I was asked to comment on this Reddit thread: www.reddit.com/r/netsec/comments/s1t2c/netsec_how_would_you_design_an_electronic_voting/


This post is written with the assumption that a bitcoin-like system is used.


Nirvana / perfect solution fallacy

I agree. I don’t think an electronic system needs to solve every problem present in a paper system, it just needs to be better. Right now, for example, one could buy an absentee ballot and be done with it. I think a system that makes it less practical to do something similar is an improvement.


As always when considering options, one should choose the best solution, not stubbornly refuse any change that will not give a perfect situation. Paper voting is not perfect either.



Threatening scenarios

The instant you let people vote from remote locations, everything else is up in the air. It doesn’t matter if the endpoints are secure.
Say you can vote by phone. I have my goons “canvass” the area knocking on doors. “Hey, have you voted for Smith yet? You haven’t? Well, go get your phone, we will help you do it right now.”
If you are trying to do secure voting over the Internet, you have already lost.


While one cannot bring goons right into the voting boxes, it is quite clearly possible to threaten people to vote in a particular way right now. The reason it is not generally done is that every single vote has very little power and the costs therefore are absurdly high for anyone trying scare tactics.


It is also easy to solve by making it possible to change votes after they have been given. This is clearly possible with computer technology but hard with paper.



Viruses that target voting software

This is clearly an issue. However, people can easily check that their votes are correct in the votechain (blockchain analogy). A sophisticated virus might wait until the last minute and then vote, but this can easily be prevented by turning off the computers used.


Furthermore, I imagine that one will use specialized software for voting, especially a linux system designed specifically for safety and voting, and rigorously tested by thousands of independent coders. One might also create specialized hardware for voting, i.e. special computers. Specifically, one can have read only memory which makes it impossible to install malacious software on the system. For instance, the hardware might have built in software for voting and a camera for scanning a QR code with one’s private key(s).


Lastly, one can use 2FA to enchance security just as one does everywhere else where extra safety is needed on the web.



Anoynmous and veriable voting

You can either have a system where people can verify their vote and take some type of receipt to prove the system recorded their vote wrong, or you can have anonymous voting. You cannot have verifiable voting AND anonymous voting. Someone somewhere has to be able to decrypt or access whatever keys or pins or you are holding a meaningless or login or hash that can’t prove you aren’t lying or didn’t change your vote etc.


Yes you can, with pseudonymous voting with a bitcoin-like system. Everybody can verify that no more votes are used than there are eligible voters. But the individuals who control the addresses are not identifiable from the code alone. They can choose announce publicly their address so that people can connect the two. Will will ofc be used to public persons.



Selling votes

This is already possible. It is already possible to verify this as well, as one can easily film the process of voting. This is not generally illegal either.


The reason why people do not generally buy or sell votes is that single votes have basically no power and hence are worth nothing.


As pointed out in the thread, this is already possible with mail-voting.


Lastly, it is generally thought of to be evil or wrong to buy and sell votes, but only when done directly. It is clearly legal indirectly and even if not de jura legal, it is de facto legal. In every modern democracy, it is common for politicians offering certain wealth or income redistribution policies. If people who would benefit from these vote for the politicians they are indirectly receiving money for voting for a given politician/party. For this reason, the buying and selling of votes is a non-issue.



The ease of digital attacks

It seems to me that the real problem is the scalability of the attacks in the digital sphere. Changing votes in our regular system of several thousand human ballot counters looking a pieces of paper is rather costly. A well-planned digital attack can be virtually free of cost (not counting the time it takes to figure out the attack).


This is a concern, and that is why one will need tough security and verification technologies. I have suggested several above.



Interceptions of the signal

Whatever, VPN, custom software, browser. It’s the same thing. Malware or even an ISP could intercept and manipulate what is displayed or recorded. The software on the receiving end can also be manipulated but more likely to have some controls of the hardware and software, but again, who inspects this?


This could be a problem. It can be reduced by having a nationally free, encrypted VPN/proxy for voting purposes.



Others who were faster than me

Voting could not be more further from any of the simplest banking. The idea behind banking or any “secure” online transaction is that it is not anonymous. Bitcoin might be the only viable anonymous type online voting.



The bitcoin protocol would actually be fantastic for this. I should explain for those unaware: Bitcoin is actually two different things. One: A protocol, and Two: A software implementing the protocol to send ‘coins’ like money to others. I’ll do a writeup a little later, but the gist of it is: the votes would be public for anyone to view, impossible to fake/forge, and still anonymous. This would be done by embedding the voting information into the blockchain.



Strong encryption with distributed verification a la bitcoin. You don’t have to trust the clients; you trust the math. I’m by no means a crypto expert, so don’t look to me for design tips, but I suspect you could map a private key to each valid voter’s SSN then generate a vote (hash) that could be verified by the voter pool.


These posts dates to “1 year ago” according to Reddit. Clearly, I was not the first to think the obvious.



Who is going to mine votecoins?

So unless you are actually piggy-backing voting ontop of another currency (like the main bitcoin blockchain), there’s no incentive for ordinary citizens to participate and validate/process the blockchain. What are they mining? More votes?? That seems weird/illegitimate. If you say “well, some government agency can just do all the mining and distribute coins to voters” this would seem to offer no improvement over a straightforward centralized system, and only introduces extra questions like


The government and the users who want to help out. Surely citizens have some self interest in getting the election over with. This is a non-issue.


