Philosophical Rants #20: The Gambler’s Fallacy

INTRODUCTION:

From the standpoint of logic, it seems quite salient that human thought is blighted with a plethora of logical fallacies.  Fallacies ranging from the misapplication or misleading heuristics to obdurate ratiocinations that blatantly rejects the established unassailable facts of reality. The spectrum of reasoning errors as you can imagine is quite vast. Hence why there is a multitude of various logical fallacies that are commonly discussed in the subdiscipline of Philosophy known as logic. The question then becomes why precisely we as humans are so incredibly susceptible to such faulty thinking?  While humankind is far from perfect it is awe inspiring how flawed our thinking is. The follies and pitfalls of human thought have a wide range of generally latent motives that act as the prime mover of such errors.  Not all intentional even at the subconscious level, but rather are the byproduct of the conflation or transposing different variables. Which in turn leads to faulty reasoning and the perpetuation of erroneous assumptions.

 

The extent to which logical fallacies are prevalent conjures a plethora of questions regarding their role in human thinking. If we are to accept the Darwinian theory of Evolution as true, then there is the potentiality that there is an adaptive mechanism behind our faulty thinking. While the postulates of Charles Darwin are fixated around random gene mutation, the core assumption of his theory that adaptations that persist generally have some sort of advantageous benefit. A superlative example of this is the double-edged sword of the condition of Sickle-Cell Anemia. Such paradigms of their being a blessing and a curse in embedded in genetic alterations extends beyond congenital conditions. It has been well discussed how the human brain has achieved adaptive gains through cognitive and perceptual biases. For example, I recall an Evolutionary Psychology professor stating that the reason why most people do not have photographic memory is that those who do possess such prodigious capacities for recalling information often suffer from poor comprehension skills. Such a tradeoff is certainly exemplary of the limitations of the human brain. However, this does align us with the potential precedent for extrapolating this concept to cognitive adaptation. Which makes it pertinent to question if there is an implicit utility to cognitive biases and erroneous patterns of reasoning.

 

The field of Social psychology thoroughly addressed most of the heuristics and cognitive biases that people commonly exhibit. To some extent, it is fruitless for me to delve too deep into such inquiries most would say that we already have cogent and empirical explanations for such phenomena.  Regardless I am still allured by the perplexing rabbit hole of human reasoning. How we can manipulate evidence and stretch it beyond the limits of the truth and present it as factual is truly a mind-boggling spectacle. Much of our thinking is plagued by superstitions and faltering attempts to rectify cognitive dissonance.  A lot of this inadvertent or intentional does possess a functionality, whether it is subject to evolutionary lag is another story. For example, generally racial prejudices have been perceived as an adaptative social mechanism.  If you think from a historical standpoint there is an underlying logic to such thinking. Back when humans were more nomadic and prior to permanent agricultural settlements violent conflicts over resources was much more prevalent. In that era of human history, it was important to insulate yourself from predication which entailed developing biases against individuals who were not a part of your immediate community. The consequences of not doing so were so grave that it was literally a matter of life or death.

 

However, even as human civilizations flourished and became more advanced the prejudices for people who are different than ourselves remain resolute. While the norms around general deportment shifted from outright barbarism to more civil interactions the ingrained nature of man persisted. Prejudice has acted as a quick means of ascertaining who is a member of your community and whether you need to be wary of them. It has been ingrained in humans to the point it acts almost like an automatic inference. Stereotyping almost acts a mild hangover from more severe forms of prejudice, however, it still functions as a quick heuristic to make a snap decision. While the magnitude of such attributions has been being diminished over time, their remnants still linger. Please note that this is a value-neutral attribution regarding prejudice. I am more interested in looking at the impetus behind prejudice then passing moral judgment.

 

The logical fallacy I will be highlighting in this discourse will be the Gambler’s Fallacy which on the superficial level does not seem so faulty. However, upon a deeper assessment of the reasoning involved, it becomes quite conspicuous how flawed it is. A prime example of the wrong variable being analyzed, and the actual facilitating variable being forfeited. Analogous to the example of the adaptive basis for ethnic prejudices, the reasoning has an outmoded utility that now yields detrimental results. Both examples differ from the example of Sickle-Cell Anemia in two ways. The first being that Sickle-Cell Anemia while profoundly detrimental, there is still the benefit of immunity from Malaria.  While the potential benefits of the bias built-in to the Gamblers fallacy is outmoded if not nonexistent. The Second and most obvious difference being Sickle-Cell Anemia is a form of physiological adaptation, while the Gambler’s Fallacy is cognitive.

 

The intentions of this blog entry will not be so much to ascertain if there was ever an evolutionary basis for the Gambler’s Fallacy, but rather to provide an overview of the concept. As is evident above I will interweave commentary and speculation regarding the mechanics, origin, and other opinions pertaining to this common fallacy.

WHAT IS THE GAMBLER’S FALLACY?:

 

In a broad sense, the Gambler’s Fallacy can be defined as the error in logic where an individual assumes that the results of independent events can influence the probability of another random event [3]. One of the most conspicuous applications of this fallacy is as the name indicates in gambling. Oftentimes gambler attempt to ascertain the probability of winning on erroneously derived patterns. Due to the independent nature of the events comprising the illusionary pattern, the players perceive a pattern when one does not exist.

An excellent example of this fallacy follows as below:

“..Example of Gambler’s Fallacy

Edna had rolled a 6 with the dice the last 9 consecutive times. Surely it would be highly unlikely that she would roll another 6 on the 10th time …” [3].

This example demonstrates how this fallacy assumes interconnection between events that are completely independent. In the example above, the probability of rolling a 6 remains the same on the 10th time as it did on the 1st time.  Each roll of the dice is a separate action that’s once completed cannot be continued. Clearly delineating the separation between actions. Due to such a distinction, Ludwig Von Mises, detailed in his treatise Human Action how the Gambler’s Fallacy demonstrated a confusion between Category and Instance [4].

 

[6].

INVERSE GAMBLER’S FALLACY:

The Inverse Gambler’s Fallacy is the natural reciprocal of the Gambler’s Fallacy; however, it does operate on a very similar principle. In a similar manner, it assumes that independent variables are interconnected. This fallacy entails that an individual believes that a genuine outlier has occurred more frequently generally with more mundane results [5].

Example below:

“… the inverse gambler’s fallacy is committed by someone who enters a casino and, upon witnessing a remarkable outcome at the nearest table—says, a five-fold six in a quintuple die toss—concludes that the toss is a most likely part of a large sequence of tosses…” [5].

Again, as is demonstrated by the above example both related fallacies suffer from the fault of assuming interrelation on independent events.

 

THE PSYCHOLOGY BEHIND THE GAMBLER’S FALLACY:

The human brain often attempts to act as an equalizing force regarding human perception and reasoning. Now some may say my assertion here is somewhat flawed considering the brain acts as the total processing system for all life-related processes. Analogous to the Central processing unit embedded within a computer. However, while that is true, the human brain utilizes various short cuts in attempts to better navigate the world around us. The dizzying array of external stimuli and information the human brain only has so much bandwidth to take it all in. Considering the malleability and adaptive features of the human brain it stands to reason that our brains work to achieve a sense of symmetry in the world.  At times it imposes that continuity and symmetry upon our sensory output causing us to perceive things in a slightly inaccurate manner. In a manner, that helps us better assimilate to a vast and multitextured environment.  For example, Impressionist painters of the 19th century manipulated our brain’s propensity for rectifying ambiguity into more manageable forms. The fact that their paints appear to be cohesive and solid images from a distance but are rather unrefined and broad-brush strokes. [7] It is clear that our brains do seek to adjust and presume ambiguity to help us better act and thrive in our environment. With all the sensory information not, all of it necessarily pertinent to our day to day function.

I would postulate that the same would be true of human reasoning, as it is with human perception because often there is so much information that can weigh down that it would impede decision making. With the abundance of research related to the phenomenon of apophenia, I would assume that my inclinations are far from unique. One prevalent form of Pareidolia is defined as the tendency to see familiar figures in random objects [8]. Typically, the error made when some claims to see the image of Jesus Christ in the grooves of burn piece of toast.  Much like Pareidolia, the Gambler’s Fallacy is a form of apophenia. The tendency to see meaningful relationships between independent events [9]. The cognitive behavior of looking for patterns where they do not exist fits precisely the nature of the Gambler’s Fallacy.

While our brains have the propensity to seek patterns even when confronted with random events are there potential predispositions that make people less susceptible to this logical fallacy? It appears as if the variable of experience may make someone less apt to fall prey to the Gambler’s Fallacy in decision making. Prior to composing this blog entry, I reviewed a plethora of various sources pertaining to the Gambler’s Fallacy.  I recall several YouTube videos that described it as a fallacy that “unseasoned” or “amateur” Gamblers fell into. In contrast, Gambler’s that can proficiently count cards know better than to get hindered by it. Which certainly in a priori / unempirical sense would imply that experience curtails the aptitude of the fallacy being committed. The research would seem to substantiate this notion. Various studies have yield results that would illustrate a lesser prevalence among more experienced discussion makers [10]. The potential application of the results can extend well beyond the faulty attributions of gambler’s futilely attempting to beat the house.

A study conducted by the University of Chicago on the behalf of the National Bureau of Economic research demonstrates this point. The study examined how the Gambler’s Fallacy impacted the decision making of  Loan Officers, Asylum Judges, and Baseball Umpires. The researchers conducting the multi-tiered study purported to have controlled for variables sufficiently avoiding confounding the error with other reasoning related errors. The results yield from the study suggests that the more experienced the decision maker the less apt they were to commit the fallacy. Considering that the decision makers analyzed came from three nonrelated disciplines the ability to extrapolate the results to other situations is quite high [11].  I would surmise the mechanism behind more experienced decision makers avoid this faulty thinking stems from having more familiarity. Being more acquainted with the specific variables entailed in properly assessing a situation make it easier to have more confidence in the decision-making process.  The ability to ascertain related versus unrelated variables may take prior exposure which facilitates better comprehension. In the absence of the understanding of the relation between various variables, we are more apt to lean on superstitious reasoning.

THE LOGIC BEHIND THE GAMBLER’S FALLACY:

One of the basic and most notable faulty assumptions inferred when the Gambler’s Fallacy is committed is assuming that independent events are interconnected. Whether or not event A and event B are connected while profound influence over the calculations of the probability of both events. Which is why when we try to infer meaningful patterns where none exist we are led awry. In order to properly determine the probability of when an event is likely to occur when need to understand when variables are connected and when they are independent of one another.

 

MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE EVENTS:

Mutually exclusive events in the discipline of probability are events that cannot coincide simultaneously. Mutually Exclusive events are often times transposed with Independent events. Even though there is a clear distinction between the two [12].

