Nash Equilibrium in American politics

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Re: Nash Equilibrium in American politics

Postby Pfhorrest » Tue Feb 06, 2018 7:57 am UTC

I've got too much of a (literal) migraine right now to think if this counts as a literal nash equilibrium or not, but it's a pretty well established theorem in voting theory that our first-past-the-post electoral method pretty much mathematically guarantees a two-party system. I would intuitively expect a two-party system to naturally tend toward extremes as each party tries to differentiate itself from the only competition to gain votes, though Hotelling's law seems to counter that; perhaps the two effects are themselves in some kind of equilibrium.

In any case, it's pretty well-known that the structural thing that we have to change to break out of this binary partisanship is our electoral method. There's a lot of further debate over what electoral method to implement in its place and, further than that, the much harder problem of how to get any electoral reform passed when the parties in power benefit from keeping it the way it is. But one way or another, that's the well-known structural cause.
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Re: Nash Equilibrium in American politics

Postby guenther » Tue Feb 06, 2018 6:54 pm UTC

Fixing that directly is certainly what I would like, but I was trying to be open to other ideas. For example, this voting system has been with us for quite a while, and we've weathered the storm of partisan politics before, so how is the case stronger today for this fix compared to times in the past? This is where I tried to lay out the idea of partisan sorting that's going on, and I put forth the idea that it's the lever of social media that's making this possible. So maybe another approach might be to make this a less powerful lever. Of course, I don't know what this solution would look like without completely destroying the freedom we have on the internet. But (assuming my idea is correct), understanding the mechanism can lead to other potential solutions.

But aside from how to solve the problem, another piece to this is simply building the case that we need to solve it. I remember harping on the two-party system since the end of the Bush years, and in fact that's what made me seek out a forum to do discuss this and ultimately led to my first political topic here. It's certainly not hard to find other people that share a similar urgency for fixing this, and I dove headlong into learning about other voting systems. But my case of "Hey isn't this other way better?" didn't really appeal to anyone that wasn't already filled with a similar zeal. I couldn't gain traction on this beyond it being an interesting academic concept.

I suppose this reveals a bit of motivated reasoning on my part for coming up with a compelling story of why two-party politics is such a problem. But in the end, that's another piece of what I want to accomplish. Firstly I want the idea of NE tested (if my desire to have this be true is causing errors in my logic, I want it exposed), but beyond that I want to come up with a way to break outside of the circle of people that already agree that our political duopoly should be fixed. I don't believe we'll convince the parties to do this, so it will taking uniting the people against the parties. Therefore, I do want a compelling story for why people should care. I want this idea either blown up as armchair expert garbage, or I want it placed on firmer ground that I can bring to others.
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Re: Nash Equilibrium in American politics

Postby Zamfir » Wed Feb 07, 2018 2:02 am UTC

You keep returning to this Nash equilibrium, You also talk about social media bubbles. Are these separate ideas, or are they somehow related? .

To me, they seem difficult to fit together. Nash equilibria assume perfectly clear goals, a precise and fixed numerical valuation of any outcome. But if people have those, how would Facebook change their behaviour? Or are voters not actors, in this model?

More in general, I think you need to sketch the game-theoretical model that you have in mind, if you want to pursue this nash-equilibrium idea. What are the actors (are voters actors in the model? Are their special interest within parties, or are parties unitary actors), what payoff function do they have (do party just want to win, or do they have policy preferences of their own?), what actions are open to them, how do actions translate to outcomes? Do the actors have perfect knowledge?

Even if you can't dot every I and cross every t, it would still be good to have an outline. Without such a model, is it meaningful to talk about a nash-equilibrium?

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Re: Nash Equilibrium in American politics

Postby guenther » Wed Feb 07, 2018 7:28 am UTC

Zamfir wrote:You keep returning to this Nash equilibrium, You also talk about social media bubbles. Are these separate ideas, or are they somehow related?

NE describes the strategy, and the filter bubble idea is the tactic. The NE strategy is a hardline approach that favors blocking the opposition over partial wins through compromise. The tactic to achieve this is to employ the lever of social media to create isolated echo chambers that builds a sense of team loyalty and inoculates members from opposing arguments.

