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The Abilene Paradox
In the Abilene paradox, a group of people collectively decide on a course of action that is counter to the preferences of many or all of the individuals in the group. It involves a common breakdown of group communication in which each member mistakenly believes that their own preferences are counter to the group's and, therefore, does not raise objections. A common phrase relating to the Abilene paradox is a desire not to "rock the boat". This differs from groupthink in that the Abilene paradox is characterized by an inability to manage agreement.
- "The Abilene Paradox" | 2018-11-22 | 11 Upvotes 6 Comments
Arrow's impossibility theorem
In social choice theory, Arrow's impossibility theorem, the general possibility theorem or Arrow's paradox is an impossibility theorem stating that when voters have three or more distinct alternatives (options), no ranked voting electoral system can convert the ranked preferences of individuals into a community-wide (complete and transitive) ranking while also meeting a specified set of criteria: unrestricted domain, non-dictatorship, Pareto efficiency, and independence of irrelevant alternatives. The theorem is often cited in discussions of voting theory as it is further interpreted by the Gibbard–Satterthwaite theorem. The theorem is named after economist and Nobel laureate Kenneth Arrow, who demonstrated the theorem in his doctoral thesis and popularized it in his 1951 book Social Choice and Individual Values. The original paper was titled "A Difficulty in the Concept of Social Welfare".
In short, the theorem states that no rank-order electoral system can be designed that always satisfies these three "fairness" criteria:
- If every voter prefers alternative X over alternative Y, then the group prefers X over Y.
- If every voter's preference between X and Y remains unchanged, then the group's preference between X and Y will also remain unchanged (even if voters' preferences between other pairs like X and Z, Y and Z, or Z and W change).
- There is no "dictator": no single voter possesses the power to always determine the group's preference.
Cardinal voting electoral systems are not covered by the theorem, as they convey more information than rank orders. However, Gibbard's theorem extends Arrow's theorem for that case. The theorem can also be sidestepped by weakening the notion of independence.
The axiomatic approach Arrow adopted can treat all conceivable rules (that are based on preferences) within one unified framework. In that sense, the approach is qualitatively different from the earlier one in voting theory, in which rules were investigated one by one. One can therefore say that the contemporary paradigm of social choice theory started from this theorem.
The practical consequences of the theorem are debatable: Arrow has said "Most systems are not going to work badly all of the time. All I proved is that all can work badly at times."
- "Arrow's Impossibility Theorem" | 2023-02-17 | 14 Upvotes 7 Comments
- "Arrow's impossibility theorem" | 2015-06-03 | 97 Upvotes 84 Comments
Benjamin Franklin's 13 virtues
Benjamin Franklin (January 17, 1706 [O.S. January 6, 1705] – April 17, 1790) was an American polymath and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. Franklin was a leading writer, printer, political philosopher, politician, Freemason, postmaster, scientist, inventor, humorist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat. As a scientist, he was a major figure in the American Enlightenment and the history of physics for his discoveries and theories regarding electricity. As an inventor, he is known for the lightning rod, bifocals, and the Franklin stove, among other inventions. He founded many civic organizations, including the Library Company, Philadelphia's first fire department and the University of Pennsylvania.
Franklin earned the title of "The First American" for his early and indefatigable campaigning for colonial unity, initially as an author and spokesman in London for several colonies. As the first United States Ambassador to France, he exemplified the emerging American nation. Franklin was foundational in defining the American ethos as a marriage of the practical values of thrift, hard work, education, community spirit, self-governing institutions, and opposition to authoritarianism both political and religious, with the scientific and tolerant values of the Enlightenment. In the words of historian Henry Steele Commager, "In a Franklin could be merged the virtues of Puritanism without its defects, the illumination of the Enlightenment without its heat." To Walter Isaacson, this makes Franklin "the most accomplished American of his age and the most influential in inventing the type of society America would become."