Mutually exclusive events are seen as being a “disjoint”, meaning that the probability of both occurring at the same time is zero. Such a circumstance is expressed in the below equation:

Disjoint: P (A & B)= 0      [13].

The issue then becomes how do we determine what is the likelihood that either event A or event B will transpire. This inquiry is remedied by calculating the sum of either event occurring. This is what is known as the Rule of Addition and is only applicable for mutually exclusive events.  Which is expressed in the below computations:

P (A or B) = P (A)+ P (B)

P(1) = Probability of 1/8

P(2)= Probability of 1/8

P (1 or 2) = P (1) + P (2)

= 1/8 + 1/8

= 2/8, = 1/4        [14].

 

INDEPENDENT EVENTS:

From the standpoint of probability, Independent events are events that the occurrence of one event does not impact the probability of the other. Unlike Mutually exclusive events which cannot occur at the same time, Independent events can simultaneously. The rule of specific multiplication is applicable for determining the probability of independent events occurring

P (A and B) = P (A) * P (B)

Event A’s Probality= 0.6

Event B’s Probality= 0.4

0.6*0.4=0.24             [14].

 

DEPENDENT EVENTS:

Events where one event impacts the aptitude of whether or not the other event will transpire. The rule of Conditional Probability is utilized to determine the probability of dependent events.

Conditional Probability: P (B|A) – (probability of  B given A)

It should also be noted that the probability regardless of the relation of the events we can utilize the rule of general multiplication to determine the probability of the events occurring.

P (A and B) = P (A) * P (B|A)

 

Ultimately the Gambler’s Fallacy involves confusing Mutually Exclusive events and Independent Events with Dependent Events.  When making a wager on the results of a spin on the roulette wheel the outcome has no connection to any previous outcome. Nor can the dial of the roulette wheel fall definitively fall on two numbers at once. If there is the extremely improbable chance that the dial falls on the same number three times in a row, this does not alter the odds of it happening a fourth time. The mistake most gamblers would make is that they would anticipate that the odds of the dial falling on that same number is significantly reduced. All because of the results of a coin toss resulted in the quarter landing tails four times in a row, the odds of it landing tails on the fifth flip of the coin is still 50 percent.

 

[15]

 

DISCUSSION:

Gambling is an activity that has long been associated with superstition and erroneous reasoning. As someone who use to be employed at a casino, I can certainly verify this from an anecdotal standpoint. Those who engage in gambling tend to confuse variables of causation, regardless of causality generally the odds are against you. It should be noted that a casino operates as a business, not a charity. Therefore the illusion of everyone having a good probability of winning big is a true fantasy.

The first formal recognition of this fallacy may have its origins on the Casino floor it actually can be seen in many other instances of decision making. It can be certainly surmised that this cognitive bias resulting from confusing variables of causality. Which is an issue that the scientific method has grappled with for a very long time. Science aims to rectify the third-variable problem through the presumably air-tight methodology.  Through the application of Occam’s Razor nullifying the validity of any postulations that cannot be quantified and subjected to the gauntlet of empirical analysis. Hence, why science is held in such high regard because of the built-in inoculation from superstitious thinking. Not all views under the umbrella of scientifically valid can withstand experimental conditions. However, that is a topic for another time, another blog entry.

 

I would postulate that considering how the human mind seeks to find patterns to make sense of the environmental stimuli would explain our susceptibility to such a fallacy.  The same can be said for optical illusions and a plethora of other illusions and flaws in reasoning. It can be said that sometimes we lock on to details that may not necessarily be the focal point of causation. When faced with the amount of sensory input we are faced with it may be necessary to filter out details that are perceived as redundant or immaterial to our most pertinent needs. The need to quickly process information then make even quicker decision enviably will lead to hasty and rash attributions. In some instances, it may be advantageous to make snap decisions in such a manner in others only leads to folly.  In activities that inherently solicit impulsivity such as gambling would make it easy to have this propensity for heuristic thinking to be more a hindrance than a help.

 

 

Foot Notes:

1.https://youtu.be/JJrIfcszGsM

2.https://youtu.be/jJYaDv0Y1K8

3. https://www.logicalfallacies.org/gamblers-fallacy.html

4.Mises, Ludwig Von. A Treatise On Economics: Human Action. Published by the Ludwig Von Mises Institute (1998). Pages: 110-115.

5.https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/fine-tuning/#InveGambFallChar

6. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eVluL-idkM (Gambler’s Fallacy Video)

7. https://www.rochester.edu/newscenter/the-science-of-seeing-art-color-354182/

8.https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/illusions-delusions-and-reality/201902/mind-controlled-motion-perception

9. http://skepdic.com/apophenia.html

10. http://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Publication%20Files/09-029.pdf

11. htttps://www.nber.org/papers/w22026.pdf

12. https://corporatefianceinstitute.com/resources/knowledge/other/mutally-exclusive-events

13.https://people.richland.edu/james/lecture/m170/ch05-rul.html

14. https://www.mathgoodies.com/lessons/vol6/addition_rules

15. https://youtu.be/3bQEd1aNgxE (Probability Video)

 

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Political Opinions#64- Lincoln Wasn’t a Proponent of Equality.

 

Discussion:

I have never particularly taken gleeful pleasure in being the heretical rabble-rouser that seeks to slit the throats of our sacred cows. I would certainly detest anyone suggesting that I am a provocateur.  While I do subscribe to specific ideologies, I would prefer to think that I have more integrity than merely promoting controversy for the sake of shock value. Simultaneously, I also believe even the most revered institutions and historical figures are not above criticism. That even includes the mythic figure of Abraham Lincoln. An individual who has been catapulted into the realm of folklore and living mythology through a potentially hyperbolic interpretation of Civil-War era history. Analogous to how George Washington has been romanticized and exaggerated, in a similar fashion good Ol’ Abe has been portrayed. It is imperative to remember that both are merely men who both possessed faults much like another human being.

Since we live in an age of hyper-political correctness,  to criticize the presidency of Abraham Lincoln is nothing short of a transgression against civilized society. Much of this rhetoric alluding to the fact that if you see any flaws in his policies or actions as president you must tacitly support slavery or be a closet Neo-Confederate. However, to any rational thinker, it should be that such rhetoric is merely conflating approval of the institution of slavery with disapproval with Lincoln as an elected official. Both are very different socio-political perspectives, that could have some overlap, but is a true leap-of-faith to equate the two.

If anything such resolute and unquestioning reverence to Lincoln as a historical figure and a president is unfounded. In the grand scheme of things the Emancipation Proclamation was his most significant accomplishment while in office as commander-in-chief. Even at that was spurred by insincere motives and not the bleeding-heart social justice and egalitarian ethos that we are told in the cult-of-Lincoln folklore as children. Lincoln only extended the abolishment of slavery to “rebel territories” and continued to allow territories that were occupied by Union troops in the South to engage in the practice of owning slaves [3] [4] [5]. This political maneuver by Lincoln was more an attempt to gain political leverage in the light of the Union’s lack of success on the battlefield [6]. It was really more of a power play and pageantry then it was truly about equal rights for the enslaved people of African ancestry.

While some could say that asserting such notions are not only bold but borderline slanderous need to consider a few facts at hand. For one, in Lincoln’s inaugural address he vowed to not “disrupt” the practice of slavery [4]. Second Lincoln along with his political mentor Henry Clay were proponents of the colonization plan. Which entailed relocating all of the previously enslaved people of African ancestry to other countries in Central America, Africa, and the Caribbean nation of Haiti [7] [8]. Renown abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison met this proposal with much derision. Referring to the meetings Lincoln had with “…freed black leaders to lead an exodus of blacks out of the country…” as “humiliating” and ” impertinent” [9]. While the described effort towards colonization may sound far-fetched and conspiratorial there are even mainstream historical sources the verify the validity of such claims. Even the History Channel’s website confirms the veracity of this claim and of Lincoln’s opposition to racial equality and the abolition[10].

Some believe that it would be sine qua non that I expound upon how the numerous war atrocities committed by the Union Army. However, I would be remiss and egregiously dishonest to not acknowledge that the Confederacy was also guilty of wartime atrocities. One of the many examples being the slaughter blacks at Fort Willow by Confederate troops which said to have been one of the precipitating events leading to the battle of the Crater [11]. Such events are always much more salient to us when the transgression came from the side of the Confederacy.  It should be noted that the instances for the federal army plundering and murdering civilians and slaves was well documented [12] Sure everyone is familiar of when Sherman burned Atlanta to its foundation. That is far from the only time a scorched earth policy was implemented by the Union army.  Such a policy was also utilized by General Philip Sheridan in the Shenandoah Valley in late 1864. Much of the zeal behind this insidious campaign was fueled by Lincoln losing the 1864 election if defeated [13]. It would certainly appear as if Lincoln was more concerned with his political future than adhering to the parameters of the Geneva Convention 1864. Then again the abridge quote ironically utter by Sherman himself “war is hell” could explain and conversely defend the loosening of moral deportment in the height of battlefield tensions [14]. If war is hell, what is the fate of the soul of the unscrupulous politician that felt that it was a necessary matter?

Such an inquiry merely acts as pathway adjoining us to the question if the civil war was even necessary.  Before we dissect this inquiry is important to note that many individuals conflate the main impetus of the Civil War. Everyone always points to the most salient bone of contention being slavery. That is erroneous on a multitude of various levels. When it comes right down to it was truly a fight between state autonomy and federal jurisdiction. But even if you wanted to operate under the assumption that the Civil War was oriented on the topic of slavery, rather than it was the straw that broke the camel’s back, was a war necessary? Merely from the standpoint of ending slavery, no. However, it is noted that the demand for slave labor would have exponentially dwindled due to the inefficiencies productivity wise[15] [16].

In actuality most European countries and their territorial possessions were able to end Slavery without military action. One excellent example of this was when the United Kingdom implemented policy to prohibit the slave trade domestically and abroad in the British colonies. It should be noted that the overall process took a total of 46 years from conception to fruition. Within that nearly half century period parliament did not need to implement the use of military force to facility enactment anti-slavery measures. There were also policies in place where arrangements were made to compensate slaver owners for the loss of assets. One such salient example being the parliamentary Reform Act of 1832 which awarded  $20 million to West Indian planters [17]. As reprehensible we may find it to characterize human beings as property, it is imperative that we attempt to understand the context. If we attach direct moral value from the standpoint of our contemporary to the institution of slavery we will be amidst the fallacy of present-ism. Considering the norms the milieu of the time adequate compensation for slaves was an appropriate provision for relinquishing ownership of slaves.

