being bought and sold by dealers.

So…nevermind? I guess this particular auction was perhaps Volcker-kosher on its own terms after all. If so I was wrong and my snark, dumb & misplaced for a change (unlike my usual snark, which is intelligent & on point).

Dang, by my count this would mark like the 4th time I’ve been wrong while blogging. See I told you I wasn’t a very good blogger.

Feeling Smart
July 6, 2014, 10:37 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Elliot Temple replying to the Scott Aaronson post I reacted to here:

This is a common problem where people are more interested in the social role of a rational intellectual than truth-seeking discussion. They’re more interested in feeling smart than being smart. They’re more interested in self-image than action. They care about popular opinion and socialized legitimized status, and only feel much need to address arguments with some kind of (social) authority behind them. They look at the source of ideas and then wonder whether, socially, they can get away with ignoring the ideas (ignoring arguments is something they seem to treat as desirable and try to maximize).

It’s not about, “Have I already written an answer to this argument? Has someone else written an answer to it that I can endorse? If yes, I’ll give a link/cite. If no, maybe I or someone else better write something.” That’d be rational but few people think that way.

Instead it’s about, “If I don’t answer this, will other people think it was a serious argument I should have answered? Am I expected to answer it? Do I have to answer it to protect my social status? Do I have any excuses for not engaging with the argument that most people (weighted by their status/authority) will accept?”

Smart People.

Smart Person humbly suggests using higher math to secretly weigh Smart Peoples’ votes more
June 20, 2014, 8:12 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Scott Aaronson has written an interesting post (HT: mathbabe) proposing borrowing concepts from ‘eigenmorality’ and Google page-ranking to improve democracy. I thought I’d go into it a little if you don’t mind.

The core of the idea is this:

A trustworthy source of information is one that’s considered trustworthy by many sources who are themselves trustworthy (on the same topic or on closely related topics). The current scientific consensus, on any given issue, is what the trustworthy sources consider to be the consensus. A good decision-maker is someone who’s considered to be a good decision-maker by many other good decision-makers.


…once people’s individual decisions did give rise to a giant connected trust component, the recommendations of that component could acquire the force of law.

Essentially, some Google PageRank-like algorithm would be set up (by Smart People) to rank how ‘trustworthy’ people are (according to definitions and metrics presumably defined by Smart People). Starting from how much people ‘trust’ each other, the ‘largest connected trust component’ would be extracted via some basic linear algebra, and that component would be deemed to be Trustworthy, hence would rule. (And then we’d have a carbon tax1.)

In a sense, this is just a description of a hagiocracy – rule by priests, by people who are sufficiently holy. He just defines his ‘priesthood’ implicitly, in a certain way that (he is confident) would include himself and other Smart People who agree with him about stuff (like, a carbon tax). So in particular, the overall idea constitutes a decent outline of a formal, workable mechanism for setting up an Yglesiocracy:

Smart People favor the rule of Smart People.

Oh, but don’t worry, he doesn’t seek dictatorship and he doesn’t like numbers-based amorality that allows one gang to tyrannize another. Just ask him. He says so and everything. He just wants the views of the ‘largest connected trust component’, whatever they are, to ‘acquire the force of law’. Apples and oranges!

Let me start by dialing back his concept a bit and then seeing where it goes off the rails. Because he is right that our current system, (nominally) democracy, does a similar sort of thing: it is The Majority that rules. He just wants to replace The Majority with something else, The Smart People. But there would be advanced math™ behind it, so it’s all good.

In fact, we can cast winner-take-all democracy into his framework quite easily. To simplify matters imagine a country with five people (A,B,C,D and E) who are sharply divided into two Parties: A,B, and C implicitly trust each other about everything and distrust D & E, and vice versa. (This is an admittedly extreme but for our purposes reasonable approximation to how our society already works for certain issues.)

It’s easy to write down the equivalent of the trust-matrix for this setup:


(I hope this is pretty self-explanatory. Row A has 1s for columns A, B, and C since that’s who he trusts. It has 0s for columns D and E since that’s who he distrusts. Etc.)

