Quadratic Voting (QV)

Regarding motivation… imagine 5th grade students and their teacher ranking those 10 books. With 1p1v the teacher has the same influence on the rankings as any given student. But with donating, the teacher could potentially have far more influence on the rankings. And if only the teacher was motivated to donate? Then the rankings would be solely determined by the teacher. The teacher would have 100% influence on the outcome.

We judge the outcome according to our own preferred rankings. My favorite book is The Wealth of Nations. If this book is ranked 10th with voting, 8th with QV, and 5th with donating, then I’m going to judge that donating is the best system for ranking books.

We all have our own ideas of what counts as “treasure”. But in theory the point of education should be to improve our definition of “treasure”. There’s a problem if elementary students, high school students, and college students all rank the 10 books exactly the same.

Value is subjective, but there certainly is a correct ranking of the Wealth of Nations for our society, just like there is a correct ranking of a flower patch for a beehive. The correct ranking of a flower patch will result in the optimal amount of bees visiting it. The correct ranking for the Wealth of Nations will result in the optimal amount of people reading it.

“Wisdom”, as in wisdom of a crowd, is a matter of correctly determining the relative importance of things. Voting, QV and donating aren’t equally effective at maximizing a group’s wisdom. In terms of a Facebook book club group, each system is going to result in the group ranking books differently. Which ranking is going to be the wisest?

To summarize, if only 5 people out of a 1000 member book club donate, but it results in The Wealth of Nations being ranked 4th, compared to it being ranked 7th with QV and 9th with voting, then I’m going to judge that donating is the best system. Then the question is whether the results replicate. I’m guessing that they will.

So if one wants to run such an experiment, we would need to find several book clubs and test which method gives the most replicable result across groups. Is this what you are proposing?

My question is which system ranks the Wealth of Nations the highest… voting, QV or donating? If the donating system ranks this book the highest in 9 book clubs out of 10, then I would consider this result to be reasonably reliable.

But no matter how many book clubs we tested, I’m guessing that economists would still want to try and replicate the results. Right? I don’t see Thomas Piketty happily swallowing the conclusion that inequality is more effective than equality when it comes to ranking books. Because why would this conclusion only be true for books?

The most popular content on Youtube and other social media sites makes it painfully obvious, at least to me, that voting (equality) elevates trash while spending (inequality) elevates treasure. All that is needed is a reasonably decent formal experiment to demonstrate this. It would be the beginning of the end of democracy. Good riddance.

This is why the ferry game might be a better option: here I can set a ground truth of optimum payment. So if QV gives an outcome closer to that optimum one can make a more convincing case against 1p1v. BTW, several previous studies show how one can increase crowd wisdom by giving more weight to answers informed subjects, see here: https://www.nature.com/articles/nature21054

For the second year in a row, patrons can vote for which librarian they would like to see take “The Plunge” by voting with donations. Through March 23, patrons may make donations in person or online for the librarian they would like to see jump into icy water. Jane Utecht, ‘Love Your Library’ Events Planned

From my perspective it would have been so much better if the donations had been used to rank books instead. I could email this library the example of how the Libertarian Party used donations to rank convention themes… but… I’d much rather share a paper that shows the results of books being ranked by donations. The ferry game might not be as accessible.

The people who write the code for phpBB forums use voting to prioritize development. It would be useful to share a simple proof with them that donating ranks things more intelligently than voting does.

Thank you for these comments! I will discuss this with my collaborators. My main concern is that I am not sure if consistent outcome would convince reviewers that outcome of the experiment is interesting. But perhaps we can overcome this by figuring out which outcome is better by tracking consumption and outcomes? That is, by measuring how many times the donated books were actually read over time. How many people who started reading finished reading, and how strongly reading the book affected them? This is a much more difficult experiment, but might worth a try. What do you think?

Scholarly papers are ranked by voting (citations). This idea is the basis for Google search. Each link to a page counts as a vote for it.

Ideally your experiment would persuade reviewers that scholarly papers and search results are currently very wrongly ranked.

Yes, Google brought order to the web, but it brought a very bad order to the web. It put the superficial above the substantial…

What is God? It is only a subject that has inspired some of the finest writing in the history of Western civilization — and yet the first two pages of Google results for the question are comprised almost entirely of Sweet’N Low evangelical proselytizing to the unconverted. (The first link the Google algorithm served me was from the Texas ministry, Life, Hope & Truth.) The Google search for God gets nowhere near Augustine, Maimonides, Spinoza, Luther, Russell, or Dawkins. Billy Graham is the closest that Google can manage to an important theologian or philosopher. For all its power and influence, it seems that Google can’t really be bothered to care about the quality of knowledge it dispenses. It is our primary portal to the world, but has no opinion about what it offers, even when that knowledge it offers is aggressively, offensively vapid. — Franklin Foer, The Death of the Public Square

Google is merely giving us what’s popular, what’s most clicked upon, not what’s worthy. You can hurl every insult at the old public sphere, but it never exhibited such frank indifference to the content it disseminated. — Franklin Foer, The Death of the Public Square

It isn’t really news, in a certain circle at least, that democracy is all about the lowest common denominator…

In the first instance, it is probably true that in general the higher the education and intelligence of individuals becomes, the more their views and tastes are differentiated and the less likely they are to agree on a particular hierarchy of values. It is a corollary of this that if we wish to find a high degree of uniformity and similarity of outlook, we have to descend to the regions of lower moral and intellectual standards where the more primitive and “common” instincts and tastes prevail. This does not mean that the majority of people have low moral standards; it merely means that the largest group of people whose values are very similar are the people with low standards. It is, as it were, the lowest common denominator which unites the largest number of people. If a numerous group is needed, strong enough to impose their views on the values of life on all the rest, it will never be those with highly differentiated and developed tastes it will be those who form the “mass” in the derogatory sense of the term, the least original and independent, who will be able to put the weight of their numbers behind their particular ideals. - Friedrich Hayek, Why the Worst Get on Top

That is from the FEE.org website. Donors to that organization aren’t given the freedom to use their donations to improve the ranking of their preferred articles. In other words, FEE itself isn’t a market. It touts the benefits of markets but it isn’t actually a market. Therefore, FEE doesn’t truly understand what markets are good for.

