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[PATV] Wednesday, December 11, 2013 - Extra Credits Season 7, Ep. 13: Incentive Systems and Politics



  • ryanlcooperryanlcooper Registered User new member
    Interesting video, and while I don't think it's quite as bad as a lot of other commenters think, the lack of political knowledge does show. I'll just make two brief points:

    1) Other folks have pointed out that most congresscritters are so wealthy their congressional salary is peanuts by comparison, but the deeper point is that incumbent electeds are *already* highly incentivized to provide economic growth. IIRC, it's the single greatest determinant of reelection.

    But I do think the incentive point can be rescued. The problem with the US political model is that it's often very unclear who is responsible for political outcomes. In 2010, the economy was in the crapper, and the incumbent Democrats (who held House, Senate, and presidency) took a colossal beating in the midterms. But the electorate couldn't get at either the Senate or President Obama, and so we had divided government where it's hard for people to tell who is responsible for what and there is a lot of squabbling over assigning blame. *There's* your structural incentive problem.

    This is possibly why every single other Madisonian presidential democracy eventually collapsed into dictatorship:

    Parliamentary systems, by contrast, have an election and then the winners get to implement their agenda. If the electorate doesn't like it, then they get tossed out at the next election.

    2) Forcing electeds to use the public services they provide is, in general, a good idea, and the point about Congress fixing the FAA cuts at light speed is spot on. The thing about healthcare is that *it's already true!* Thanks to David Vitter and Chuck Grassley, Congress and their staffers now have to use the DC Obamacare exchange. I wrote about this for the Washington Post:

  • Ace42Ace42 Deaf-Mute United KingdomRegistered User regular
    edited December 2013
    1) Other folks have pointed out that most congresscritters are so wealthy their congressional salary is peanuts by comparison, but the deeper point is that incumbent electeds are *already* highly incentivized to provide economic growth. IIRC, it's the single greatest determinant of reelection.

    You make a brave case, but you miss the point on two fronts:
    Firstly, a Nirvana fallacy. Just because "most" congressmen *might* not care about a lower rate of pay due to their wealth shielding them from the fallout of failing their electorate, doesn't mean the *rest* of them shouldn't be given an incentive. A sound system is better than a flawed one, even if the sound system's virtues are hidden by confounding circumstances.

    If ever America were to shred its plutocratic fetishes and elect commoners based on a meritocracy, having a sound system as outlined by the EC team in place would be prudent.

    Secondly, an attribution error. Being re-elected might be contingent on people *perceiving* the candidate has contributed or will contribute to economic growth; but it is not materially linked to delivering said growth. What you are talking about is incentivising propaganda; not actually incentivising objective economic growth.

    Ace42 on
  • EpicHailEpicHail Registered User regular
    The problem with stuff like this is that it gets the whole EC community in a kerfuffle. We should not be fighting with each other about these things. Can we just agree to disagree, please?

  • PerkulatorBennyPerkulatorBenny Registered User regular
    The risk of "agreeing to disagree" is that nothing gets done.
    The discussion appears because there's a need for different opinions to meet in order to reach a conclusion, and if they agree to disagree no such conclusion will ever be reached. Both opinions will just sit in their own corner saying "well, >I< think I'm right and if they disagree with me we just agree to disagree".
    For society as a whole, it's >better< for there to be heated, sometimes even violent, disagreements because that way lies progress. Agreeing to disagree leads to stagnation.

    Of course, sometimes the subject is so minor that it's not worth the breath you'd waste discussing it, but a country's politics (even if not >your< country) is always worth letting the discussion run it's course until either a middle ground is reached or both sides wear themselves out.

    @Titanium Dragon
    "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."
    -Winston Churchill
    Sure, he'd just lost an election and was understandably a little bitter, but he made a great point. Democracy is actually a terrible system, but it's the best we have.

    Me, I'm not that into politics (despite the incoming wall of text :P) so I barely keep up with my own country (Sweden), and thus won't have much to say about US politics, but the one thing that stands out to me is the ridiculousness of a two-party system. (Which wasn't the point of this video, but it's just about the only part of US politics that I know about so I'm going to talk about that.)
    It's like sticking a Good vs Evil morality meter on a free-form Pen and Paper RPG (yes, D&D already has that, but it's not free-form, and just do a search for "batman's alignment" and you'll see how broken that system is), except in the case of Republicans vs Democrats it's not even Good vs Evil, Paragon vs Renegade, Light Side vs Dark Side or whatever X vs Y you want. The two parties are so similar to each other that it's more like the Blue/Red/Green explosions of the Mass Effect 3 ending.
    You are given a choice, but no matter which you choose you're still basically choosing the same thing.

