Friday, September 30, 2005

Problems for concequentialists/utilitarians

The standard challenges to utilitarianism are as follows (although these are really just objections to concequentialism)
the promise example:
You and your friend have been trapped in a blizzard in the wilderness. At some point, it becomes clear that he won’t make it back. On his deathbed, he makes you promise to make sure that all his money goes to his eldest son. But when you get back to civilization, you realize that the money would do more good if given to charity. Should you lie and say that your friend’s last wish was for the money to be given to charity?

This is a thought experiment designed to put our fairly "rule utilitarian" intuition up against "act utilitarianism". There are a number of issues
1) Concequentialism is HIGHLY prescriptive - it tells you EXACTLY what to do not just a general guide.
Some moral theories might say "keep promises" and one could easily navigate such a world by just not making any promises. However Act utilitarism results in us constantly having choices between better and worse outcomes that can all be measured against each other. This means that it ma give us a tough set of rules that we cant or don’t want to live up to.

the frame-up example:
A crime causing considerable public outrage has occurred in a small town. Unless someone is punished for it, there will be serious riots, during which some people will be killed. The sheriff can prevent this only by framing and executing (as a scapegoat) an innocent man. Should he do it?

In this question
1) We are confronted by a number of assumptions that most people quite reasonably find hard to believe. These include that our knowledge that the criminal is uncatchable and that framing a person is the best solution. We doubt that this is true and therefore question the sheriff’s morality which in this case has been allocated the title of utilitarianism. In the back of our minds we expect that the person telling us the options may well be mistaken or not thinking of the big picture.

2) We are confronted with two negative outcomes so that following utilitarianism we must give a negative outcome as our morally acceptable answer.
This appears to be less of a problem to some philosophies because they will allow you to disconnect from the event and allocate the harm to another person but utilitarianism in a sense forces you to accept that if you know you could prevent the riot you have the power to indeed prevent the riot (sounds like a truism put that way doesn’t it?).

3) A mater of unit of analysis - In sense we blame the utilitarian for the actions of the non utilitarian crowd or the non utilitarian murderer because we have a utilitarian problem with a bad outcome

3) We ignore a number of ways that the problem could, and possibly even MUST, be mitigated by a pure utilitarian. If required a good sheriff could frame himself, or potentially frame a person guilty of something else and then not charge them for that crime, possibly finding a criminal willing to take such a deal.

the organ-harvesting example:
You are a surgeon in a hospital, where there are five patients who are about to die if they do not receive organ transplants (each for different organs). One healthy person enters the hospital, which happens to have organs compatible with all five patients (while the five patients are not compatible with each other). Should you kill him in order to distribute his organs to the five patients who need them?

In this case we have a problem regarding
1) The ridiculously unlikely nature of the problem - if this is the worst problem created by utilitarianism we are not in that much trouble.
One would expect either
a) An unhealthy or dead person will match
b) The person walking in the door will not match anyone or at best only 1 person.
c) It will be irrational not to wait or irrational to harvest the person in case his organs don’t match etc.
2) There are serious dangers of creating a fear in the general public that you will be harvested for organs - people would live in fear and go to hospitals carrying guns and only when seriously injured. These are the sort of things we take into account here to get an intuitive reaction to it.
The harm to the system would exceed the benefit to the 5 people

It is also easy to write such critiques for the opposite point of view "Deontology"

Assume: It is always wrong to harm another person.
Scientists have discovered that the hair of a particular individual contains a cure for cancer. In order to synthesize the cancer-cure, they need to pluck one hair from the person’s head; however, he does not consent to give away his hair 9because he hates people and wants them to die let's say). Approximately 6 million people die of cancer every year (worldwide). Should we take a hair by force?

Surely Yes?

an ordinary person is driving his car, in normal circumstances. Every car trip has some probability of resulting in an accident, causing harm to innocent people. Is it wrong to drive?

This of course uses a habit that we have and suggests that it might be bad morally - we are then backed into defending it morally (or having cognitive dissonance). This is a little like the methods I critiqued earlier in the other examples in that I think that an action I take every day may well be immoral - it is worse for me to refuse to admit the possibility than for it to be true.
HOWEVER absolute Deontology would suggest that you would not drive as long as there was any risk no matter how small - that is ridiculous.

It is possible that you are a carrier of a deadly disease, and that by leaving your home; you will spread the disease to other people. There is no positive evidence that you have such a disease, but you do not have absolute proof that you don’t. Is it wrong to leave your house?

Putting intelligence in

I can think of 3 ways to put intelligence into this (as surely anyone who wants to devalue chimps, or rats for that matter, must want to do)

1) As a multiplier - i.e. Bill matter more than Mark by the ratio to which he is smarter (therefore every unit on his preference list is multiplied by that ration when comparing them

Thus every unit of utility is measured as intelligence * approximated utility (from the above method)

This one requires a much extended upper end to the scale to provide the discrimination against lower life forms that is desired BUT that also would provide quite an elitist society (Richard and I might benefit from but some of our friends might not).

2) As a matter of having more interests and more abstract interests
This works by the fact that there will simply be more opportunities to make a smart person happier.
After calibrating normal things like being pricked with a pin there will be a large set of higher goals that only exist in the set of the more intelligent individual - therefore the system might automatically favor that individual.
This is related to "domain specific knowledge gathering" sort of things discussed in the humans thread.
However this probably won’t produce the total domination of lower life forms most would desire. Philosophers might benefit a lot from this.

