Sunday, November 20, 2016

Reflections on decision making processes, personal interests, and disregarding the interests of others

So much of the news reporting and opinions after the election seem predicated on the assumption that there was a RIGHT answer and that we failed to arrive at the RIGHT answer. Often, this is recast in the form that there was a better answer and that the system failed us by giving us such poor choices of candidates.

One could remark that the vested interests who write such columns ("fake news" anyone?) might be right that there was a wrong answer for THEIR interests but that they are exercising the same form of fallacious logic as that in the historically derided Charles Wilson's "What's good for GM is good for America" type of thinking.

Our form of government with its mix of direct democracy (with its threat to minority interests) and republican democracy (with its threat to majority interests) is not, I don't think, a problem. In fact, I think it is a magnificent effort to square a circle that can't be squared. The problem is not in the system but in the logical fallacies of those who think there is a RIGHT answer to a complex, dynamic, chaotic, self-regulating, tipping-point sensitive system. Life, and politics, is not a mechanistically determinable system with RIGHT answers. It is a system for aggregating contending realities and desires which are in constant flux.

We have some three hundred million opinions of 1) what are the facts, 2) what are the important issues, 3) the rank ordering of those issues, 4) the nature of the weighting of those issues in trade-off decisions, 5) the inference of the alignment of a candidate's identification, ranking and weighting of issues against our own, 6) the accuracy of estimation of a candidate's real likelihood of fighting political battles according to that identifications, rankings, and weightings, and 7) the accuracy of one's own estimation of the likely effectiveness of the candidate in achieving the desired outcomes according to those identifications, rankings and weightings.

This strikes me as analogous to Hayek's Local Knowledge Problem. Just as the economy is too complex for a central authority to accurately predict equilibriums of quantities, qualities, supply and demand without a pricing mechanism, the political system is too complex to accurately assess the balance of choices given the plurality of fact estimations, goal identifications, rankings and weightings.

In other words, there is no "RIGHT" answer. There is simply a given answer at a given point in time under given circumstances. The results of November 8th don't represent a better or worse answer or whether there was a better or worse choice. The results are simply what they were given three hundred million identifications of facts, issues, rankings and weightings. That some coalition of interests among the public elites, in cities, in Media and Universities had formed the opinion that one outcome was RIGHT (for them) and that any other outcome was WRONG (for them) seems to me to be a reflection of either their miscomprehension about the nature of our democratic system or their miscomprehension of the interests of others.

Our system revealed what the "price" was, i.e. revealed what the averaged sum of assessed facts, issue identifications, rankings and weightings and assumptions were on the day of the election. That does not mean that that outcome was wrong. The wailings and gnashing of teeth among elements of the electorate with vested interests simply means that the outcome was different than what those vested interests expected. Just as a price for something on any given day may be lower or higher than what we wish to pay, that does not make that price right or wrong, it makes it different from what we want or expect.

So the election of a Donald Trump (or Barrack Obama in his time) was not BAD or WRONG. They were a reflection of the aggregation of fact assessments, issue identifications, rankings and weightings and assumptions. To cast either outcome as BAD or WRONG is to identify that the outcome was different from your expectation or a reflection of your ignorance of the magnificent process designed by the Founding Fathers and refined by their philosophical descendants.

Obama's presidency ended up disappointing many of his supporters just as Reagan's ended up being better than his opponents had anticipated. But those outcomes can only be known after the fact. Right now, there are simply three hundred million expectations, some of which are bound to be fulfilled and some disappointed. All the current editorial noise simply reflects that a vocal set of minority interests had their expectations disappointed. We are at the beginning and there is nothing either good or bad about the future prospects.

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