    In Sweden we allow pretty much anyone who can scrape together a few friends with political ambition to start their own party. Most of them only run on a local scale, or by backing whichever larger party they agree with, but they are there.
    Anyone who gets enough votes get to be part of the government, regardless of political agenda (within reasonable limits of course). We've got both Piratpartiet (the first and original "Pirate Party") and Sverigedemokraterna ("The Swedish Democrats", a party accused of "stranger hostility", i.e. mild racism, on more than one occasion) in the government because people valued the opinions they brought forth enough to vote for them instead of one of the bigger ones.
    Piratpartiet actually just had two (I think) points on their agenda in their first election. A suggestion to change copyright laws and the "right to free culture".
    Which means an unrestricted internet, without government "spying", among other things. Not piracy, which is illegal and for good reason, but too often the government talked about "banning file sharing" and shutting down all forms of torrent engines, regardless of whether they were actually sharing illegal files or not. It would be similar to saying that we should ban libraries because certain books are illegal.

    But the things they brought up, that none of the bigger parties did, was important enough for "the common man" that they got enough votes to get a seat or two in the government, IIRC.
    With a locked two-party system, those smaller voices can never get through. All you get is a set number of subjects, anything that you would like brought up that the politicians don't know about, sucks to be you. And then you either pick yes or no. Republican or Democrat. X or Y. Blue explosions or Green explosions. (The Red explosions are dirty commies and aren't welcome here, because that's a completely different political idea. Imagine what could happen if we let >them< near America.)

  • innomininnomin Registered User regular
    I can't help but feel that the entire system is broken, and no amount of small changes will fix it. Legislative bloat and the imperfect language of law allow so many loopholes and exploits that government is a worse piece of software than Windows Vista.

    Simple and fair solutions exist, such as the crowdsourcing ideas other people here have mentioned. Imagine if government worked like Kickstarter, and every service was funded by people that agreed with it? Taxes could be adjusted to the causes you believed in, like the charity sliders in Humble Bundles (with a required minimum % taxed, so people did not abstain entirely). This would also have opportunities for exploit, but the simpler the design, the less it can be broken.

    Ultimately, though, there is no solution. The current powers are very happy with the way things are, and short of a revolution nothing is ever going to change. We are so invested in our current system that we cannot transcend it, and the more government grows the worse it becomes at the actual job.

  • jedidethfreakjedidethfreak Registered User regular
    To be fair, those in the House who railed against the Affordable Care Act DID vote to be put under it. It's those in the Senate (that actually WROTE ACA) and the President who refused to be put under it.

    Wind Fish in name only, for it is neither.
  • RacheaktRacheakt Registered User regular
    edited December 2013
    A pure political video? I like politics but I am more interested game theory from this site, I find this topic path too contentious to create a reasonable dialog. That said I lean Libertarian-Right, and the best system for the people is to have the Federal Government less focused on regulation the small details on our lives (who we sleep with, how far we drive, what we drive, what games we play, Who we have insurance through, etc...) and focus more on the specific duties laid out in the Constitution and stop the tortured interpretation of the commerce clause and leave everything else to the states or the person (the 10th amendment).

    As for US politicians I propose a modification Asimov's 3 laws of robotics:

    1. Must uphold US Constitution or through inaction not allow violations of the US Constitution.

    2. Must obey the will of their electorate except where it violates the first law.

    3. Look our for their own political career except where it violates the first two laws.

    We are stuck in a system (IMHO) that is the complete reverse of the above:

    1. Look our for their own political career

    2. Must obey the will of their electorate except where it violates the first law.

    3. Must uphold or through inaction not allow violations of the US Constitution except where it violates the first two laws.

    I could write volumes on what I think is wrong with the process, but our government was setup to competitive and broken-ish to preserve individual freedom. We have allowed our Federal government to abuse the Interstate Commerce Clause to do all manner of things that are not theirs to do. (this is where we get in the petty wedge issues, like abortion, gun-control, marriage laws, etc)

    I would submit that we the people are part of the problem; if you live in LA or Seattle, why do you care what happens in Montgomery AL if you never ever will live there? and Vice versa. I mean if you are Left-Leaning, why worry about a pocket of Right-leaner in another part of the country? Because we want our politicians violating the 10th Amendment to prevent others from doing things we don't want them to do, and each time we use our vote to sanction this we give more of our freedoms up. It is not just a slogan, a big part of living in a free society is tolerating those that are different.

    There are many mind-traps that I personally think the Liberal-Left and Social-Right gets trapped in, but this is the part that that makes this such a rancorous topic for a video game "topic"

    Edit: Readability.

    Racheakt on
  • Robot3200Robot3200 Registered User new member
    Meanwhile Brazilian politics.

    To everyone who didn't like the idea of politics, think of it like a game, that everyone pay for, one we have just a small control over, but it has a big effect on us.
    It has everything many games have, economy, choice, illusion of choice, heroes, villains, crisis, good times, bad times, wars.

