Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Are the SWEET Scholars trying to make me an irrational Nihilist?

Collective action is sloppy and imprecise. To look at each individual and make value judgements as to whether they are acting rationally or irrationally is an utter impossibility by the very fact that the model would collapse under its own weight. So the proposal squeaked out by Matt Mitchell is that we instead focus on how other people’s institutions function to give us clues as to why or why not their society prospers or fails. It is difficult to test this theory, but it does carry value, particularly when we consider how these institution impose limits and interact with their society. And as people we should probably consider ourselves equally rational (or irrational) in spite of widely differing views and opinions.
So the institutions (governments) place a series of choices in front of a given people, with absolute control over the options, the number of options, the order of the options, the level at which people can interact with those options, everything. The people get to make an uninformed decision on which options suit them best given massively imperfect information, and then hand the poor choice back to the institution for interpretation of the meaning of the chosen option. Furthermore, there is a statistical inevitability that your vote will not matter, especially if your institution has strange and complicated processes of arbitrage (like an electoral college). Amazingly, people continue coming back to the polls to repeat the process, again and again, while institutions continue to provide the opportunity.
So in spite of democratic appearances it would seem that institutions wield nearly absolute power. However, there is one caveat that Matt Mitchell failed to address, perhaps institutions are as irrational and as uninformed as society. Institutions and society are made up of the same material (idiots) and are subject to the very same cycles of rationality and irrationality. The assumption that institutions are acting rationally at all times is absurd, in fact it my be the case that institutions are in fact more irrational in their behavior then society at large: it may be that institutions are quite consciously irrational. They undoubtedly want to create prosperity for their society, and their very existence depends on the increasing prosperity of their societies, yet at nearly every opportunity they make the possibility of actually obtaining prosperity that much more unattainable. This is probably done with the best of intentions, and unintentionally at worst; sure there may be a clever weasel of a bureaucrat pulling the strings of a public figure, manipulating the system in their favor. Yet for all their brilliance and strategy, they are still surrounded by the very same people that make up the imbecile hive mind of a nation, the deeply uninformed and the perpetual irrational.

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