3) Writing off certain things as invalid for comparison, for example saying a shark can't feel pain even if it fears pain more than a set of other things on its preference scale than also exists on our preference scale in almost identical form.
Maybe a better example is saying a chimp can’t feel love or something along those lines.
This seems more like what people actually do but also seems pretty dubious morally but I guess one could argue each step is an evolutionary advancement and that each advancement carries with it some sort of potential to have rights or intrinsic right.


In response to posts at Richard's Blog

comparing interpersonal utility is not a fatal problem because I can fairly accurately predict your preferences (e.g. I expect you do not want to be poked in the eye) and therefore I must have a concept of their relative value and that I have that concept implies our scales are fairly similar and that I could get a 90% correct allocation of preferences all utility for all people for all events if I had enough time and information. (Of course that would probably fall short of the allocation they might achieve if they allocated it to themselves which might, in turn, fall short of the allocation with perfect information).
Almost every moral philosophy faces some sort of approximation problems anyway.

So we have a set of ordinal scales that are about as accurate as any other moral philosophy and we can reasonably compare them BUT only when we have a huge set of variables and only probabilistically. i.e. I cant say you like grapes more than apples unless I can match up our ordinal scales with maybe 10 other standard events and find that you place them in a certain identical order (also I would want to be sure we had removed any game theory aspects to it!) with just the grapes being out of place.
But still this demonstrates that maybe A wants the grapes "more" than B but doesn’t make it very clear how much more

economics helps a bit here in that we can record a large number of "trades" or much better "gambles" (because this avoids diminishing marginal utility - although it does add risk avoidance) where an individual might make bets with money (or similar) to own various things.

Once we calibrate the desires of the person we could then use a standard event (lets say having $10 was in a matching location in both preference lists) and allow the people to make bets with that event to give us a quantitative scale.

Of course there is an issue with this "preference utilitarianism" since it implies that people will make the right decisions for them (and won’t try to second guess the system).
The system could be adjusted for more perfect decision making by assessing the persons after the event analysis of their own decisions and their effective satisfaction. Then using that to determine where people are making potentially irrational decisions (such as killing someone in a fit of rage lets say).

this still leaves me with the most troubling problem of defining the utility of a person that dies or fails to came into existence and thus if we want to maximize average or total utility. Both seem to create unpleasant conclusions
1) A single super happy man
2) A billion only marginally happy people

Moral outrage

Lawrence notes
Moral outrage, as the term is used these days by women and various minority groups, is none other than hyperbole; and the persistent use of hyperbole invariably weakens the moral force of the language being used. I observed a few years ago that many of my white students have become pretty inured to the charge of racism. Why? Because they have discovered that the charge of racism was often used as a means of badgering them into agreement.

Here is a simple truth: Regardless of the group to which one belongs, it is not possible to have it both ways. If I am a racist or a sexist in your eyes no matter what I do, then it stops mattering to me that you think such a thing of me.

Society needs the words of moral outrage to have their proper force. Indeed, those who carelessly use words of moral outrage also need them need to have their force. When we continually dilute the moral force of words for our personal or political gain, we may very well win the battle (at best) but we will inevitably lose the war.

good point....

Monday, September 26, 2005

Political Quizes

I am an authoritarian centrist by this quiz
the quiz writers either fear me or think I am foolish, I suggest fear is the appropriate response...
Cripes I came dangerously close to the Australian labour Party (11,11)
This is a good one - I still wnat to knwo what my results are though...

and here
  • My top result for the selector, The Most Comprehensive Political Quiz, is Democratic Party

  • Sunday, September 25, 2005


    At the end of the test it asks you if you could pass one law what would it be.
    Chose to say
    I would dictate that... all the countries of the world would be merged into a single country with a utilitarian constitution.



    1) I am an utililitarian in the manner to which I am referring and thus it is a bit of a catch all. So why one single country? Well I think the earth is facing a number of threats in the future.
    The first is one the neo conservatives recognize
    1) The threat of rogue groups in control of high powered weapons.
    The next is one noticed by the far left
    2) The threat of extremly effective capitalist strategies that in a sense consume themselves - i.e. the threat of a "race to the bottom" where tax rates incomes and services drop towards zero or negative externalities such as pollution or negative strategies such as threats and blackmail.

    It depends on how he future turns out but some of these are very serious dangers that may require collective action and if so the potential to take that action should be there. the only way to do that properly is to have a single government.

    But also note that my interpretation of utilitarian is quite different to that of other what I would call “naive utilitarians” I take into account all the possible consequences. Therefore in many situations I support capitalism because it works in the long run – not doing the foolish thing of only maximizing utility at any particular instant with no regard for the long run or the incentives that you create. If given the appropriate evidence I would outright support libertarianism or outright communism (depending on what the evidence proved) I however doubt it would indicate either of those.

    OK test

    Apparently I am a solid republican.. I really dont see it personally

    You are a

    Social Conservative
    (30% permissive)

    and an...

