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The Almighty Buck

Trade Politicians Like Stocks 39

Thanks to Greyfox for giving us a story that confirms what I've always thought: politicians can be traded like stocks. Much like any normal stock market, now you can bid up your favorite politician - big tax break? Buy him up! Campaign corruption? Sell! If you are a South Korean, of course.
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Trade Politicians Like Stocks

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  • What about politicians, or their friends, manipulating the market. If a politician played it right, he could own himself or his opponents.

  • when politicians see their stock price tanking and start buying their own stock back to increase the price thereby making themselves look like more solid candidates than they really are? You'll have Donald Trump and Steve Forbes neck and neck because they'll probably own 92% of their own stock and/or offer you a hell of a dividend for holding onto their stock. Then you'll have people buying on rumor and selling on news... which means that politicians will keep on having to grace us with their presence on tv, and then you'll have people making outrageous claims like they came up with the idea of the internet... oh man, it would be such a mess.

    but it would be fun as hell to play!

    "YES! Bribe me! Bribe me!"
  • I have always thought a good way to run our government would be through a system similar to a jury summoning.

    At some point in your life, you are required to represent your region in congress (you are selected completely randomly). You get there, are absolutely scared shitless and work your ass off for two years until you get to go home.

    While it introduces a few small problems... it does a good job of emliminating the countless problems we have with long-term politicians.

    So I am not completely rooted in reality.... sue me.
  • Hey, that's a great idea. Unfortunately, it won't work, mainly because your plan assumes the existence of an intelligent, educated, concerned electorate. What are the odds of THAT happening any time soon? (At least, here in the U.S., anyway) :)
    In any case, it seems to me that Jed 'n' Ethel Average have enough trouble figuring out how (or even whether!) various policy proposals will affect them, if they even care, without additionally guessing what "percentage" of their vote to spend on them...
  • I've heard the idea about multiple votes per person before, mostly advocated as a way to "help" underrepresented minority populations -- the theory being that, say, a black minority community could pile their votes into a single black candidate and get a seat. Why a) these theorists seem to think that white voters will be split far more than black voters, and b) "same race==good" is, er, questionable...

    Single-issue people have been responsible for cluelessly obstructing vast amounts of legislation, funding, confirmations, treaties and so forth. Look at groups on all sides of the abortion issue, on the death penalty, on nuclear testing, and so forth. There's a very strong argument that candidates that avoid demagoguery tend to be take more balanced views, and generally the public seems to agree. Witness, say, recent GOP choices; "Flat-Tax" Forbes, "Isolationist" Buchanan, and "Dan-Dan-The Clueless (Family Values) Man" Quayle have been losing to folks like Dole the Senior Statesman and Bush the Guv'nor, neither of which had a particularly distinct (or, with Bush, even vocalized...) platform. On the other side of the aisle, there's Clinton, the for all practical purposes the acknowledged, utterly untouchable reigning master of dancing in the wind...

    As for their obstructionism: consider the perpetual confirmation battles in Congress (depends on who's in charge. Both parties have members who apply litmus tests on Roe v. Wade; that confounded issue even affects US payments to the UN, and darn near everything else. I prefer to label 'em, more honestly, as Anti-Choice and Pro-Death, but this is long enough of a rant already...)... and so forth. Without convincing the rest, they won't be able to push through anything positive, but with just enough numbers they can block the more productive from doing work...

    The other thang, Net-based voting... um, well, you need some *darn* good way of ensuring 1:1. Not only that, but you'll get lots of silly self-selection effects (as in: don't trust "what is your favorite {foo}" polls if their URL ever gets out to partisans, especially those that can code... also, the demographics of the online differ greatly from the norm methinks) even if you can somehow avoid fraud. And you'll have the more creative, diabolical folks ("Web-based voting? OK. Now we know that this precinct tends to vote our way, but that one doesn't -- so let's take down this router, and that, and...) doing things that a corrupt feller could only dream about when dealing with physical ballots and booths.
  • Already done...

    ...on the city-state level...

    ...thousands of years ago...

