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Speaker: Saying what we actually mean on inequality, the economy, and everything else

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  • linger, in reply to BenWilson,

    What data are you suggesting be used for dimensional analysis? Presumably some quantification of party (or personal) policy positions other than actual voting records. The latter exercise was attempted in 2008 for parliamentary votes in NZ. (You and I discussed some of the pitfalls here at the time.) And of course, in many cases the votes cast by individual members are not independent (even where there is no directly enforced party line, there are still groups of like-minded politicians). Under such conditions, a multidimensional PCA capturing variance in voting behaviour would probably not be as informative as a cluster analysis identifying “faction membership”.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1944 posts Report

  • BenWilson, in reply to linger,

    What data are you suggesting be used for dimensional analysis?

    Surveys of opinions on a wide range of topics, and on how they voted. I don't know of existing free sources for such information, but it seems valuable enough to pay for.

    Under such conditions, a multidimensional PCA capturing variance in voting behaviour would probably not be as informative as a cluster analysis identifying “faction membership”.

    Could be. There's no reason not to do both, though, if we had that data. I think I'd probably overlay the cluster analysis onto the PCA's dimensions. Lots of way to cluster things - the only way to guess if it's useful is to do it and see.

    After that, further refinements of the surveys could suggest themselves.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report

  • BenWilson, in reply to izogi,

    As I said I don’t know if there’s a viable alternative or what it might be, or if the spatial way of thinking about politics is even especially bad, but it does seem to me that this whole spatial language has a compelling effect on how politics works and what we expect and accept. Or maybe it just works that way because it has to for other reasons, and the spatial thing is a very close match for a metaphor.

    Very tough to answer that. We interpret a lot of data geometrically because it's how we already see the world, and it's a very convenient metaphor. Less convenient when the dimensionality is high, but we can at least see the idea of that as we move up through the 3 spatial dimensions we can easily represent. But does attempting to convert the space of ideas (and in using the word space I fall back on the physical world language again, even though the idea of a space doesn't actually mathematically mean that it's got anything to do with physical space) into a mathematical object somehow rob it of its essence? The only answer I have is: What other systematic methods exist? I don't know of any. Systematizing things and mathematizing them go virtually hand in hand. Using maths just saves a ton of time because so many things share the same structure, so things proved about the abstract structure hold for so many real ideas, and we don't have to reinvent the wheel.

    You could argue, for instance, that the idea of "distance" between ideas is not helpful, that ideas are fundamentally incommensurable in some way. That a person who holds 5 views in common with me is not meaningfully "closer" to me than the person who only holds 4. But I disagree - I expect the quibble is more about the relative importance of some of those disagreements. And that can be modeled better too, and still interpreted geometrically. The distance might be non-Euclidean too - that's not uncommon, and again mathematics is still the best way to model it. It's just more complex again. But I guess one of the things that people who trust in models to explain the world at all have to accept (at least as a working assumption) is that simple models can sometimes be good enough. The trick is to find the balance between models that are overly simplistic and ones that are too big and impractical, and perhaps overfitting too.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to ,

    Its not difficult to make the mistake of referring to people who live in poverty as a problem that can be read in the same way that rat infestations are a problem.

    Irradiating poverty...

    Serco had a nice little operation going processing them into YouTube fodder until some party pooper blew the whistle.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4593 posts Report

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to ,

    Its not difficult to make the mistake of referring to people who live in poverty as a problem that can be read in the same way that rat infestations are a problem.

    Irradiating poverty…

    Or, taking the "War on Poverty" a bit too literally.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5446 posts Report

  • Rosemary McDonald, in reply to Marc C,

    But by using certain phrases and language, our dear government demagogues manage to mislead the wider public,

    and, it would appear, its own employees.

    A man, a father of dependent children, has inoperable, terminal cancer.

    He was on the Supported Living Payment, as befits someone for whom work is an unreasonable expectation.

    But wait!

    Local WINZ office has the cure....they shift him onto the Jobseeker Allowance.

    Man goes to the doctor and the oncologist who fill in the appropriate forms to get the SLP reinstated.

