[FoRK] Misunderestimating "The" Tea Party

Damien Morton dmorton at bitfurnace.com
Sat Mar 20 15:03:04 PDT 2010

On Sun, Mar 21, 2010 at 8:06 AM, Jeff Bone <jbone at place.org> wrote:

> Re:  greater social dissatisfaction (on any significantly divisive issue)
> with greater-scale units of aggregation, Russell asks:
> > Is that necessarily the case?
> Yes;  that's the whole point.  It's a structural implication.  To see this,
> let's consider a simplified formal example.
> Assume a group of people, a nation, called "Big."  Assume a divisive issue
> "A".  50.01% of the people in Big are pro-A, and 49.99% of the people in Big
> are pro-B.  Ignore geographic distribution for a moment as well as any other
> issues that might be in question.  If Big splits into "Little One" and
> "Little Two" and the former citizens of Big are allowed to choose which
> successor nation to belong to, and assuming that nations somehow have a
> social choice function that is intended to maximize the satisfaction of its
> constituents with respect to some set of issues, then clearly the factored
> state(s) result in greater social satisfaction with respect to A (~100%)
> than the monolithic state, which instead guarantees that about half the
> people are dissatisfied about A.
> Now, if we introduce geographic distribution, it is only in the case of
> purely isomorphic distribution that dividing the state will result in no net
> increase in satisfaction.  But that's not realistic;  we know (cf. at least
> a couple of papers referenced on-list "recently," i.e. in the last several
> months) that opinions on a given issue tend to cluster geographically.  So
> dividing things up would realistically tend to increase satisfaction of any
> given with respect to the policy of their governmental unit with respect to
> A.
> Furthermore, let's introduce multiple issues.  Again, we know (cf.
> referenced research) that opinions about multiple issues tend to cluster in
> both preference-space and geographic space.  So realistically, dividing into
> smaller geographically-clustered aggregation units and pushing authority for
> those issues down to the smaller units will tend to increase the net social
> satisfaction over a set of issues (at least, satisfaction with the unit in
> which one finds ones self or chooses to associate ones self with.)
> The only remaining questionable assumption, then, is the reflection of
> preference at the national level through some social choice function.  We
> know the limits of democratic processes from Arrow;  but the above
> demonstrates that, given the ability to form small enough communities of
> interest, you maximize the effectiveness of the democratic process in
> ensuring social satisfaction by minimizing the unit of aggregation.  It's
> also worth pointing out that smaller units of aggregation, empowered to
> choose their own social choice functions and decision processes, would also
> allow greater concurrent exploration of social choice function fitness
> space.
> The reductio ad absurdum of this argument is to reduce the geographic
resolution down to the individual. Clearly, you are missing something in
your argument.

If you look at the red-state/blue-state maps at a state by state level, you
get an alarming result. If you look at the red vs blue at a county level,
you get more nuanced view. Even at the state and county levels, the red vs
blue maps always exaggerate the percentages, with a few percentage points
swing either way being represented as pure RED or BLUE. In actuality, there
are very few places that are absolutely red or blue.

Whilst there are unarguably geographic clusters of interests, there are also
unarguably national interests which are not efficiently handled by state- or
county- level representation.

More information about the FoRK mailing list