    (You've basically described Athenian direct democracy (whoops, almost wrote 'demonocracy'... heh; that'd be interesting. Or maybe we already have that...); part of the theory was that every person (or, probably man, methinks) was equally entitled to and responsible for running the city...
  • Question for ya --

    Is a politician who refuses to compromise on his principles, but by doing so manages to not accomplish anything (due to refusal to budge) ethical? Or has he, by knowingly and deliberately failing his people, basically broken *that* trust compared to somebody who *does* make deals, and get stuff done?

    That could be debated endlessly, methinks.

  • A subject line having two words equally readable as verbs or nouns - sorry, the Voices told me to do it!-)
  • Yes, I think it was something similar to that.
    What basically happened was there was no single ruler or King. When an issue arose, a citizen (A man) was randomly picked to make the decision. After that, his "rule" was over.

    What put an end to that nice little system was one man (forget his name), simply refused to step down.

    This was at the very beginning of Athens existance... since that point, they had implemented other forms of democracy (including assemblies attending by *All* citizens, each able to voice his concerns, and issues then decided upon by elected officials).

    Athens was pretty darn succesful for quite some time.
  • I have often thought that half the problem with our system is that it encourages those who wish to have power over others to run. A random selection would at least avoid that problem.

    Another good side effect might be an increased interest in the average educational state of a citizen. But even a well-meaning rube might be better than a crook.

    Another result would be breaking the two party system that is really a one party system. It would disenfranchise a lot of lobbyists. The election cycle that causes half of our politician's time to be spent getting re-elected would also be avoided.

    It will never happen though -- it might work too well. And it might not -- I can think of lots of my neighbors that I wouldn't wish to see suddenly powerful. But damn, the current system is so broken it almost seems worth trying.

    Maybe we should just invite all the politicians onto a slashdot-like forum, and the ones with the highest karma on election day are our leaders.
  • by rde ( 17364 ) on Tuesday September 14, 1999 @11:35PM (#1681436)
    You americans have buying your politicians for years.
  • Yes, but SELLING... now that would be a welcome addition.
    I'd never heard of this before and I live in Iowa.
  • by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Wednesday September 15, 1999 @12:09AM (#1681439)
    I first heard of this when I heard of the one at the University of British Columbia: the FAQ [] and a Trader's Manual [] are available.

    There's also one being run at the University of Iowa College of Business []), which has links for current political markets including the 2000 Congressional, 2000 DNC, 2000 RNC, and New York Senate races. Let the games begin!

    A little poking around reveals there are also a few markets open in Austrian politics [].

    And finally, I think that the site referenced in the USA Today article is here: [], but since it's in Korean, I'm not totally sure about that :-)

  • The Economist [] has carried stories on the University of Iowa site in the past. It seems that this game just skirts US laws about betting on elections.

    The idea is to make people put their money where their mouth is. That way you get a more honest and thoughtful opinion than just stopping random people in the street. The fact that the game players are not a random sample matters less because they reflect all the available evidence rather than just their own views.

    IIRC, the idea is that you buy a future contract which will pay off according to the share of the next vote. So the current market value of these contracts reflects the (hopefully) rational expectations of the traders.


  • This sounds very much like the Hollywood stock exchange [], where you can 'invest' in movies, actors and directors, and you earn dividends based on box office takings. Although I must say buying and selling politicians seems like much more fun. You could even start 'mutual funds' which only invest in politicians of certain parties :-)
  • by Paul Johnson ( 33553 ) on Tuesday September 14, 1999 @11:50PM (#1681442) Homepage
    Reminds me of the old saying: "An honest politician is one who stays brought".

    Does this make dishonest politicians difficult to sell?


  • ...before they were all privately held. Now the average investor can buy a politician! Why shouldn't the local ladies' investor club get a shot at some legalized graft? Why should only the Chinese get to buy and sell shares of Gore? Why shouldn't the small investor be able to buy and sell Bush on p*Trade?

    Who needs straw polls when you can have IPOs?!

    I say bring on Jesse "The P/E Ratio" Ventura!
  • Sell short Republicans!
    Sell short Democrats!
    Sell short Reformed!

    Kill the lawyers! Maoist revolution!

    Oops... That was five.
  • Seems a lot like proportional representation.