If the government started the block chain, mined the correct number of coins, and then put it in the “no more coins mode” then we would have the setup for it. If they could convince one of the major pools to do merged mining with them (i’m not sure what they would exchange for this, but it would only have to be for a week/month) if hiring a pool is out of the question then just realize that the govt spends millions routinely on elections, and $10M should be more than enough to beat most mafias (~9Thash/s which is roughly what the current bitcoin rate is). If someone like the coke brothers tried to overpower this it would be very obvious.


Yes, this is the same solution I suggested. Code the system so that the first block gives all votecoins.


Another option is making a dual currency system, such that one can help mine votecoins and only get rewarded in rewardcoins. That way the counting is distributed to whoever wants the job.



The prize for the least imagination

The simple answer is that I would not. The risks and downsides of such a system are inherently not worth the only benefit which I can think of (faster results). This should also answer your last question. This hasn’t been done simply because there is no good reason to do it.


No other benefits? Like… an infinite variety of other voting systems???



The price of online voting

You’re assuming the cost of an electronic voting system and the time it will take for people to be comfortable using them will outpace paper and pen, which if you ask me is a pretty damn big assumption. Maybe someday, but until a grandma can easily understand and use electronic voting I am loathe to even think about implementing it. A voting system needs to be transparent and easy to understand.


In Denmark it costs about 100 million DKK to have a vote. Is he really suggesting this cannot be done cheaper with computers? I can’t take it seriously.




The impact of genetic enhancement on equality found via another paper: The rhetoric and reality of gap closing—when the “have-nots” gain but the “haves” gain even more (Stephen J. Ceci and Paul B. Papierno), which i was reading becus i was reading varius papers on Linda Gottfredson’s homepage.


There apparently  is a genuine  possibility  that  genetic and non-
genetic mechanisms eventually will  be able to  significantly  en-
hance  human capabilities and  traits generally.  Examining
this prospect  from the  standpoint  of equality considerations  is
one  useful way  to  inquire  into the  effects  of such enhancement
technologies. Because of  the nature and  limitations  of compet-
ing ideas  of equality, we are  inevitably led to  investigate  a very
broad  range  of issues.  This Article considers matters  of distri-
bution and withholding of scarce enhancement resources and
links different versions of  equality to different modes of distri-
bution.  It  briefly  addresses the  difficulties  of defining  “en-
hancement”  and  “trait”  and  links  the idea  of  a “merit  attribute”
to that of  a “resource  attractor.” The role of disorder-based  jus-
tifications  is related  to  equality considerations,  as is the possi-
bility  of  the  reduction or “objectification”  of persons  arising
from  the  use  of enhancement resources.  Risks of  intensified
and more entrenched  forms of  social  stratification  are outlined.
The Article also considers whether the notion of merit can  sur-
vive,  and whether the stability  of democratic  institutions  based
on  a one-person, one-vote  standard is  threatened by  attitude
shifts given  the new  technological  prospects.  It  refers to  John
Stuart Mill’s “plural  voting” proposal to  illustrate one  chal-
lenge to equal-vote  democracy.

Nevertheless, it is conceivable that, despite rigorous division of

labor, there may be political and social equality of a sort. Different

professions, trades, and occupations and the varying aptitudes un-

derlying them might be viewed as equally worthy. The “alphas”

may be held equal to the “betas,” though their augmentations (via

the germ line or the living body) and life-work differ. Perhaps

(paradoxically?) there will be an “equality of the enhanced” across

their categories of enhancement. But do not count on it.


sort of. at least one study showed that nootropics have greater effect the lower the intelligence of the population. so, in theory, it is possible that at some theoretical maximum M relative to drug D, the drug wud hav no effect. and everybody under that M wud be boosted to M, given adequate volumes of D.


i did come across another study with this IQ-drug interaction effect once, but apparently i didnt save it on my computer, and i cant seem to find it again. it is difficult to find papers about exactly this it seems.


below is a figure form the study i mentioned abov. it is about ritalin:


Effects of methylphenidate (ritalin) on paired-associate learning and porteus maze performance in emotionally disturbed children.



somthing similar seems to be the case with modafinil, another nootropic. it wud be interesting to see if ther is any drug-drug interaction between ritalin and modafinil, specifically, whether they stack or not.




here is the best study mentioned on Wikipedia: Cognitive effects of modafinil in student volunteers may depend on IQ


as for the topic of cognitiv enhancers in general, see this somewhat recent 2010 systematic overview. it appears that ritalin isnt a good cognitiv enhancer, but modafinil is promising for non-sleep deprived persons. Modafinil and methylphenidate for neuroenhancement in healthy individuals a systematic review



a. Enhancement and democratic theory: Millian plural voting

and the attenuation of democracy.

i. Kinds of democracy; is one-person, one-vote a defining char-

acteristic of democracy? Most persons now acknowledge that there

are stunning differences, both inborn and acquired, among individu-

als. Not everyone can be a physicist, novelist, grandmaster, astro-

naut, juggler, athlete, or model, at least without enhancement, and

those who can will vary sharply among themselves in abilities.


For better or worse, these differences make for serious social,

economic, and political inequalities. The question here is what ef-

fect these differences in human characteristics ought to have on

various matters of political governance. If we are not in fact equal

to each other in deliberative ability, judgment, and drive, why do we

all have equal voting power in the sense that, when casting ballots

in general elections, no one’s vote counts for more than another’s?

