Scamz

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonkblog/wp/2015/10/19/how-your-junk-mail-shows-if-youre-rich-or-poor/

It seems this is an example of the government protecting people. It is a case in which, if left to the devices of the free market, there are people that will take advantage of others, in this case in “broad daylight” so to speak. The government has since changed the rules on this activity…so I wonder where the predatory behavior has migrated to? And what if this means that credit card companies become incredibly less profitable? Is this a social ill? It will surely be measured that way in a political debate that ignores the whybehind the loss of profitability
 
Something I think that I find hard to wrap my head around is what exactly the state should do in markets? Referee. That’s an old answer. It’s not cheap to a) collect data, b) have the knowledge to spot these and frame them as crimes, c) have the proper policy response to correct the problem, and d) be able to sell that response to the dipshits that get elected and vote on these things.
Finally, I also don’t know where I stand on the morality of it. These are adults who agree to be taken advantage of, in a sense, and the defining feature of those who avoid the trap seems to be an education. Buyer beware is one response, but it’s not reasonable to expect consumers to be experts on subjects outside of their productive scope. This paper makes the argument that people are acting irrationally, and therefore don’t understand the contract…and what if we made people take comprehension tests in addition to signing contracts? Haha, there goes your housing market!
Haha, perhaps universities should be using these types of studies to sell over-priced education, rather than false promises of employment. Fear is a better motivator than greed, after all. So if you tell people that your best defense against predatory corporate interests is to be smart enough to avoid their traps, what would enrollment cost-benefit analysis look like? But…alas, the people without an education offend easily, and would resent the marketing.
I think the further irony…if you’re reading these articles, you probably aren’t targeted…knowledge is power.

An excerpt from one of my ongoing debates

Quick and dirty: The other person is arguing from a stance that I categorise this way: favours individual decision making in the hands of the individual, and strongly rejects the notion that policy makers have a paternalistic role. While I think there is a lot of merit in this position, I weakly reject it. Disclaimer: I can’t actually speak for the other debater, it’s better if you read in between the lines, and you know, generally think for yourself. I generally believe thinking for yourself is good.

The blog post is going to start at the numbered list, not with anything written prior. The reader will have to infer what the other person’s position is. This is part of a dialectic, because I have been learning about Socrates.

In response to an email, I wrote the following:

