29 July 2009

Robin Hanson: Refuge markets

GCR 2008: Robin Hanson - Catastrophe, Social Collapse and Human Extinction from Future of Humanity Institute on Vimeo.

So imagine a refuge with a good chance of surviving a wide range of disasters. For example, it might be hidden in a mine, stocked with years of food and power, and continuously populated with forty expert hunter-gatherers (or perhaps subsistence farmers), ten refuge tech experts, and thirty amateurs. Locked down against pandemics, it is opened every six months for supplies and new residents.

A refuge ticket gives you the right to an amateur refuge slot for a given time period. For reasons to be explained in a moment, we might also want to match a resort with each refuge. To exercise a refuge ticket, you show up at its matching resort at the assigned time.

Refuge and resort tickets would be auctioned off years ahead of time, and then traded in subsidized markets. Many now think it legal to trade sporting event tickets conditional on which teams are playing. If so, maybe we could also legally trade refuge and resort tickets conditional on various events.

For example, one might buy a refuge or resort ticket valid on a certain date only in the event that USA and Russia had just broken off diplomatic relations. The price of this resort ticket ticket would rise with the chance of this event, while the price of a refuge ticket would also rise with the chance that this event will be followed by a disaster where refuge residence substantially raises your chance of survival.

So refuge and resort event ticket prices should together indicate the chances of catastrophic events. If there were several levels of refuges, some protecting only from mild disasters while others also protect from extreme disasters, ticket prices could indicate disasters size expectations. And if we further allow ticket trading conditional on policies that might mitigate disasters, such conditional prices could tell us which policies speculators expected to most help.

Links: 1, 2

25 July 2009

Jared Diamond: The Evolution of Religions

Psihologia evolutionista, religia si politica

Slide-urile de la prezentarea mea despre psihologia evolutionista la workshopul CADI.

1. Ce este psihologia evolutionista
2. Adaptari cu impact social si politic
3. Studiu de caz: religia
4. Relevanta pentru problemele politice actuale

11 July 2009

Pascal Boyer despre originea religiei

Richard Dawkins - The purpose of purpose

Wanna be a member?

Paul Collier despre democratie

Thought experiment: put yourself in the shoes of a dictator or thug, list the options in a cost-benefit analysis.

Option 1: Turn over a leaf and be a good government. Pro: it's what people want; and some evidence it works. Where elections are properly conducted, people are more likely to vote for the incumbent if the economy is recently been growing. Cons: If the incumbent has been running the economy badly for a long time, his skill set and the organizations are not designed to run the economy well. Would involve suppressing the patronage of elite groups, so incumbent would weaken his power base. Another con is that even with good economic performance, chances of winning are far from certain. Might be more effective ways of ensuring duration in office. In America, dramatic lesson in how difficult it is to measure how someone is doing with economic performance. Economy is doing badly now, unemployment is growing, which could either be because the stimulus package isn't being quickly enough or isn't large enough and the President needs to do more or because the President inherited a really bad situation that turns out to be worse than we thought. Impossible to distinguish. Good parallel with bottom billion in the 1990s, long period of stagnation or decline, causes of which were contested. If economists can't agree, what are the odds others can agree. Weak reed to lean on.

Option 2: Lie. Pro: Lying is easier in these societies than in our own because the media is more restricted, more controlled by the authorities. Con: You've been doing it for such a long time that people don't believe you and will discount what you say. Unreliable way of winning. But you are really good at it! Some tension there. Unknowable how much in an autocratic society how much the average person believes. Pravda probably not a reliable source of information in the Soviet Union, but claim that people are more gullible.

Option 3: Scapegoat a minority. Whip up a populist support for yourself by identifying the problems as due to some internal minority or some foreign country or institution like the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Disturbingly successful, long history, shouldn't underestimate the success of this strategy. Con: Very often, the incumbent rulers have depended on these minorities, especially ethnic business minorities, for their financial support. Autocrats have favored ethnic minority business people because they can't build up a political power base, can't threaten. Businessmen from the majority ethnic group who are the menace, parasites, rent-seekers. Ethnic minority businessmen are often payrolling of the patronage system of the incumbent president; don't want to weaken the ethnic minority too much, turn populist forces against it; would cut off the spigot.

Option 4: Bribery. Key advantage of the incumbent over the opposition is that you've got more money, so long as you can embezzle the public purse, so you can bribe people with their own money. Like when guy promises to watch your car on a city street to prevent it from being vandalized if you give him money; what will happen if you don't? Moral hazard. Con: Might come expensive. Other con: can you trust people if you give them money and they say they will vote for you, how can you tell they actually will? Studied efficacy of bribery; find it is effective. Sometimes new technologies even favor bribery. In some parts of the world, mobile phones are used to photograph the ballot paper inside the voting booth. People in these societies regard a deal as giving some sort of moral responsibility. Honor among thieves; somebody suborns you and you feel ethically bound. Tradition of big man providing patronage to the clients, so voter bribery fits. City of Chicago: there is literal bribery, and people follow through even in a secret ballot system. Illicit strategies are not confined to the societies of the bottom billion, but are more pronounced there. Struggle for institutions which restrain the strong incentives.

Option 5: Intimidation. Opposite of bribery. Can use both: bribe marginal group and intimidate clear supporters of the opposition. Can observe whether people vote even if you can't tell how people vote. Can pretty easily identify who you don't want to vote; hire thugs. Can be a winner as a strategy. Pedro Vicente, experiment during Nigerian presidential elections, expected to violent; teamed up with local non-governmental organization (NGO), randomized controlled experiment. Reduced level and fear of violence in this group of constituencies. Was a systematic effect: vote for peaceful politicians went up. Con: Two can play at that game, not clear that the incumbent has an advantage. Ultimately incumbent has advantage because he can resort to the police and army. In second round of Zimbabwean elections, that's what Mugabe did, turned to violence. In less extreme conditions, opposition might have an advantage--presumption is that opposition has widespread support or you wouldn't be worried about it.