    Economic Conservative
    (68% permissive)

    You are best described as a:


    Link: The Politics Test on OkCupid Free Online Dating
    Tony blair on Kyoto
    I think if we are going to get action on this, we have got to start from the brutal honesty about the politics of how we deal with it. The truth is no country is going to cut its growth or consumption substantially in the light of a long-term environmental problem.

    Which is exactly my point.
    Kyoto will fall apart right when you need it to hold together UNLESS you take a much more serious aproach. Unfortunately I think the current set of environmentalists and countries like the EU just dont have the "balls" to construct that sort of hard headed policy.

    Hurricanes and global warming

    Was Katrina due to global warming? Well partly
    it is not unreasonable to suggest it is in part behind the strength of the hurricanes striking the southern states of the USA.

    Why? Well pretty simply the water heats up and that adds a little more energy to the system (warmer seas) and thus stronger hurricanes. Interestingly according to models - there will however not be MORE hurricanes as suggested in some media circles. They will just be a bit stronger.

    However that doesn't mean that anyone in particular will definitely receive more hurricanes note the graph on the following page it indicates the USA has not had many hurricanes lately although the 200-2005 period may be a comparative spike.

    But as much effect as global warming might have it is still just bringing forward in time this sort of event – in as far as if you build a city below sea level in a hurricane zone and don’t build a very impressive barrier – you will inevitably eventually be flooded and some people will die.

    So note to future planners - "DON’T BUILD CITIES BELOW SEA LEVEL" or with a future orientation – raising serious issues over whether we should discourage the rebuilding of such cities, or if a formidable barrier so that the biggest storm ever wont stand a dogs show of busting it should be built at the expense of the silly people who insist on living below sea level.

    Saturday, September 24, 2005

    Leftist attitudes

    Aparently (via tim bair ) one in five ALP candidates consider the US was a “very likely” or “fairly likely” threat to Australia, placing it above China, Vietnam or Malaysia.


    fruit loops...

    Sunday, September 18, 2005


    So now i have correctly predicted
    NZ, australia, UK and USA elections all well before the event and at times despite the polls. Quite proud of myself really - and I have now overtaken centrebet in terms of accuracy.


    a new Fisk

    He starts out reasonably with
    "If Muslim violence is to be condemned, it is not because Mohammed is misunderstood but because it violates basic human rights."

    But after outlining the issues with literal interpretation of Christianity and Islam he moves on to the argument he was setting up.

    > How can we suggest that a religion based on "submission" to God must itself "submit" to our happy-clappy, all-too-Western " universal human rights"? I don’t know.

    Just suggest it Mr. Fisk.

    > Are we therefore in a position to tell our Muslim neighbors to "grasp the nettle"? I rather think not.

    Fisks problem is that he groups the world into three groups here
    1) The Islamic world - worthy of critique by pure people
    2) The Christian world - impure and not able to critique and worthy of critique
    3) Himself - able to critique (therefore pure?)

    This is a lovely position he has given himself but is the people he is arguing against really members of the phalange? And if not then why does he not bear collective responsibility also?

    So did we loose our moral compass?
    Well we never had a moral compass in the first place. It is ridiculous to argue based on human rights that a few hundred years ago white people were extremely moral by Fisk's standards - afteral so many people had slaves and so forth!

    But not knowing exactly where we are hardly means we should not make note when we see people who clearly inhabit Polar Regions. (Maybe I'm taking this metaphor a bit far).

    Anyway the vast majority of Christians I know don't take the history of the bible as purely literal or that any action in the bible must be sanctioned by god - therefore the critique is bit meaningless unless he is arguing they SHOULD think that.

    Greens and a note on Party strategy

    Interesting comment by Psycho Milt

    I think it's a pretty depressing result. Is there really only 5% of the NZ population to the left of Labour? I'm no big fan of the Greens, but I voted for them as the only party left of Labour likely to get into Parliament (sorry Span), and I figured there'd be plenty more where I came from. Wrong! The Greens' own support base plus people like me comes to 5%. I have a hangover and I didn't even drink.

    In addition are all those people who voted green to prop up their vote to ensure labour had a coalition partner. 5.07% eh...

    If only people who actually suported green had voted for the greens they would probably be sitting on 2%. Having said that - ACT would also have recieved a total hiding in Epsom (even the greens beat ACT in party votes).

    I am still waiting for the smart party to do 100% vote splitting -
    It would work this way
    1) You run all the normal candidates in all the seats but not advertise or tell anyone the name of their party until after the election and have some extreme people on their list (to minimize the chances of anyone voting for the party).

    2) At the same time declare a coalition with "the national party" (or "the labour party" depending on the side you are on) which runs representatives in all the electorates that are not on the lists and are as odious as possible or as far right as possible (or possibly just use the libiterianz list). However does lots of campainging for its List MP's (and has one safe seat for its leader I guess jsut as insurance)

    Result? A landslide victory to your coalition!

    Saturday, September 17, 2005

    Why low voter turnout is good

    In response to the second-lowest postwar turnout ... Productivity shock argues that

    Many negative factors can deter voting in troubled democracies (e.g., fears of violence or political retribution), but in mature democracies I think declining voter turnout should be seen as an encouraging sign for those societies. It's healthy when one feels less social pressure to waste time pretending that he or she has any chance of determining the outcome...