We are not equal in our knowledge of the issues, our abilities to as-

sess competing arguments, the nature and intensities of our prefer-

ences, our capacities to contribute to our social and economic sys-

tem, our stakes in the outcomes of particular government policies, or

even in our very interest in public affairs.



this topic was the primary reason i started reading this paper.


i also found som other papers dealing with Millian meritocracy, i suppose one cud call it. i came upon the idea individually, but was preceded by JS Mill with about 200 years.

his writing on the subject is here: John Stuart Mill – Considerations on Representative Government


another paper i found is this: Why Not Epistocracy




Very interesting two papers by Somin! I will definitely check out his other stuff when i have time. I just took the time off reading papers before i start reading book #2 on patents (Against Intellectual Monopoly).

Deliberative Democracy and Political Ignorance


ABSTRACT: Advocates of ‘‘deliberative democracy’’ want citizens to actively

participate in serious dialogue over political issues, not merely go to the polls every

few years. Unfortunately, these ideals don’t take into account widespread political

ignorance and irrationality. Most voters neither attain the level of knowledge

needed to make deliberative democracy work, nor do they rationally evaluate the

political information they do possess. The vast size and complexity of modern

government make it unlikely that most citizens can ever reach the levels of

knowledge and rationality required by deliberative democracy, even if they were

better informed than they are at present.


How very depressing in relation to liquid democracy/feedback!

Deliberative democracy is one of the most influential ideas in modern

political thought. Advocates want citizens to actively participate in the

democratic process by seriously deliberating over important issues, not

merely voting for or against candidates put forward by political parties.

They hope that voters will not only develop a solid factual understanding

of political issues, but will also debate the moral principles at stake in a

rational and sophisticated fashion. Deliberative democrats expect more of

voters than merely acting to ‘‘throw the bums out’’ if things seem to be

going badly.


These high aspirations are admirable and appealing. Unfortunately,

they run afoul of the reality of widespread voter ignorance and

irrationality. Moreover, even if voters were significantly better informed

and more rational than most are today, the vast size and complexity of

modern government would prevent them from acquiring enough

knowledge and sophistication to deliberate over more than a small

fraction of the full range of issues currently decided by government. Such

difficulties become even more acute in light of the fact that many

deliberative democrats want the political process to control even more of

society than is already the case. Previous scholarship has only tentatively

considered the implications of widespread voter ignorance and irration-

ality for deliberative democracy.1

This article is intended to close the gap

in the literature more fully. My analysis focuses on theories of

deliberative democracy that require deliberation by ordinary citizens. I

do not consider the distinct question of deliberation by legislators or

expert administrators.

Parts IV#VI consider three proposals to increase political knowledge

that have been advanced by deliberative democrats. These include using

education to raise the level of political knowledge, increasing knowledge

by having voters engage in structured deliberation, and transferring

authority to lower levels of government where individual voters might

have stronger incentives to acquire information. Finally, I will briefly

suggest that deliberative ideals might be more effectively advanced by

limiting the role of government in society.


Deliberative democracy is a normative ideal, not an attempt to explain

present-day reality. However, an attractive normative ideal must be

feasible. The problem of political ignorance casts serious doubt on the

feasibility of deliberative democracy. Moreover, some proposals put

forward by deliberative democrats, if implemented, may well cause more

harm than good.


The second proposal was my idea as well. It better work, otherwise liquid feedback might be very bad indeed.

Decades of public opinion research show that most voters are very far

from meeting the knowledge prerequisites of deliberative democracy. To

Somin • Political Ignorance & Deliberative Democracy 257the contrary, they are often ignorant even of very basic political information.


In 2009, the Obama administration and congressional Democrats put

forward ambitious plans to restructure the U.S. health-care system and

impose a ‘‘cap and trade’’ system to restrict carbon emissions and combat

global warming. Both plans were widely discussed in the media and

elsewhere. Yet a September 2009 survey found that only 37 percent of

Americans claimed to ‘‘understand’’ the health care plan, a figure that

likely overestimates the true level of understanding.7 A May 2009 poll

showed that only 24 percent of Americans realized that the important

‘‘cap and trade’’ proposal recently passed by the House of Representa-

tives as an effort to combat global warming addressed ‘‘environmental

issues.’’ Some 46 percent believed that it was either a ‘‘health-care

reform’’ or a ‘‘regulatory reform for Wall Street.’’8

Until the Obama health-care reform passed in March 2010, the largest

new federal domestic program enacted in the previous 40 years had been

the Bush Administration’s prescription-drug entitlement, enacted in

2003. Yet a December 2003 poll showed that almost 70 percent of

Americans did not even know that Congress had passed the law (Somin

2004c, 5#6).


Public ignorance is not limited to information about specific policies.

It also extends to knowledge of political parties, ideologies, and the basic

structure and institutions of government (Delli Carpini and Keeter 1996;

Somin 1998 and 2004c). For example, a majority of voters are ignorant

of such fundamentals of the U.S. political system as who has the power

to declare war, the respective functions of the three branches of

government, and who controls monetary policy (Delli Carpini and

Keeter 1996, 70#71). A 2006 Zogby poll found that only 42 percent of

Americans could even name the three branches of the federal

government (Somin 2010, ch. 2). Another 2006 survey revealed that

only 28 percent could name two or more of the five rights guaranteed by

the First Amendment to the Constitution (ibid.). A 2002 Columbia

University study found that 35 percent believed that Karl Marx’s dictum

‘‘From each according to his ability to each according to his need’’ is

enshrined the Constitution; 34 percent said they did not know if it was,

and only 31 percent correctly answered that it was not (Dorf 2002).