Option 6: Restrict the field to exclude the strongest candidates. Long pedigree of success. Can kill them. Book has chapter on meltdown in Cote d'Ivoire. Incumbent wanted to have a contested election but didn't want to face the two candidates who were really likely to win. Banned both of them, looked around for somebody to run against, against whom he would be likely to win. Actually lost--neglected to take into account how people would perceive his banning of the other two. Nigerian president banned everybody, but was going to have a multiparty election, so he set up five parties, each of which just happened to choose him as their candidate. Happens in real democracy, sometimes get several endorsements. Dropped dead of a heart attack before he was able to go through with this.

Option 7: Miscounting the votes. LBJ solution--Robert A. Caro's biography of Lyndon B. Johnson, power and political machinations and culture. Ballot fraud is tempting because typically the incumbent controls the local authorities, who may even have been trying to please him for years. May even be competition to deliver as many votes as possible. Entrepreneurship, competitive sycophancy.


07 July 2009

Social democratie si bine social


Cred ca oricine are o minima cultura economica stie ca social democratia nu e buna pentru mase.

Bine pentru mase = un numar cat mai mare de oportunitati din toate punctele de vedere (produse in magazine, locuri de munca disponibile, ocazii de distractie etc.) Chestiile astea sunt oferite de capitalismul "salbatic", nu de social democratie. Social democratia nu face decat sa substituie gandirea economica rationala cu tot felul de rahaturi moraliste (despre lacomie, presupusa inechitate sociala etc.).

elem geom

Da observ ca am facut o greseala de formulare folosind calificativul "bine pt. mase". O astfel de exprimare, prin inexactitatea notiunilor folosite ofera posibilitatea unei discuti infinite si ne productive.

Chiar si in cazul unei exprimari ceva mai imprecise , nu pot sa fiu de acord cu ceea ce tu afirmi ca ar insemna "bine pentru mase".

Fara a fi un "alegator" al social democratilor sau a face propaganda acestora, eu cred ca o tara cu un sistem social bine organizat este benefic pentru mase. Poate pentru tine poate suna a demagogie si pseudo moralism. Dar am vazut ca exista si asa ceva. La fel sunt de parere ca un astfel de sistem influenteaza si comportamentul si modul de a gindi a celor ce fac parte din acest sistem.

Si mie mi se pare ca un sistem social bine organizat este benefic (atat pentru "mase" cat si pentru mine personal). Insa discutia despre social democratie nu mi se pare ca e legata de sistemul social in sine, ci de relatia dintre aparatul statului si sistemul social. Cel putin in ceea ce ma priveste, suspiciunea fata de social-democratie nu are nimic post-traumatic, ci are o baza empirica. Exista o serie aproape nesfarsita de exemple in care interventia statului, si ma refer la interventiile bine intentionate nu la coruptie, in loc sa conduca la efectele benefice scontate a condus la exact opusul lor. Exemple la intamplare: Vrei sa faci educatia superioara accesibila pentru toti, motiv pentru care o faci de stat, si te trezesti ca in fapt sistemul creat ia bani prin taxe de la saraci si-i da bogatilor; vrei sa reduci saracia si atunci cresti salariul minim, iar consecinta e ca creste somajul; vrei sa ajuti industria filmului si atunci ii dai subventii, iar rezultatul e ca devine complet necompetitiva si e anihilata de Hollywood.

Nu e vorba deci de indiferenta fata de problemele ridicate de social-democrati, asa cum spune propaganda de stanga, ci tocmai de o dorinta de aborda aceste probleme in mod realist, de a le rezolva pe bune nu doar de a te simti bine cu tine insuti ca "iti pasa". Impresia pe care mi-o lasa mie social-democratii e ca vad ceva neinregula si sar imediat la concluzia ca statul trebuie sa se bage si sa "rezolve lucrurile", "de ce nu se face ceva?", fara sa analizeze in detaliu ce se intampla, sa identifice cauzele si sa tina cont de toata complexitatea. Imi lasa impresia ca nu incearca decat sa amelioreze efectele indiferenti la efectele secundare ale "solutiei" pe care o adopta.

In ceea ce priveste "sistemul social bine organizat" eu vad lucrurile din perspectiva institutiilor. Daca institutiile sunt bune, societatea se dezvolta bine, iar sarcina statului e in primul si-n primul rand sa asigure functionarea acestor institutii. Din punctul meu de vedere este prematur sa discutam despre ce anume ar mai putea face statul inainte de a avea in picioare cadrul institutional ok.

Care exact sunt aceste institutii care genereaza o societate ok? In mare ar fi cam asa:

1) Mediul juridic si politic
- Independenta justitiei
- Competenta justitiei (increderea in tribunale)
- Democratie constitutionala
- Transparenta guvernarii
- Birocratie mica si descentralizare
2) Drepturile de proprietate
- Protectia proprietatii (sa functioneze bine politia)
- Inregistrarea juridica a proprietatii
- Accesul la imprumuturi
3) Libertati civile
- absenta distriminarilor de orice fel (din partea statului)
- secularism
4) Taxe
- complexitate redusa a sistemului de colectare a taxelor
- inflatie cat mai mica
- absenta protectionismului (fara taxe vamale)

Daca te uiti la noi o sa vezi ca lipsesc destul de multe chestii de pe lista...