As you've probably guessed, I don't have enough of a game structure to actually make predictions, like why this strategy is preferred over one with compromise. I'm just observing that both parties are moving that way, and it's pushing us to a place of gridlock and greater tribalism.

Also I'm being a little loose with the idea of Nash Equilibrium. I wrote an earlier post talking about a solution that's near NE. Part of the rules of the game would be implementations of the electorate reward and punishment for certain behaviors (e.g. the appetite for attack ads). These rules would shift around in ways we can't perfectly know, but if the changes aren't too large, then the solutions could perhaps circle around a Nash Equilibrium. I.e. effectively providing gridlock most of the time, but not perfectly blocking all opposing moves.

Zamfir wrote:Even if you can't dot every I and cross every t, it would still be good to have an outline. Without such a model, is it meaningful to talk about a nash-equilibrium?

I'm envisioning the parties are the actors, but the concept of "party" is poorly defined. I suppose the best definition would be whoever is helping shape the party narrative, or the people with the largest public platforms within the party. We'd need multiple players on each team since there are conflicting voices on what the party should do, especially with the sweeping changes with Trump. But maybe a simpler model with fewer players would still be able to capture the NE that I'm proposing.

I guess I'm stuck here on the model. There's certainly no perfect information, but I have no idea how to build a set of actions and outcomes. Ideally we'd want to simplify things down to a level we could analyze, but I bet it's PhD worthy material to figure out what a useful version would look like.

I'm happy to proceed as far down the road of detail with you that you have patience for. :) But I'm also open to the idea that I'm out of my depths in thinking I could quantitatively model this. If that is true, then is there value is building a qualitative model? Or in other words, could I try to sell you on the concept?

In the end I'm just trying to connect dots. We have deep divisions that are more sorted by party than ever, and a politics that seems to thrive on bringing it deeper still. We have filter bubbles that wrap people up with a language and narrative that effectively lets them talk past the opposition without ever accomplishing anything. We have hardline political responses to each other that offer little space for compromise. And we seem to have an increasing appetite for more of it as entrenchment grows and blame flies back and forth. I feel there's a game theory lens that can bring this all together. But I'm open to the idea that I'm shoehorning NE onto it. I latched onto it because of the description of gridlock that blocks your opponent's moves, and that feels pretty similar to what we see happening.
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Re: Nash Equilibrium in American politics

Postby Zamfir » Wed Feb 07, 2018 2:01 pm UTC

Thing is, I have trouble pinning down the core of your argument. As far as I can tell, it's something like this:

- US politicians are less willing compromise than even in the recent past
- this is because voters are nowadays strongly influenced by social media filter bubbles, and people in filter bubbles do not like compromises with the other party
- Politicians are actively at work to create filter bubbles, and the effect would be far weaker if they didn't do this.
- politicians might not want to do this, but they have no choice because otherwise they would lose to politicians who do. That the 'game theoretical' aspect

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Re: Nash Equilibrium in American politics

Postby guenther » Wed Feb 07, 2018 7:54 pm UTC

A few comments:

1. I'm not sure how much of the game is played by politicians versus by salient voices in the party. In reality, both play a role, but can we model the game in a more clean way with just one? I don't know. In particular I'm thinking of the powers that foster the filter bubble.

2. People in a filter bubble that fosters tribalism do not like compromise. The actors are shaping existing bubbles rather than creating new ones. I don't know if that's an important distinction within the game theory model.

3. Can we boil the goal down to simply a position of no-compromise? It seems like that's the case within the halls of Congress, but at election time there could be other benefits directly derived from the filter bubbles and tribalism. For example, building a sense of identity within the team and animosity to the other team might help with motivating voters and pandering to the base. Can the election game be separated out, or do we need one game that combines all of this? I don't know.

