Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Woes of the Aggregated Demographic

Once again I will have to bring up prudence as an explanation for "desirable" rational behavior. When considering rationality and prudence time preference has a major part to play. I'm apathetic about something; this will either be due to a scarcity of time or a prudent decision to have willful ignorance.

Despite problems of cohesion Mitchel does a good job of explaining low participation rates in open democracies. Most modern political scientists understand that low participation is common due to general apathy rather than situational disillusionment. Despite what various "rock the vote" ads and Ralph Nader will say this is not an issue.

The micro-economics that can be applied to the sociology of public choice are quite useful as basic logical constructions but start to fall apart when extended beyond core situations. In Mitchel's troop voting example he pointed out that transitional preferences are very useful at their core but become irrational when measured in th aggregate. In most applied settings aggregate measurement is all that is going to matter. Whether it is a government official trying to cater to various interest groups or businesses trying to set up an advertising scheme. When doing this results are inconsistent, even random and might as well be associated to an expensive and costly game of pin the tail on the donkey.

Any economist worth his salt will be able to tell you tomorrow why yesterday's plan worked. They will look at individual logic constructions to explain the rational behavior. This fails with speculation do to unforeseen forces. Oddly enough the most value I see from the theories of public choice is that it might tell people that pandering and catering to aggregate groups such as political parties or demographics is pointless. Despite loving the old spice ads I wont but their "not ladies scented body washes" due to simple preference. It seems that I can only ever half agree with a politician due to the aggregation caused by the system.

I will close with a story to explain the post title.
I recently attended the Fredmeyer's student late night shopping extravaganza! (paraphrased title) And during the evening I would complain to my friend Levi that I hadn't heard a single song that I liked on the loudspeakers and Fredmeyer's was doing a bad job trying to please me as a shopper. He contended that I was a minority listener and they would target the majority with the pop songs that were playing. He even went as far as to point out my arrogance in making such a notion. I simply refused to believe that I was the only one who felt displeased with the music but let it go. This changed however around ten minutes late when in the checkout line the Journey song "Don't Stop Believin'" started playing and most of the very packed store started singing along. Not only was this one of the most surreal grocery moments of my life but in my opinion it caused me to "win" the demographic argument from now until the end of time.

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