and some change

Budgets and Rational Allocation

Suzy Khimm ran an article today about an interesting study done by the Center for Public Integrity showing that, contrary to commonly-held beliefs about party values and lines, Democrat and Republican citizens alike would choose to cut huge swaths of the defense budget:

Defense graph

The author of the study attributes this to the increased information and flexibility afforded to study participants; when people are made aware of the diversity of spending within the military and the levels of spending within the military, they are much more receptive to the idea of budget cuts than if they mentally conceive of the spending as one monolithic category. While I’d love to see an actual comparison between “less information” and “more information” to justify this claim, this makes a hell of a lot of sense - it’s the reason that insurance companies were so resistant to the idea of “nutrition labels” for health insurance plans, which would outline plainly what each insurance plan would cover and to what degree. It’s also, I think, part of the reason why Obama made a push to provide taxpayers with “tax receipts”, which list by program where your individual tax dollars go. It also has the added benefit of making you feel more personally-responsible for the good (and bad) things that your government does! And I know that we haven’t seen the last of the idea at work here - there’s huge incentives for providing the average citizen with more information breaking down how their money or energy is spent, and fundamentally-speaking I feel that we’ll need to better-educate the general public on these matters if we are to expect them to more effectively hold our government and politicians responsible for their actions.

(On a totally unrelated note, I’ve recently rekindled my love for Their web interface is pretty fantastic!)

The trouble with rules - I was once a moderator on a website that faced this exact same issue; under some pressure from one of our staff members, we revised the community guidelines to replace general principles with more-specific rules. What we found was that this just incentivized people to find edge cases and loopholes, and then cry foul when we punished them anyways. In the end, the move lost us a lot of respect from the community and we moved back to general principles.

West Virginia paid $22k for each router it installed in rural areas - It’s tempting to call this a cut-and-dry case of a government official cutting a major corporation a sweet deal, but the truth of the matter is probably much more depressing (the official making the call probably just doesn’t understand technology at all).

Transfiguration MN has a new domain name, thank god - How did this even happen?!