Thank you for the help so far!
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Re: Nash Equilibrium in American politics

Postby Pfhorrest » Wed Feb 07, 2018 9:37 pm UTC

I have a theory:

Nothing about the structure of the game has changed, but the increasing speed and quantity of communication is like adding heat to a reaction. It's still doing the same thing it was doing before (in this case, increasing partisanship), but because there are more interactions going on more quickly, it's happening faster now.
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Re: Nash Equilibrium in American politics

Postby Zamfir » Thu Feb 08, 2018 11:34 am UTC

It would be good to have some data on the effect that you're trying to explain. Numerical time-series, preferably. Voter behaviour, legislative behaviour, data that say 'it used to be like this, now it's different'. Where does the effect show up (and where is it absent where you might have expected it).

And when does it start! If social media form the core of the effect, then the 90s are the last pure period of the old, more bi-partisan ways. In simplest terms: then how about Ken Starr?

Can we boil the goal down to simply a position of no-compromise?

How so? You yourself appear convinced that compromised change is better than a gridlocked status-quo. Why would you assume otherwise for the actors in your model?

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Re: Nash Equilibrium in American politics

Postby guenther » Thu Feb 08, 2018 6:23 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:Nothing about the structure of the game has changed, but the increasing speed and quantity of communication is like adding heat to a reaction. It's still doing the same thing it was doing before (in this case, increasing partisanship), but because there are more interactions going on more quickly, it's happening faster now.

That could be. There's certainly a much faster news cycle now with stories exploding on Twitter almost instantly. I'm sure that plays a role, though I have no idea if the metaphor of heat is helpful. One other impact could be that since there's a lower barrier for anyone jumping online and contributing, we now have a smorgasbord of options available now, thus letting us really be picky with only the options that taste best.

EDIT: I thought about it more and have come around on the heat metaphor. The fast news cycle gives no time to cool down and reflect, but just keeps feeding us more to be upset about. The smorgasbord is full of plates of outrage that we have a hard time passing up.

Zamfir wrote:And when does it start! If social media form the core of the effect, then the 90s are the last pure period of the old, more bi-partisan ways. In simplest terms: then how about Ken Starr?

If we set our sights a little further back, we have a civil war. My claim doesn't depend on there being a golden age of of reasoned bipartisan togetherness. The system is inherently both competitive and high stakes, which means you'll get people doing mean and nasty things.

The piece of data I'm bringing is the partisan sorting. I cited links in my first post, but here's another that lets you look at polling data over a number of years. What it shows seems to be in line with this shift happening with the Tea Party movement.

I cited a link of filter bubbles somewhere along the way that sets up a demonstration of what a conservative versus a liberal Facebook account would see. This is just demonstrating that the effect is real, but I'm really just relying on this being commonly accepted here. If you're looking for more data on it's existence, I could try to find that.

As for linkage between those two things, I don't have data, that's just me supposing as part of my claim.

Zamfir wrote:How so? You yourself appear convinced that compromised change is better than a gridlocked status-quo. Why would you assume otherwise for the actors in your model?

I meant the goal of shaping the filter bubble, as in can we boil down the benefits to simply fostering a position of no-compromise. I was proposing that other benefits might be relevant at election time, and turning up the volume on tribalism might just check all those boxes.

But your question is interesting. If I'm inherently treating compromise as something better, why wouldn't I assume the actors would feel the same? But compromise is the strategy, and I'm saying that I want a system that doesn't reward rejecting it. My case is that the system has built in incentives that are pushing us away from that. So I'm not assuming how the actors feel on compromise, I'm observing it.
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Re: Nash Equilibrium in American politics

Postby guenther » Fri Feb 23, 2018 5:36 pm UTC

I know this topic lost steam, but I came across another piece that I felt was relevant, so I thought I'd dump my thoughts here.

I just learned about the concept of the Overton Window, which describes what ranges of topics are politically acceptable for debate. Things can be radically too far Left or radically too far Right, and areas that are not shunned on sight fall within the window in the middle.

The context where this was brought up was based on the idea that we now have two separate Overton Windows. There are mainstream ideas on the Right that people on the Left think are beyond the pale, and visa versa with ideas on the Left. This is a similar idea to filter bubbles, but it's not explicitly tied to social media.