    I might add that it is a healthy sign if it is not worth our time to vote

    1) because that is generaly speaking a rational decision - the value of your individual vote is quite low
    2) It shows that the people not voting are not all that scared of the other option OR the people not voting are wingnuts who think both parties are identical.

    Either way I am reasonably happy.

    What I am not arguing for higher voter turnout? what if no one voted? get over it....
    We are very far from the bottom of the slippery slope where only one person votes so no need to break out the thought police.

    The bottom line on special votes

    David Farrer tells us what the special votes can do.
    1) National is at risk of loosing 1 seat (reasonably high chance)
    2) Labour has a resonable chance to gain or loose one
    3) Progressives have a reasonably high chance of gaining one
    4) Greens have a small chance of being out of parliment
    5) the Maori have a reasonable chance of getting more votes that intrestingly will just result in another party loosing a seat (quirk of the system).
    6) NZ first has a tiny chance of gaining a seat

    Overall it is VERY unlikely that special votes will alow a centre right government since if labour looses a seat the progressives will get it - if maori party gets another seat it wil probably be at national's expense if NZ first gets one again probably at national's expense.

    Only non complicated poption is if greens slip below 5% this depends on how good their organization was this election - I think it was reasonably good so I think that is very unlikely also.


    NZpundit calls it for labout
    Right: 41.2%
    Centre: 8.5%
    Left: 49.1%

    Only a fluke in the specials and a change in the wind will let Brash win. but I can't see it happening, the middle hasn't been shifted.

    National need 50% of the specials to draw level with Labour, who need to score no more than 30%. It seems pretty unlikely to me.

    david Farrar counts his new minions for the vast right wing conspiracy.

    No Right Turn calls it a dead heat and then notes that a dead heat is realy a win for Labour.

    Sir Humphrey (AL) celebrates Don's speach of er "victory" - wait "defeat".. um I mean.... "draw". He also looks at posible governments - scenarios range from a draw to an outright defeat for the right.

    Sage is the optimistic man of the right he offers potential winning negotiation strategies and notes that the maori party may "effectively" waste votes for the left that they pick up from special votes (somthing I was hinting at before).

    this is because there are currently more seats in parlimnt than there should be because the maori party got almost no party votes but 4 seats. Normally yo uwould adjsut up the amount of seats to reach the total they deserve from the party vote but you CANT adjust down (that would remove representation of an electorate) this means they are "over represented" and maori who voted for them have double representation.

    Insolent prick is insolent about blogging during elections.

    Special votes

    The Poll bludger has a good summary of the election. he also writes in comments on timblair's site

    In 2002, the Greens got 6.5 per cent of “normal” votes and 12.0 per cent of “special”. So I would be very surprised if they ended up falling below 5.0 per cent from this point.

    Labour also did better on specials than normal votes in 2002 (42.1 per cent versus 41.4 per cent), and the Nationals slightly worse (20.5 per cent versus 21.1 per cent).

    thanks William.. informative as always.

    I howeer suggest national will do much better this time. specials depend in part on the organization of the party (explaining why a shattered national did not do well) and other parties will presure green support this time. BUT it probably wont be a drastic change to the trend so not enough to change seating in parliment.

    Special votes

    Here are some special votes statistics from last election
    Still having trouble finding percentages though.

    Potential special votes totals required to create a right lead government

    I suggest realistically (I am open to further information) you may get special votes like this assuming the 215000 total is correct

    Total 215000

    Labour 77100
    National 100200
    NZfirst 8000
    greens 13000
    maori 5200
    united 3350
    act 2500
    progressives 200

    this is about the minumum required to permit a right lead govt and is a swing of 1 seat and the lead from labour to national and a win in the special votes of 23000 or somewhat over 10% differential as I suggested earlier. features are predicted drops in NZfirst act and labour percent of the vote and a rise in green and maori and national suport as a percentage.

    What national needs

    Sage has a break down of what National needs
    If National had gained 15,000 more votes, Labours share would drop enough for it to get only 49 seats also. The Maori overhang would drop to 1 seat and Nat/UF/NZF would keep 61 vs left 60. That would be enough to tip the whole electoral balance.

    For overseas readers

    Although you might not think so from the Election is over there is still two more chapters to be written.

    The first is the special votes. There are in theory about 215,000 votes by people who were not in their electorate at the time of voting (for example those overseas) commonly known as ‘absentee ballots’. I dent know if all of these will translate into actual votes but most should these votes are not counted yet. They also tend to favor certain parties and go against Labour.

    Also parties must reach 5% to receive seats in NZ - this means that if the greens do poorly in this special vote category they will get no seats - this will be a near fatal blow for the left. NZ first could also loose this way (a near fatal blow for the right) but it is unlikely.

    Chapter two is then the negotiations. The parties from leftist to right are as follows

    Maori - Green - progressives - labour - nz first - united future - national - act

    Generally speaking one would expect parties close to eachother to stick together so the question is how they can best form 51% of the seats.


    NZ first will NOT create a hung parliment - they will create the centrerist coalition in preference.

    Special votes

    last election the greens got won 11.5 per cent of the special votes so they are likely to stay in parliment.
    the maori have put forward a good campaign and the labour party student loan policy will get some overseas votes probably at the expense of other leftist voters (green).

    Not sure the national labour split.

