html xmlns="" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: Tired of this? I'm not.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Tired of this? I'm not.

Mark Nau's comments are harder.

Byzantine regulation, unfair enforcement, and some amount of make-work meddling is the inevitable result of top-down regulation. There may well be situations where this is the best possible solution. Please note that I'm granting that. But you have to factor in the fact that those negative things are part of the package deal when it is time to select a mechanism.
I’m still chipping away at the dilemma of overregulation, but I’ll start with a warm up.

I don’t think that Byzantine regulation, unfair enforcement and make-work meddling are a result of top-down regulation. I think they’re just what humans do. A bunch of hippies at a consensus-based house meeting can come up with ornate policies to rival those from any top-down regulators.

When a group finds a problem, there are only a couple options. You can address the source directly (Alex! Stop leaving your long hair in the shower drain), or you can address the behavior in the abstract (long hair must be removed from the shower drain). If you have a tribe-type situation, you could have a chief with the personal authority and the will to address people directly. Then there is one simple rule: Obey the chief. But if you are a bunch of cowards who avoid conflict, you make rules. And if you are dealing with a class of people, only some of whom are leaving their hair in the shower and you don’t know which ones, you make rules that govern the group.

Doesn’t take long before those rules accumulate. Top-down regulators are annoying because they have the authority to enforce the rules, and maybe the problem wasn’t bothering you all that much, and you weren’t there, so you don’t know how they wrote those rules or why they have to be so complicated. But I don’t think bizarrely complicated rules developing over time is unique to any form of governance.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yep. The fundamental problem is that the world is getting crowded and we are all bumping up against each other. Hence the proliferation of rules.

Government is bureaucratic, and so are the large corporations that dominate the private economy. A big difference is that large private corporations have a simpler objective function to maximize -- profits. For governments, even trying to measure the multi-dimentional social good you are trying to maximize is incredibly challenging.


1:45 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Great analysis, yes. Collective governance is messy just by virtue of people being people. So, here is my major message to “top-down regulation enthusiasts:”

You are in too big a hurry to jam things into large-scale collective decision-making mechanisms rather than allowing individual decision-making mechanisms. You overlook the inherent problems of collective decision-making. I’m not saying individual decision-making mechanisms are perfect. Just that you seem overly enthusiastic about all the wonderful things that your beautifully-crafted collective decision-making mechanism is going to do, and tend to minimize or dismiss concerns about the inherent drawbacks. “We’re not just going to stand here and do nothing,” is a common refrain.

Well, maybe the negatives of your solution outweigh the positives. Not everything should be shoehorned into a collective decision-making process. You are very aware of the negatives to collective decisions when in comes to personal matters, and seemingly blind to them when in comes to economic matters.

Fix that blind spot, please.

So, coming back to talking to Megan rather than a fictitious group:

Many of the issues you deal with professionally seem firmly in the realm of “public goods.” In my mind, the main thing that distinguishes a libertarian from an anarchist is that the former admits the existence of problems that should be solved through coercive collective action. So don’t take my message as meaning “private ownership and the market can fix everything” but rather “more government isn’t always the solution.”

2:03 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

That wasn't even my analysis.

OH GOD don't get me started on collective decision making. You think I'm opinionated about bureaucracies? WEEKS, I tell you. WEEKS.

I have other audiences, you know. Audiences that are waiting to hear about smut, like blow jobs and center pivot irrigation systems. Audiences who want to read about my futile dating life. And what about my job? When am I supposed to attend to that, if I get started on collective decision making.

All that said, I probably won't be able to resist.

2:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are in too big a hurry

Sounds like someone made a top-down decision about what constitutes "too big a hurry" that differs from the bottom-up one that the public has de facto chosen as shown by their continued support of the current legal infrastructure.

2:23 PM  
Blogger billoo said...

I would prefer to hear your views on what appears to be a momentous day when it comes to scepticism on climate change.

2:45 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

I thought about that, but honestly, I think that the people who doubted climate change two weeks ago aren't going to be persuaded just because hundreds of the reputable scientists in the world have issued yet another formal report confirming that there is a drastic problem, it is anthropogenic, and we need to fix it. Climate change doubters are like Creationists in my mind, and I don't see the point in arguing with them.

2:59 PM  
Blogger Mark said...


It's not clear what you rebutting. I think you might have latched onto the phrase "top down" and missed my point. To quickly rephrase:

Collective decision-making processes have flaws. It seems that some people are very prone to overlooking those flaws in the search for a perfect solution. Sometimes having no collective decision-making process is better. For example, many people believe we should not have a collective decision-making process regarding what books adults are allowed to read.

3:18 PM  
Blogger Justin said...

here here here here here

Again, I'll listen when the message is clear. No one has this figured out. The news is all over the place with it. People can take sides all they want. But, I still hold that if the science were so clear cut, the message would be more direct. And, while everyone will bitch and moan about the oil lobbyists offering to pay scientists for skeptical analysis, I'm not so convinced by analysis by a bunch of people who seem to have a political agenda on the other side.

3:22 PM  
Blogger Justin said...

I forgot, the best one from recently here.

It's hardly reasonable to say that anyone who doesn't just buy your stand on this issue must just be an idiot.

