Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A Description of Different Multiwinner Voting Systems for the General Public

This post is primarily for the benefit of Laurel and Hardy Fan Club members who are deciding which of these voting systems to use to elect four new admins. However, I am making this post even more generally available for the benefit of the general public, because it was hard for me to find a central location on the web that gave general public descriptions of these voting systems. Even on Wikipedia, descriptions of some multiwinner voting systems are lacking. This document is meant to help fill some of that current gap for the general public, while directing interested readers to more detailed discussions on these voting systems. I try not to discuss the pros and cons of the systems, and try to focus on the details of the procedures themselves, insofar as they are amenable to general consumption. There exist other places to discuss the pros and cons and the technical details, and I hope the links provided allow the reader to pursue those matters if they so wish.

Assume there are c number of candidates running for s numbers of seats. The following describes how different voting systems work assuming there are a fixed number of open seats. Some of these voting systems would be different if the number of open seats were variable.

Minisum Voting Procedure
Each voter is given a list of the c candidates. The voter marks each candidate to which she consents to. This means a given voter could consent to any number of candidates (i.e. none, one, some, or all). Whichever s candidates receive the most consents win the election. For example, if there are 4 seats available, then the four candidates that receive the most consents win.

For more details on this procedure, please read chapter 5 of Mathematics and Democracy. If that book is inaccessible, the 2nd best, though imperfect, existing text is here.

Minimax Voting Procedure
Each voter is given a list of the c candidates. The voter marks each candidate to which she consents to. This means a given voter could consent to any number of candidates (i.e. none, one, some, or all). Thus, the ballot for the minimax procedure is the same as the minisum procedure. The difference is in how it is tallied.

In the tallying process, after each voter submits her ballot, each given ballot is re-weighted based on its proximity to other ballots. The tallying procedure then chooses the set of s candidates that minimizes the maximum hamming distance to the voters' ballots.

For more details on this procedure, please read chapter 5 of Mathematics and Democracy. If that book is inaccessible, the 2nd best, though imperfect, existing text is here.

Plurality Voting
Under this procedure, each voter marks the single candidate she believes is best. The s candidates that are marked by the greatest number of voters win the election. For example, if there are four open seats, then the four candidates with the most marks win.

For more details on this procedure, please click here.

Reweighted Range Voting
Under this method, voters are asked to grade each candidate on a given scale (e.g. from 1 to 10, where only whole numbers are admissible grades). In the first round, the candidate with the highest average grade is elected. In the second round, roughly speaking, ballots are reweighted and averages are recalculated and a second winner is chosen. This process continues until all seats have been filled.

For more details on how this procedure works, please click here.

Single Transferable Vote with Hagenbach-Bischoff Quota
Under this procedure, each voter rank orders all candidates from their favorite to least favorite. Any candidate that meets the quota, is given a seat. If a candidate does not meet the quota, but some other candidate does, and there are still seats available, then votes are transferred from the winning candidates to losing candidates, until s number of candidates meet the quota.

To learn more about this system, please click here.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Parallels of the Housing Loan and Student Loan Bubbles

One kind of predatory lending is the practice of giving loans to those you do not believe can pay back the loan, yet you give them the loan because you expect you will profit from giving them the loan. Many current student lending practices are such a form of predatory lending. This becomes especially clear when we examine the housing loans crisis and see the similarities.

Just as it is a great policy to, ceteris paribus, increase the percentage of Americans owning homes, it is also a good policy to, ceteris paribus, increase the percentage of Americans with college degrees. (Problem is we ain't got no ceteris paribus.) Just as we should have policies in place that make Americans more capable of paying off their housing loans, we also need policies to help make Americans better capable of paying off their student loans. However, just as it is predatory to give Americans home loans the lender does not believe will be paid back, it is similarly wrong to give Americans student loans the lender believes will not be paid back. Giving a loan to someone you believe can't pay it just so you can make a profit is a predatory lending practice, because it doesn't help the recipient of the loan.

But enter the lobbyists. In the housing bubble, lenders and home builders "convinced" (i.e. donated large amounts to elected officials, etc.) the government to not only insure loans that were not expected to default, but also to insure loans that would likely be defaulted on. Similarly, lenders and higher education institutions have "convinced" the federal government to not only FAPP insure student loans they expect not to be defaulted on, but also to FAPP insure student loans they expect to be defaulted on.

Because housing loans were insured, it didn't matter who lenders gave money to, because they would make money from home buyers if they didn't default, and make money from what is basically tax dollars if loans were defaulted on. Similarly, lenders could give money to students, regardless of their ability to pay back, because they made money from the students who didn't default, and FAPP from taxpayers when students defaulted.