    Key statistics

    The greens need (give or take) 4.5% of the special votes if they dont get that we probably have


    National needs about 46% of the special votes and for labour to get only about 33% if this happens they can overtake labour and get one extra seat at labours expense.

    If this hapens we have


    A potential working government

    labour 50 seats
    NZ first 7 seats
    United 3 seats
    progressives 1 seat

    total 61 seats plus split opposition - effectively a majority

    a very mixed opposition that would never combine on a single issue result - a plausible government.

    other possibility
    labour 50 seats plus control of the government
    greens 6 seats
    maori 4 seats
    progressives 1 seat

    a quite far left and highly unstable government. Probably it would rely upon NZ first suport on confidence issues.


    labour 50 seats
    greens 6 seats
    NZfirst 7 seats
    progressives 1 seats

    coalition from hell - but more stable than the one with the maori party.

    I suggest national may gain one seat on specials (shaking things up a bit)

    if so there is the potential for

    National 50 seats
    NZ first 7 seats
    Act 2 seats
    United 3 seats

    62 seats (a majority)
    awkward but not impossible coalition

    AND if the greens fail to meet the threshold

    National 52 seats
    NZ first 7 seats
    Act 2 seats
    United 3 seats

    A clear majority


    Greens continue to drop.. 5.12%..


    I suggest final results
    Labour (1st) green maori PLUS united future and NZ first
    vs act and national (2nd)

    Predicted result

    On current results it would probably be a national-NZfirst-united future Govt (NZfirst "semi" outside and providing confidence votes).
    A slight swin to the left will probably occur as the day goes on so instead actual results will be labour-green-maori maori on the outside providing confidence votes with NZ first effectively. What a coalition from hell!!

    Election results

    Looking good for national - National is winning too many seats.


    Looks like Winston has had it - but the party is polling ok he recovered in the late debates and so winston will get in I think probably with 6%

    Two major parties

    National is in the lead with 44% but this is boosted by the fact that national polling boths tend to send their results in earlier (maybe national voters are staffing them and maybe they are more efficient heh) anyway I expect them to fall back a bit.
    Labour is on 37% I expect them to gain a little.


    Currently Rodny Hide is in the lead. 1550/1454
    I hope I dont have to eat my shorts, but I am getting the impression nash/labour shot richard worth in the foot.
    Greens are polling at 4.79% hmmmm cutting it close !
    I expect national to pick up a little moe as the day goes on and for the greens to do the same. so looking very close.

    Update: Rodney is pulling ahead by about 281 votes now - he may well win it if this keeps up.

    Friday, September 16, 2005

    Give Gaza a chance

    Israel is crazy - they are asking gaza to guarantee security before they will free up control of their air space shipping lanes and egypt boarder corossing - BUT those very controls have the potential to cause gaza to be an economic mess.
    they need to give gaza a chance - gaza is filled with weapons and terrorists anyway who cares if a few more move there now that the israelis are no longer living there - better to give the ones living there a chance to build more normal lives and support the more civilized leaders.

    Now for a little light relief ROCKSTAR INXS

    Ty talor was kicked off rock star INXS the other night.
    Upon leaving he basicaly called the audience racist - at least towards black rock stars.

    I think he was being a bit unfair.
    First basically everyon including his fans accept that Ty was quite "broardway" and as I would say "popish". This means that it would be quite od to have him as a lead singer of INXS. He really should be leading Liberty-X or somthing. What this means is that even if they gave him the job he would do a worse job than some of the other singers AND he would probably want to leave the band and do a solo career, not exactly a good hiring choice.
    ALSO his performance in the last couple of songs was weak (by his standards).

    I think Ty was great but not a good lead singer for INXS - he should have won himself an american idol or somthing.

    Why we should not vote ACT/GREEN

    It may seem a bit odd for me to attack both of these parties at the same time, but I am an "anti wingnut" so it is not very suprising - and i am a swing centerist voter (even if a little extreme in some areas). HOWEVER - my arguments are applicable to swing and wing nut voters and are applicable to varying degrees.

    1) they are usually idealists. What is wrong with idealism? well immagine NZ is faced with a disaster - there is a simple solution but it contradicts the party's ideals. Do you want the party to make the right decision or the idealistic one? will they be able to make the right decision? When it becomes obvious that they are wrong will they realise it? If privitization was a disaster would act realise it? if environmental policy brought NZ's economy to its knees would the greens take action? Ideologues should be kept out of government for the same reason we dont want to be lead by religious leaders.

    In addition to that they have considerable potential to hurt their own side

    1) a party like ACT or the greens does nothing except subtract 4% from the major party and risks that they will waste that vote. this is because on the whole only labour voters will defect to the greens and only national voters will defect to act. thus they dont support the major party they are a parisite of it. In addition they hurt the left in general because they fragment the right/left. this fragmentation means they loose economies of scale.

    2) a party like act or the greens provides a strong potential for that 5% to represent a group outside the government. In fact a smart national/labour leader will exclude them to promote their own "mainstream" appeal.

    3) small parties can promote ideals that are positively moronic and since they will NEVER have to deliver they can get away with it, worse yet much of the public may come to to believe their rubbish. Also they can take advantage of the parasite effect where they promote policies that cause damage and the other party needs to go to considerable lengths to clean up their messes they can then blame any problems on the other party.

    4) they promote extreemism and polarization in the public.