This idea of two windows was linked to political strategy in the sense that we may see more candidates who have approval ratings with a high floor but a low ceiling. It's hard to imagine what could bring Trump's rating below 35% or what could bring it above 50%. He was polarizing during the election, and since then he's focused on throwing more red meat to his base. The floor comes from people being happy to have someone that speaks their language and sees through the same window. To me it seems like it comes from a major dysfunction in our communication that has brought us separate windows.
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Re: Nash Equilibrium in American politics

Postby Pfhorrest » Fri Feb 23, 2018 6:41 pm UTC

Really everyone has their own Overton Window, and the effective Overton Window in a debate is wherever the intersection between the participants windows falls. There's no doubt a different common window among the right than there is among the left, and the common social window is whatever the intersection between them is.

I think a general remedy to problems like this could be described as increasing the size of people's Overton Windows, and thinking about that now kinda makes me realize that a chart I made a while back to illustrate my political stance is basically an attempt to get people to think outside of their Overton Windows, which I almost universally fall outside of.
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Re: Nash Equilibrium in American politics

Postby guenther » Sat Feb 24, 2018 1:31 am UTC

As I said, I'm new to this idea, so there's certainly room for me misunderstanding. But my interpretation is that the Window is an aggregate concept and doesn't make a lot of sense at the individual level. That's because a group's window isn't simply overlaying all the individual windows, but rather the individual window is formed out of the consensus of the group. This consensus is how the boundary gets created.

So seeing this in the aggregate consensus sense, the idea that we have two different windows moving further apart means that we have a dysfunction in communication. There's no space for a consensus to be formed. There might be some actual space of common ground if we could get people to think outside their partisan divides, but the language used to wrap them up will either have to conform to the sides' windows or be rejected.

I'm all for promoting this getting fixed at the individual level, but I'm skeptical of how successful that will be. I'm sure you've heard the expression that keeping an open mind is good, but not so open that your brain falls out. I bet the result of people using introspection to broaden one's own window will be that they move it towards what they see as the middle, but will just be reinforced with how much the other side is the problem because they're so far from the reasonable common ground. This point of "reasonable common ground" is a concept that comes from the group's window, and when the windows are moving away from each other on how to acceptably speak, this just makes the other side seem that much more radical.
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Re: Nash Equilibrium in American politics

Postby Ranbot » Wed Nov 07, 2018 6:40 pm UTC

guenther wrote:I have a theory that our two party system is...

...an economic duopoly?

Yesterday I listened to a great Freakonomics podcast, "America's Hidden Duopoly" that evaluated US politics as you would a limited choice market (monopolies, duopolies, etc.). The parallels are very interesting. It's a good way to view US politics because there is essentially two choices, there is a lot of money involved, and limited choice markets are evaluated based on whether or not they are still serving their customers well. e.g. Coca-Cola and Pepsi are a duopoly, but still serve their customers very well... needless to say US politics doesn't. EDIT-Evaluating two-party politics through the lens of economics is a great way to strip out political bias too. It reminded me of this discussion and the economic framework evaluation also supports your Nash Equilibrium theory.

Towards the end of the podcast they mention a few potential solutions to change the system. The most interesting ones to me being....

1) Party primaries put their top three or four candidates on the final ballot instead of just one candidate. Primaries are dominated by more extreme political views and more extreme candidates tend to win. This change would give a moderate candidate a chance post-primary with a full electorate who tend to be more moderate.

2) Votes can be cast for first, second, and third preferred candidates. The "first choice" votes will be counted and if a candidate does not get the 50% required votes, the candidate with the least votes will be thrown out and those votes will be converted to the "second choice" and so on until a candidate reaches 50%. This would remove the argument that voting for a third party is a "spoiler" or "throw away" vote, which perpetuates the two-part duopoly.

^^^ Good luck getting those changes through Washington. :roll: ...Maybe on a state-by-state level...maybe.
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Re: Nash Equilibrium in American politics

Postby Pfhorrest » Wed Nov 07, 2018 6:46 pm UTC

That second point (ranked voting) is the real fix*, because our first-past-the-post electoral system is exactly the cause of our two-party system. You pretty much cannot help but end up with a two-party system under a first-past-the-post system.