If we can divorce the current normative values of the present day away from slavery, the U.S. government did attempt to bilk  property of private citizens without appropriate compensation. Which would in any context constitute theft. Beyond that fallacy, the actually costs of the Civil War are quite jarring. The costs were more than just monetary or economic.  Approximately 620,000 people were killed in the conflict, per capita was a larger loss of life than what was suffered during the Vietnam war. The war resulted in a destruction of 40 percent of the nations collective economy. Between loss of GDP and the actual expenditures utilized for the actual war effort [18]. The total explicit cost of the war clocks in around approximately $6.6 Billion and it has been speculated that it would have been far more economic to have paid the slaver owners the market value for the slaves lost [19].

The famous humanist psychologist Abraham Maslow conceived the concept of the hierarchy of needs. Once an individual has meet all their basic needs for survival and esteem the reach to the top hierarchy pyramid and achieve the status of self-actualization. Such an attain status per Maslow encompasses:

“…represents growth of an individual toward fulfillment of the highest needs; those for meaning in life, in particular…”

Fellow humanist psychologist and follower of  Maslow Carl Rogers referred to self-actualization as the growth of potential and integration of true self [20]. It is commonly cited that Maslow believed that Lincoln encapsulated the virtues of such an enlightened status [21]. Which is quite perplexing to me because when we actually examine the historical facts surrounding Lincoln as a man and a politician he was far from dynamic. He was quite narrow in scope and was more opportunistic  than moralistic. It could be speculated that he was also far from secure esteem-wise. In a sense he was in the shadow of his mentor Henry Clay. This would include Clay’s grandiose political aspirations manifested in his American Plan. While the pages of history will celebrate in jubilation the victories of Lincoln, he was never quite able to fully make the ambitions of the Whig Party a complete reality. Clay’s  American Plan was a full on Hamiltonian consolidation of power to the federal government. [22] In a sense Lincoln was the next in succession to adopt the principles of a strong centralized government. Much of this is reflected in defacto puppet regimes installed in the south during reconstruction. Conspicuously in lieu of autonomous state governments. This long standing incredulity endures to this very day and can be seen in preference for low taxes and government spending [23].

What is clearly evident here is that Lincoln has received a lot of dogmatic praise for being the president who abolished slavery. Seems as if the virtues of the abolitionist were a far cry from his own convictions. That he was a career politician attempt to garner public favor. So why would so many people stop short of venerating Lincoln when we was not the virtuous advocate that he was morally flawed on so many levels?  There was nothing selfless about Lincoln’s actions while in office. He merely saw slavery as a tool and an excuse to strengthen the central government. He reviled the abolitionist movement and perceived blacks as grossly inferior to Caucasians. What it all can be distilled down to is another psychological concept know as the “Halo Effect. Which is defined as allowing one aspect of an individual, object, or entity to influence our overall perception of them [24].

The second prong being the political correctness aspect to unwavering seeing Lincoln in heroic light. In most political circles he there is unilateral consensus that Lincoln was the great savior of the enslaved people tethered to their servile toils in the tobacco fields of Virginia and the Carolinas. It is almost heretical to observe and acknowledge Lincoln’s own prejudices. Such ignorance was not isolated to Lincoln, but was rather the norm in 19th century America. It is the tacit denial of Lincoln’s disdains and prejudices regarding African Americans and abolitionist that is truly vexing. It is a grave mistake to refuse to acknowledge the truth of the past even if it comes in direct confrontation with our preferred narrative. Lincoln ended slavery as a political maneuver rather than an due to an enlightened epiphany. It wasn’t like he was intense reading Lockean philosophy and then came to the realization that a slave was a much a person as he was. But rather Lincoln was an unexceptional byproduct of his time. The fact that I could be sullied as closet bigot for making such a historically factual observation speak more to the pathology of the political correctness culture in the United States. All because the outcome of ending slavery was positive does not mean that Lincoln had pure and pristine motives for doing so.

Foot Notes:

  1. https://peterclark7979.wixsite.com/website/home/political-opinions-63-lincoln-wasn-t-a-proponent-of-equality

2. https://youtu.be/33wZklNo-HA (video)

3.  DiLorenzo, Thomas. The Real Lincoln. (2002). Three Rivers Press. Page:34

4. DiLorenzo, Thomas. The Real Lincoln. (2002). Three Rivers Press. Page:35

5. DiLorenzo, Thomas. The Real Lincoln. (2002). Three Rivers Press. Page:36

6. DiLorenzo, Thomas. The Real Lincoln. (2002). Three Rivers Press. Pages:37-38

7.DiLorenzo, Thomas. The Real Lincoln. (2002). Three Rivers Press. Pages: 17-18

8. DiLorenzo, Thomas. The Real Lincoln. (2002). Three Rivers Press. Pages:275.

9. DiLorenzo, Thomas. The Real Lincoln. (2002). Three Rivers Press. Page 19.

10. https://www.history.com/news/5-things-you-may-not-know-about-lincoln-slavery-and-emancipation

11. Davis, Burke. The Civil War: Strange & Fascinating Facts. (1960, Reprint 1996) Random House. Page 230.

12. DiLorenzo, Thomas. The Real Lincoln. (2002). Three Rivers Press. Page 171-200.

13. DiLorenzo, Thomas. The Real Lincoln. (2002). Three Rivers Press. Page 195.

14. https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/william_tecumseh_sherman_190604

15. DiLorenzo, Thomas. The Real Lincoln. (2002). Three Rivers Press. Page 47.

16. Mises, Ludwig Von. Human Action:  The Scholar’s Edition (1949), Published by Ludwig Von Mises Institue, Reprint 1998. P. 625.

17. http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/empire_seapower/antislavery_01.shtml

18. DiLorenzo, Thomas. The Real Lincoln. (2002). Three Rivers Press. Page 4.

19. DiLorenzo, Thomas. The Real Lincoln. (2002). Three Rivers Press. Page 50-51.

20. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/theory-and-psychopathology/201308/the-theory-self-actualization

21. http://livingmeanings.com/self-actualized-person-maslows-theory-flaws/

22. DiLorenzo, Thomas. The Real Lincoln. (2002). Three Rivers Press. Page 59-61, 256

23. https://www.savannahnow.com/article/20070904/NEWS/309049903

24. https://psychologydictionary.org/halo-effect/

 

POLITICAL OPINIONS #61- The Diamond-Water Paradox. An Economic Puzzle.

Introduction:

Per the  Oxford Dictionary Value is defined as:

“…. 1. The regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something.

2. The material or monetary worth of something… ” [3].

The first definition of the term Value is more categorically aligned with a qualitative application of the term. The second definition is more of a reflection of a quantitative assessment of value through the assignment of monetary value. While qualitative and quantitive expression of the concept of value is to some degree separated, they are not mutually exclusive. The correlation between the two is actually quite salient. Almost always, when goods and services are qualitatively high in value they come at a high price.

However, the question does resignation of how do we as a society assess the value of goods and services? An even more pertinent question being is this assessment ever erroneous?  It is severely difficult to ascertain if the commodities we value over other goods is done so in fallacy. Mainly because there is a certain amount of subjective always attached to assessing value. This aspect of the process of making attributions is epitomized by the idiom “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” [4]. Exemplifying the fact that the validity of the indispensable nature of subjectivity in the process of judgment is solidified in conventional wisdom. Even though to many the subjectivity that encompasses judgment is so evident it is merely obtuse to even address it. Certainly, a truth about behavior and reasoning that goes unspoken and is seemingly innate.

The assessment of the qualitative value of one brand of sneakers over another being reflected by the monetary value seems like a trivial comparison. Neither one of the two goods in the comparison are crucial for our survival. It is apparent that the price difference and judgment of value between the two pairs of sneakers could be based on consumer preference. What if we were to make a comparison between a commodity that is essential to sustaining life and the other being a luxury product?  For example, the value of a fine Single malt Whisky in comparison to an antibiotic. Let’s say in theory the Whisky costs more than the antibiotic, is something askew here? Or better yet why is it that the luxury commodity of diamonds so vastly more costly or valuable than water?  Water a resource we cannot live without, under extreme circumstances death could result after several hours without it [5]. This very quandary is regarding the value of goods is manifested in Adam Smith’s dilemma of the Diamond Water Paradox.

The Diamond Water Paradox which was formulated by the moral philosopher of the Scottish Enlightenment Adam Smith. Smith brilliantly defended free-market capitalism in his premiere masterpiece  The Wealth of Nations (1776). Despite his contributions to economics and moral philosophy, he was never able to come to a resolution to this problem within his lifetime [6]. Over the years this economic puzzle has been renamed under the moniker of  Theory of Value. Posthumously, several other schools of thought presume to have the answer to Smith’s dilemma.  While the two economic perspectives are diametrically opposed, I will present and examine both perspectives.

DIAMOND WATER PARADOX:

While several schools of economic thought purport to have the resolution to Smith’s quandary,  his befuddlement isn’t so outlandish. The fact of water, a life-sustaining resource, costing less than the luxury good of diamonds is counterintuitive. It certainly is not capricious grapple with this paradox considering the axioms presented above. When submerging yourself into this question you are confronted by oblique logic. It becomes evident that potentially our attribution of monetary value may be independent of the significance of the commodity. Clearly, a bottle of cognac can be sold at a higher retail price than a bag of spinach. However, the bag of spinach contains more nutrients than the bottle of cognac. The deeper you become entrenched in this logical puzzle, the more perplexing it becomes.

When assessing this paradox it might lead one to believe that we as a society are misprioritizing our goods.  The partner does appear to be those luxury goods and other nonessentials at times cost more than essentials. However, this isn’t always the case and becomes a much more convoluted inquiry when we veer off into this direction. However, we should engage in examing this inquiry because the Diamond-Water Paradox is still a contested problem to this day. It comes in the form of many manifestations. If we do not understand how market prices are assessed we will still continue to suffer much confusion.

In our modern world, we are still plagued by the same issue that Smith grappled with nearly three hundred years ago.  Commonly you will hear the sanctimoniously echoing sentiment of the fallacy of how a reality television star makes more money than first responders.  Another example is the significant and rapidly deepening gulf between the compensation between teachers and professional athletes [7]. Both examples are modern manifestations of the Diamond-Water Paradox. The sense of outrage and cognitive dissonance implied in both examples illustrates that even in modern times we are still struggling with this logical issue. Due to the lack of comprehension and critical analysis of the assessment of pricing such perceived injustices seem astonishingly jarring. Expression of such grievances provides little insight into this phenomenon nor does it provide any solutions.

