Post Iraq


Sunday, June 10th, 2007

is a hot topic of late. I haven’t had time to write about it, so here’s a linkdump as I close tabs.

Iraqis who can are leaving Iraq, but they face severe restrictions on living and working elsewhere in the region, and the U.S. is only accepting a trickle. Tragedies abound in this NYT magazine piece, almost all worsened by anti-immigrant policies.

Landlords are beginning to be drafted to uphold apartheid in the U.S., following increased anti-employment raids.

Immigration up, unemployment down in Spain.

How much of a jerk do you have to be to oppose immigration? has been linked by many, but read if you haven’t:

Both Alex Tabarrok and Dani Rodrik have come out in favor of immigration into US on the basis that the relevant “moral community” one should consider is the world and not just the US natives. It might be the case that immigration from Mexico into US lowers the wages of the unskilled workers here (the extent of this effect is subject to some controversy, see the previous post on Ottaviano and Peri). However, the increase in the migrants’ wages is so large that support for immigration is still justified.

This kind of argument provokes the expected response from the expected folks, roughly along the lines that we should care more about native workers – the citizens – then the migrants – the non-citizens. Ok. But how much more? Let’s put on our annoying-economist hat and consider the question; if you consider a foreign national to be only 1/2 a human being (alright, alright, only 1/2 as “important”) as a native citizen, are you justified in opposing immigration? After all, it takes a real jerk to argue that foreign people’s welfare should not count at all. Suppose the foreigners are only 1/10th as important? Surely, if natives’ welfare counts for ten times as much as that of foreigners, we would be justified in banning immigration since it may adversely affect the wages of the unskilled in US? Well, let’s see…

Nathan Smith’s freedom of migration category has lots of good stuff.

CNN needs to fire Lou Dobbs.

Philippe Legrain’s Immigrants: Your Country Needs Them will be available in the U.S. June 21.

Should we end global apartheid? in today’s NYT magazine:

Indeed, Pritchett attacks the primacy of nationality itself, treating it as an atavistic prejudice. Modern moral theory rejects discrimination based on other conditions of birth. If we do not bar people from jobs because they were born female, why bar them because they were born in Nepal? The name John Rawls appears on only a single page of “Let Their People Come,” but Pritchett is taking Rawlsian philosophy to new lengths. If a just social order, as Rawls theorized, is one we would embrace behind a “veil of ignorance” — without knowing what traits we possess — a world that uses the trait of nationality to exclude the neediest workers from the richest job markets is deeply unjust. (Rawls himself thought his theory did not apply across national borders.) Pritchett’s Harvard students rallied against all kinds of evils, he writes, but “I never heard the chants, ‘Hey, ho, restrictions on labor mobility have to go.’ ”

I never understood the appeal of beginning chants with “Hey, ho”, but let’s get on with ending apartheid and destroying nationalism anyway. Atavistic prejudice, indeed.

Speaking of which, I am not fond of the term immigration, which gives special status to political borders. Migration is better. I prefer moving or relocation, regardless of distance or jurisdictions involved.

Memorial Yay

Monday, May 28th, 2007

Again this (U.S.) I honor , deserters and others not stupid enough to be darwinized at the command of their parentlandjurisdiction’s politicians.

The Probabalistic Estate

Saturday, April 21st, 2007

Chris F. Masse points out an article describing Bill Moyers’ Buying the War, to be broadcast April 25, in which many “top” journalists admit to being completely bamboozled by patriotism and the security state after 9/11. Willing fools include Dan Rather, former CBS anchor, and Walter Isaacson, former president of CNN.

My favorite article excerpt:

[E]ditors at the Panama City (Fla.) News-Herald received an order from above, “Do not use photos on Page 1A showing civilian casualties. Our sister paper has done so and received hundreds and hundreds of threatening emails.”

“Patriots” are the most likely domestic terrorists, right after the security state itself.

What if there were prediction market tickers for invasion outcomes running in the “footer” (I have no idea what the bottom of a TV screen is called, so I’ll borrow terminology) of the CBS newscast and CNN, or daily prices and inferred probabilities alongside newspaper stories?

Would the traders have been as stupid in aggregate as the journalists?

To make sense of the post title see and this.

Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism

Sunday, April 8th, 2007

collected data for every documented case of from 1983-2003. In he makes a strong case that suicide terrorism is almost exclusively used to combat occupation where there is a religious difference between the occupiers and occupied (together these present an existential threat to the occupied community) and the occupier jurisdiction is a democracy (and therefore less likely to reply ruthlessly and more likely to grant concessions). Furthermore, suicide terrorism seems to be relatively effective under these conditions.