But yeah, how the hell can we possibly change to any kind of ranked voting when we'd have to get the two parties who stand to lose out from that change to implement it.

*What you're describing is Instant Runoff Voting, which is really the worst possible ranked voting system; what you really want is any Condorcet method. But even the worst possible ranked voting system is miles ahead of first-past-the-post.
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Re: Nash Equilibrium in American politics

Postby Chen » Wed Nov 07, 2018 6:55 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:That second point (ranked voting) is the real fix*, because our first-past-the-post electoral system is exactly the cause of our two-party system. You pretty much cannot help but end up with a two-party system under a first-past-the-post system.


What? Both British and Canadian parliamentary systems are first past the post and not two party systems.

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Re: Nash Equilibrium in American politics

Postby guenther » Wed Nov 07, 2018 7:43 pm UTC

I heard that episode as well, and I thought the comparison to Coke and Pepsi was interesting. Why are they serving their markets but the political parties are not? I think the easiest answer is that if you want a Coke, you just go buy one and drink it. That can of Coke doesn't have to cooperate with your neighbor's Pepsi before you can enjoy it. So there's something fundamentally different with the markets.

I think that the need of having to work together means that if I can't get what I want, then you must be getting in my way. It's a natural place to dial up the fear and anger rhetoric. Plus there's just a lot more inherent power associated with the choices, so the stakes are higher.

All of that is natural and not necessarily bad. But this gets ugly with the combination of A) turning the dial more gives more political advantage, and B) the dial being easy to turn with our echo chambers. So to me, this is the cycle that needs to be broken. And since I don't know how to fix B without fundamentally changing how we access information, I lean towards fixing A.

I think the key is that we need the parties to have to compete for our hearts and minds. In our duopoly, they merely have to be less evil than the other side. This means it's all about virtue signaling rather than competing ideas. This is where third parties would come in. If there were other groups that could overlap that virtue space, they couldn't play the same demonization game, and they'd actually have to sell us on why their particular ideas are good. If they couldn't, then they would lose customers to the other party.



TLDR; I just laid out my whole thought process that lands me in the same place as you: We need to change the voting system. :) And of course, it bumps into the same problem you're highlighting about the challenges of asking the duopoly to give up their control of power. Personally, I've been working on building a case that could convince partisans that the duopoly itself is a bigger concern than the opposing side. Unfortunately I haven't had great success yet...
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Re: Nash Equilibrium in American politics

Postby Pfhorrest » Wed Nov 07, 2018 8:42 pm UTC

Chen wrote:What? Both British and Canadian parliamentary systems are first past the post and not two party systems.

What I wrote applies only to single seat elections. Proportional representation is a completely different game.
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Re: Nash Equilibrium in American politics

Postby Thesh » Wed Nov 07, 2018 8:47 pm UTC

Neither Canada nor the UK have any form of PR. It's pretty much like the US system except that the prime minister is elected by parliament, not a national vote. That's probably the real difference - the Presidential election makes everything about the two parties on a national level.
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Re: Nash Equilibrium in American politics

Postby Pfhorrest » Wed Nov 07, 2018 9:00 pm UTC

And how are parliament elected?
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Re: Nash Equilibrium in American politics

Postby Thesh » Wed Nov 07, 2018 9:03 pm UTC

Same as in the US. Everyone gets a local MP, which is elected with FPTP.
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Re: Nash Equilibrium in American politics

Postby elasto » Wed Nov 07, 2018 11:40 pm UTC

The UK is weird, and while, yes, we technically do have fairly vibrant third parties some pretty horrid anomalies get thrown up.

In 2015, for example, the Tories and Labour got around 2/3rds of the vote but ended up with 7/8ths of the seats.

The SNP got 5% of the vote and ended up with 1/12th of the seats, which is roughly proportionate, but the Greens got 4% of the votes and got 1/650th of the seats and UKIP polled a whopping 13% of the votes for only 1/650th of the seats!