    I suggest we cut the extreemists loose.
    Don't vote green or ACT - forget about tactical voting (which to an extent subverts democracy I note) and throw your support behind the central parties.

    Thursday, September 15, 2005

    Environmental policy

    supports preventing barriers to energy developmnt - that is good and is somthing that gives it an advantage over other parties but the loss is less tangable - will they then encourage energy production? one would assume not. the market actualy reacts quite poorly to things like long run increases in energy prices.
    Critique of it comes in the form of its support for coal and nuclear power - but I see no problem here where required - a country should keep its options open.

    I note that the greens oppose the creation of hydro plants because they might cause some nebulous problems for kayaking. This is the sort of problem the green policy has - it mentions some of the issues but stands in its own way in dealing with them or proposes impractical solutions due to mixed goals.

    Labour plays the roll of a central party - they can’t cause too much distress in an energy loving population. No hard choices but generally guiding in the right direction.

    National is the classic opposition party - not really having a full response partly because they WILL have to enact policies and they don’t want to make promises they can’t keep BUT they don’t have power right now so they don’t have a full plans. Other parties can of course spout rubbish and never be found out.

    NZ First
    NZ first seems logical but not much specific detail - I support that in theory - blanket rules are stupid - but it really doesn’t have any detail.

    Progressives have far and away the best energy policy. Detail and sensibility combined in one. Showing a difference between me and the fellow at public address in that I prefer substance and "getting the job done" to "vision".
    I note that left does indeed put more consideration into this area than the right.

    Friday, September 09, 2005

    New Orleans flooding - why didnt the govt help / why didnt the public help?

    In disasters people want big and authoritarian government.

    It sounds so easy - why didn’t the government just send in some cars to pick up all the people and drive them out of New Orleans - so simple and it didn’t really happen. And so the average man on the street starts to complain about the ineptitude of the government - but there is a problem here. It is that the government represents "joe" on the street. And Joe on the street sat at home watching the TV. He didn’t get in his car drive to New Orleans and pick up some poor people.

    In effect what "Joe" is saying is that he wants the government to force someone else to do what he can’t be bothered doing but thinks is the right thing to be done. Now I have no problem with the state developing rescue plans - it should have dealt with the crisis better - but this is a knife that cuts both ways- how many of the people complaining about the government did not go to help and would not have gone to help remove people from new Orleans? If most people who were able to did not do that it implies the public had a similar level of not caring as they are accusing the government of having.

    It is a shame when people just look to the government to make the right decision and expect themselves to make the wrong one.

    brash - politician?

    Brash made a mistake in some regards - but it is the sort of mistake a normal person would make - as opposed to the "sly strategy" of a politician.
    A truly naive person might blurt out their first thought every time they are asked a question for example I might say "someone has released a pamphlet against labour who do you think it is - and maybe you remembered the national front supports national - so you go "oh yeah its probably the national front - they met with me the other day.

    Before you can say "and I told them to go hang themselves" your have already cut your party off at the knees.

    Then you find out it is some other group and both them and the national front are rather annoyed at you.

    What you need to do is to not say anything then discuss it with your minders - do a few mock interviews and then produce whatever crap will make the public love you. Brash was a bit slow doing that - naughty him - but on what grounds are we upset about it?

    Of course hte argument could be that we genuinly dont want a political novice - we just like hte idea but hate the result.

    Thursday, September 08, 2005

    Brash and the Pamphlet

    this is quite simple.
    brash should have said - iI am not sure who put out that pamphlet, and been equivical. but he should NOT have said "it was hte bretheren" because if he had said that and had been wrong he could have been in quite a bit of trouble. You cant jsut go arround accusing religious groups of producing pamphlets until you know you are right even if you know they were thinking of making one because any two groups would make pretty different pamphlets.
    But of course all of this is jsut a distraction for the public being kept alive by the labour party in part in order to keep peoples minds off tax policy because they feel it is a debate they cant win in the short time they have left


    In summary- Winston was very good - he returned to the safe position of nationalism - that is pointing out how other parties are supporting small interest groups and chipping away at them from the side lines.

    Helen - OK
    Don OK (surprisingly)
    Peter Sharples - OK, VERY SURPRISINGLY
    Other people - barely worth mentioning.

    Wednesday, September 07, 2005

    Jail policy

    I have a new solution for law and order policy that ACT should consider in particular.

    I was noting how corrections facilities spend money on things like suicide proof door handles. And I wondered - why do we care?

    What if we introduced a policy based on freedom of choice that made suicide very convenient for anyone who wanted to use it. If society has declaired them to be detremental to society by putting them in jail as long as they agree then why not facilitate? It is rather sinilar to the right to die argument.

    Tuesday, September 06, 2005

    tax cuts

    Labour is again complaining that tax cuts are not afordable.

    I have some advice for Labour (I am an equal opportunity advisor)

    You can’t win this way. This is because
    1) You are taking the "ideologue position" the problem is that this is a no win situation in every debate the other side can say "well it is affordable if...." it is like fighting a shadow.
    2) The argument is negative you are not offering anything you are just saying something is impossible it is a negative association
    3) As long as the debate is on tax and national offers a bigger tax bribe then national owns the debate. You can’t win by complaining about it - you might as well buy them advertising space.
    4) its a bit rough to say it but lower/mid income people and non politically active swing voters (the ones you need to get to win and those who should rationally oppose tax cuts) are in part that way (both) because they are shorter term thinkers. Trying to explain that they actually loose out from getting more cash in their hands just doesn't work very well at least not in the short term.