Considering how easily applicable this paradox is to modern affairs it is a testament to its enduring nature. Smith was hardly contemplating the equity of compensation. Back in the 1700s highly consolidated and government bulwarked unions did not exist in the same capacity they do now. The real powerful government supported unions did not come to fruition until the 1920s and 1930s in the United States [8]. Smith was examining this phenomenon of pricing in a slightly less complex world. However, he at least was postulating about the mechanisms of pricing. He purposed that a commodity was worth the amount of labor exerted to create or obtain the goods or service[9].  Smith was also prudent enough to point out some of the fallacies inherent in his own view of value assessment.  As Smith asserts that when comparing goods produced by two different types of labor it is difficult to determine if they are equal [10]. Due to the number of varying contingencies and qualitative differences.

Beyond his interpretation of the production value of goods and services he also directly addresses the paradox in his Magnus Opus The Wealth of Nations.  Smith makes the distinction that there are two types of value appraisals for goods and services.  The first being “Value of Use” which is in direct reference to the utility of a commodity.  The second being the  ” Exchange Value” of a commodity or purchasing power.  His explanation indicating water having a significant amount of utility due to it being essential for survival.  Diamond having a  significant  “Exchange Value”  due to the number of goods you can exchange diamonds for (high purchasing power) [11] [12]. Unfortunately, Smith does not have a satisfactory rationale for why this discrepancy exists. Even in light of it boarding on the line of absurdity if taken from a linear interpretation.

THE AUSTRIAN SOLUTION:

The lack of alignment between “Value of Use” and “Exchange Value” requires an analysis of what is qualitatively different between these two variables. It would be innate to think that they are to some extent interconnected or even correlated. It is possible that even the two varieties of value appraisals are independent of one another. Despite how far off course we can veer attempting to solve the disconnect, there are theorists that have already composed solutions.

The thinkers and intellectual theorists of the Austrian School of Economics approach the Diamond-Water Paradox with heterodoxy. The true irony is that the Austrian theory of Imputation/ Subjective Theory of Value is somewhat self-evident and accessible through detective reasoning. The hegemony of scientific thought has caused the inculcation of empiricism to most educated individuals. Biasing our perspectives to the extent of overlooking a priori information. It is important to remember that economics isn’t congruent with the natural sciences. The empirical method is inapplicable to economics it is would be erroneous to apply to the social sciences [14]. Much of economic behavior cannot be explained through material validation of experiments but through formal logic [15].

The Subjective Theory of Value does not derive the value of goods based or other costs of production. Rather the monetary value is ascribed by the perceived importance by the consumer [16]. However, the perceived value of a commodity or service does not remain constant. The more of a good the consumer has the greater the aptitude the good has already satisfied the consumers most pertinent needs. Each subsequent acquisition of the specific good is then utilized for less important uses. In a sense, the good becomes less valuable the more the consumers need for it has become satiated. This principle is known as the Law of Marginal Utility. [17] [18] It should be quite conspicuous how it dovetails to the Law of Supply and Demand. Due to the observed and enduring fact that the scarcity does influence the value of a good. From the vantage point of the Austrian School, the determination of the change in value is made by the consumer.

Ludwig Von Mises one of the defining and premier theorists within the Austrian tradition sheds much light upon the topic of value in his masterpiece Human Action. A quintessential book and a milestone to the advancement of Austrian Economic thought. Mises surmises that the value of goods is derived through action. This implicit fact is demonstrated through the act of exchange. If we are willing to trade X amount of one commodity for another it can be assumed that we value the commodity we obtained more than the one that was exchanged. An order of value created without the aid of any formal calculations [19].This notion gives credence to the possibility that goods are valued on a subjective level and this is punctuated economic behavior.

Above all Mises along with all following Austrian theorists perceives value as being a subjective attribution. However, it should be noted that the subjective theory of value was not conceived by Mises as it was Carl Menger the founder of the Austrian school that formulated this premise. What I would state is that Mises elaborated on the concept and further refined it. Beyond the circumstantial contingencies of prevalence and scarcity. Mises describes value as being:

“Value is the importance that acting man attaches to ultimate ends.
Only to ultimate ends is primary and original value assigned. Means are
valued derivatively according to their serviceableness in contributing
to the attainment of ultimate ends. Their valuation is derived from the
valuation of the respective ends. They are important for man only
as far as they make it possible for him to attain some ends.
Value is not intrinsic, it is not in things. It is within us….” [20]

Ultimately  Mises is pointing to the fact that commodities and services are only valuable because we perceive them as being so. Whether or not an individual finds goods to be valuable is reflected in their actions which is the physical manifestation of choices. In a sense contemplation of choices is still a form of action just on a metaphysical level. Generally, the value we attach to goods and services is connected to our end goal objectives we try to achieve by obtaining the goods. When an individual purchases a luxury car, it may be due to its superior performance or the fact that it is considered a status symbol. If the individual seeks to achieve one of these goals or “ultimate ends” and believes that procuring the vehicle will satisfy their goal they will make the purchase [21].

One pertinent question that arises from a potential blindspot within the subjective theory of value is pricing. If everyone has a subjectively determined monetary assessment of specific goods how do we arrive at the MSRP? As with any commodity, whether it is a candy bar or a Ferrari, there is a range of acceptable prices for the good. There are certain circumstances that can influence the parameters of whether the selling price goes from the higher or lower end of the bell curve [22]. Competition among sellers and consumers greatly impacts the selling price of a good. There are a plethora of rules that address how seller pricing and the consumer’s attribution of the price influence the final selling price. This a topic that is extremely nuanced I could dedicate an entry blog entry to it.  One example that illustrates this point is in the circumstance of isolated exchange. A circumstance where the consumer wants a good at a certain price, but not enough to surpass their subjectively determined amount. The seller has a specified dollar to sell the good at that is within the acceptable pricing range that may be lower than what the consumer is willing to purchase the commodity for. The price will be determined by which of the two individuals are more adroit at the art of bargaining [23].

It must be quite salient at this point that the Austrian School of Economics sees value as being determined by the perceptions of the consumer. If you place an inordinately high (beyond market price)price on a commodity it will not sell! However, how does the Subjective theory of value precisely seek to solve the Diamond-Water Paradox? Prior to the Austrian interpretation of utility, theorists were stuck due to the fact that water is more important than diamonds. To further compound the matter Labor theory failed to consider how a valuable commodity such as diamonds could be obtained in a happenstance manner. An example being discovering a diamond on a hike [16]. Certainly would not be any testament to the units of labor exhausted to obtain that very diamond. An individual faced with  “… the choice between definite quantities of goods..” the individual then chooses which set of goods will satiate the highest ranking goal which is subjectively determined by the individual [16].  If an individual chooses to make wine with grapes versus eating the grapes it can be inferred to that individual that their need to make wine outweighed their need to consume the grapes. The production of alcohol is an excellent example of this principle. It has been speculated that the production of spirits started off as a means of utilizing surplus produce. This would reflect the luxury of delayed consumption.

LABOR THEORY OF VALUE:

The Labor Theory of Value is arguably the antithesis of the Subjective Theory of Value favored by the Austrian School of economics. While the Labor Theory of Value has been adopted by other economic perspectives is synonymous with Marxism. Stands to reason considering the Marxist propensity to exacerbate class envy and see economic trade as an exploitative practice [25]. I would personally argue that such a perspective obtusely ignores many of the positive externalities of unfettered trade.  That aside, I believe it is important to understand the ethos behind the economic movement that developed this interpretation of value. Without such contextual information, we do not have any context for what engendered such ideas to spawn. Especially considering it is seen as being one of the major intellectual pillars of the Marxism [26].

The basis for the Labor Theory of Value does appear a little more linear and more in line with our explicit understanding. In contrast, the Subjective Theory of Value is more innate to our sensibilities, per the prism of our social conditioning, we have been trained to believe the situation is more complex than it really. Therefore requiring more detailed and extensive justification. The Roots of Labor theory of value stretch back to Karl Marx book Capital. [26]. It could be argued that the true genesis of Labor Theory came from Adam Smith, however, his explanation was not as robust [27]. So for all intensive purposes, the progenitor of this theory is Marx.  In his book, Marx asserts that the value of a commodity can be objectively determined by the number of hours it takes to produce the goods [26]. Leading to the assumption that the more hours put into production the more valuable the commodity is.

Marx referred to the amount of labor that one into the production of a good as the commodity of labor power.  He viewed that the correct wage to the worker for there expended labor would be enough to cover their basic necessities. However, no more than that again it is well known that Marxism in its purest forms relinquishes private property. No point in earning in more compensation than what is required for sustaining life. Even if the profession is a more productive and capital intensive job. Marx takes a twisted turn into his explanation of how entrepreneurs earn a profit, even when that runs contrary to his thesis of proper compensation. He asserts that this a parasitic relationship where the surplus value of the workers is extracted by management and capitalist. In a direct sense, they relish the spoils of the toils of the common worker. Marx further expounded upon this perceived inequality by fixating on the alienation caused by this and other asymmetrical aspects of capitalism [26] [27] It can be argued Marx was merely being antagonistic without any genuine concern for the sorrows of the common worker.

There is one profoundly gaping hole in the panoply of the Marxist appeal for the Labor Theory of value. That is the fact that it cannot be consistently and evenly applied to all circumstances of production. As we mentioned earlier with the example of finding a diamond on a hike would exert less ” labor power” than obtaining one via traditional mining methods [16]. However, does the means of procuring a diamond make that specific diamond less valuable? The obvious answer would be no. Another example would be the difference between the price of a loaf of bread from a grocery store versus a convenience store. The amount of labor exerted to make a mass-produced loaf of bread would not vary based on the vendor that sells. Rather it would appear that the consumer is paying more for the convenience of being able to pick up the item from Seven Eleven versus the grocery store. The consumer views this price difference to be adequate due to quick access. However, this acceptance by the consumer is based on a subjective inference manifested in purchasing choices. This is no indication of any difference in regards to production.