Meanwhile the Lib Dems got heavily punished for cooperating in compromise politics rather than brinkmanship, proving our electorate is not grown-up enough to handle pragmatic cooperation rather than adversarial ideology in our politicians, relegating the Lib Dems to being an eternal protest vote only.

So sad.

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Re: Nash Equilibrium in American politics

Postby Ranbot » Thu Nov 08, 2018 12:17 am UTC

guenther wrote:...We need to change the voting system. :) And of course, it bumps into the same problem you're highlighting about the challenges of asking the duopoly to give up their control of power. Personally, I've been working on building a case that could convince partisans that the duopoly itself is a bigger concern than the opposing side. Unfortunately I haven't had great success yet...

Right to the voting system.

Maybe the partisans are a lost cause?

Maybe instead a group of moderates could be convinced they can gain power by being a block of swing votes. Kind of like how the Blue Dog Democrats used to have to be courted to get their votes. Unfortunately in extremist heavy primaries, it's difficult to relay the message that there can be power in smart compromise.

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Re: Nash Equilibrium in American politics

Postby guenther » Thu Nov 08, 2018 12:52 am UTC

These politicians are smart people, or they have groups of smart people working for them. I don't think the problem is simply that there are hurdles in the way of informing them about compromise. The idea of the Nash Equilibrium is that the players understand the game and know what they're doing. What I'm presenting is that the incentives in the game are pushing the players towards increased tribalism because it's effective. This would mean that having a fraction of your party become moderate swing votes is less effective.

I'm far from a game theory expert, and I certainly haven't applied much rigor with my ideas. They just sound right to me at a conceptual level. But this means I don't really know how to explore questions like about the effectiveness of moderate swing votes within that framework. I can observe that we have less of it now in politics, but I can't make a strong case that it's because it's less effective. I'm not even very rigorous on what "effective" means: Winning elections? Passing policy? Preventing opposition policy?

Anyway, I still like the idea, but I don't want to oversell it without merit. But to me it does seem like there's more going on than simply a lack of knowledge by some of the players. But pushing for a stronger moderate wing sounds good, and I'd support that message.
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Re: Nash Equilibrium in American politics

Postby Pfhorrest » Thu Nov 08, 2018 1:53 am UTC

I'm not sure I can get behind "moderation" if by that you mean just some political position between Democrats and Republicans. "Moderate" as in "conservatively progressive" as in "make changes carefully" is a good thing, but "moderate" as the arithmetic mean between that (which is pretty much what Democrats are today) and "lunatic reactionary" (which is where the Republicans are today) is not something worth striving for. "Moderate" as in the arithmetic mean between the most radical progressives and those lunatic reactionaries is fine... but that's basically what the Democrats are. The actual left wing of the populace don't have any party representing them; the closest we have are the moderates, the Democrats.
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Re: Nash Equilibrium in American politics

Postby ucim » Thu Nov 08, 2018 3:36 am UTC

What if everything is going well...whatever the system. Economy is good, people are kind, opportunities abound, crime is low, whatever it means to have "everything be going well" in politics and in policy. People are happy with the present leaders But you're not one of those politicians; you want to be a leader too. Why should anybody vote for you? You have to be the answer to a problem, and if there isn't a problem, you need to create one, so you can be that answer.

That's what's wrong with politics.

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Re: Nash Equilibrium in American politics

Postby Pfhorrest » Thu Nov 08, 2018 5:11 am UTC

Or you can be the last line of defense for the "all going well" status quo against the crazy people trying to fearmonger you into following them because they are the only solution to the problem that they made up.

It's true that there is the incentive you highlight there, but it creates its own opposite. And which of those poles, defending the status quo or desperate radical change, prevails in the polls will hinge heavily on how many people actually feel like everything is going well for them (in which case made-up threats will more likely sound made-up) or not (in which case made-up threats make good scapegoats for the real problems people are facing).
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Re: Nash Equilibrium in American politics

Postby guenther » Thu Nov 08, 2018 6:21 am UTC

I don't buy that we could be in a happy status quo if only people would stop rocking the cart. There are serious divides on social issues, economic, military, environmental. And there are big winners and losers depending on what the government decides to do. I can buy that the tail sometimes wags the dog, but there are real incentives to pushing the government one way or the other beyond simply wanting to gain power.