    There are a number of other ways to frame it or to distract.

    Also I note that the national still have a stronger advertising campaign than labour – A significantly stronger one. Remember it is the people who AREN’T paying attention that you need to win over not those who are paying close attention – most of those people decided already who to vote for.

    Sunday, September 04, 2005

    Damned if you do/don't

    From indymedia...

    Damned if you do nothing

    If you ain't got no money in America, you're on your own. People were told
    to go to the Superdome, but they have no food, no water there. And before
    they could get in, people had to stand in line for 4-5 hours in the rain
    because everybody was being searched one by one at the entrance.

    Damned if you take decisive action

    "They have M-16s and they're locked and loaded," Governor Kathleen Blanco said of 300 National Guard troops who landed in New Orleans fresh from duty in Iraq. "These TROOPS KNOW HOW TO SHOOT AND KILL, and they are MORE THAN WILLING TO DO SO, and I expect they will."

    Logical solution is to quit
    " This is making a lot of us think about not reenlisting.” Ferguson said. “You have to think about whether it is worth risking your neck for someone who will turn around and shoot at you. We didn’t come here to fight a war. We came here to help.”

    and then join the list of people who complain and attack anyone who tries to help - but dont actually do anything themselves.

    israel rules terrorist not terrorist

    Four Arab Israelis shot dead by a soldier opposed to the closure of the Gaza Strip settlements are not victims of "terror" because their killer was Jewish, Israel's defence ministry has ruled, and so their families are not entitled to the usual compensation for life.

    The ministry concluded that the law only recognises terrorism as committed by "organisations hostile to Israel" even though the prime minister, Ariel Sharon, described the killings by Private Eden Nathan Zaada, 19, as "a despicable act by a bloodthirsty terrorist."

    Israel needs to fix that law as soon as possible. It is clearly offensive to see a person who killed arabs (probably to protest an activity by the israeli government) as somehow different from someone who did the same to jews - or to treat the victims differently.

    Also I question whehter they normally fully utilize this point of law - I doubt they spend much time trying to investigate if the terrorists who kill jews are trying to destroy israel or just trying to kill jews for some other reason.

    Brash takes commanding lead but may still loose

    Brash now has according to the latest Colmar Brunton poll a 10 point lead on labour. that is quite impressive BUT he has a problem if NZfirst fails to get into parliment (which is looking ever more likely) he has only one party to support him (united future). This means National needs to maintain a 46% or so polling. Not an easy task.

    Saturday, September 03, 2005

    Quantum mechanics version of the exam paradox

    Lets say instead of an exam we examine a particle with known speed (in this case very close to zero). We want to find out where the particle is - it could be in any of a number of different spaces (let's say five).

    Now the "Heisenberg uncertainty principle" states basically that you can't know both the position and velocity of a particle (to summarize it). thus discovering the particle with a known velocity MUST be a "surprise" to any feasible computer, robot or human investigating it - otherwise it defies the fundimental quantum mechanics equasion.

    Now if you do find the particle you will alter it enough to maintain the lack of complete knowledge of the particle BUT if you were to look in all the places the particle COULD be except one - and you did not find it - then you would know it was in the last place. But then you would know its velocity and speed! So it CAN'T be in the last place you look.

    Lather, rinse, and repeat until there is no place any particle could exist. Since we are made of particles we can thus conclude we don't exist.


    Does Kyoto leak?

    Will countries without restrictions under kyoto just increace usage of carbon fuels?

    Lets take an example -

    If i wanted to start a activity that consumes fuel I might do some equasions and say - I want to convert 1 litre of petrol (or equivilent carbon fuel) and 1 dollar of materials into 1 product worth 5 dollars (minimal labour cost and fixed raw material etc costs) ex factory.

    I then decide where I will set up my factory - as long as petrol costs under lets say 4 dollars a litre I will be happy.
    In NZ I find that costs are $4.50 most of that being kyoto tax.
    In russia I find it is $2.00 with a tax
    and in china I find it is $1.50 with no tax at all

    I go to china, set up, out compete any one in any western country, and everyone still gets their Widgets! A brillient socialist policy since it gives third world countries and countries in recession lots of jobs - but fairly weak environmentally.

    Take for example an industry where there is a very large metal (eg aliminium) component - so you would use the large amount of energy to extract the metals. If you think this is not a big issue, being only one industry - check out how much energy the aluminium smelters use.

    Other big users of fuel are aeroplanes and other forms of international transport. But what can you do to stop them filling up in countries without taxes?

    I expect there ae some answers to these issues and I know countries like russia would try to sell carbon credits and so they would get profit from being under their targets (and may try to stay there) but what about all the other third world countries? And what will a country like China do when suddenly they tear past the level where they must change oil costs from lets say $1.50 to $4?

    Friday, September 02, 2005

    USA flooding

    It is easy to blame the government and maybe they are due some blame - but hindsight is 20/20.
    So to those who's kneejerk reaction is to attack the government here is clinton

    CLINTON: Let me answer this. The people in the Superdome are in a special position. And let me say, I've been going to New Orleans for over 50 years. There's no place on earth I love more. They went into the Superdome, not because of the flooding, but because we thought the hurricane was going to hit New Orleans smack dab and they'd be safe in there if they didn't leave town.