Similarly, years of survey data show that most of the public has little

understanding of the basic differences between liberalism and con-

servatism (RePass 2008; Somin 2010, ch. 2). They are often also

confused about the differences between the policy positions of the two

major parties (e.g., Somin 2004a).


Widespread political ignorance has persisted over time, despite

massive increases in education and the availability of information through

new technologies such as the internet.9 It seems unlikely to diminish

substantially in the foreseeable future.


Holy shit. Wud be very interesting to see cross-national data on some of these things. One cud use something like the separation of power as a question. Even tho the countries differ in how they do that, most of them do it in some way, and it is thus possible to ask and see whether people know how their country does it.

There is nothing inherently objectionable about people who acquire

political information for reasons other than becoming a better voter. It is

perfectly understandable if people wish to follow politics for any number

of reasons. Problems arise, however, when these motives conflict with

the goal of rational evaluation of information for the purpose of making

informed political decisions. To take one such case, people who acquire

information for the purpose of cheering on their political ‘‘team’’ or

confirming their existing views are likely to overvalue information that

confirms those views and undervalue or ignore anything that cuts against

them. Extensive evidence suggests that this is in fact the way most

committed partisans evaluate political information.14 Experiments show

that political partisans not only reject new information casting doubt on

their beliefs, but sometimes actually respond by believing in them even

more fervently (Bullock 2006; Nyhan and Reifler 2009). Thus, a recent

study found that conservatives presented with evidence showing that

U.S. forces failed to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq were

actually strengthened in their pre-existing view thatWMDs were present

(Nyhan and Reifler 2009, 11#15). Similarly, liberals confronted with

evidence that 2004 Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry had

incorrectly claimed that the Bush Administration had ‘‘banned’’ stem-

cell research persisted in their pre-existing view that the charge was

accurate (ibid., 23#24). Similarly, most people discuss political issues only

with those who agree with them (Mutz 2006, 29#41). This tendency is

most pronounced among ‘‘those most knowledgeable about and

interested in politics’’ (ibid., 37), which implies that those who seek

out political knowledge the most are not motivated primarily by truth-

seeking. If they were, it would make sense to sample a wide variety of

sources, possibly placing particular emphasis on those with viewpoints

opposed to one’s own. The latter are more likely to expose the truth-

seeker to facts and analysis that he has not already considered. As John

Stuart Mill ([1869] 1975, 35#51) famously emphasized in On Liberty, we

are more likely to discover the truth if we consider opposing viewpoints,

not merely those that we already agree with.


Wow. Good thing im primarily a filosofer with truth as the goal, and not party politics. Impartial truth-seekers are perhaps the best politicians then? If so, then thats sad since they are the ones least likely to become politicians in todays system.

In addition to processing information in ways that provide internal

psychological gratification, people also often try to express opinions that

conform to social expectations and seek to avoid negative reactions from

other members of the community (Kuran 1995; Sunstein 2003). For

example, people in a socially conservative community may hesitate to

express approval of gay marriage for fear of alienating antigay friends,

family members, and neighbors. Those in politically liberal settings such

as university campuses often hesitate to criticize liberal policies such as

affirmative action (Kuran 1995, 310#25). Even in a relatively tolerant

liberal democratic society, dissenters often hesitate to openly endorse

unpopular views; they instead find it easier to pretend to agree with the

majority. Such ‘‘preference falsification’’16 can easily lead people to reject

powerful arguments against socially approved positions, or even to

refrain from voicing them in the first place.


Preference falsification can infect many kinds of political processes.

But it is an especially serious danger in a deliberative democracy, where

citizens have to engage in open dialogue on political issues and therefore

take positions (or refrain from doing so) in a setting where other

members of the community can observe them. Under ‘‘aggregative’’

democracy, by contrast, voters usually make decisions and access

information in more private settings and therefore may face less pressure

to conform.


To combat this problem, liquid feedback systems shud have anonymization in various ways. Perhaps by allowing users to go under many different names, but only allow them to vote once.



Is it possible not to love this guy? :D


Knowledge About Ignorance New Directions in the Study of Political Information

Quotes from


If political ignorance is rational and most voters choose not to learn

much about politics for that reason, widespread ignorance is a phenom-

enon that democracies will probably have to live with for the foresee-

able future. The challenge for democracy is to find a way to minimize

the harm that political ignorance can cause.

Assuming that we shud keep a democratic government form, then yes, this is correct. Altho, giving people more power shud, according to this theory, also result in them taking more time to educate themselves. That’s an interesting and optimistic implication.