Franklin became a successful newspaper editor and printer in Philadelphia, the leading city in the colonies, publishing the Pennsylvania Gazette at the age of 23. He became wealthy publishing this and Poor Richard's Almanack, which he authored under the pseudonym "Richard Saunders". After 1767, he was associated with the Pennsylvania Chronicle, a newspaper that was known for its revolutionary sentiments and criticisms of British policies.
He pioneered and was the first president of Academy and College of Philadelphia which opened in 1751 and later became the University of Pennsylvania. He organized and was the first secretary of the American Philosophical Society and was elected president in 1769. Franklin became a national hero in America as an agent for several colonies when he spearheaded an effort in London to have the Parliament of Great Britain repeal the unpopular Stamp Act. An accomplished diplomat, he was widely admired among the French as American minister to Paris and was a major figure in the development of positive Franco-American relations. His efforts proved vital for the American Revolution in securing shipments of crucial munitions from France.
He was promoted to deputy postmaster-general for the British colonies in 1753, having been Philadelphia postmaster for many years, and this enabled him to set up the first national communications network. During the revolution, he became the first United States Postmaster General. He was active in community affairs and colonial and state politics, as well as national and international affairs. From 1785 to 1788, he served as governor of Pennsylvania. He initially owned and dealt in slaves but, by the late 1750s, he began arguing against slavery and became an abolitionist.
His life and legacy of scientific and political achievement, and his status as one of America's most influential Founding Fathers, have seen Franklin honored more than two centuries after his death on coinage and the $100 bill, warships, and the names of many towns, counties, educational institutions, and corporations, as well as countless cultural references.
- "Benjamin Franklin's 13 virtues" | 2012-09-04 | 101 Upvotes 73 Comments
Braess' paradox is the observation that adding one or more roads to a road network can slow down overall traffic flow through it. The paradox was postulated in 1968 by German mathematician Dietrich Braess, who noticed that adding a road to a particular congested road traffic network would increase overall journey time.
The paradox may have analogies in electrical power grids and biological systems. It has been suggested that in theory, the improvement of a malfunctioning network could be accomplished by removing certain parts of it. The paradox has been used to explain instances of improved traffic flow when existing major roads are closed.
- "Braess's Paradox" | 2021-05-16 | 64 Upvotes 30 Comments
- "Braess’s paradox" | 2018-09-22 | 134 Upvotes 37 Comments
- "Braess’ paradox" | 2017-01-08 | 136 Upvotes 91 Comments
- "Braess' paradox: adding a new road to a city can slow down traffic" | 2015-10-16 | 98 Upvotes 61 Comments
Bribery of Senior Wehrmacht Officers
From 1933 to the end of the Second World War, high-ranking officers of the Armed Forces of Nazi Germany accepted vast bribes in the form of cash, estates, and tax exemptions in exchange for their loyalty to Nazism. Unlike bribery at lower ranks in the Wehrmacht, which was also widespread, these payments were regularized, technically legal and made with the full knowledge and consent of the leading Nazi figures.
Carthago delenda est
"Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam", or "Ceterum autem censeo Carthaginem esse delendam" (English: "Furthermore, I consider that Carthage must be destroyed"), often abbreviated to "Carthago delenda est" (English: "Carthage must be destroyed"), is a Latin oratorical phrase pronounced by Cato the Censor, a politician of the Roman Republic. The phrase originates from debates held in the Roman Senate prior to the Third Punic War (149–146 BC) between Rome and Carthage, where Cato is said to have used it as the conclusion to all his speeches in order to push for the war.
- "Carthago delenda est" | 2019-07-21 | 64 Upvotes 62 Comments
The Chicken Tax is a 25 percent tariff on light trucks (and originally on potato starch, dextrin, and brandy) imposed in 1964 by the United States under President Lyndon B. Johnson in response to tariffs placed by France and West Germany on importation of U.S. chicken. The period from 1961–1964 of tensions and negotiations surrounding the issue was known as the "Chicken War," taking place at the height of Cold War politics.