SOURCES:

  1. https://peterclark7979.wixsite.com/website/home/political-opinions-61-the-diamond-water-paradox-an-economic-puzzle
  2. https://vimeo.com/321132324
  3. https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/value
  4. https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/yotam_ottolenghi_606729
  5. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-long-can-the-average/
  6. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Austrian-school-of-economics#ref725579
  7. https://fee.org/articles/in-praise-of-athletes-high-salaries/
  8. https://www.mackinac.org/2303
  9.  Smith, Adam. The Wealth of Nations, Originally Published (1776),  Digital, Metalibri, (2007), p. 28
  10. Smith, Adam. The Wealth of Nations, Originally Published (1776),  Digital, Metalibri, (2007), p. 29
  11. Smith, Adam. The Wealth of Nations, Originally Published (1776),  Digital, Metalibri, (2007), p. 26
  12. https://www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/032615/how-can-marginal-utility-explain-diamondwater-paradox.asp
  13. https://youtu.be/e7S8jWh6AEs ( Diamond-Water Paradox value video)
  14. Hoppe, Hans-Herman. Economic Science and The Austrian Method (1995), Published by Ludwig Von Mises Institue. P. 35
  15. Hoppe, Hans-Herman. Economic Science and The Austrian Method (1995), Published by Ludwig Von Mises Institue. P. 25
  16. https://wiki.mises.org/wiki/Subjective_theory_of_value
  17. https://fee.org/articles/to-be-a-happy-person-understand-marginal-utility/
  18. https://mises.org/library/mises-marginalism
  19.  Mises, Ludwig Von. Human Action:  The Scholar’s Edition (1949), Published by Ludwig Von Mises Institue, Reprint 1998. P. 120.
  20.  Mises, Ludwig Von. Human Action:  The Scholar’s Edition (1949), Published by Ludwig Von Mises Institue, Reprint 1998. P. 96.
  21. Mises, Ludwig Von. Human Action:  The Scholar’s Edition (1949), Published by Ludwig Von Mises Institue, Reprint 1998. P. 95.
  22. Greaves JR., Percy L.  Understanding The Dollar Crisis (1973), Published by Western Islands, P 76.
  23. Greaves JR., Percy L.  Understanding The Dollar Crisis (1973), Published by Western Islands, P 77.
  24. https://youtu.be/qUrP9spONAQ (Subjective theory of Value Video)
  25.  Marx, Karl & Engles, Fredrick. Manifesto of the Communist Party (1848). P. 14
  26. https://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/Marxism.html
  27. https://fee.org/articles/were-still-haunted-by-the-labor-theory-of-value/
  28. https://youtu.be/AV4yTgPCHHg ( Labor Theory Video)

POLITICAL OPINIONS#60: ENVIRONMENTALISM & SOCIALISM

INTRODUCTION:

 

It is easy to operate under the assumption of knowing a person’s stance on one political issue we have a window to the entirety of their ideological convictions. Much can be said for how certain political beliefs are highly correlated with other supporting political and non-political philosophical tenants.  The congruency of being a social conservative, Pro-life, religiosity, and supporting the political views of  Pat Buchanan seems to be logically sound. However,  not all correlations of political beliefs are that epistemologically linear and are sometimes are more conceptually nuanced. For example, the anti-war demonstrator who is pro-choice when it comes to the controversial topic of abortion.  Anytime you analyze the definition of human life in the abortion debate the topic quickly devolves into a semantical tightrope walk.  One where operational definitions of human life are subjected to veracity tested filtered through philosophical, legal, scientific, and even biblical literature. However, conservatives have their own cognitive dissonance tested when confronted with the prospect of being Pro-life, but defending just war doctrines or state-sanctioned executions.

 

While such distinctions can easily be settled on the grounds of oversimplification of the issue,  sometimes that seems to be too dismissive of an answer.  While philosophical nuance can explain oblique congruency with seemingly incompatible ideas couldn’t there also be other factors at play? In recent years the sense of increased attachment to ideological labels and institutions. There have even been studies conducted where individuals rejected policy proposals fitting into their political view just because they were told it was supported by the opposing party [3].  A 2016  study demonstrated “…Activation of the posterior medial parietal cortex is also consistent with another study of motivated reasoning in politics…” when faced with unfavorable information about a favored political candidate [4]. Given some physiological insight why we attempt to justify supporting politically incompatible views.

 

The social, psychological, and biological factors behind these phenomena are certainly engaging, however, I could write an entire book addressing these issues. However, I have other objectives at hand. What really inspired this blog entry was an observation made after reading up on the ” Green New Deal” being purposed by a certain junior congresswoman who shall go unnamed. I at that moment noticed a strong correlation between support for socialist economic policy and environmentalism.  A correlation so pronounced there is even a splinter form of socialism known as eco-socialism [5].  Now I am not going to resort to the sophomorically inserting anti-socialism MEMES into my blog post and crafting an obtuse polemic devolving into patronizing diatribes.  Rather explore a legitimate inquiry into the philosophical framework of environmentalism.

 

My main inquiry is why environmentalism is so strongly correlated to socialist economic policies? In environmentalist circles, the perils of manipulating certain variables are well noted and cited. However, can’t the same be said for the American Economy?  The burst of the 2008 Housing Bubble engendered by artificially low-interest rates [6] [7]. I would state that an institution such as the Federal Reserve manipulating mortgage interest rates would be analogous to housing development or population killing off a major food source in an ecosystem’s food-chain. As any environmentalist will tell you such a disruption will have truly pernicious ramifications for every life form in that environment. So why it is so outlandish to apply the same concept to our economy?  When we generally attempt to implement pricing control, increase the minimum wage, and subsidize production in select industries all have unforeseen and typically detrimental consequences.  While such thinking is in direct confrontation with the left-wing leaning sentiments of environmentalism it does not have conflict. The idea of not disturbing the natural order can be extrapolated and applied to environmentalism as well as economics.  However, there is ample tribalism and the maneuvering of confirmation bias that will make such a notion far-fetched.

 

COMPLEX SYSTEMS:

Both a natural ecosystem and the American Economy (or any nation’s economy for that matter) operates as a complex system.  A complex system  is defined as:

” …. any system featuring a large number of interacting components (agents, processes, etc.) whose aggregate activity is nonlinear (not derivable from the summations of the activity of individual components) and typically exhibits hierarchical self-organization under selective pressures. ” [8].

Essentially an entity comprised of a multitude of different interacting variable. There is a self-organized hierarchy or natural order created by the components and their interaction.  It should also be noted that the components of a complex system are extremely interdependent [9]. Meaning that if you alter the input on one variable it impacts every other variable within a complex system.  Which explains why in an ecosystem you take away one food source it causes an imbalance. Some species of plants, animals, or microorganisms will overpopulate the environmental. In contrast, some will either face extinction or die off. In any complex system, the line between equilibrium and chaos is razor thin.

While it is easy to associate a biome in the natural world as a complex system. What constitutes a complex system extends beyond that mere example. Essentially any entity with a self-arranged order, composed of an interacting variable, and the effects of alteration can be easily measured or predicted, constitutes a complex system. For instance, examples of social complex systems range from  ” … ant colonies, families, and nations…” [10]. This also includes economies as well. There is a natural flow or cadence to the hierarchy and functions of transactions in economic behavior. Beyond just how the intervention of taxes, tariffs, price controls, etc causes disturbances and the market tends to work around such barriers, most factors are set by market behavior.

If you are familiar with the Austrian School of economics you may be aware of the theory of subjective value, the Austrian theory of value, the theory of imputation, etc.  This theory of pricing goes by a myriad of different monikers. Essentially it addresses Adam Smith’s Diamond-Water Paradox of marginal utility [13]. Essentially the subjective assessment of the value of a scarce commodity is determined by the market or the buyer [12].  Versus the price being derived from the costs of production which tend to be the assumption of the classical school of economics [11].  One real-life example of Austrian pricing theory that I have some experience with is purchasing goods and services for a wedding.  Standard napkins you would purchase for a dinner party tend to be less expensive than those that have the words “wedding” on the label. For all intensive purposes, the cost of production is the same, however, what accounts for the difference in price. The only rational way to view this difference is that the consumer is willing to pay the higher price for the “wedding” napkins if not there would be no price difference. The difference in price demonstrates the higher perceived value by the consumer.

Now I am not trying to convert anyone to the Austrian School of Economics, however, many of the theories within this school do an excellent job of explaining the natural order of pricing in the market. Demonstrating that natural flow and cadence solidifies the fact that the economy is a complex system. One that is comprised of a myriad of economic transactions and behaviors.  One that one you alter one variable either for good intentions or other motives creates nonlinear counterreactions that cannot be easily controlled. Similar to how in a biome there are natural predators and prey, pricing in the economic market is determined by the market. Darwin theory of  Natural Selection reverts right back to the self-selecting nature of complex systems [14]. Similar to how gene selection is determined by surviving long enough to copulate economies have their own self-selection process. Markets being consumer driven, economic conditions are at the mercy of their subjective attribution of price and perception of the value of goods and services offered. If a producer cannot adapt to market conditions the odds of failure are almost inevitable.

 

Considering the evidence presented, the overlap between economic environments and those in the natural world is quite resounding. The plethora of commonalities validates the theory of Complex Systems at a conceptual level. Both are self-organizing, interconnected variable interaction with one another, and alteration of one variable impacts all others.

 

Seeing how this concept can be extrapolated and applied makes me question the alliance between socialistic economic policy and environmentalism. Beyond the microcosm of the subculture of environmentalism, socialism abroad has garnered more support. The results of a political poll conducted in August of 2018 revealed that sixty percent of Democrats polled viewed socialism favorably [15]. However, such numbers do not exactly speak to the views of the average voter.  But within environmentalism, there has been a longstanding ethos against capitalism. A bias stemming from the perception that damage to the environment being a byproduct of capitalistic greed [16]. Making the natural reciprocal of Socialism appealing. Former Green Party Presidential Candidate Jill Stein’s platform had a plethora of initiatives intensive on economic central planning and redistributive policies [17].

My question becomes if you understand disrupting natural environments is detrimental, why isn’t the same true for the American economy? The counterargument can be made that we need government involvement to correct for the environmental blunders of man. The initial problem was engendered by disruption of a naturally occurring variable. Trying to correct for the blemishes of a capitalistic society through welfare initiatives also disrupts natural order. Could be viewed as being analogous to dumping toxic waste into a stream. Both demonstrate a lack of foresight and have a litany of adverse ramifications.

 

SPONTANEOUS ORDER:

Not to beat a dead horse here, however, I would also like to incorporate the concept of Spontaneous order into this discourse. While it may feel as if I have exhaustively expounded upon the parallels between the American economy and natural environments, the matter still remains unresolved.  The concept of Spontaneous order really bridges any remaining gaps between the social and natural worlds, in regards to external meddling.

 

The idea of spontaneous order was conceptualized by Nobel prize-winning Austrian Economist F.A. Hayek. The idea is derived from the concept of the “Invisible-hand” which was contrived by the Moral Philosopher Adam Smith. Smith argued that “… society developed from a spontaneous order which was the result of human action but not of human design…”. Hayek expanded upon this notion by stating that while reason and logic have facilitated human development, society was too complex to be methodically planned bit by bit. Hayek also speculated that many who dismissed the premise of spontaneous order did so by being hung up on the dichotomy of chaos (unplanned)  and order (planned). When in actuality economies belong to a third category where there are rules, self-organized, and “… increase in complexity in a way that would not be fully understood…” [18].