    What happened was, when the levee broke and the town flooded, what did it do? It knocked out the electricity and it knocked out the sewage. They're living in hellacious conditions. They would be better off under a tree than being stuck there. You can't even breathe in that place now.

    So I understand why they're so anxiety-ridden. But they have to understand, by the time it became obvious that they were in the fix they were in, there were a lot of other problems, too. There were people -- they were worried about people drowning that had to be taken off roofs.

    CLINTON: Yes, I think that's important to point out. Because when you say that they should have done this, that or the other thing first, you can look at that problem in isolation, and you can say that.

    But look at all the other things they had to deal with. I'm telling you, nobody thought this was going to happen like this. But what happened here is they escaped -- New Orleans escaped Katrina. But it brought all the water up the Mississippi River and all in the Pontchartrain, and then when it started running and that levee broke, they had problems they never could have foreseen.

    And so I just think that we need to recognize right now there's a confident effort under way. People are doing the best they can. And I just don't think it's the time to worry about that. We need to keep people alive and get them back to life -- normal life.

    graduates in the right areas

    Check out the HUGE difference in graduates in important diciplines between asia (high and rapidly rising) and the USA (low). this is probably a leading indicator. the US better get ready to start doing what countries like China tell it to do because they seem to have given up seriously trying to remain the major economic/military etc super power.

    surprise examination

    Richard raises the issue of the surprise examination paradox

    your teacher tells you (I) she's going to give the class a surprise exam next week, and (ii) you won't be able to work out beforehand on which day it will be. Using this information, you work out that it can't be on Friday (the last day), or else you'd be able to know this as soon as class ended the day before, contrary to the second condition. With Friday excluded from consideration, Thursday is now the last possible day, so we can exclude it by the same reasoning. Similarly for Wednesday, Tuesday, and finally Monday. So you conclude that there cannot be any such exam. This chain of reasoning guarantees that when the teacher finally gives the exam (say, on Wednesday); you're all surprised, just like she said you'd be.

    Richard proposes a solution he terms "epistemic confusion", where the statement "you cannot know" throws the listeners into confusion, thereby ensuring that they cannot be confident of their own reasoning or proofs.

    This has some merit in a similar way to the examination of surprise I will discuss later but it doesn’t really seem to tie up the loose ends.

    Here is an example of the problem working using the preconditions given.
    Imagine this: Teacher watches you carefully to see if you show any sign of preparing for the test and if you do then he doesn’t put the test on that day.
    Why doesn’t the kid "pretend to be preparing in order to fool the teacher?" well A - the teacher is a bit more experienced at these things - that's why they are the teacher and B- it isn’t worth any rational students time to worry so much about the "surprise" and so little about the test.
    Which leaves just one way the strategy doesn’t work - if the students are in a constant state of expectation.

    There is no requirement here for the students to be in any particular mental state or use any particular logic - as long as it doesn’t result in them being in a constant state of expectation.

    And even better you can imagine a human being able to do it - while guaranteeing "confusion" is rather more demanding a task.


    But as well as this sort of argument there is always a more technical counter to the alternative hypothesis. I.e. why exclusionary logic doesn’t work.

    I see the problem lying in the exclusionary principle which is based on contradictions and the use of only part of the available information.

    1) You can only say P (=Friday) = zero if you define P (=mon-thurs) as 1 - this is a fundamental part of the problem. The exclusion of Friday is valid only in as far as the same logic does not also exclude other days.

    2) On Thursday - you can't BOTH say P (=Friday) is 0 and also "if it is Friday the test is on Friday" because you have declared it CAN'T be Friday therefore there is no meaningful "if". Maths is a bit like 1*(test is on mon-thurs) + 0*(if it is Friday I know it is on Friday). But we can substitute ANYTHING into the zero probability set including things that do or don’t breach the rules of the game particularly since the current inhabitant of that set (which encourages us to define it as 0) clearly does breach the rules of the game anyway as per (1).

    All the student has to do is to rationally reject the use of exclusionary logic based on the principle that it provides no useful information (i.e. it rejects all days).

    So that is why it contradicts itself so what happens as we apply it?

    It is Friday - We can say the last day possible day is Friday - P=1.00 impossible (unless we get really confused)

    It is Thursday P (=Friday) less than P (=Thursday) (otherwise your first step cannot be to exclude Friday) P (=Friday) is thus something less than .5. It is hard to define P (=Thursday)/P (=Friday) because your logic implies both are close to zero relative to any alternative.

    This leaves two possibilities -
    1) You can follow a policy of P (=tomorrow)/P (=today) = 0 but that requires each day to be infinitely more likely than the next AND it forces you to expect a surprise every day no matter how many millions of days there are.

    Or you can say P (=tomorrow)/P (=today) is either indeterminate or some rational number in which case the exclusionary principle falls apart. You cannot reject Friday in favour of mon-thursday because you can’t prove mon-thursday is infinitly more likely or even finitely more likely. I suggest exclusion is only possible in a relitivistic sense not in an absolute one. (Relevant particularly if we see surprise relitivisticaly)