Here, I want to emphasize a different shortcoming of shortcuts, one

that was partly anticipated in Converse’ s #$%! paper. Both empirical ev-

idence and the theory of rational ignorance suggest that most voters

acquire political knowledge not primarily for the purpose of casting a

more informed vote, but for entertainment purposes or to satisfy other

psychological needs. If this is so, the shortcuts they use might likewise

be chosen to serve nonvoting purposes rather than to cast a “better”

ballot. Such voters could rationally choose not to evaluate the political

information they have in an objective way: a form of “rational irra-

tionality” (Caplan &””#). Again, such a choice need not involve precise,

conscious calculations about the costs and benefits of evaluating politi-

cal information objectively . As with the decision to vote and the deci-

sion not to spend much time acquiring political information, the

choice not to put much effort into analyzing political information ob-

jectively could simply be the result of an intuitive sense that there is lit-

tle or no benefit to engaging in such analysis.On the other hand, voters

can easily recognize that extensive knowledge acquisition imposes sub-

stantial potential costs in terms of time and emotional stress.Thus, a de-

cision not to analyze political information rigorously could be an ex-

ample of “satisficing” behavior (Simon #$)’), where individuals make

rational decisions but do not necessarily engage in rigorous calculation.


Such dynamics might often lead voters to use shortcuts that mislead

rather than inform. For example, the use of party-label and ideological

shortcuts led both voters and even many sophisticated political elites to

misperceive President Richard Nixon’ s policies as conservative (Hoff

#$$!). Nixon presided over an unprecedented expansion of the welfare

state, established affirmative action, created the Environmental Protec-

tion Agency , proposed a guaranteed annual income and national health

insurance, and established closer relations with communist China and

the USSR. But he was still widely perceived as a right-winger. Simi-

larly , liberals rallied around President Bill Clinton, while conservatives

rushed to condemn him, despite his endorsement of conservative poli-

cies on free trade, welfare reform, crime control, and other important

issues. Liberals defended Clinton and conservatives attacked him in

large part because of what he represented on a symbolic level as a “draft

dodger” and philanderer, rather than on the basis of his substantive

policies (Posner #$$$). In both the Nixon and Clinton cases, the desire

of liberal and conservative “fans” to rally around their leader or con-

demn a perceived ideological adversary blinded them to important as-

pects of the president’s policies—despite the fact that information

about these policies was readily available.


Yes, those odd #”¤(“)# symbols seem to be a bug in the OCR’ing of the paper. Apparently, the OCR misinterprets numerals. Odd. Perhaps deliberate?

Recent evidence confirms the possibility that even the most knowl-

edgeable ideologues might systematically pick ideological shortcuts that

mislead more than they inform. A study of experts in politics and in-

ternational relations finds that their predictions of political events are

usually no more accurate than would be produced by random chance

(Tetlock &””(). Of greater interest for present purposes is the finding

that the most inaccurate experts are those that tend to make their pre-

dictions on the basis of broad generalizations—that is, experts who rely

the most on ideological shortcuts (ibid., chs. *–().7 This result could be

interpreted as an indication that the experts in question are irrational.


However, most social-science experts are rewarded not for the accuracy

of their predictions but on the basis of the originality and apparent so-

phistication of their scholarship. Similarly, pundits and other public in-

tellectuals are rewarded for their popularity with readers and viewers,

not their prescience (Posner &””&). Few, if any, Conversean “ideo-

logues” can increase either their incomes or their professional standing

by improving the accuracy of the ideological shortcuts they use. As a

result, they , like ordinary voters, often have little incentive to use short-

cuts effectively , and considerable incentive to stick with shortcuts that

are often inaccurate.


Interesting. Also reminds me that i really shud get around to reading the book Wrong: Why experts* keep failing us–and how to know when not to trust them, of which i unfortunately do not have an electronic copy… which means that i likely wont be reading it any time soon. Time has a review of it here.

In addition to arguing for the utility of shortcuts, defenders of the view

that widespread political ignorance is not a serious problem have main-

tained that information problems can be overcome by means of the so-

called “miracle of aggregation” (Converse #$$”; Page and Shapiro #$$&;

Wittman #$$(). According to this theory , if ignorant voters’ errors are

randomly distributed, then the “incorrect” ballots cast for candidate A

will be canceled out by similar mistakes in favor of Candidate B, and

the votes of the relatively well informed will determine electoral out-



This argument has a number of flaws, including the fact that the

well-informed minority that determines electoral outcomes in this sce-

nario is likely to be highly unrepresentative of the electorate as a whole

(Delli Carpini and Keeter #$$%; Somin #$$)). On the other side of the

ledger, the danger that voters may rationally rely on inaccurate and mis-

leading shortcuts suggests a particularly powerful reason why their er-

rors are unlikely to be random. On many issues, ignorance shows sys-

tematic patterns of bias in one direction or another (see, e.g., Delli

Carpini and Keeter #$$%; Caplan &””&; and Althaus &””*). This is to be

expected if voters, including even many relatively knowledgeable “ide-

ologues, ” are relying on opinion leaders, ideologies, and other shortcuts

that have been selected for reasons other than accuracy.


Recent research suggests that even the most sophisticated and highly

rational voters may rely on shortcuts that have little relevance to politi-

cal candidates’ likely performance in office. For example, a recent study

of elections for the presidency of the American Economics Association

shows that the relative physical attractiveness of the rival candidates is a

powerful predictor of which candidate prevails in the voting (Hamer-

mesh &””(). The AEA electorate consists of academic economists who

are presumably knowledgeable about the functions of the AEA—and

presumably more committed to rational, maximizing behavior than is

the average voter in ordinary elections. If such voters nonetheless rely

on dubious information shortcuts, it is likely that voters in other elec-

tions are at least equally likely to do so.8


Interesting argument. Reminded my of wisdom of the crowds.