Because more people could get more housing loans, more people could buy homes, which increased demand, and thus increased the price of housing. Similarly, because more people could get student loans, more people could pay for higher education, which increased demand, and thus increased the price of higher education. Between 1995 and 2005, real housing prices doubled. Over the last 30 years, the higher education prices have grown three times greater than the rate of inflation, which is about 9% per year. Home builders and education builders (i.e. higher education institutions) made killings in these booms.

The mythology that had been built was that the housing boom could not go bust because housing prices would not go down. Between 1945 and 2005, nominal housing prices never fell. As long as they never fell, homeowners would not go under because they could always get a new housing loan to pay off their old loans. Nobody would get hurt by lenders giving loans to people they knew couldn't pay the loans back with their own money, because prices have always increased since 1945, and of course nothing happened before 1945. Of course this was a myth and it burst when housing prices actually fell, which prevented people from taking out a home loan to completely pay off their previous home loan. With no other source of money to pay off their previous home loans, you had massive defaults at one time, which no insurer could cover without a taxpayer bailout for predatory lenders that knew that many home buyers could not afford the loans, but relatively nada for home buyers who were told by the expert lenders that they could afford the loans because housing prices would always go up.

The mythology that has been built around higher education is that the education boom can't die. Demand will always be increasing for higher education, because those with college degrees make umpteenth times as much over a life time with a college degree than those with only a high school degree. Those who don't go to college take themselves out of lucrative careers in medicine and law. Education prices have been growing faster than inflation for decades. They can't fall. And no education lending bubble has burst and no education lending bubble exists which will burst.

Of course, this too is false. The most likely cause of the higher ed collapse will be online education. Right now, due to physical constraints, there are only so many seats for students an institution can have. But with online education, a university simply has to hire some non-tenured instructors with bargain basement salaries, some additional tech support, and presto, you can multiply the size of your student body. Now some express concern that online education is not as good as in-class instruction in terms of student learning. That's a legitimate question to be concerned about if you care about student learning, but it really doesn't matter at the end of the day because education is not the primary issue of research institutions. Higher education institutions don't care about learning, they care about delivering it at the cheapest price possible, while it still being considered education. Research institutions have been doing this for decades in undergraduate education, and unfortunately this doesn't seem to be likely to change anytime soon given the financial incentives of the system.

In any case, online education will be a boon for the Harvards and Georgia Techs of the world. But it will be a death blow for research institutions that lack the financial resources of a Harvard. Why? Well consider this. Suppose you got accepted to Harvard's online undergrad degree program and to John Hopkins' on-campus undergrad degree program, which would you choose? Many would pick Harvard's online program despite John Hopkins status as one of the premiere research institutions in the world. This is not purely hypothetical. A few years ago, there was an article in the New York Times that chronicled how many undergrads were turning down admissions offers from John Hopkins and other schools to get a degree from Harvard's Extension program.

What will happen is that people who are currently attending on-campus degree programs at less well funded universities will start joining online degree programs at better funded universities. But this implies that the least well funded universities will have no students. But these universities have based their budgeting on the assumption that money coming from undergrads will keep growing at 9% per year. With the students gone, these schools will not be able to pay the bills they have accrued over the years. And they will go under or will be transformed into institutions that would be unrecognizable from what they are today.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Financial Advice For Those Financially Affected By Sandy

First, there are several ways to be severely affected by Sandy that are much worse than being financially affected, like losing a loved one or suffering a severe injury. We are here to help you, and there are several resources available to help out for those types of problems.

However, there are not many resources to help people who have been severely affected in financial ways. There are people who were already living paycheck to paycheck who were hit by this storm and now have lost income and jobs. There are people who have lost their homes and businesses. In addition to the human tragedies that were already created directly by the storm, these financial problems caused by the hurricane can be cause ongoing or future human tragedies.

We need to help prevent such problems. Bogleheads is a forum where people can seek and give financial advice. Much of this can help those affected financially by the storm. Just reach out and express your concerns and questions.

Currently, the Morningstar Bogleheads Forum can be used to give and get financial advice, at least until the official boglehead.org site, which was affected by the storm, is up and running again. Please spread this information to those who are trying to access the normal Bogleheads site.