Pfhorrest wrote:I'm not sure I can get behind "moderation" if by that you mean just some political position between Democrats and Republicans.

We can want a strong moderate voice without actually supporting their policy. There could be value in simply having a more diverse set of ideas. (But I agree that in the middle for in-the-middle's sake is not very appealing.)
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Re: Nash Equilibrium in American politics

Postby Ranbot » Thu Nov 08, 2018 3:01 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:... "lunatic reactionary" (which is where the Republicans are today)... "Moderate" as in the arithmetic mean between the most radical progressives and those lunatic reactionaries is fine... but that's basically what the Democrats are... the closest we have are the moderates, the Democrats.

While I completely understand this view and I personally agree to an extent, there are many many people who would disagree vehemently and argue it's the Democrats who are "reactionary lunatics". There are enough of them that you can't just disregard them as lunatics. You won't gain ground with that side by portraying them that way either even that's how you honestly feel ( e.g. "... Basket of deplorables... " - Hillary Clinton, 2016). It might also be an indication of your own thought bubble(s), which we decry in others. I am not accusing you of being in a thought bubble, I don't know you well enough to say that, but a comment like that hints at the possibility.

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Re: Nash Equilibrium in American politics

Postby elasto » Thu Nov 08, 2018 3:14 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:"Moderate" as in the arithmetic mean between the most radical progressives and those lunatic reactionaries is fine... but that's basically what the Democrats are. The actual left wing of the populace don't have any party representing them; the closest we have are the moderates, the Democrats.

In addition to Ranbot's point, one must again be reminded that complex, nuanced multi-dimensional politics is flattened into a simple line by the system.

So it wouldn't surprise me at all to find out that, say, most Americans are to the right of the Democrats economically, to the left of the Republicans socially, and less authoritarian than either (which is not a direction that really exists on today's left-right spectrum).

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Re: Nash Equilibrium in American politics

Postby Chen » Thu Nov 08, 2018 5:21 pm UTC

elasto wrote:So it wouldn't surprise me at all to find out that, say, most Americans are to the right of the Democrats economically, to the left of the Republicans socially, and less authoritarian than either (which is not a direction that really exists on today's left-right spectrum).


Even more than this there can be single issues that are so dominant in your view that they supercede the rest of the platforms. Abortion and gay rights being two off the top of my head. For me personally in Quebec, when separation was a real threat, it was the primary issue to vote based on. I might like some of Quebec Solidaire's policy points but as long as they are separatists they're not getting my vote.

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Re: Nash Equilibrium in American politics

Postby Zamfir » Thu Nov 08, 2018 6:38 pm UTC

In addition to Ranbot's point, one must again be reminded that complex, nuanced multi-dimensional politics is flattened into a simple line by the system.

The problem here is that political decision-making itself cannot be as complex as the many different views of the public. At some stage, all that complexity has to be flattened anyway into laws and actions.

Fptp systems force a lot of that flattening into the stage before elections. Main parties have to offer a fairly complete program that has a shot at getting majority support, and they have to build the required compromises inside their internal coalition.

If you offer voters a wider range of choices, the flattening still has to happen. You just get more coalition-building and compromises after the election. The upside is a wider representstion at the parliamentary level. The downside is that your representatives might compromise their position to something you don't want, or they might be completely powerless to affect outcomes.

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Re: Nash Equilibrium in American politics

Postby Ranbot » Thu Nov 08, 2018 6:43 pm UTC

elasto wrote:In addition to Ranbot's point, one must again be reminded that complex, nuanced multi-dimensional politics is flattened into a simple line by the system.

Agreed completely. And that gets back to the root problem [as I see it] of the politics ruled by two parties - the duopoly. We need a strong block of swing votes to better represent the entire populace. My preference is a third [or more] parties but a block of moderates cooperating across party lines (as US politicians used to do prior to the last ~15 years) will do.