  • BRASKYthatSOBBRASKYthatSOB Master (of Physics) AlaskaRegistered User regular
    I have long known how broken it is for congress to set their own wages and benefits.

    The solution that comes to my mind is that each state should be free to provide whatever wages and benefits they deem acceptable for their own representatives.

  • WandererintheDarkWandererintheDark Registered User new member
    I think the major problem with the government as far as incentives go, is that the representatives are the same people who make the laws about congress. So of course they'll make the system in their best interests. I believe it is a major failing of the "checks and balances" system in the U.S. that the rules to the game of politics are made up by the people playing.

  • margibsomargibso Registered User new member
    edited December 2013
    I'm not sure how much the pay incentives will affect them. Most Senators and Representatives can make more money in the private sector and are already millionaires. They are driven by power not money.

    margibso on
  • TalshereTalshere Registered User regular
    Interestingly, British MP's have just had their salaries tied to the average national wage.

  • MillumiMillumi Registered User new member
    I believe the congress we currently have deserves to be paid minimum wage.

  • rcorrectrcorrect Registered User regular

    >Because of your say-so?
    You're damn skippy! I'm entitled to my opinion and there's nothing you can do about it.

    >Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and
    >cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just
    >as good as your knowledge.'
    Nice quote, but seems you've not learned a thing from it.

    >You don't think there are people out there who know better than you do?
    Totally! My goodness didn't you get the memo? Nobody know better than rcorrect! Here you can have a cookie if it makes you feel better. <3

    >Then shut up and let the adults get on with discussing the topic?
    Oh my, someone on the Internet told me to shut up! I'm shaking in my boots mister.

    >That explains a lot...
    At this point I will insert some witty response.

    >If you are unable to separate ideology from objectivity, I doubt you'd learn much.
    That's amazing, because you're absolutely correct. Nobody here cares or knows anything about games! In fact, we need nothing but episodes about politics.

    >No sense, no feeling.
    I know, I wasn't worthy of a better response.

  • catsoupcatsoup Registered User regular
    Using the political system as a metaphor for game design brings up an interesting question. To what degree should a game be well-designed, from a theory of human behavior way as game design theory or sociology and psychology would have it, and to what degree should it be what the player/customer wants?

    Attempts to make political systems more rational or function better in a design sense are notorious for being authoritarian and undemocratic; most famously the Technocratic movement of the 1930's. Sure it would be nice if departments were run by experts on that topic, scientifically managing their given field of expertise, but it violates the idea of self-rule and in some ways is merely moving the problem up.

    For instance, if you brought in James to redesign the political system, he has as much incentive to abuse his powers of system designer for personal gain or ideological passions as Congressmen in the current political system have to abuse their legislative power. And so it would come down to whether you trust one guy or a team of experts more than Congress, which is really counting on the psychology of how people view entities. People might be willing to trust a single dictator more than a representative body, because the body seems alien and removed (its "D.C.", its "the ruling class", it's not one man you can empathize with); but that doesn't mean the representative body isn't actually more incentivized than the dictator to be accountable to you.

    Benevolent dictatorship is great for game design often. For instance the Kingdom of Loathing devs sometimes talk about in their regular podcast knowing what's best for the players, and how much less enjoyable the game would be if they gave the players what the players wanted in a populist or democratic method of determining what changes are made.

    But that seems to be the primary stumbling block to implementing game design theory to political systems, as most modern political systems have as the intentional purpose not what's best for the "players", but to be reflective of what the players want.

    The purpose of The World of Americraft, basically, is not to provide the best user experience; the user agreement specifically states that its an experiment in having the players decide the features of the game. Applying the principles of good design would completely miss the point, wouldn't it? By making the political system deliver better results, you would be undermining its whole reason for existing, because it would no longer be what the player base wanted it to be, and instead have been shaped by experts.

    In a piece of art owned by the artist, as a game is, its fine for the artist to be a benevolent dictator providing the best aesthetic experience. But most social institutions are not about delivering the best results, they're entire purpose is to be reflective of their constituents. In many ways a democratic government is meant to be, in its core design, only as good as the "players". As in "people get the government they deserve". In a game, you would design around that problem, but doing so in real life seems undesirable.

  • Dallen9Dallen9 Registered User new member
    ........ All I can say is Yes and no. First off Yes to your Light Suggestions on the incentive system and no to the system is broken notion. And that is the sad part, everything that is going wrong government wise is apart of the beauty of the United States government system on the nightmare scale. The solution to the problems that are building up you almost have to do a reset of the whole 20th Century in government only leaving the changes that were driven by the people as opposed to what was proposed by Senators, Congressmen, and Presidents as good ideas. Hell you have to almost revert every law back to it's original passed proposal to fix the major problems and have to add checks and balances back into the stream of things cause obviously we lost that practice in government.

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