Eventually, the tariffs on potato starch, dextrin, and brandy were lifted, but since 1964 this form of protectionism has remained in place to give U.S. domestic automakers an advantage over competition (e.g., from Japan, Turkey, China, and Thailand). Though concern remains about its repeal, a 2003 Cato Institute study called the tariff "a policy in search of a rationale."
As an unintended consequence, several importers of light trucks have circumvented the tariff via loopholes, known as tariff engineering. Ford (ostensibly a company that the tax was designed to protect), imported its first-generation Transit Connect light trucks as "passenger vehicles" to the U.S. from Turkey, and immediately stripped and shredded portions of their interiors (e.g., installed rear seats, seatbelts) in a warehouse outside Baltimore. To import vans built in Germany, Mercedes "disassembled them and shipped the pieces to South Carolina, where American workers put them back together in a small kit assembly building." The resulting vehicles emerge as locally manufactured, free from the tariff.
- "Chicken tax" | 2017-05-17 | 75 Upvotes 28 Comments
A closed city or closed town is a settlement where travel or residency restrictions are applied so that specific authorization is required to visit or remain overnight. They may be sensitive military establishments or secret research installations that require much more space or freedom than is available in a conventional military base. There may also be a wider variety of permanent residents including close family members of workers or trusted traders who are not directly connected with its clandestine purposes.
Many closed cities existed in the Soviet Union until its collapse in 1991. After 1991, a number of them still existed in the CIS countries, especially Russia. In modern Russia, such places are officially known as "closed administrative-territorial formations" (закрытые административно-территориальные образования, zakrytye administrativno-territorial'nye obrazovaniya, or ЗАТО ZATO for short).
- "Closed city" | 2016-08-01 | 84 Upvotes 27 Comments
- "Atomgrads" | 2013-06-08 | 31 Upvotes 11 Comments
The cobra effect occurs when an attempted solution to a problem makes the problem worse, as a type of unintended consequence. The term is used to illustrate the causes of incorrect stimulation in economy and politics.
The term cobra effect originated in an anecdote that describes an occurrence in the time of British rule of colonial India. The British government was concerned about the number of venomous cobras in Delhi. The government therefore offered a bounty for every dead cobra. Initially this was a successful strategy as large numbers of snakes were killed for the reward. Eventually, however, enterprising people began to breed cobras for the income. When the government became aware of this, the reward program was scrapped, causing the cobra breeders to set the now-worthless snakes free. As a result, the wild cobra population further increased.
- "Cobra Effect" | 2019-11-06 | 11 Upvotes 1 Comments
- "The Cobra Effect" | 2015-10-01 | 61 Upvotes 26 Comments
The Communications Over Various Feeds Electronically for Engagement Act (COVFEFE Act) is a bill introduced into the United States House of Representatives in 2017 (on June 12), during the 115th United States Congress.
The bill would amend the Presidential Records Act to preserve Twitter posts and other social media interactions of the President of the United States, and to require the National Archives to store such items.
U.S. Representative Mike Quigley, Democrat of Illinois, introduced the legislation in the wake of Donald Trump's routine use of Twitter, stating "In order to maintain public trust in government, elected officials must answer for what they do and say; this includes 140-character tweets. If the president is going to take to social media to make sudden public policy proclamations, we must ensure that these statements are documented and preserved for future reference." If enacted, the bill "would bar the prolifically tweeting president from deleting his posts, as he has sometimes done."
If the bill were enacted, it would see US law treat US presidents' personal social media accounts (such as Trump's "@realDonaldTrump" Twitter account) the same as "official" social media accounts (such as the "@POTUS" Twitter account).
- "COVFEFE Act" | 2019-09-11 | 24 Upvotes 15 Comments
- "COVFEFE Act" | 2017-08-14 | 113 Upvotes 29 Comments