It is analogous to the development of human language. While there are rules predicating verb conjugation, syntax, etc these rules were not consciously contrived by one person. But rather spontaneously arose in the absence of human design [19]. There is also the skating rink example which parallels the unwritten rules of the driver. Example being the right of way rule at a 4-way stop. In the skating rink example, if you were to be a ruler and were to build a skating rink you would assume you would need to install speed limit signs, traffic lights, etc to ensure safety [20, 21]. It could be said that you ” … can’t expect skaters to navigate the rink on their own…” because you need rules and agents to enforce those rules [20]. However, the skaters seem to manage to do so it is not the result of intentional planning  [20, 21].

 

In social systems such as economies, we cannot adequately plan them what makes us think we are capable of doing so with the complex systems of the natural world.  In sense exploring the idea of spontaneous order illustrates how economies are not conscious design nor are natural biomes. Any attempt to intervene or plan either would merely be more detrimental than beneficial as you are attempting to control entities that have a nonlinear result from such measures. While I do see how transgressive acts such as littering and dumping toxic waste as pernicious and as negative they are more a variable of human meddling than a lack of government oversight. For one, both acts are examples of manipulation of variables by human choice. Second being, even in light of regulations and punitive sanctions people still chose to litter. While such measures have the best intentions it cannot change the fact that people possess free will with limitations. Overall, erroneous choices exist regardless of the existence of regulation. Unless someone can demonstrate that such regulations reduce such actions on a statistically significant level, see them as nothing more than futile. However, if we shouldn’t be hunting a species out of extinction, why is it okay raise the minimum wage to the point that fast-food workers are replaced by machines because it is no longer solvent to keep them employed?  Both demonstrate how intentions do not always match results.

 

DISCUSSION:

 

For the record, I am not attempting to proselytize anyone to the virtues of Libertarianism or of Austrian School of Economics. Rather, I am expressing an interesting conceptual connection between social and environmental systems. I would purport that if we shouldn’t be upsetting the equilibrium in one, we should not be doing the same in the other. Which is why I am expressing my confusion regarding the strong correlation between environmentalism and socialism. If you comprehend the perils of variable manipulation in the natural world, why wouldn’t it apply to the social world? The American economy as with any economy is most certainly a social complex system.  An economy is comprised of economic behavior through the manifestation of exchanges. So if spontaneous order applies to both the natural and social world any attempt to artificially manipulate it would a mere hindrance. The underlying cadence or implicit law being the laws and theories of biology for the natural world and social laws whether written or intuitively understood. For example, the Law of Supply and Demand in economics.

 

However, many would argue that I am fundamentally mistaken by questioning the alliance between socialism and environmentalism. It does seem as if there is a strong preference for government involvement in correcting for the damage that has already been done. Due to the assumption that a lack of regulation led to the current environmental conditions. Which would to some extent nullify my argument.  Especially when you consider the current trajectory of using governmental bodies and alliances to grapple with issues such as global warming, early forerunner being the Kyoto Protocol. One of the first of the global attempts at addressing the issue [22]. The current trajectory of the environmental movement is to remedy issue through the consolidation of governmental power, now even at a global level.

 

While such patterns give Right-leaning conspiracy theorists new avenues of intrigue to exhaust, I do not believe that this is a massive conspiracy. Rather a misguided attempt through using international governance structures to eliminate a problem that cannot be solved. Especially when a lot of these agreements appear to be a typical ceremonial formality.  China signed the Paris Climate accord back in 2016, however, are they taking this commitment seriously ? [23] The United States has decreased carbon dioxide emissions by 800 million tons annually over the past decade. While China emits more than the United States and EU combined, currently Asia accounts for 50 percent of the world’s emissions [24]. China is the major contributor. Another example of how the good intentions of government involvement do not necessarily yield results. Also, this agreement would only work if all the major contributors took it seriously. In my uneducated opinion, I do not believe China would risk the economic impact of complying with the agreement. I am pretty sure there is more of a profit over principle paradigm at work.

 

As you may remember, I discussed the notion of coping with cognitive dissonance and tribal political behavior. If the premise of preservation is extrapolated from environmentalism it, in theory, can be applied to social systems. Economies included. Preservation in the sense of not manipulating naturally occurring cycles. It can be stated that I am merely transposing my libertarian perspective to a set of ideas that are incompatible with such thinking. Whether or not the prospect of limited government and environmentalism can coexist in the pantheon of ideas is a matter of perspective. Much of that speculation is contingent on examining the tenants of both paradigms. Much can be said for the notion of environmentalism being tied socialized economical policies through the concept of justice. Utilizing government institutions to amend the evils and perceived fallacies of man.

 

The leftism and emphasis on artificially stacking the deck to even the wrongs of the world do not matter of conforming to tribalism, but rather the status quo of liberal environmentalists.  Due to the strong emphasis on social and environmental justice (in a sense both are conceptual kissing cousins) the hard leftist tendencies are right on base for this microcosm of the left. If anything the standard left of center democrat is shifting more towards the hard left in regards to policy and ethos.  So if anything the philosophical pillars of the ecologically conscious left are infiltrating the mainstream democratic party. The Environmentalist/ Progressive sect of the liberalism appears to be the prime mover pushing the pendulum of liberal thought versus accommodating itself to the mainstream democratic party. Making the issue of tribal conformity and ideological veering towards the extremes the victimhood of the democratic party.  In this era of instruction politics, it is common to see both Republicans and Democrats moving towards the extremes of the ideological bell curve.

 

Now I am intrigued by one environmentalist movement that may be a step in the right direction. However, I have not done much in the way of research on this microcosm of environmentalism, that is the Free-market Environmentalism. Example being the Clean Capitalist  Coalition being concerned with being more environmentally conscious without stifling economic growth [25]. While I still need to do some further research on this movement, it does look like a potential compromise to the current socialist-environmentalism paradigm. I need to to do more investigating before I can endorse this perspective. However, it may be a measure and appropriate compromise.

 

 

 

SOURCES:

[1].https://peterclark7979.wixsite.com/website/home/political-opinions-60-environmentalism-socialism

[2].https://youtu.be/rh_Featv0gA

[3]. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/bias-fundamentals/201806/tribalism-in-politics

[4]. https://www.nature.com/articles/srep39589

[5] http://ecosocialisthorizons.com/ecosocialism/

[6] https://www.forbes.com/sites/richardsalsman/2013/09/19/the-financial-crisis-was-a-failure-of-government-not-free-markets/#77ca2bd451c3

[7] https://fee.org/articles/how-the-federal-government-created-the-subprime-mortgage-crisis/

[8] https://www.informatics.indiana.edu/rocha/publications/complex/csm.html

[9].https://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/complexsystems/introduction.html#interdependence

[10]. http://www.thwink.org/sustain/glossary/ComplexSocialSystem.htm

[11]. https://mises.org/library/marginal-utility-not-rocket-science

[12] https://mises.org/library/subjective-value-theory

[13] https://www.britannica.com/topic/diamond-water-paradox

[14] https://www.biology-online.org/dictionary/Natural_selection

[15] https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/onpolitics/2018/08/14/democrats-prefer-socialism-capitalism-gallup-poll/988558002/

[16]. https://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/Why-Do-Environmentalists-Hate-Capitalism.html

[17]. https://www.jill2016.com/plan

[18] https://www.minneapolisfed.org/publications/the-region/hayeks-legacy-of-the-spontaneous-order

[19]. https://www.forbes.com/sites/billconerly/2017/10/30/business-planning-with-austrian-economics-spontaneous-order/#4d335d9380d0

[20]. https://fee.org/articles/spontaneous-order/

[21]. https://reason.com/archives/2011/02/10/spontaneous-order

[22] https://www.iep.utm.edu/envi-eth/#H3

[23]https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-37265541

[24] https://www.forbes.com/sites/rrapier/2018/07/01/china-emits-more-carbon-dioxide-than-the-u-s-and-eu-combined/#5d136096628c

[25] https://www.forbes.com/sites/waynewinegarden/2018/09/28/free-market-environmentalism/#65c74a991f1a

POLITICAL OPINIONS #59: ELECTORAL COLLEGE

 

 

INTRODUCTION:

 

Even at its infancy, the democratic process had its critics pointing out its inherent flaws and inefficiencies. Even the legendary classical philosopher Socrates cast his doubts and cynicism regarding democratic forms of government. Per the Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

 

“… Socrates “suggests that [the rulers] need to tell the citizens a myth that should be believed by subsequent generations in order for everyone to accept his position in the city”—and to accept the legitimacy of the rulers. The myth—like modern scientific racism and eugenics—divides the citizenry into an essential hierarchy, which Socrates symbolizes by the metals gold, silver, and bronze…” [3].

 

This interpretation of the Socratic stance on democracy demonstrates the longstanding debate on its innate flaws and failings as a form of government. Socrates had company in his follow classical intellectuals including Thucydides known for his historical accounts of the Peloponnesian War. While the criticisms of the classical thinkers may not necessarily be 100 percent applicable to the contemporary American political landscape it does demonstrate that even at its genesis democracy has at its critics.

 

Few Americans would call for the just but totalitarian rule advocated in Plato’s Republic, but rather a different critique has emerged in recent years. Over the years the speculation of institutional failures of democracy in American has become more salient. Particularly in regards to the role of the electoral college in the presidential election. While there has been a myriad of armchair pundits who apathetically chose not to participate in the democratic process due to the electorate, it is now starting to gain some mainstream traction.  The 2000 Presidential Election engendered a significant amount of controversy due to Republican Presidential candidate losing the popular vote, but obtaining the support from the electoral college [4]. While certainly scintillating to many voters not quite at the level of being a full-on flash point.  The public outrage in regards to the electoral vote superseding the popular came to a head after the 2016 election.

 

In the 2016 election, when Donald J. Trump, reminiscent of the 2000 election, won the electorate and lost the popular vote. Which spawned a wide range of investigations ranging from foreign meddling to manipulation of website and social media algorithms [5]. However, I am not composing this blog entry to address such inquiries. I am looking to address whether or not on any rational level we should keep the electoral college.  Per the results of 2016 of a Gallup opinion polls shows that the there was a sharp increase in the number of Americans that believe we should keep the electoral college, that number is still merely 47 percent [6]. Still more than half of the country is in favor of abolishment; therefore, it may be advantageous to explore alternatives. However, I will present evidence from both sides of the argument and then attempt to draw some rational conclusions.