Hopefully, this helps people avoid the financial blowback and potential human tragedies of Sandy.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Mr Money Tit

"Mitt Romney" is an anagram for the name of the dude that breastfed bankers with so much money, it was literally dripping from their mouths and clothes.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Breaking News: Romney Plans To Go After Corporations

Given Romney's experience at Bain Capital, few were expecting Romney to be such an aggressively anti-corporate welfare presidential candidate. But upon close examination of his candidacy, we find he is the greatest anti-corporate welfare presidential candidate since William Jennings Bryan!

How did I arrive at this conclusion you ask. Read between the lines.

Did not Romney say: "Corporations are people".

Did not Romney say: "[T]here are 47 percent who are with him [Obama], who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them.... [M]y job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."

Romney is clearly talking about corporations, I mean people, like Exxon, Bank of America, General Electric, Chevron, Boeing, and Citigroup who have received tax refunds and bailouts from the Federal government, while not paying a penny in taxes. Talk about welfare queens that live off the work of janitors and farmers who have to pay payroll taxes.

What you don't believe me? Romney wouldn't go after these welfare queens you say.

The only way you could be right is if politicians don't follow the logical conclusions of their premises... Oh wait.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Ted Cruz IS an ESTABLISHMENT Candidate

I hate how Ted Cruz is being described as a grassroots political underdog. He did his undergrad at Princeton, his law degree at Harvard, clerked for Chief Justice Rehnquist, and received $5.5 million in political funding from that corporate lobbying group, The Club for Growth.

The basis for this narrative is the claim is that his opponent is the wealthy, White male Lt. Governor of Texas, David Dewhurst. According to the narrative, Dewhurst was not ideologically conservative enough and was denied the nomination.

This is total baloney. Dewhurst was conservative enough even for bonafide conservatives like Rick Perry. The problem was that Dewhurst did not fit into the long term plans of big finance and big corporate that have taken control of the Republican Party, using sincere libertarians and devout religious conservatives as pawns to achieve their Corporate Welfare Queen Utopia.

Big Finance/Corporate, aka "We the Corporate People of the United States of America", aka "Corporate Welfare Prom King and Queen: Goldman Sacks and Madoff Witturmony", know that if they keep putting most of their political bets behind the Republican Party, they will lose the demographic battle to win elections in the long run because they will have no support from Hispanics. They think that if there are Hispanic faces on the Republican Party, then they have a better shot of keeping the Republicans competitive in the long run. The Corporate Welfare Queens do not want an elite White in the US Senate for the next 18+ years, when they can have an elite Hispanic to be their face for the next 18+ years.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The 50th Anniversary of William Faulkner's Death @ His Death Place

On July 6th, 1962, around 1:30AM or 2:30AM, William Faulkner died at Wright's Sanatorium in Byhalia, MS just outside Memphis. His death was unexpected. He was feeling under the weather so he was taken in the middle of the night from his Oxford, Mississippi home to the sanatorium in Byhalia. There he suffered a massive heart attack and died.

Today, the sanatorium is gone, and has been replaced by a Shell gas station, the Byhalia Gas Mart, at the northwestern corner of US Highway 78 and Mississippi Highway 309 in Byhalia, MS. Little remains of the sanatorium, except possibly some of the small old attendant homes used by the sanatorium workers.

At the place where Elvis, arguably the most famous American musician of the 20th century, died, there is Graceland, one of the biggest tourist attractions in the US. At the place where Martin Luther King, arguably the most famous American social-political figure of the 20th century, died, you have the National Civil Rights Museum, one of the best educational museums in the US. And at the place where William Faulkner, arguably the most famous 20th century American author, died,... well, there isn't a plaque.

To me, that seems kind of weird. Don't you think it would be historically significant to know where say Ovid or Marlowe had died. Well, that's how I also feel about Faulkner. We'd want a marker, at least for historical purposes.

Beyond historical curiosity, there may even be a small economic boomlet to the Byhalia area. The land on which the sanatorium stood is mostly clear of large structures. With the cooperation of the current landowners, there could be a small annual festival at the location on July 6th, where there could be public readings of Faulkner novels and stories and moments of silence. This could be an opportunity to bring some out-of-towners to Byhalia, which the town could use to showcase Byhalia for residential and business development.

If the town were really ambitious and the cost benefit analysis were to work out, they could try to buy the land and make it a Faulkner Park or a "writers sanatorium" where a reconstructed sanatorium could be used as a writers' and artists' colony.

In any case, I have made a brief video that documents the death place at almost the exact moment of the 50th anniversary of Faulkner's death. Admittedly, it is very shoddy as I am an amateur filmmaker, a horrible voice over, and a nincompoop with respect to technology. Heck, I have never been the camera person on a film before, let alone ever made a professional film. That said, I hope the film serves its purpose.