As for the influence of fysical attractiveness. Yeah.. I have for a long time been playing with the idea the politicians shud be anonymous for voting purposes. The idea is to get rid of such effects. I dont know how feasible that idea is. However, certainly, some improvements to the current situation can be made. For instance, outlawing election posters. They use the same effect/bias that ads also use, namely, the mere exposure effect. More rational TV-debates are also possible.

An important implication of the rational-ignorance hypothesis is that

voter knowledge is unlikely to increase very much merely as a result of

the greater availability of information. Even if information is readily

available at low cost, rationally ignorant voters have little or no incentive

to spend time learning it and weighing its implications. This inference is

borne out by empirical evidence showing little or no change in political

$knowledge levels over the last (” years, despite greatly increased educa-

tion levels and a parallel increase in the availability of information

through electronic and other media (e.g., Bennett #$)) and #$$%; Smith

#$)$; Delli Carpini and Keeter #$$%; and Althaus &””*). Thus, advocates

of ambitious theories of democratic participation cannot expect most

voters to reach the knowledge levels their theories require anytime soon.



In most modern democracies, government spending accounts for at

least a third of GDP , and the regulatory activities of the state extend to

almost all areas of life. In the United States, federal spending accounts

for &”.) percent of GDP , and state and local governments spend an ad-

ditional #*.’ percent.13 And the growth of government spending over

the last century has been matched by a parallel expansion of regulation

(Higgs #$)’).


Rationally ignorant voters are unable to keep track of more than a

tiny fraction of all this government activity. Indeed, they probably

would be unable to do so even with considerably greater knowledge

than most of them currently possess.Other things equal, the greater the

size and complexity of government, the greater the likelihood that

many of its activities will escape meaningful democratic control.14 This

result is troubling both for those scholars who regard democratic con-

trol of public policy as an intrinsic good (e.g., Pateman #$'” and Barber

#$)!), and those who value it for purely instrumental reasons such as

the need to curb abuses of power by political elites.


I agree with the last reason mentioned, that is, reason we need some kind of democracy is to avoid abuses of power i.e. nepotism and then like (read the link for many interesting examples).

In a federal system, citizens dissatisfied with government policy in their

state have the choice of either trying to use “voice” (traditional voting)

to address their grievances, or opting for “exit”: leaving for a jurisdic-

tion with more favorable policies (Hirschman #$'”).15 Those who

choose the exit option in effect “vote with their feet. ” Voice and exit

each have their respective strengths and weaknesses (ibid.). But one that

is largely ignored by most analysts is the comparative incentives they

create for knowledge acquisition.


The effectiveness of voice is significantly constrained by rational ig-

norance. As we have seen, individual voters have little incentive to ac-

quire and effectively use relevant information about public policy . By

contrast, exit has the tremendous comparative advantage of creating

strong incentives for individuals to acquire the necessary information to

make decisions about where to live.16 A knowledgeable individual or

family can move to a more hospitable jurisdiction even if the neighbors

left behind remain ignorant. Thus, individuals are likely to put much

more effort into acquiring information about the best jurisdiction in

which to live than into acquiring knowledge about the right candidate

to vote for. Moreover, effective “foot voting” may require less detailed

information than ballot-box voting, since the former does not entail

knowing which officials are responsible for which policies. It also obvi-

ates the need to be able to separate out the impact of multiple govern-

ment policies from each other, and from the effects of background so-

cioeconomic conditions.17


Empirical evidence shows that even severely oppressed populations

with very low education levels can often acquire remarkably accurate

information about differences in conditions between jurisdictions and

then make the decision to vote with their feet. For example, in the

early twentieth century , millions of poor African-Americans in the Jim

Crow-era South were able to determine that conditions were relatively

better for them in the North (and sometimes in other parts of the

South) and make the necessary moves (Henri #$'(; Cohen #$)$; Bern-

stein #$$), ‘)&–)(). This achievement stands in sharp contrast to the

failure of many of today’ s much better educated (and certainly less op-

pressed) voters to acquire basic political knowledge.

In order for foot voting to be effective, however, political power must

be at least partly decentralized. In a unitary state in which all or most

important policies are set by the central government, there is no exit

option other than the very difficult and costly one of leaving the coun-

try entirely . Thus, the informational advantages of foot voting over bal-

lot-box voting provide an important argument in favor of political de-



Obviously , foot voting is not a panacea for all the shortcomings of

government policy. For example, it cannot protect immobile people and

assets, such as property rights in land. And it is far from the only con-

sideration that needs to be taken into account in determining the opti-

mal level of political decentralization.18 Nonetheless, the informational

advantages of foot voting deserve considerably greater attention from

students of federalism and institutional development.


Very interesting argument. So, we have been moving in the wrong direction in Denmark for some time now, it seems. Very interesting to wonder what wud happen if, for instance, drug laws were a matter of regional law not national. Certainly, this makes experimentation much easier. Experimentation obviously makes it easier to know what works, and what doesnt.


One note about such a form. Some central government is necessary (i suspect, havent done research), and it has the incentitive to try to acquire more power constantly by enacting new laws, precisely as we see it in the US.


One good thing tho. If we can avoid more centralization in the future, especially some kind of world government (basically, expanding the power of FN, EU and the like). Then, becus traveling costs becom progressivly smaller over time, foot voting will becom progressivly less costly. Yay, something to look forward to! When i talk with people living in the US, i often suggest to them that they simply MOVE out of the US. That country is beyond repair (its voting system is locked in a two party system, see various films by CCPGrey), and only a revolution can fix it.

