You are currently viewing the aggregator for the Distributed Republic reader blogs. You can surf to any author's blog by clicking on the link at the bottom of one of his/her posts. If you wish to participate, feel free to register (at the top of the right sidebar) and start blogging.

The main page of the blog can be found here.

Political vs. economic capitalism

"political capitalism (which we pro-capitalists sometimes call mercantilism, corporatism, state capitalism, crony capitalism, or even fascism), is something we and the anti-capitalists can agree on: it is the exploitation of the productive class by a parasitic class. We might even surprise them with our sample list of parasites: defense contractors, the banking cartel, the steel industry, big agribusiness, Halliburton ... There is a persuasive power in joining the leftists' rants against privilege once you've insisted that the term they mean is political capitalism. Read more »

Transferrable Votes

One question I get asked when discussing the futility of voting is how I would improve the system. While I think democracy is fundamentally broken, there are certainly less-broken variants. One example is if votes are transferrable. That is, rather than voting, I pick someone to be my proxy in all elections. This has a significant effect because it concentrates the dispersed interests of the electorate. Someone with a lot of proxies actually has some incentive to research what the best way to use them is. Read more »

The Margarita Model For Two-Party Systems

This is a fun thought experiment to trot out the next time someone tries to convince you that influencing voters can change party positions. Let's pretend there is only one political axis, and imagine voters are sitting at different places along a beach. Suppose there are two vendors of cool, refreshing margaritas serving this beach. Where will they be located?

The answer is that both will be at the median point on the beach, which is the point where exactly half the people are on either side. Why? Well, suppose that they are in some other location, with some gap in between the two vendors. Either vendor can always increase his sales by moving towards the other. He moves farther away from some people, but he's still their closest purveyor of icy refreshment - and he picks up some of those in the middle. So the vendors must be right next to each other. This location must be in the exact median, because otherwise the vendor with less customers always gains by hopping to the opposite side of his competitor. The only way for there to be no gain from moving is at this equilibrium position, with both in the center (and a tiny gap between them).

Unwrapping our metaphor, we can see why Republicans and Democrats are both so centrist. A move towards the middle picks up more voters, while still leaving the party as the best choice for the extreme it's moving away from. Even worse, the location of the center is determined by the median of voter positions - not the average. This means that if voters change their position without crossing the center, it has zero effect on the positions of the parties. The median location has not changed.

It is intuitive to think of party locations as being an average of constituent's views, which would mean that any voter move has some tiny effect on the position of the party. I think this is the implicit model which many people have. However, the logic of the situation dictates otherwise. Major parties do not choose positions at the center of mass of their voters, they end up well towards the center.

We already knew that voting loses information - its inevitable when you are collapsing many opinions into a single result. This is just another example. However, there is a more optimistic way to look at this. It suggests that whichever party wins, it will have a central position. This means that the electorate as a whole is always getting a result close to the center, rather than reflecting the average belief of the winning party's constitutents. This probably makes for a more stable democracy - although one in which minority viewpoints are utterly disenfranchised.

Notes: Read more »

Media bias on guns

DOJ tries to censor Supreme Court quote about how government censorship is bad

From Reason and Liberty and Power comes this Memory Hole story so horrifying its worth reproducing here:

The Justice Department tipped its hand in its ongoing legal war with the ACLU over the Patriot Act. Because the matter is so sensitive, the Justice Dept is allowed to black out those passages in the ACLU's court filings that it feels should not be publicly released.

Movie Review: Heroes of Collectivism

I saw the movie Hero (Ying Xiong) a couple nights ago. It had decent fight scenes, breathtaking landscapes, gorgeous use of color, and great cinematography, but the plot was horribly collectivist. It felt like a propaganda piece with the fabulous visuals used to keep it from being boring. Full article contains major spoilers, and assumes you have seen the movie (it does not explain the plot).

cut testing Read more »

Post-fiat currencies

The Mises blog has a great post (full article here) about people preferring post-fiat currencies (pieces of paper issued by a government which no longer backs or prints them) to fiat ones. The advantage of the former is that while their worth may not be backed by guns, their supply is fixed - no one is printing any more of them. For those of us interested in the nature of money, its a curious and fascinating phenomenon.

Economics doesn\'t apply to health care

(note: for this analysis I am assuming the viewpoint of an economist designing a nationwide health care system and ignoring the problems with public, centralized solutions.) Read more »

Greenspan on Social Security

Alan Greenspan just admitted again that Social Security and Medicare is a problem, and that we are promising benefits that we cannot deliver without taxing the crap out of the country. He makes the astonishing statement that we should not promise new benefits that we can't pay for. Its good to see someone vaguely associated with The Government in the public mind being honest about this problem. Read more »

Dangerous phones or safe drunks?

Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution writes of a new study which compares Cell Phone Drivers and Drunk Drivers. It finds: Read more »

Improving science with markets

In case anyone hasn't seen it, here is Robin Hanson's classic paper on Idea Futures, a way of using markets to improve scientific inquiry and accuracy. In a similar but less ambitious vein, Kieran Barry writes about having editors, authors, or publishers of scientific papers put up financial rewards for errors. Even a small incentive would make people much more likely to send in errors. Read more »

FLOW conference

Michael Strong writes: For the past year, John Mackey (founder and CEO of Whole Foods), Bob Chitester (producer of "Free to Choose"), and myself have been developing the idea of creating an idealistic, inspiring articulation of libertarian thought that provides a positive vision for the future. We feel that the existing free market movement is well-represented in the realm of policy analysis, but that young idealists continue to be captured by the Left because they don't perceive the idealism inherent in libertarian thought. Read more »

Hope vs. Belief, Part II: Voting is Bad, Choice is Good

In Part I, we saw how opinions and wagers can draw out different sides of what people think about an issue. Basing a wager on a wrong prediction has definite costs, so people use more belief. Having a wrong opinion on a distant issue is costless, so people use more hope. Read more »

Hope vs. Belief, Part 1 - Gambling is Good

I hope that John Kerry wins the election. As a libertarian, I want a government that trips over its own feet as much as possible, hence I want the executive and legistlative branches controlled by different parties. Bush's budget bloat is the sort of thing that results from a unilateral government. So, as the Republicans will almost surely retain control of the House and Senate, I hope for a Democratic President. Read more »