You should at least have enough respect for the rest of us to acknowledge that despite what you think you know, because you went to grad school, and took some courses, the information available on the issue to the rest of us is hardly conclusive. A web search will bring up all kinds of results with arguments both for and against, from all kinds of sources. Most of us aren't climatologists, so most of us don't know what's reputable and what's not. And, since the issues is clearly very political there's a lot of money changing hands, and everyone from all sides crying foul.

It's not as simple as you want to believe.

And, to be fair, you're biased towards immediate action, and regulation on most issues it seems.

3:35 PM  
Blogger Berg said...

"center pivot irrigation systems": is that some kind of golden shower thing? And you seem like such a nice girl.


4:16 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Perhaps you are new. We talk about irrigation systems a lot 'round here.

4:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But, I still hold that if the science were so clear cut, the message would be more direct.

I feel the same way about evolution and field theory.

How does one measure "directness" when deciding which scientific papers to publish?

5:41 PM  
Blogger Justin said...

You're missing the difference. You not believing in field theory has no effect on the lives of everyone around you.

The people who say global warming is a sure thing want regulations at the least. At the extreme, some people are talking about drastic measures to try to reverse it. Projects specifically designed to alter the global climate. I don't know how anyone is so sure on this issue to be proposing such drastic measures, they don't seem to be bothered with the question of, "What if we're wrong?"

And, my point here is, it's hardly fair to say, "people who don't believe me are like creationists." How big of a debate over evolution do you see in the media? If you look up the science, how much real controversy is there?

With global warming the media is all over the place with it. Scientists on both sides are pushing opposing views. When you look up the science you find conflicting information.

I said this originally, I have no opinion on the issue, it's ultimately a question of reality, and reality rarely cares what my opinions are. I'm not in either camp on GW. My only position is, the issue is confusing at best. Nothing is clear cut from where I'm sitting.

5:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Come on...what's happening in Los Osos?

6:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're missing the difference. You not believing in field theory has no effect on the lives of everyone around you.

People who argue against man-made climate change generally like moving the goal posts so I'm curious under what circumstances you would be willing to accept it as a fact? 92.8% of climatologists supporting it? 100%? All Washington Post editorialists?

The people who say global warming is a sure thing want regulations at the least.

I believe global climate change is a sure thing and I don't want regulations.

How big of a debate over evolution do you see in the media?

I see a huge debate over evolution in the media. Just because you live in a progressive, liberal state doesn't mean the rest of the US is the same. A state senator from my town just introduced a "Public Schools Religious Bill of Rights" that would allow teachers and students to opt out of portions of the science curriculum they don't believe are true. Many of my coworkers (software and hardware engineers) believe that creationism should be taught in public schools here. Even the President believes creationism should be "properly taught" next to evolution.

If you look up the science, how much real controversy is there?

How exactly does a non-specialist (who is beginning with the belief that the majority specialist opinion can't be trusted) determine "real controversy"?

Why don't the Discovery Institute and Thomas More Law Center's positions on evolution count as "real controversy"? Especially as they mirror the beliefs of the majority of Americans?

With global warming the media is all over the place with it.

I fail to see what the media has to do with science.

7:16 PM  
Blogger Justin said...

Again, I think you're missing my point.

To start, I do happen to live in California, but I was born in Oklahoma, my family is scattered around Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, and I grew up in Minnesota and Illinois (And I'm not even going to watch the superbowl.)

I have no problem with people believing what they want. And I have no problem with parents being able to opt their kids out of science classes that teach evolution, if that's what they believe.

I never have a problem with a person saying, I have no opinion on this issue, because I just haven't seen enough evidence one way or the other. Which is really the original point.

But, the information that is available is all over the place on global warming. And, I would take the stance that until it's clear to me that people are the cause, and we're headed towards disaster, that I can't support regulations to prevent it that have other potential consequences.

So, what does the media have to do with science? Much of the global warming debate isn't about science, it's about politics. So, what groups are demanding what actions matters. But, the media will report on the latest findings, but even those are all over the place. The same week the UN issues their latest report, 2 books are released by different scientists claiming that global warming is completely natural.

So, what would it take to convince me? I don't know. I'd have to have a lot of questions answered to my satisfaction for starters. I'd have to see someone working with a reliable model that's accurate with historical data, and makes accurate future predictions.

I'm not anti expert. I believe in Quantum Mechanics, even though I've never presonally verified it. I've had all of my questions answered to my satisfaction. I can see all kinds of devices built based off the theory working quite well, so apparenlty the model works well.

But, I don't believe just anything an expert tells me. It has to ring true with my understanding of reality, if it doesn't, then I have questions.

And, equating the Global Warming debate to the Evolution debate is kind of ridiculous. Creationism can't be proven or disproven, so no amount of science is going to help. Evolution on the other hand is readily observable, we do it all the time with fruit flies in labs. We do it with our pets to get qualities we like, and race horses and dogs. We do it with our crops. We know for a fact that we can evolve something over time to get the traits we want, we have a pretty good understanding of genetics, and we know how to manipulate it.

We have no such working knowledge of the climate system, just a bunch of theories that are yet to produce a working model.

8:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We have no such working knowledge of the climate system, just a bunch of theories that are yet to produce a working model.
The very most you can say here is that they've not yet produced a model you've seen.

The incuriosity of the non-specialist is not a deficiency of climate modeling.

9:50 PM  
Blogger Justin said...

That's true. If the model exists it should be publicized. But, the predictions they make that make it into the media are horribly inaccurate.

So, that would be step 1 in selling me on the theory. A working model.

11:33 PM  

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