It is no secret that majority opinion in the Arab world and in many

other Muslim countries is largely hostile to the United States. Some an-

alysts attribute this result to specific U.S. policies, such as support for Is-

rael and the Iraq War (e.g., Scheuer &””!), while others cite a “clash of

civilizations” between fundamentally opposed Western and Muslim

value systems (e.g., Huntington #$$)). Either or both of these explana-

tions may be valid. But it is also important to consider the possible con-

tribution of widespread political ignorance.


As the data in Table # show, a &””& Gallup Survey of public opinion

in Arab and Muslim nations found large majorities denying that the

September ## attacks were carried out by “groups of Arabs. ” For exam-

ple, )$ percent of Kuwaitis, ‘! percent of Indonesians, and )% percent

of Pakistanis were apparently ignorant of this basic fact. A &””& survey

conducted by the Egyptian newspaper Al Ahram (&””&) found that *$

percent of Egyptian respondents blamed the September ## attacks on

“Israeli intelligence/the Mossad, ” while only #$ percent said that “Al-

Qa’eda or other Islamic militants” were responsible.21 Both the Gallup

and Al Ahram polls were conducted well before the start of the Iraq

War, so the responses are not the products of anti-Americanism gener-

ated by that conflict.




First read: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evidence-based_policy


Mad Cows and Ecstasy: Chance and Choice in an Evidence-Based Society by: Adrian F. M. Smith

Journal of the Royal Statistical Society. Series A (Statistics in Society), Vol. 159, No. 3. (1996), pp. 367-383, doi:10.2307/2983324

Mad cows and ecstacy chance and choice in an evidence-based society

“Most of us with rationalist pretensions presumably aspire to live in a society in which decisions about matters of substance with significant potential social or personal implications are taken on the basis of the best available evidence, rather than on the basis of irrelevant evidence or no evidence at all. Of course, the nature of what constitutes evidence in any particular instance could be a matter for significant debate. But, modulo such debate, most of us have the aspiration to live in a society which is more, rather than less, ‘evidence based’.”

“In particular, there has been the growth of a movement in recent years calling itself ‘evidence-based medicine’, which perhaps has valuable lessons to offer. This movement has its antecedents in the work of people like Archibald Cochrane, who, in the 1970s, were concerned at what they saw as the disappointing level of real effectiveness of medical services, and the mismatch between the resources employed and health status outcomes achieved. Cochrane and others argued that these deficiencies were mainly attributable to the lack of systematic use of scientific method, particularly in evaluating therapeutic interventions through the use of controlled trials.
Part of what the movement is about is described as follows by its leading proponents:

‘Evidence-based medicine is the conscientious, explicit, and judicious use of current best evidence in making decisions about the care of individual patients. The practice of evidence-based medicine means integrating individual clinical experience with the best available external clinical evidence from systematic research. . . . Without current best evidence, practice risks becoming rapidly out of date, to the detriment of patients’ (Sackett et al., 1996).

From a conventional statistical point of view, what does this amount to? At one level, it manifests itself in the creation of targeted databases of systematic literature reviews of statistical evidence -see, for example, Chalmers and Altman (1995) for a recent overview from a mainly statistical perspective. But this is also accompanied by a commitment to communicating findings in a readily assimilable form to relevant practitioners. One such enterprise, the Cochrane Collaboration, is an international network of individuals and institutions committed to the preparation, maintenance and dissemination of systematic reviews of the effects of health care. The aim is that

‘At the bedside or in the office, physicians should have  instantaneous, up-to-date assistance from an affordable, universally available database of systematic reviews of the best evidence from clinical trials . . . data from the trials would have to be presented in a standardized, graphic, and easily comprehensible form . . . if the only information the physician received was that there was no reliable information . . . that in itself would be extraordinarily useful’ (Bero and Rennie, 1995).

But what is so special about medicine? We are, through the media, as ordinary citizens, confronted daily with controversy and debate across a whole spectrum of public policy issues. But, typically, we have no access to any form of systematic ‘evidence base’ and, therefore, no means of participating in the debate in a mature and informed manner. Obvious topical examples include education -what does work in the classroom? and penal policy what is effective in preventing reoffending? Perhaps there is an opportunity here for the Society together with appropriate allies in other learned societies and the media to launch a campaign, directed at developing analogues of the Cochrane Collaboration, to provide suitable evidence bases in other areas besides medicine, with the aim of achieving a quantal shift in the quantitative maturity of public policy debates”


“[the ignoring of rational methods to weigh probabilities (bayes’ theorem) in juries] is bad enough, but the legal mentality displayed here has knock-on effects well beyond the confines of the courts. A not insignificant number of Members of Parliament are lawyers. Perhaps as a consequence, the style of debate and enquiry which characterizes much of the working of the UK Parliament and its committees stresses and rewards the mastery of an adversarial style, employed for short-term effect, rather than any long-term commitment to an evidence-based approach. The discussion of our national affairs therefore takes place in an overwhelmingly superficial and silly atmosphere, which runs counter to the more dispassionate forms of evidence gathering and assessment that should characterize a mature democracy. However, there are those e.g. in the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology who seek to bring a more scientific and technical focus to bear on parliamentary debates and we should undoubtedly try to do more, as a Society, to aid and abet their efforts”


It’s a very good read!