If you ask an economist what markets are good for then he’s going to have an answer. But if you ask him whether FEE should be a market, then he is going to scratch his head. Same thing if you ask him whether Netflix should be a market. Even more so if you ask him whether the public sector should be a market.

Ideally your experiment would help everybody see and understand what markets are good for. By juxtaposing how differently voting and donating rank things, you’d demonstrate that markets are good for ranking things.

Your paper would be the most useful paper ever because it would demonstrate that markets are the most useful for revealing how relatively useful things are.

Then what? FEE would become a market, so would Netflix, and then the public sector. People would be free to use their taxes to rank public goods. We’d have a market in the public sector and a market in the private sector. However, the public sector market wouldn’t have prices, so there would be no point in trying to get a “deal”. This means that the amount of money you spent on a public good would more accurately reflect your true perception of its usefulness. As a result of this more truthful input, the public sector would become more and more useful to people. People would want to spend more and more money in the public sector… and it would grow and grow while the private sector would shrink and shrink until it was completely gone.

The tax rate would be 100%, but everything would be free. You’d use your money to improve the ranking of the things you prefer. The more money you made, the more influence you’d have on the rankings.

Society’s economic enlightenment will have immense implications.

We use markets all the time but obviously their usefulness hasn’t been formally demonstrated. Deng Xiaoping created a market in China and millions of people were lifted out of poverty. This informally demonstrated that markets are incredibly useful. But informal demonstrations are sadly not enough, otherwise people would already appreciate that it is a problem that FEE, Netflix and the public sector aren’t markets.

Basically your experiment should convince reviewers, and society in general, that markets are the most useful tool ever.

Thanks for the inspiring comments! I will keep you posted.
Thanks again,

The reason dog shows are judged by a small group of experts is that they are in fact ‘experts’ and have studied AKC standards for longer than the layperson.

Therefore, some kind of control for knowledge of what is being measured is necessary, if you ask me. So, I assume that this study would also qualify voters to make sure that they understand what they are actually voting for?

Picking a favorite is very different from evaluating against a standard, which requires a studied eye at a minimum. What they are really measuring in dog shows is the breed standard, not just picking a favorite.

I feel the same way about this as if I had to have heart surgery. If faced with the decision of picking a mode of care in that case, which would you choose?

  1. get to pick my surgeon myself given a track record, experience, history of training, and other factors.
  2. the public gets to vote to tell a technician step by step what to do on the operating table. Voting should get us to the truth, right?

I would not want a public vote on that, no no, I’d rather trust the expert. Just my opinion. :grin:

The reason this is not reliable is similar to the ratings for restaurants online, which are full of self reporting bias.

For restaurant ratings, I’d feel more comfortable with ratings given by people who have gone to culinary school and learned the science and art of cooking as opposed to self-reported by anyone out there which are so biased that they are pretty much a roll of the dice.

I like the ideas about aligning proper incentives, which is possibly the most meaningful.

Why do we endlessly debate different economic systems rather than simply and safely test them? Because testing and measurement requires more debate than actual debate…

Imagine if you’re looking to buy or adopt some type of dog. You go to a dog show and the dogs there are ranked using three different systems…

  1. democracy
  2. committee
  3. market

The democracy ranking is simply everybody at the show voting for their favorite dog in the show. With this system you’d see how popular each dog is.

The committee ranking is based solely on the votes of a small handful of experts. With this system you’d see how closely each dog adheres to the AKC standards.

The market ranking is everybody at the show having the opportunity to donate for their favorite dog in the show. All the money that was raised would be given to the Humane Society for example. With this system you’d see how useful each dog is.

Given that you are looking to acquire a dog, which ranking would be the most useful to you?

Let’s say that there’s a Blue Lacy in the show. I’m guessing that with democracy it wouldn’t rank very highly, since it isn’t a very popular breed. With the committee its rank would depend on how closely it adheres to the AKC standards. With the market its rank would depend on people’s willingness to donate for it.

If you visited the page that I linked to you’d see that they rate the Blue Lacy based on things like barking tendencies, friendliness to children, shedding and so on. These are things that potential owners are interested in knowing, but are they part of the AKC standards? I’m guessing not. Same with medical costs.

Let’s say that you buy a Blue Lacy and really love it. Are you going to buy another? Maybe. Or maybe you only have the space for one dog. In any case the amount of money you spend directly on a Blue Lacy is going to be less than your true valuation of its usefulness. So if you went to a dog show that a Blue Lacy was in, you should have the opportunity to use a donation to reveal the size of your love for this breed.

The truth that matters most is the actual size of society’s love for things. This love can’t be measured by votes (cheap talk), it can only be measured by society’s willingness to sacrifice, hence the point of markets.

Voting for a Blue Lacy reveals that you like it.
Buying a Blue Lacy reveals that you want it.
Donating for a Blue Lacy reveals that you love it.