Pape also dismisses two sucicide terrorism myths. First, that it is an Islam-only phenomenon (the Hindu/Marxist Tamil Tigers account for the most cases). Second, that suicide terrorists are primarily poor, uneducated and fundamentalist (they tend to have above average education and opportunities for their communities and often show now fundamentalist commitment before volunteering — an act of extreme commitment to their community by well integrated members of the same).

Although Pape has amassed significant data in support of his analysis, suicide terrorism (largely suicide bombing) has effectively only existed for a little over two decades (though suicide attacks have occasionally been used for millennia, briefly covered in this book). Will suicide terrorism change, or continue in the same pattern? There are two obvious questions, neither of which Pape bothers to pose (though I read the book a few months ago, I could’ve missed or forgotten):

  • Will suicide terrorism continue to be effective? In other words, will democracies continue to respond with a combination of concession, coercion, and grandstanding? Alternatives include apolitical response (e.g., criminal investigation and prosecution) and ruthless response (i.e., annihilation of the terrorist’s community).
  • Given that suicide terrorism is effective, will it be taken up by other groups that perceive an existential threat, e.g., radical environmentalists?

It seems that suicide bombings in Iraq, only the first several of which are included in Pape’s data, fit the pattern Pape has described. Even when not directed against the occupiers, religious difference (Shia vs. Sunni) is involved, as is the potential for influencing the democratic occupiers.

Apart from advising democracies to not occupy jurisdictions with a different predominant religion, which flows obviously from his analysis, Pape’s recommendations are irrelevant at best (e.g., lock down U.S. jurisdiction borders), as Peter McCluskey observes in his review. Nick Szabo and Chris Hibbert have also recently reviewed the book.

Invasion ethics

Saturday, January 6th, 2007

If a jurisdiction invades another, the invading jurisdiction must:

  • Grant full invader citizenship to citizens of the invaded jurisdiction upon demand, with all rights of previous citizens the invader;
  • If a supermajority in the invaded jurisdiciton desires annexation to the invader, the indvaded becomes a subjurisdiciton of the invader and all citizens of the invaded become citizens of the invader, equal to previous subjurisdictions and citizens of the invader.

A high standard? Disruptive of the politics of the invader jurisdiction? Justly so, considering the invader’s disruption of lives in the invaded jurisdiction.

A particularly savvy would-be invader may decide to skip the invasion step. Regarding Iraq, the U.S. jurisdiction is neither savvy nor responsible.

Iraq withdrawal and civilian casualties

Saturday, November 25th, 2006

I don’t follow Iraq closely, but recent headlines seem to indicate a turn for the worse and that withdrawal of U.S. troops is now on the table.

It should not have been difficult to predict that invasion would turn out badly, but politicians make the same mistakes (less charitably–tell the same lies) repeatedly, in particular when it comes to war (one reason why).

Among all the tragedies of the Iraq war, a small one is that there was no set of conditional prediction markets to consensus check (an analogue of “fact check”?) likely outcomes. An arbitrary expert can always be countered with another arbitrary expert. The nice thing about prediction markets here is that they converge to a single consensus probability (or set of interlinked probabilities for a set of claims) given the possibility of arbitrage. Faced with a market that says what a politician wants to do will probably have ill effects, the politician can ignore the consensus, but can’t counter it will an equivalent, as can be done with any expert.

So should the U.S. withdraw its military from Iraq? Unfortunately I do not know of a conditional market set up to guess the impact. Iraq-related markets I found:

Unfortunately all of these are play money markets and all only concern U.S. troops. What about Iraqi civil war or economic performance? Fortunately we can use one of these markets as an input for a conditional market that attempts to guess the impact of withdrawal on Iraq. I used the second, as it maps directly to a probability, unlike the first, and is not deemed to be an incredibly long shot, unlike the third.

The Iraqi Body Count currently says a lower bound of 47,781 Iraqi civilians have been killed since the invasion. I assume if that lower bound moves to 100,000 or greater by the end of 2007, a civil war has occurred or is in progress.

So I set up Iraq withdrawal and civilian casualties on Inkling, with four stocks:

  • USLEAV07 true AND >= 100k IBC EOY 2007
  • USLEAV07 true AND < 100k IBC EOY 2007
  • USLEAV07 false AND >= 100k IBC EOY 2007
  • USLEAV07 false AND < 100k IBC EOY 2007

I set the intial price of the first two at 12 each and the second two at 38 each, reflecting the 24 percent chance of substantial troop reduction given by Newsfutures traders and a 50/50 chance of civil war (I don’t know of a probability source for the latter). In theory prices should move to whatever traders think the probabilities actually are regardless of their initial settings.