RANT TIME....
I wish Washington would pass something... anything, for fuck's sake! Pick something relatively non-controversial and do it - baby steps. For example 33 US states have legalized marijuana use in some fashion, so it seems like low-hanging fruit for Washington to at least downgrade it from the fed's list of Schedule 1 [illegal] drugs, which would give states, tax laws, police, business owners, lenders, insurance companies, investors, doctors, medical researchers, and individuals some clarity in this burgeoning multi-billion dollar industry. Progressive for the D's and business-friendly for the R's... Do it Washington and try to build on that rare moment of cooperation to do more [And I don't even smoke pot or would start if it was legalized recreationally, but I know it's overdue for Washington to act.]
/RANT

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Re: Nash Equilibrium in American politics

Postby elasto » Thu Nov 08, 2018 6:49 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:Fptp systems force a lot of that flattening into the stage before elections. Main parties have to offer a fairly complete program that has a shot at getting majority support, and they have to build the required compromises inside their internal coalition.


The truth is though that most of the time politicians in FPTP systems renege on their promises anyhow, confident in the knowledge that, by the time the next election comes, once again people will be scared into line and vote for 'the lesser of two evils' (often sweetened by some pre-election giveaway).

This is a huge reason for the electorate's dillusionment with politics in general, and a big part of why 'burn it all down' options like Trump and Brexit become so appealing.

At least with consensus politics the politicians have to work together for the entirety of the cycle lest the government falls and new elections are called, meaning no party's interests - and therefore no voter bloc's interests - can be entirely ignored.

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Re: Nash Equilibrium in American politics

Postby Zamfir » Thu Nov 08, 2018 7:29 pm UTC

Then again, voters are always and everywhere disillusioned with politics, politicians and the capital city. And there's always a voter block for burn-it-down.

I mean, Trump is basically Berlusconi, despite Italy's very different election systems. Which they change once in a while, after years of Berlusconi they wanted more FPTP.

In fact, they used to have fairly pure proportional representation up to the 80s, which was widely blamed for lack of stability, and for 'partitocracy', giving too much power to the parties and not enough choice to the voters...

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Re: Nash Equilibrium in American politics

Postby Thesh » Thu Nov 08, 2018 7:32 pm UTC

The flattening also happens within the legislature as well, due to the majoritarian hierarchy.
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Re: Nash Equilibrium in American politics

Postby ucim » Fri Nov 09, 2018 2:57 am UTC

The issue isn't that flattening happens. It has to.

The issue is who gets to do the flattening, which plays into what direction it gets flattened into.

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Re: Nash Equilibrium in American politics

Postby Thesh » Fri Nov 09, 2018 6:57 am UTC

The issue is that the structure of our system is really short-sighted and makes no attempt to even consider minority parties, and so it doesn't just flatten everything but it explicitly gives disproportionate power to the largest party, while also having too few representatives. There is a ton of stuff we can do to fix the flattening, if we weren't stuck with a population of people who, instead of trying to understand problems simply declare them unresolvable.
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Re: Nash Equilibrium in American politics

Postby Ranbot » Fri Nov 16, 2018 7:27 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:That second point (ranked voting) is the real fix...how the hell can we possibly change to any kind of ranked voting...

guenther wrote:....my whole thought process that lands me in the same place as you: We need to change the voting system.


Ranked voting works in Maine to elect House representative. Maine [and Nebraska] also split their electoral votes (Congressional District Method). A possible model for other states?
Last edited by Ranbot on Sat Nov 17, 2018 1:24 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Nash Equilibrium in American politics

Postby guenther » Sat Nov 17, 2018 12:38 am UTC

I think that's pretty exciting. I'd love for these fancy new voting systems to go nation-wide, but really this decentralized path of vetting them at lower levels really makes sense. So hopefully it's just a matter of it gaining traction and expanding.
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Re: Nash Equilibrium in American politics

Postby Thesh » Sat Nov 17, 2018 12:42 am UTC

My only concern is that voting reform will occur in blue states, making them more fair in favor of Republicans, and suppression will continue to get worse in red states, making them less fair in favor of Republicans. I'd really like to see the focus be on state and local elections, rather than national.
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