Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Civic Theory vs. a Startup Idea

How can you tell that politics isn't what it you've been told it is, without leaving the armchair?
"Mancur Olson, in his book The Logic Of Collective Action, highlighted the central problem of politics in a democracy. The benefits of political market-rigging can be concentrated to benefit particular special interest groups, while the costs (in higher taxes, slower economic growth, and many other second-order effects) are diffused through the entire population."
This, unfortunately, cannot possibly the whole story or even a large part of it.

Here's my startup idea: political insurance. It would charge some incredulously low amount, like $4 a year, and promise to stick it to special interest groups. The basic product would end up being political stability. It would profit on a percentage of the difference between the costs of special interests and the bribes the special interests are willing to pay. These are guaranteed to be very different, thermo #2 itself says that the interests cannot efficiently extract their benefits. It defeats the rational ignorance problem, as the costs of research can be centralized, the results cheaply distributed, and is robust against cheating due to spot checks by individual customers. It is entirely legal, it is simply the anti-special-interest special interest.

This idea is ludicrous. It makes betting on snowballs in hell look like a rewarding hobby. I know it, you know it, it can't possibly work.

Okay, but why not? We know it instinctively, not rationally.

Here's a non-reason: there's a user bootstrapping issue. To charge the really low numbers, it would need a really large number of subscribers. This, however, is just a marketing problem. Marketing problems get solved all the time. Worst case scenario, the idea needs a few goes in different guises before it lucks out and takes off.

Imagine that instead of this sentence, I bored you with several other apparent obstacles that just aren't all that.

So, would special interests not manage to get countered by a firm dedicated solely to efficiently converting their deadweight costs into profits? If so, how?

Or, are special interests just yet another scapegoat? If so, for whom?

Perhaps the whole political system would rise up in an orgy of corruption and make it illegal? How do you convince politicians to outlaw the business model of bribing them more?

I think I've exceeded a lifetime quota; patience with intellectuals who don't take the consequences of their own theories seriously. (E.g, so you won't admit you think it is ludicrous? So...when's your appointment with the venture capitalist? This is easily a multi-billion dollar market.)

If only this were the only part of civic theory with that flaw...

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Perception and the Parrot

I found a thing about being about a parrot. I have finally figured out what it is. It's what non-narcissism looks like.

"She did not look like she was gathering up courage to pet it or imagining it in the role of a chase-able dog or cat. She was just looking at it."
The author of the piece appears as a character, but it is not about the author. The other people and the other objects and creatures not defined by their relationship to the author, or indeed by their relationship to anyone else. They're allowed to exist in themselves, as themselves.

"The little girl presented a clearer display of authentic engagement of the parrot than all the adults."
What's authentic is the reaction to the parrot. Everyone else reacts to what the parrot symbolizes. "Parrot flits too quickly [past] the face to be noticed, and is replaced by more normal cognitions." In the case of Ithaca, the symbolism is about what the parrot means about their relationship with other things and other people.

"Their carefully layered oversized sports clothes and reversed baseball hats demanded attention. I suppose spectacles, be they man-parrots or a group of swaggering young black men, do not supply attention, but demand it."
They don't wear clothes as clothes. They wear clothes only because of how others' relationship to them is mediated through the clothes. They're not wearing clothes, they're trying to wear an idea or a relationship or a role. The problem is that ultimately, they're wearing clothes. The problem is that ultimately, a relationship involves someone else. They're trying to demand a particular relationship, which means they'd have to demand a particular person. Are you like that person? I'm not.

"But you cannot really compete with a parrot. The parrot is entirely unaware that it is competing."
The competition is in the minds of the observers, it is not a real thing out there. You can't compete with the parrot because the parrot is not in a competition. To put it in competition, the minds have to create the competition through physical action.

"To my list of profundities, I will add the following: a free mind is one which the parrot can occupy easily, and stay in as long as it chooses."
Narcissism, like the obsession with symbols and meaning, shackles the mind. I'll add that obsession with 'should' excludes appreciation of 'is.'

"Now, the little black children engaged the parrot as completely as the little white girl. So if the little kids are born free and demonstrably remain free until at least age six, as demonstrated by the parrot"
I don't think any of my age peers in school survived the trip from adulthood. Though, instead of them being removed from the world, they removed the world from themselves. Rather, had it forcibly removed. Since I went to the same school, and have to spend a lot of my time resisting the habit.

I could go on, but in any case I really like The Parrot.