  • We are part of a swarm, with distributed intelligence.
    1. This is actually the fundamental insight of Adam Smith and the basis of many arguments put forward by Hayek/von Mises/Friedman (the Austrian/Chicago economics schools).
    2. Consider a machine learning algorithm. It can make great predictions, without understanding causation.
      1. You should try to read some material on this stuff. It’s the biggest and least well understood disruption in modern business. A lot of people talk about ‘Big Data’ but only a handful of people even know what it means. Half of my individual intellectual endeavors today are focused on to use machine learning techniques because I (an economist(ish)) am about to be made obsolete.
        1. So many tangents! The other half of my intellectual efforts are the source of these many debates, as I feel the only other value add economist have is the philosophical side…it really is a branch of philosophy more than it is a science.
      2. This theoretical framework you put forward, suffers from the informational load required by the individual.
        1. Education is a necessary step for an individual to have the ability to:
          1. Recognize they are ignorant:
            1. The more you learn, the less you realize you understand. Put differently, education raises more questions than it answers. I think this is a fundamental law. For, in practice, there is an infinite amount of knowledge.
          2. At the same time, I offer a (albeit incoherent) philosophical alternative that doesn’t address (yet) the faults of micro-political battles, and mechanisms in which people can game the system for personal gain.
            1. I feel that you have a much better “reason” based footing, and have spent more time on the problem of political philosophy, but I believe your arguments advance a position that, ultimately, is either ill-prepared or not-yet communicated to offer guidance on such nuanced implications of aspects outlined in this response…but that is why there is utility in this dialect.
  • In a practical sense, modern research offers us a lot of answers as to where and how individuals are able to make certain decisions.
    1. The study and cataloging of cognitive biases has provided people with the tools to either exploit the uneducated or to act paternalistically
      1. There is a natural/practical binary here, since the only moral pathway you have left open in your theoretical framework is one in which it is only moral to educate the individual, but since there is a cost associated with education…this is not a practical solution.
        1. We can go and find a million case studies to show that there is a natural way that this game ends, and it isn’t with education. I took a whole graduate level course that focused on these problems, and every time I bring them up I fail to impart the importance of this insight.
  • Prominent Evolutionary Biologists (See E.O. Wilson) have described the human being as one that is internally conflicted, and also not *naturally* reasoning creatures.
    1. We have conflicting internal reward systems for pro and anti social behavior
      1. The history of the homo sapiens, in evolutionary terms, is one in which strategies of survival at various times were individualistic (the most primitive regions of the brain) and collective (the regions of the brain that only humans and a few other species even have…very rarely occurs)…and yet, there were also oscillations between individualism/collectivism that continue to this day, in terms of evolutionary development.
        1. The new regions of the brain, reason dictates, had to serve some role for survival
          1. Language/communication allowed for better survival or fitness
            1. This is a collective strategy à(implies) language improves collective fitness
              1. Language is a collective tool, it’s hard to imagine what role it would occupy as something other than a collective tool. Ex: Talking to myself, out loud, with specialized vocal patterns helps me accomplish what? To provide better fitness in what way?
            2. (hotly debated) The language/communication part of the brain predates reasoned thinking à(implies) reason is not a survival function, but rather a byproduct of evolutionary history
          2. *naturally* this is a loaded/imperfect term. Don’t read too much into it. Essentially, there are no evolutionary forces that modern researchers have discovered (that have shown up in what I have read) that support reason as the mechanism of fitness in homo sapiens. Reason is a by-product. It is cognitively expensive, and our brains don’t naturally use this path of thinking unless posed with significant incentives/stimulus to do so.
            1. For me to say something dumb/but more or less what I think: THIS IS WHY LIBERTARIANSIM WILL NEVER WORK It relies on people utilizing a function of their biology that only ever kicks in when the incentives are strong enough.
            2. For this reason governments or corporations or any institution, really, can exploit any homo sapiens by using environmental factors that allow for the path of least resistance, cognitively speaking…This the most fundamental reason I believe marketing to be incredibly immoral. It is willful use of another individuals’ weakness to extract profit/rents.
              1. When it comes to judging people as moral/immoral, somehow, ignorance is an acceptable excuse for me. I don’t believe the typical person employed in marketing is aware, nor would be equipped to correct for this feature in their work.
              2. Nor do I believe it is fair to single out marketers, as my own work has many of the same issues, and I would like to not be judged harshly, either.
              3. Somehow the only correction for these problems is institutional, since it is systems that allow us to best utilize reason as a species. Institutions are guaranteed to be flawed in terms of libertarian doctrines, because by default they limit individual power (I am aware this is a leap in logic).
  • (Emphasis that this is a Belief) Ignorant conservatism does a decent job of stabilizing the most radical effects of ignorant progressives, but does not offer improvements to the status quo
    1. A point of agreement in our philosophy is that society should not throw out the distributed intelligence that has accumulated in the form of customs and culture just because you have a fancy model that tells you something else will work better
    2. In fact, reliance on new models has a long record of failure. Those who claim to be more reasonable or more enlightened are always somewhat wrong. (Ex. The residential school system in Canada, or the soviet union, etc…)
    3. At the same time it is a mistake to say that the current arrangement is a just or good
      1. Distribution of wealth is not merit based, which is a problem for stability. (Current liberal elite academic research) People are finding clever ways to show how anti-social behavior is caused by individual disenfranchisement.
        1. It is possible that this is not a failure of libertarian ideology, but rather a failure to practice libertarian ideals
          1. It is fundamentally still an unknown assumption, and probably will always remain such that society functions better or worse with more freedom at the individual level, and I suspect that even the way this is worded is terribly problematic. Especially since it is likely, not at all a linear path of causation.
  • Reason is a flawed tool for public policy, because it requires assumptions of cause and effect.
    1. Again, since a lot of human society functions, and nobody knows why, perhaps a better approach to society building is one that sets goals, and experiments on how to achieve those goals rather than one that tries to start from the principles of justice.
      1. Isn’t this already how it works?
    2. There is incredible moral hazard, admittedly, if this were a mainstream political ideology, in the wrong hands, could lead to fascism
      1. Can’t define “wrong hands”
    3. Libertarians would run this country into the ground because they are too wedded to the idea of individual responsibility, without accepting that individuals are not biologically nor socially prepared or able to make every decision.
      1. (Something you can maybe clear up for me) Libertarianism fails to go into how the individual should govern him/herself…which makes it a nice relativistic doctrine, but ultimately why the Kantian ethics don’t necessarily lead to libertarianism.