Saturday, March 24, 2007

ZenTiger A referendum versus experts

"If four basic conditions are met, a crowd's 'collective intelligence' will produce better outcomes than a small group of experts, Surowiecki says, even if members of the crowd don't know all the facts or choose, individually, to act irrationally. 'Wise crowds' need (1) diversity of opinion; (2) independence of members from one another; (3) decentralization; and (4) a good method for aggregating opinions." —Publisher's Weekly

Well, that argues against Chris Trotter's propaganda somewhat. I reckon a referendum on the question: "Should smacking be banned" might work if we can hold it before mass propaganda advertising from the government and Greens telling us how to think. To this, we add the requirement of at least a 60% turnout to get a good sized crowd.

3 comment(s):

JC said...

I don't think I agree. For example, there's little doubt that a referendum on nuclear weapons and ships in NZ ports would get the thumbs down.

But then, National did a poll a few years ago on nuclear ship visits in exchange for a Free Trade Agreement.. the result was positive for the nuke ship visits. Perhaps the "collective intelligence" of the crowd is that nothing's free in this world.

Again, there's the enormous misjudgment of Clark after 911 where she showed little more than irritation about it.. the public response caused her to mend some fences with the US and offer troops for Afghanistan.

My suspicion about an anti smacking referendum is support would be much higher than you think.. but this could simply reflect the public's current concern about our terrible child abuse stats. It could also represent a protest about the fact that Maori have twice the child abuse stats of non Maori and also a politically correct response to an emotive subject.

There's wisdom in diverse crowds.. but you better make sure you understand all the possible reasons for people formally voting yes or no to a particular question.


ZenTiger said...

Well, yes. Except that I understand all the possible reasons that 120 MP's are going to vote in this instance, and it aint based on wisdom.

The danger is what question will be asked. The right (or wrong) question can tap into some of those sentiments you mention above.

The other danger was around the government's ability to shape public opinion, given it's huge budget (via numerous avenues that have something to do with the amount of money it currently spends funding NGOs)

JC said...

"Well, yes. Except that I understand all the possible reasons that 120 MP's are going to vote in this instance, and it aint based on wisdom."

No. But we also know that in a free vote, some 17-18 Labour politicians would vote against such legislation and bring about quite a heavy defeat.. so the wisdom works when educated people vote with their conscience.

The Maori MPs are in a hell of a position.. they know the Bill would impact most heavily on their own constituents and that it's essentially a racist Bill, but political correctness and pressure to be seen to do "something" about their lousy stats on child abuse is forcing them to vote for it. They really need a Peter Tapsell to stand up and point out it's a weak arsed Bill designed to put a respectable face on a much deeper malaise of real child abuse.. a Bill to spread the guilt over the whole community.


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