The ‘eigenmorality’/Google approach suggests that we convert this trust matrix, which encodes how much people (rightly or wrongly) trust each other, into something we interpret as an absolute, external, objective measure of trustworthiness, using the circular/implicit reasoning I excerpted above:

A trustworthy source of information is one that’s considered trustworthy by many sources who are themselves trustworthy

Or, as I put it in my groundbreaking, award-winning^H^H^H^H^H^H^H -eligible, seminal post on Smart People,

The odd thing about Smart People is that they all seem to know who they are. They recognize each other, instinctively.

It appears the Google/eigenmorality idea is that (due to some hand-waving) the most-likely-to-be-the trustworthy bloc would be represented by whoever’s in the primary eigenvector of the trust matrix, since if we ran this game a bunch of times, [a. give people some Trust Points, b. let them distribute them to those they Trust], that would characterize the long-term equilibrium.

In our above ABCDE case that primary-eigenvector happens to be (a multiple of) this vector:


What those 1s mean is that the people in party ABC are part of the largest eigenvector; the 0s mean that those in party DE are not. Which is just to say, for our simplified all-or-nothing party-system trust model, the largest eigenvector = largest connected component = the party with the most votes. So winner-take-all majority-rule democracy is the same thing as Aaronson’s ‘eigenmorality’ if ‘trust’/’morality’ is assumed to be binary and to correspond to simple-agreement on the issue in question.

And we even already have a mechanism for discovering this largest-connected-component too. It uses no advanced linear algebra. It’s called ‘voting’.

Aaronson is clearly unhappy with this mechanism though, since it doesn’t produce the outcomes he wants (e.g. a carbon tax). The policy he wants hasn’t gotten enough of this ‘voting’ thing and so there must be something wrong with that process, says he. What other process might his idea lead to, exactly?

Let’s modify our model a little. After all, it was admittedly an oversimplification. Let’s look for areas to improve and generalize. The first one is pairwise trust. I can buy that A trusts himself 1 trust-unit, but all other people? Just because they’re in his party? People aren’t so groupthink-minded right? So make things slightly more realistic: let’s say that instead of trusting each other 1, party members trust each other p<1:


But it doesn’t matter what p is (as long as it’s not 0): this still has the same leading eigenvector, the majority party ABC, as before. So this is still just a model of majority-rule democracy.

What to change next? One more thing oughta do it: Maybe the members of party DE trust each other a different amount, say q, than do the members of party ABC:


Does this change things? It turns out that it could: if q>2p then Party DE, not ABC, actually becomes the first-eigenvector.


Despite being a minority, the PageRank Democracy Machine would do its linear algebra and declare – ultimately, simply because they ‘trust’ each other more, or whatever q is measuring exactly – that Party DE is the Most-Trustworthy-Connected-Component and therefore that their preference – not that of the majority, ABC – should carry force of law.

Another way to get the same exact outcome, clearly, is just to give the votes of Party DE, the Smart People, extra weight.

So don’t be fooled; that is what he is saying he wants. If Smart People can convince Linear Algebra that they’ve arranged themselves into an impressive-enough Mutual-Trust-Admiration-Society (and is that not, if nothing else, exactly what Smart People are good at doing?), then they get to rule, regardless of such parochial concepts as actual voter preferences.

Thus we see that this ‘eigenmorality’/PageRank-based reform of democracy is really just a roundabout way of overweighting the votes of Smart People (more generally, of whoever can figure out how best to game the math and control the spigots of who is given ‘trust’ – but we’re all pretty convinced that would be Smart People, right?), in the guise of Google-like hi tech and advanced math™.

Now sure. A straightforward, overt appeal to give Smart People double-votes, to count non-Smart People as 3/5 of a vote, or whatever it takes, probably wouldn’t have been so appealing or palatable. But perhaps this idea of ‘using linear algebra to discover the Most-Trustworthy-Connected-Component’ could sneak through?

I’m just here to tell you that, despite the hifalutin language and math, for all intents and purposes they’re the same exact thing. Do not be fooled; Aaronson wants the votes of himself and people-who-agree-with-him-about-stuff to count more than they currently do. That is what he is saying. That is all he is saying.

In fairness, it’s a pretty common wish.

1It’s pretty amusing just how important something like a carbon tax is to Smart People, even those who don’t know the first thing about either climate modelling or economics and thus have no idea whatsoever what if anything a carbon tax would accomplish.


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