This might also be worth reading:

ESRC UK Centre for Evidence Based Policy and Practice: Working Paper 2,

Systematic Reviews: What have they got to offer evidence based policy and practice?
Annette Boaz, Deborah Ashby, and Ken Young – Should I do a systematic review


This link was mentioned in one of the sources. Good thing i checked it out which i only did becus it surprisingly ended in the TLD .dk. However, on the site there are a few papers publicly available. It was a very, very, very good thing i went there becus of curiosity. Otherwise i might have missed the paper: Why we need easy access to all data from all clinical trials and how to accomplish it, Gøtzsche Trials 2011, 12:249
www.trialsjournal.com/content/12/1/249. Why we need easy access, Trials 2011

This is a very important paper for anyone with an interest in medicine, meta-reviews/systematic reviews, science, transparency, corruption etc. to read. I think this paper is so good that i personally wrote the author a thank-you email!

More mainstream article that mentioned the study: news.yahoo.com/people-arent-smart-enough-democracy-flourish-scientists-185601411.html

The actual paper: A Mathematical Model of Democratic Elections

Original Dunning-Kruger paper: unskilledandunaware

“Abstract: Democratic election is the preferred method for determining political administrators nowadays. The
intention is to find the best possible leader in order to improve the group’s competitiveness and success. Though
preferred, democratic election is far from being optimal in this respect, and is increasingly becoming the target
for fraud. A model was developed to scientifically analyze the present electoral system’s insufficiency. It is
based on fauceir assumptions. Its calculations enable principles to be developed that optimize the election
process, while also revealing the limits of elections in societies growing ever more complex, so that in the end
elections have to be replaced by processes similar to what has proved optimal throughout naturally occurring
evolution-natural selection.” (Abstract of the 2012 paper)

It is actually a pretty short paper (7 pages, lots of pics) that is very readable and not particularly technical (it has some standard deviation stuff, probability function, and center of gravity). It is most interesting for its theoretical ideas. The basic idea is that people can be measured, at least in principle, for their leadership abilities (called “capacity quotient”) and that those abilities will form a normal distribution just like IQ. The rational is that the idea is closely related to IQ. It is probably dubious. Most people are not interested in reading up on the various things that one needs to know to be a good leader. I think the distribution is skewed to the left, i.e., most people wud make worse than average leaders.

The next idea is that people are completely blind to differences in leadership abilities beyond their own level:

“Next, this objective spectrum is projected
subjectively into  each individual’s mind, given the
empirical knowledge that an individual’s ability to gauge
an other person’s qualities ends at the very point where
their own qualities reside  on the spectrum, or, in other
words, each individual  is blind  to differences in
capabilities better than their own. Again for simplicity, we
define a rule of distortion that, depending on one’s own
position on the spectrum, everything that is left of this
position is reflected almost correctly, while all individuals
right of one’s position on the spectrum are regarded as no
better than oneself. In physics this corresponds to a low-
pass filter (Fig. 2 and 3).”

This is based rather speculatively (and not properly recognized as being speculative) on research by Dunning and Kruger (paper in the beginning). It is correct that people are not good at recognizing skills beyond their own and tend to overestimate themselves, but they are not completely incapable. I also think that there is a reverse effect when the difference in ability between the judge and the person being judged is very large. In other words, i think that a normal person wud judge a person that was very capable of being a good leader as being a worse than average leader. This is becus average people are not familiar with the various reform ideas that a good leader wud introduce, and are probably hostile to such reform ideas. I am thinking about reform ideas such as: spelling/language reform, democracy/meritocracy/voting reform, copyright+patent laws reform, recreational drug laws reform, etc. Most of these wud be seen as ‘bad’ by average people, but not so much by much above average people. If one factored this factor into the model in some way (any Maple programmers reading this are encouraged to contact me!) then the effect on choosing better than average leaders wud be even smaller, perhaps nonexistent, or *shudder* negative! I dont know for sure without running the data.

Some of the other parts are more dubious but still cool:

“The more an individual’s capabilities are shifted to
the left of the  spectrum the more convinced that
individual will be that all people are the same. This is the
objective reason why socialist sociological theories are
more deeply rooted in less-educated people. Being aware
of this fact, communist parties sought support among
blue-collar workers, whom they called the working class
(KPCC, 1961; Honecker, 1967; Ponomarev, 1970).”

From a 4chan thread:


What’s the difference between nationalism and patriotism?


l2google. Spent <5 mins on Google and found this.


Because you may not know how to do a proper search. Here is what I did:
1. Googled “difference patriotism nationalism”
2. Checked various sites looking for something reliable. failed to find that.
3. Wiki’d “nationalism” and “patriotism”. In the 2nd article, it is mentioned that it is a similar sentiment to nationalism. I check the three sources. Two of them link to SEP. SEP is a great source. I check both SEP articles. One of them has a section on the distinction between the two. Job’s done.

First, perhaps this will help some people with learning how to find things on Google. I have used search engines for many years and have internalized how I look for information, so I don’t even think about it when I do it. Others may still need to do so.

Second, there doesn’t seem to be any important conceptual difference between the two that is worth remembering. It seems better to simple ask the person what he means if one finds oneself speaking with a person who is making a distinction between the two.

Third, not very related but I love this quote.

If love is blind, patriotism has lost all five senses.