 

Just a disclaimer, I am not addressing this issue out of any partisanship or other motives. I am merely attempting to grapple with a difficult and controversial matter of federal policy and governmental institutions.  Regardless of whether going forward, it is conspicuously evident that the electoral college needs to be abandoned in favor of direct elections, it would be petty to retroactively take action against past presidents. However, I do find it interesting that whenever this issue does come back to prevalence, no one wants to have a serious conversation about policy, but rather shout a linear “Get Rid of its Mantra”. These same individuals did not call for reform when politicians of their preferred political affiliation got elected into the oval office.  In other words, this will be a serious discourse on policy versus a Trump and Bush bashing session.  For anyone who does oppose the electoral college when it is convenient to do so may want to actually think about the issue on a less superficial level.

 

BACKGROUND:

 

The Electoral college was established in Article II, Section I of the United States Constitution, yes it is  Constitutionally legal. Most states have a requirement that the electorate must go with the candidate that received the “plurality ‘of the vote[ 7]. Twenty-six states have a process where they “bind” the electorate to vote for the candidate they pledge to vote for, enforced by fines and oaths. Faithless electors are ones that vote against their pledged candidate, which has happened in 1948, 1956, 1960,1968, 1972,1976,1988 elections. A blank ballot was cast for Colorado in 2000 and seven electorates broke away from the popular vote in 2016. Since 1887  per 3 U.S.C. 15  implement procedure for objections to electoral votes.  Which much be presented in writing with a signature from one senator and representative, a joint meeting being held in Congress.  There are two on record objections 1969 and 2005, both were rejected. There have been two Constitutional amendments related to the  President and Vice president. The 23rd amendment ratified in 1961 where the District of Columbia was granted three electorates [7].

 

 

 

WHY NOT DIRECT ELECT:

 

It is fair on a basic rational level to question the validity of having the final result of the Presidential election determined by an institutional body rather than the voters. However, few who express their ire for the quiddity of such perceived injustice ask what the reasoning is for having the electoral college in place.  While the founder fathers were far from perfect morally, I hardly believe they would haphazardly implement restrictive policy with no rationale. Especially when you consider their recent extrication from the claws of English colonial rule. I am going to dare to ask the question that seems to elude many and what is the true purpose of the electoral college and are they a possible safeguard for the democratic process?

 

In a very general sense, there are two key reasons why the drafters of the United States Constitution built-in the institution of the electoral college. The first reason being as creating a safeguard between the Presidential selection process and the voting public. The second was to work as an equalizing force to give more balanced voting representation to states that have lower populations [8]. The safeguard between the voters and the selection process is justified in the  Federalist papers, it is speculated that this section was written by founder James Madison [8].  Madison wrote Federalist Papers #68:

 

“…. The process of election affords a moral certainty, that the office of President will never fall to a lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications. Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity, may alone suffice to elevate a man to the first honors in a single State; but it will require other talents, and a different kind of merit, to establish him in the esteem and confidence of the whole Union, or of so considerable a portion of it as would be necessary to make him a successful candidate for the distinguished office of President of the United States. It will not be too strong to say, that there will be a constant probability of seeing the station filled by characters pre-eminent for ability and virtue. And this will be thought no inconsiderable recommendation of the Constitution, by those who are able to estimate the share which the executive in every government must necessarily have in its good or ill administration. Though we cannot acquiesce in the political heresy of the poet who says: “For forms of government let fools contest That which is best administered is best,” yet we may safely pronounce, that the true test of a good government is its aptitude and tendency to produce a good administration…” [9].

 

In a sense, the founders feared the tyranny would hijack the voting interest of the public and erode the integrity of the democratic process. As grandiose and abstract as that sounds, essentially, they are conveying that the electorate is a barrier between external manipulation influencing voter behavior. Considering the dismally low literacy rates of the voting public back when the Federalist Papers were drafted it does seem a little more valid. However, it may not be a stretch to say that their high amount of veracity to keeping this institutional safeguard in the present day. While most Americans are literate in the direct sense, we do have new modern threats to the external influence of voter behavior. Threats include excessive campaign advertisements funded by political action committees, lobbyists, and even data collection and algorithms directing the user to specific kinds of media content. Just remember the whole Cambridge Analytica controversy and you get a pristine picture of the last example. Which really illustrates how the tools of manipulation may have changed, but the sophists are still at bay. In regards to the notion that people have a higher standard of educational obtainment being used to justify abolishing the electorate is debatable. While most Americans may be able to read they are not literate when it comes to policy. If nearly forty percent of Americans polled in a 2006 Ohio University poll believed that Saddam Hussein worked closely with Al Qaeda prior to the U.S., one could certainly be incredulous of the judgment of the voting public [10].

 

The argument for the electorate balancing out representation for states with lower populations does seem to be quite straightforward. The question can be posed that if we truly have a democratic form of government if the East and West coasts are the ones determining our elections. While middle American and the Rustbelt is politically left in the dust. It becomes more problematic in the sense that Presidential candidates give more focus to states with larger populations. This also translates into appointments and other state-specific accommodations [11]. While it easy to argue the potential for institutional corruption when you live in a city like Los Angeles, however, it does not account for the disadvantages of someone living in Cheyenne.  In a sense, it would whittle down our two-party system to a one-party system. Natural the coasts will back the DNC. Which would install one party with a different figurehead in the Executive branch of government.

 

ARGUMENTS AGAINST THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE:

 

While the intentions of the Founding Father’s reflected the moral sentiments of the Scottish Enlightenment ( a bountiful dose of Lockean goodwill), could they have been misguided? It is easy to contemplate if the very same institutional safety net created by the framers could be used the create a whole new form of injustice. Many opponents of the Electoral College languish at the institution’s inefficiencies and proclivity for tampering. Which are certainly valid concerns, however, much of these qualms are fair weather grievances versus actual principled calls for reform. The often come at the heels of concern generated by partisanship rather than a genuine conviction for policy reform. The same individuals calling for relinquishment and adjustment to this process did not seem to have a problem when Barrack Obama won the electoral vote back in the 2012 election [12]. A quick retort would be that he did also win the popular vote as well as the electoral vote. That is certainly a fair argument in a very superficial manner, it does not stifle the accusations of partisanship. If you truly believe the Electoral College is flawed shouldn’t your support for abolishment be unwavering? Rather than a concern that is only pertinent when it serves a political candidate you dislike.

 

It is quite conspicuous that the substrate for the arguments against the Electoral College is contaminated with petty partisanship and debates that quickly fizzle out once the election results cycle becomes lukewarm in the news cycle. Despite these major flaws in motives, there are some truly compelling arguments against preserving this institutional process. The only possible way to provide a proper analysis of this topic is to present both sides of the proverbial coin. The contrast provides the best compilation of information to draw strong conclusions.

 

The first grouping of arguments criticizing the Electoral College address imbalance that it creates in regards to voter representation.  It eliminates the “one person, one vote” metric through allocating more to smaller states. Not only does this artificial manipulation appear to be less transparent than a majority vote, but it also can cause the candidate with the popular vote to still lose. [13] Not only does it seem counterintuitive to the quiddity of democracy, but also has the moral shortcoming not having the true winner being elected. Which compromises the trust of the public. The electorate striding to even the tide by providing more representation to more rural states have created another problem. The potential for there to be an institutional advantage for a preferred political party of rural states [13]. There is certainly some compelling evidence to say at least at the anecdotal level there may be some truth to this notion. It is well noted that there is a strong conservative streak in among the body of electoral representatives [14]. This proclivity the Conservative leanings of the rural states, which are the ones that receive the most amount of electoral acknowledgment has been noted for decades [15] [16].

 

The second subcategory of arguments can be perceived as the Electoral College’s potential impact on voter participation. The Electoral College disincentivizing voter turn out extends beyond the common assertion a perceived futility of action.  A more oblique speculated cause being that political candidates focus more attention on competitive states, such as swing states. The lack of campaigning attention leaves constituents in less pivotal voting districts and states less incline to vote. Interlocked with this point is that issues pertinent to voters are covered more extensively in “competitive” states. Again surmised to adversely impact voter turn out. Due to the stiff competition faced in “battleground” / “swing” states the creates the incentive for the use of electoral fraud to even the odds versus going by the merits of the popular vote [13]. Such potential for institutional corruption weakens voter confidence and circles back to the notion of perceived futility decreasing voter turn out.

 

The third variety of arguments against the Electoral College echoes the sentiments of the mainstream media.  That is the notion that the Electoral College fails to filter out unqualified or incompetent candidates. Now, some may be inclined to argue this systemic failure is far from a new phenomenon. In light of Trump’s ascent into the apogee of political power, a hyperbolic sense of unhinged panic has swept our country.  Magnifying previously glossed over political shortcomings, the difference being Trump is more brazen. Almost to the extent of flaunting it. Some argue that when the drafters implemented the Electoral College it was designed to stifle such a populist movement of that of  Donald Trump, which it failed to do [17]. In subtracting the variable of blatant partisanship and outrage over his cavalier abandonment of political correctness is a fair assessment.  He has no previous political experience,  no understanding of the interworkings of political institutions, no real grasp of economics, foreign affairs, etc and he still obtained the electoral vote.

 

FLAWS IN THE ARGUMENTS FOR ELECTORAL COLLEGE:

When examining the validity of an argument as it is imperative to present the counter-arguments, but to also expose any blind spots. Even arguments that appear to be airtight have logical and factual shortcomings. In order to comprehensively present the Pros and Cons of an issue, we must look at the failings of both sets of arguments. Out of the necessity of intellectual honesty, I will explore the pitfalls of the arguments of the Electoral College.

 

One of the premiere arguments in favor of the Electoral College is that it serves as a bulwark from the constituents putting the wrong individual in power.  Essentially a preventative measure against a populous movement putting an unqualified candidate in power. When put into the context of when the Constitution was drafted, this argument makes a lot of sense. Literacy was not prevalent and it was quite common for special interests to use bribery to influence voter behavior. Even our first President and Founding Father George Washington resorted to enticing voters with free alcohol [19].

It certainly seems in the context of a world where education is scant, marauding tactics run rampant.  However,  while theoretically the electorate may be designed to protect against such the passion of the people,  the byproduct, in reality, is far from desirable. In our bipartisan political system, the members of the electorate body tend to have an alliance to one of the two parties. Which expectedly influences their voting patterns. Many Republicans disapproved of President Trump, however, even those incredulous in the electorate still voted for him. It should be noted the number of  “faithless votes” or the electorate breaking rank with the constituency of their district is rare. In the 2016 election, the electorate reflected rather than deflected the sentiments of the populous Conservative movement. The electorate did not impede this shift in the political climate as originally intended but rather allowed a conventionally unqualified candidate to become president [18].

