Tuesday, April 02, 2013

This MIGHT Happen, So We Should Regulate It?

So a guy with a grudge concocts an experiment to show that, in a close election, GOOGLE might swing the outcome. 

(ProTip:  In a close election, anything might swing the outcome.  And we are not talking about a situation where there is an obvious right answer.  The institutions we pick, with a particular form of primaries, restrictions on ads, and voting procedures, all swing the outcome far more.  Elections by their nature are arbitrary, and very nearly random, in terms of discovering some transcendent truth.  So the idea--dear to the naive left--that there is some utopian Archimedean Point to compare elections against is nonsense, from the outset.  Elections in the face of disagreement are at best poorly designed lotteries, and there is no way around that.  The absence of disagreement is called "unanimity," and not even the GOOGLE could mess with that.)

But, this Maxwell wants to swing his Silver Hammer down on the head of GOOGLE, because it might affect elections, and that would distort government.  Why don't people on the left get upset about the myriad real ways that governments really do distort outcomes by restricting ballot access, arresting "terrorists" who in many cases are simply dissidents, and so on?  Even by the standards of the silly left-wing academy, this is pretty silly.

UPDATE:  WEH emails...   When the phone book was a new phenomena business people wanted a name that would appear at the beginning of the phone book directory. Sound familiar to the above? 

Enter 1948 Warner Brothers. Warner Brothers? Yep, who did Wile E. Coyote purchase his merchandise from? Acme Corporation. Why “Acme”? Why “Acme”? Simple! The term “Acme” means best or top and hence many, many, many companies in the early part of the 20th century adopted Acme as part of their name so as to appear early in the phone directory listing e.g. Acme Pest Control, Acme Roofing, etc. The term "Acme" was everywhere associated with business names. Hence "Acme" was more than likely "business" to Chuck Jones, originator of Wile E. Coyote. 

Which begs a question: do you know of any giant conglomerate, super corporation or multi-national known as Acme? Nope! Hence being first in the phone book was nice but it didn’t cause a business to become successful to the extent business people might have thought. Lesson to be learned? Cartoons can and do aid economics.


Anonymous said...

If you were a subject in the study and lived in San Diego, USA, and were asked to rate candidates for an election in AUSTRALIA, why wouldn't arbitrary search results and page rankings have a big effect? What other info do you have on the candidates besides the information provided via the search results? Shoot, if I were in the study, I would have based my opinion strictly on the candidates' good looks because the only way in which I interact with Australian politicians is when I read a random story about them that usually includes a photo of the politician in question.

Weird study.

And second, the results of close elections, at least in Congress, are not as if random. See http://sekhon.berkeley.edu/papers/CaugheySekhonRD.pdf

sb said...

WEH should check his Acme Stylebook to learn the correct usage of the phrase "beg the question."

Anonymous said...

"Why don't people on the left get upset about the myriad real ways that governments really do distort outcomes by restricting ballot access"

Isn't that the left wing position in the voter fraud debate? are there many cases in which people on the left are the ones in favor of restricting ballot access?