    Very ill man delivers completed forms to local WINZ office.

    Unfortunately, WINZ staff are not familiar with terms such as (I surmise) 'metastatic', 'poor prognosis', 'carcinoma'....that the medicos had written on the form..

    ....and cancelled the man's benefit until the form was filled in using language and terminology that the good staff at the local WINZ office comprehend.

    Dying man and dependent children are left with no financial support while the bureaucrats, no doubt, consider they were just doing what the policy dictates.

    Just another day in the trenches for the vulnerable poor.

    Waikato, or on the road • Since Apr 2014 • 1346 posts Report

  • Kirk Serpes, in reply to BenWilson,

    So from what I've seen there are two different explanations for why we have only two dimensions to political ideology.

    The link I had in this to the George Lakoff video gives a really good analysis of what separates the two ends of the political spectrum. He puts it down to the "nurturing parent" vs the "strict father" models of parenting. Since parenting is a frame by which we all view government, these two models are actually a pretty good explanation for why groups of people agree on how to approach seemingly unconnected issues like gender, war, poverty, taxes, etc. The Strict father model (or maybe it should be called "harden the f up" for NZ), is based on the idea that the world is fair, and that in a fair world good disciplined people succeed. If you give your kids/citizens everything they want, they won't work hard and will fail. So in that sense, having a big welfare state in inherently immoral as it spoils people and the lose discipline. Also people who are rich and successful should not be punished with higher taxes because they are good people.

    The "nurturing parent" model is the opposite.. and is probably a lot more familiar to us. It's about protecting and supporting people to do well. To be fair this is based on the US extremes but it does explain why the right in NZ think it's fine to lower income taxes on the rich while raising it on GST (that hits the poor harder). It makes moral sense, before it makes economic sense.

    Of course most people are biconceptuals. As in they look at some things with a 'Strict father' view but others with a 'nurturant view'. So that's where the political view diversity comes from. But it's still based on a spectrum between two points.

    Now the other theory I've heard about the difference in ideology is a LOT older, and somewhat contradictory to this one. It's the Tragic vs Utopian view of humanity. Goes back to Thomas Sowell, and others like Hobbes, Burke, Smith, Alexander Hamilton & James Madison. In the Tragic model the belief is that people are selfish so any institution you build will also be flawed. The Utopian view is that the systems and institutions corrupt people and prevent them from being as good as they good be. So using govt as a tool to create a better world seems like a legit thing to do.

    I don't know about this. Because I do actually have a bit of Tragic view of humanity but I come to a different conclusion...

    Auckland • Since May 2015 • 20 posts Report

  • Marc C, in reply to Rosemary McDonald,

    Unbelievable, is there a media report on that? I am sure such cases are still the odd shocking one out there, but given the situation we have, they must be increasing.

    One man we can thank is this one, I suppose:

    Former ATOS man, managed to get a “reputation” with ACC, and advised MSD on welfare reforms, and brought UK “experts” here to change the tunes. “Fit notes” replacing “sick notes” is the next agenda, loyally following the “positivity” from the UK:


    “Sickness” will be a thing and concept of the past, as the UK “successes” show, all “fit” and “healthy”, like a miracle, just change the talk, the message, the expecations, and they can walk, on water, on air, on anything anywhere, just have faith, and bear that bit of pain, it is not really pain, it is all simply some “negative” thinking, it is nothing but “illness belief”.

    Yours sincerely Master Aylward

    (brought to you by David the Beaumont)

    Auckland • Since Oct 2012 • 437 posts Report

  • Ian Dalziel,


    Back in 1949 a kiwi economist, Bill Phillips, made a fabulous machine to show how money circulates through a system. (specifically as a model of the workings of the British economy)

    The MONIAC (Monetary National Income Analogue Computer) also known as the Phillips Hydraulic Computer and the Financephalograph,

    There is still one in the Reserve Bank – not sure if they still use it as part of their arcane regimen of financial scrying…

    see also:


    Pic source: http://ffffound.com/home/samizdat/found/?offset=375&

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7953 posts Report

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