 

Another core argument supporting the Electoral College is that prevents rural states from losing influence in national elections. Which would appear to be a substantive rationale until you are confronted with the facts of the 2016 Election. The Republican and Democratic candidates spent 87 percent of the campaign in one of the 12 “battleground” states.  By the end of the election, there were approximately 27 states that were never visited by a mainstream presidential candidate. The majority of those neglected states were rural states [18] Not only does this demonstrate that the Electoral College does not necessarily give balance or deference to rural states in regards to campaign attention. This also has profound ramifications for voter turn out and participation. It has been shown that voter turn is higher in the swing states that receive more campaign coverage [20]. While we cannot infer causation from such correlations it is still a notable pattern to pay attention to.

 

The third erroneous argument reinforcing the Electoral College is that it strengthens the perceived legitimacy of the winning party. The media coverage of close elections creates the illusion that the victor won by a significant margin. For instance, Ronald Regan won the popular vote by about 51 percent and the electoral vote by over 90 percent.  Bill Clinton won the electoral vote twice with having less than popular vote. No doubt he lost some votes the relative success of Ross Perot as a somewhat significant third-party candidate. This artificial perception of significant victory influences public opinion and enables the president to more easily act about their political aspirations. [18]

 

LOOPHOLES IN THE ARGUMENTS AGAINST MAINTAINING THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE:

While the arguments in favor of the maintain the  Electoral College have blind spots, there are plenty of follies in the opposing arguments as well. In the spirit of equity, I must expound erroneous assumptions of those proposing abolishing the Electoral College.

The first  Achille’s Heel in the arguments against the Electoral College regarding it not satisfying the “one person, one vote” metric is a two-pronged attack.  For one, the United States does not function as a direct democracy, but rather a Presidential Republic. In such a system the government has institutions that strive to create a balance between state and individual representation. Understanding that aspect of the nature of the U.S. government nullifies this argument unless substantial Constitutional and institution restructuring occurs [13].

 

The second prong in this counterargument is that the assumption the imbalance of smaller state representation is disproportionate. It is often said that the Electoral College favors representation to less populated states that lean towards the Republican Party.  However, many academic argue the opposite due to the fact that more populated states are more pivotal in the outcomes of elections [13].

 

The flaw in the argument for relinquishing the governmental body of the Electoral College pertains to the objection to the candidate not having the majority popular gaining their seat in office. Which first of all is an anomaly that very rarely happens in the United States [13]. It has only transpired a grand total of five times throughout the course of the history of the Electoral College. Starting with the Election of 1824 with the electoral victory of John Quincy Adams and most recently 2016 victory of Donald Trump [21]. Just from an objective standpoint five times in the course of 242 years is far from statistically significant nor cause for reasonable concern. Which leads me to believe that the few Americans who are concerned are more so out of partisanship than a genuine concern of equity.

 

Addressing the shortcomings of the argument that the Electoral College adversely impacts voter participation. Argument resting firmly on the notion that due to Electoral College only states with sufficient pull in the electorate receive sufficient campaign coverage. However, it is also fair to say that if we eliminated the Electoral College there is no way to prove that this same problem would not still transpire. Regardless of whether this institution exists or not candidates are going to continue to focus on the regions that will be most advantageous to their victory[13].  Getting rid of this safeguard is merely going to deference to the coastal states, in the end, would just shift the location of the extensive campaigning and media coverage. While a different side of the argument, it can also be said that we have no concrete evidence that abolishing the Electoral College would disincentivize voter fraud [13].  While it seems natural to want to liberate the voting processing from red tape and bureaucracy, it cannot be argued in certain terms if untested.

 

The final blemish in the argument against the Electoral College is regarding it impeding clear and decisive election results. It does appear as if this argument isn’t full proof nor does it completely hold water. The fear being that Electoral College will further support the bicameral party system by shutting out third party candidates for the sake of decisive elections. In the 2000 Election Ralph Nader received a meager 3 percent of the popular vote. While Ross Perot received only 19.4 percent of the popular vote in the 1992 election cycle. Neither election had to go through a congressional assessment to determine a winner.  But it also should be noted that such minuscule popular vote numbers would in no way significantly impact the voting partners of the electorate [13]. Even if we were had transitioned to direct elections Perot and Nader still would have not had even a glimmer of hope of winning.

 

DISCUSSION:

While the skepticism and the passionate outcry to eliminate or reform the Electoral College is easy to sympathize it is generally underscores the actual mechanics of the institution. In all honesty, most of these fervent surges in the interest to reform this institution seems to be shortlived and conflated with political opportunism.  Seldom does a winning party or candidate call for reform of the electorate. Outside of the obvious being that it would run counter to their best interest, it easy to be complacent of its shortcomings. The mantra of  “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix” seems to be a suitable colloquialism to exemplify how those who benefit approach this topic. The sincerity of the majority of the critics of the Electoral College is certainly something I am suspicious of. From my anecdotal observations, it would appear that it only becomes a hot topic when the Democrats lose a Presidental Election. However, I never once heard a Democratic president in office call for reform of this governmental body.  I would dare to question that if an institution is inequitable,  wouldn’t it be so regardless of the outcome? Hence, why the vast majority of outrage in the 2016 election is more of an indictment of the candidate than the process. The same sentiments can also, in theory, be echoed for the  2000 Presidental Election as well.

 

It is no surprise with the lack of serious and sincere discussion regarding the Electoral College, that we have little in the way of alternate procedures for electing the President. If the methodology is flawed then how would the opponents suggest we proceed?  It is easy to express grievances, however, it takes on a whole other level of commitment to postulate a solution. The founding fathers devised the Electoral College without the intention of it being dominated by two parties. George Washington even warned about the perils of political parties creating discord [22]. Due to changes within the American political climate, there are unforeseen consequences now impacting the electorate. It serves as safeguard beyond the original function, now serving as an apparatus for balancing the voting influence of more populated states. If we eliminate this institution how can we ensure that one party does not dominate? Then again should we be controlling for equality of outcome? But we do run the risk of creating an extended democratic presidency by allowing the Left-leaning more populated areas unchecked voting influence. Which would negate the prospect of term limits due to each subsequent president pushing the same policy, just a different name.

 

The lack of a concise plan from opponents of the Electoral College only compounds matters. Eliminating this governmental body only creates more answered questions. It can be said that while it is a flawed system at least we understand the risks of it, due to it being tried and tested [13]. I never purport that maintaining the status quo is always the best policy. However, considering the rare circumstances under which the candidate with the popular vote does not receive the electoral, it is not a serious concern. At least statistically. If this had shown a stronger pattern of transpiring, I would advocate potentially abolishing the electorate.  I suppose to some extent I see a greater danger in relinquishment creating a political ruling class. In other words, our already scant array of choices of political affiliation being eliminated to one. Again circuitously connecting back to my point of making term limits a pointless concept. I am unsure if it worth to dwell in uncharted waters if this is a potential byproduct of eliminating the Electoral College.

 

When really examining the issue of eliminating the Electoral College it really runs parallel to the discussion about Direct Democracy. In a sense eliminating this institution would make this portion of the political process an example of direct democracy. Most will admit that here in the United States it has worked very well when it comes to voting on referendums at the state level.  However, the question becomes would this be a functional policy or a mangled mess on the national level. It is well documented that Switzerland had adopted the practice of direct democracy nationwide with relative success. Researcher  Simon Geissbuhler’s paper: Does direct democracy really work? A review of the empirical evidence from Switzerland demonstrates how this system has worked.  Geissbuhler’s research concluded that in direct democracy the voter, not the institution ended up being the balancing force. Essentially when the legislator moves too far to the right or left on a policy the voter behavior becomes more centrist [23].

 

Geissbuhler’s findings do seem to run counter to the speculated fears of direct democracy devolving into mob rule. A few variables to keep in mind is for one that Switzerland is a lot more homogeneous of a culture than the United States. When the majority of your few citizens share the same ideas and perspectives it is a lot easier to avoid discord. However, direct democracy could be detrimental to many of the rights that are Constitutionally protected. If we were to eliminate much of the checks and balances in the American Legislative process and left it up to the voting public, we could easily end up nullifying important amendments.  What is important to remember is that the First Amendment was not drafted to protect popular speech, but rather unpopular speech. So by opening up the process of Constitutional Amendment to the masses in a sense, we are surrendering individual liberty for the convictions of the crowd. I could easily see how in a knee-jerk reaction to the Overland Park shooting the general public potentially abolishing the Second Amendment. Keep in mind that back in 2009 the Swiss citizens voted for legislation for a nationwide ban on Minarets on Mosques [24]. Such prohibitions here in the United States would be a direct attack on religious liberty. Would certainly be contrary to our founding principles.

 

 

 

FOOTNOTES:

[1] https://peterclark7979.wixsite.com/website/home/political-opinions-59-electoral-college

[2] https://vimeo.com/307932748

[3] http://www.openculture.com/2016/11/why-socrates-hated-democracies-an-animated-case-for-why-self-government-requires-wisdom-education.html

[4] https://www.britannica.com/event/United-States-presidential-election-of-2000

[5] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-elections/presidential-election-2016-results-timeline-controversies-quotes-seats-maps-polls-quotes-a7398606.html

[6] https://news.gallup.com/poll/198917/americans-support-electoral-college-rises-sharply.aspx

[7]. https://history.house.gov/Institution/Electoral-College/Electoral-College/

[8] https://www.historycentral.com/elections/Electoralcollgewhy.html

[9] http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/fed68.asp

[10] https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesmarshallcrotty/2013/09/26/why-general-knowledge-matters-and-why-we-should-test-for-it/#60d1fdf14be3

[11]http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/view_from_chicago/2012/11/defending_the_electoral_college.html

[12] https://www.nytimes.com/elections/2012/results/president.html

[13] Thinking About the Political Impacts of the Electoral College, Benard Grofman & Scott L. Feld, 2005, Published by Springer.

[14] https://www.uakron.edu/bliss/docs/state-of-the-parties-documents/Stonecash.pdf

[15] https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/the-urban-rural-divide-more-pronounced-than-ever/

[16] http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2017/04/the-urban-rural-divide-matters-more-than-red-vs-blue-state.html

[17] http://www.harvardpolitics.com/united-states/the-case-against-the-electoral-college/

[18] http://time.com/4571626/electoral-college-wrong-arguments/

[19] https://about.bgov.com/blog/that-time-george-washington-bought-an-election-with-160-gallons-of-booze-and-other-presidents-day-stories/

[20]https://www.researchgate.net/publication/255970024_Battleground_states_and_voter_participation_in_US_presidential_elections_An_empirical_test

[21] https://www.factcheck.org/2008/03/presidents-winning-without-popular-vote/

[22] https://www.constitutionfacts.com/founders-library/first-party-system/

[23] Does Direct Democracy Really Work? A Review of the Empirical Evidence from Switzerland. Geissbuhler, Simon (2014).

[24]. https://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/30/world/europe/30swiss.html