There are two major problems with this experiment. First, a spike in violence may make troop reductions more (or less) likely, which makes it harder to divine the impact of troop reductions on violence.

Second, Inkling markets are sometimes at great variance with others or common sense, e.g., Hilary Clinton is given a 28 pecent chance of winning the 2008 Democratic nomination, others have her around 50 percent.

I surmise that there is something wrong with Inkling. That something could be just that it has no users. I set up this experiment on Inkling because it was trivial to do so, but I’d really like to see Tradesports/Intrade set up real money contracts along these lines.

Update: The first problem can be removed by ignoring deaths through April 2007. I will create a new market reflecting this…

Iraq withdrawal and civilian casualties (improved) is running with the following stocks:

  • USLEAV07 true AND IBC >= 40k May-Dec07
  • USLEAV07 true AND IBC < 40k May-Dec07
  • USLEAV07 false AND IBC >= 40k May-Dec07
  • USLEAV07 false AND IBC < 40k May-Dec07

Update 20061127: The improved market is now actually running, was previously held for admin approval.

Update 20061211: Followup posted at Midas Oracle.

Iraq war costing 120% too much

Sunday, October 15th, 2006

It is not completely unreasonable to guesstimate the average value of a U.S. jurisdiction citizen’s life at around $9 million, given that it has been guestimated at between $4 and $5 million in 1980 and apparently increases about 15% given a 10% increase in income. See Is Your Life Worth $10 Million? for an explanation and Economic History Services for income data.

Then it is also not completely unreasonable to guesstimate the average value of an Iraq jurisdiction citizen’s life at around $250,000, given per capita income of $3,600 at PPP.

Now assuming the Lancet study is roughly correct (I know, controversial, but if it overestimates then the Iraq war is an even worse “deal”) in estimating 600,000 Iraqi excess deaths and that the U.S. government has spent $335 billion so far on the Iraq war (only direct costs; including more controversial costs would again make the “deal” worse), it is straightforward to see that the U.S. has spent over $550,000 for each Iraqi life.

What a ripoff! And we were expecting a great deal.

(Intended as irony. Too bad if post seems autistic, outrageous, or sick.)

9-11 repeal

Sunday, September 10th, 2006

“Five years on” it is time to repeal the security state’s power grabs, stop the trillion dollar fuckup of Iraq and Afghanistan, and finally bring Osama bin Laden to justice.

Memorial Day

Monday, May 29th, 2006

On this (U.S.) I honor , deserters and others not stupid enough to be darwinized at the command of their parentlandjurisdiction’s politicians.

Admit defeat, not error!

Saturday, February 25th, 2006

William F. Buckley admits that the U.S. military adventure in Iraq is a defeat, but willfully fails to learn anything from it.

It is healthier for the disillusioned American to concede that in one theater in the Mideast, the postulates didn’t work. The alternative would be to abandon the postulates.

His two postulates amount to an assumption that wherever the U.S. intervenes people will act in accordance with U.S. politicians’ wishes. Nevermind that this doesn’t even work within the U.S. jurisdiction.

Buckley attributes defeat soley to “Iraqi animosities.” Even if that were the sole cause blame can be pinned firmly on U.S. politicians who were very well aware of Shiite/Sunni/Kurd/Christian/etc. “animosities” as leveraging these was a major component of U.S. policy toward Iraq after the 1991 . However, Buckley ignores economic mismanagement, and doubtless many other idiocies endemic to political management, nevermind military-political management. To do so would be to accept blame and teeter on the edge of admitting error.

If Buckley hopes to fence off his “postulates” (and thus U.S. policy) from criticism by admitting defeat in this one instance I hope he fails miserably, but I fully expect he and other advocates of interventionism will succeed in this subversion of truth. The long history of poor outcomes of U.S. intervention in the Middle East, elsewhere, and within the U.S. jurisdiction (domestically) is forgotten completely and is never learned from.

I have probably suggested too many times that prediction markets could help remind voters that the most likely outcomes are not those predicted by politicians.

On a related note: So what if Iraq splits? A jurisdiction is not a sacred entity.

Via Mike Godwin. You must check out Godwin’s awesome site design. (Don’t worry, I still hate Macs.)