The Eradication Of Bad Beliefs: Markets VS Democracies

2019-01-28T14:49:45.000Z Honest Cash

Today on Twitter I saw that my buddy Koenfucius had sent me a DM…

Yo! Tried to comment to this, but that doesn’t seem to be possible: … 

Wouldn’t people adopt and maintain beliefs and theories that they think are useful by definition? I am not sure what a market in beliefs or theories would achieve over and above what we have now.

How would a market eradicate the belief that the MBTI is a useful tool, or that vaccines cause autism?

Imagine that Koenfucius and I are planning to go backpacking in the Himalayas.  In addition to the typical necessities, he wants to carry a harmonica and a tuba.  I wouldn't equally argue against both instruments, I'd be far more critical of his decision to carry a tuba, because it is a lot bigger and heavier than a harmonica.  

A couple years ago he wrote…

Is there such a thing as instrumentoholism? If so, I confess — I am an instrumentoholic: I collect musical instruments. Not because I like collecting, but because I have a deep desire to play them. And yet, much of my collection just sits there. — Koen Smets, Why I play the piano, and not the saxophone

Collecting is one thing, carrying is another.  

Try and think about all the debates throughout history over whether somebody should carry an instrument.  According to a quick Google search, one of the earliest musical instruments was the flute.  How many cavemen argued against other cavemen carrying flutes?  

What if there was a group of early humans that only wanted to carry flutes?  If such a group existed, they didn't exist for long.  Same thing if there was a group of early humans that only wanted to carry watermelons.  Or turtles.  Or gold.  

The most successful groups were those that got the balance right, which depended on correctly discerning the usefulness of things, which depended on communication.  

Today two of the most common forms of communication are voting and spending.  The difference is that voting doesn't have a cost.  It doesn't cost anything to "Like" something on Facebook, just like it doesn't cost anything to retweet something on Twitter, or upvote something on Reddit.  Facebook, Twitter and Reddit are democracies.  HC, on other hand, is not a democracy, it's a market.  Members of this website spend their money on the content that they think is useful.  The more useful they think something is, the more money they will spend on it.  

Given that Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit are democracies, while HC is a market, they are going to rank the relative usefulness of things very differently.    

Will MBTI be ranked higher on the democratic websites or on the market website?  What about MMT?  Or UBI?  

It's one thing for Koenfucius to say that he wants to carry a tuba.  It's another thing entirely for him to actually carry a tuba.  It doesn't cost him anything to simply say that he wants to carry a tuba, but it is very costly for him to carry a tuba.  

With democracy people are simply saying what they want to carry.  But with markets people are actually carrying what they truly want.  

If Koenfucius says he wants to carry a tuba, but isn't actually willing to do so, then it would be a waste of my time for me to argue against him carrying a tuba.  I'd be barking up the wrong tree.  

Recently on Twitter a lady, Anima Anandkumar, got offended by a poll posted by Robin Hanson, and she complained to Glen Weyl about Hanson being invited to attend the upcoming RadicalXChange conference.  Weyl said that he would consult with his team to see if he should disinvite Hanson.  

How harmful was Hanson's poll?  Is it possible that Anandkumar was pretending to be more hurt than she truly was?  

In the movie "When Harry Met Sally", Sally pretended to have an orgasm in a restaurant.  After she finished, a lady at another table said, "I'll have what she is having."  

But it's not like women have a monopoly on faking.  Here's a video of guys faking, badly so, injuries during soccer.  

From the evolutionary perspective…

Whenever a system of communication evolves, there is always the danger that some will exploit the system for their own ends. Brought up as we have been on the ‘good of the species’ view of evolution, we naturally think first of liars and deceivers as belonging to different species: predators, prey, parasites, and so on. However, we must expect lies and deceit, and selfish exploitation of communication to arise whenever the interests of the genes of different individuals diverge. This will include individuals of the same species. As we shall see, we must even expect that children will deceive their parents, that husbands will cheat on wives, and that brother will lie to brother. — Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene

Dishonesty is actually the reason why taxation is compulsory…

…it is in the selfish interest of each person to give false signals, to pretend to have less interest in a given collective consumption activity than he really has, etc. — Paul Samuelson, The Pure Theory of Public Expenditure

This incentive to be dishonest only exists when people are given the opportunity to decide how they divide their money between public goods and private goods.  If people could choose where their taxes go, they wouldn't have the opportunity to spend their taxes on private goods, so they wouldn't have any incentive to be dishonest.  

On Twitter, when Weyl said that he would consult with his team to decide if he should disinvite Hanson, I replied

Why not let the market decide? Use @Cent and/or @Honest_cash to give Anima and others the opportunity to use their money to quantify their harm. This will allow everyone to see and know the social cost, and benefit, of Hanson attending. …

Weyl could join HC and post a question…

"Should Hanson be disinvited?"

Anybody could reply with their answer and everybody could spend their money on the most useful ones.  

Is the free-rider problem applicable?  The least dishonest people would have the most influence on the outcome.  

If Anima isn't willing to spend much money for Hanson to be disinvited, then either she's a free-rider or she wasn't very harmed by him.  Either way we shouldn't give much credence to her claim that he harms her.  Instead, we should pay attention to the real harms.  

Compared to a democracy for ideas, a marketplace for ideas, like HC, will provide a far more accurate reflection of how people perceive the usefulness of ideas, which will facilitate the elimination of the most harmful ideas.  We will all spend far less time barking up the wrong trees.  

Effective triage of medical problems depends on correctly discerning the relative severity of the problems.  The same is true of social problems.  Compared to democracies, markets are far more effective at triage given that they far more correctly discern the relative severity of social problems.  

Here's democracy

Errr, I don't think that embedding tweets works quite yet.  But it's a picture of journalists paying attention to something stupid that Trump said instead of paying attention to the real suffering in Sudan.  

Democracies majorly misallocate attention, which is why they suck at eradicating the biggest social problems.  

HC isn't a democracy, it's a market, so it will far more efficiently allocate attention, which is why it will excel at eradicating the biggest social problems.