    I guess it probably also suffers from the usual self-selecting sample problem of other opinion polls. I don't know how long it's been running. it'd be interesting to examine the correlation between election results and Posdaq prices.

    Seems an interesting idea, though. Anyone have a URL?


  • You know, if the political and ethical rammifications of implementing an american version of this didn't make me want to cry, then this would be a really good idea! The only problem is, you can change the game of politics however you want, but the fact remains that it is just that: a game. Its unfortunate, but hey, it American.


  • This is kind of a shame. Think about what having politicians who were truly responsible for their actions would be like. We could have grass roots movements to buy & sell up and coming mayors, senators, etc. The stock would have to be truly public, though -- only private individuals allowed to buy stock, and only so much, to keep corruption away.

    Sleep with an intern? Good luck explaining that to your board of directors. Win an election and there'd be dividends for all. If your senator eally screw up, he'd have to step down from John Politico, inc... And think of the fantastic IPO possibilities : "Ed Warner, the last privately held democrat in California, announced he would be going public later this year"
    Of course, I'd hate to be Al Gore's CIO...
    Maybe we could beowulf all the politicians together.
    Etc... Man, it's really early.

  • "Single-issue people have been responsible for cluelessly obstructing vast amounts of legislation, funding, confirmations, treaties and so forth."

    That's the beauty of it. Now, they have the TIME to spend on endless amounts of arguing, bickering and general time-wasting.
    But what happens when that behaviour starts to cut into your powerbase a few days later?

    Think about it.
  • by NYC ( 10100 )

    The USA Today story fails to link to the URL for the game. The link is, but it is useless unless you speak Korean. :)

    --Ivan, weenie NT4 user, Jon Katz hater: bite me!
  • I have a suggestion. Because we are dealing with politicians, we should add the option of buying your representative a "Get Out Of Jail Free Card".

  • Initial Politician Offering? Would that happen when someone runs for High School Class President or for as Fraternity/Sorority President later in college?
  • Why not - bid up, or down for a Dutch auction, on not only elections but individual issues, bills, referenda. Why pretend otherwise.
  • This is interesting. Not only is this proportional representation in the traditional sense, but the level of interest gets factored in too. I like that. It's sort of like campaign contributions would be if we all had the same amount of money! So, maybe this would be a good day to day motivator for politicians.
  • Why is it that people come up with all kind of voting schemes to get people to -predict- the outcome of elections, rather than ways of making elections themselves more effective?

    As has been indicated in a previous article, mathematics prove the currenct scheme doesn't work properly, because it doesn't reflect the reality of people's opinions properly. However, I don't believe in the artificial counting schemes the authors of the articles involved seem to wish to implement.

    There is a lesson to be learned here.
    1) The internet is a tool. When it comes to voting, it can be a massively effective tool, as long as can be prevented that no people have uncontrollably high amounts of voting power. Slashdot is a good example of this. (Though I do think it could use a more personalized moderation system)

    2) Numbers count. This may seem an oxymoron, but having "dumbed down" voting systems where people just tick a box seems, well, dumb to me. I would like a system where I can cast any percentage of my vote on any single politician, at any time of day/month/halloween whatever, and get away with it. All it needs is a little accounting on the part of the voter, and a secure way of casting the vote. We can still have the box for people with a brain deficiency. This "stock voting" proves such a system could work, and probably draw more voters than the current system.
    If you add some averaging - let's say, the votes that politicians actually get are the ones averaged over an certain nontrivial amount of time, like a year, it could have a fairly quick feedback cycle.

    2b) Such a system could be more tamper proof than the current voting, more realistic, and might just make politicians have a bit more of a clue.
    This may seem counterintuitive, but consider the following example:

    Suppose we have one big nation with 2 (read: TWO) very large parties dominating the elections under normal circumstances. Add in one small party promoting a very small (from a government perspective) goal. Now, apply distributed voting:
    Normally, the votes would be flat-out distributed between the two parties. But if said small party would take aim at an issue with a large enough mindshare in the general population, in a distributed system they could get a place in congress/senate/whatever. Why? Because people could assign a few of their percentage points of their votes to very small parties! Have it run a while, and you'd have a myriad of parties promoting all kinds of diverse worthy goals in no time!
    Furthermore, A four-year cycle of political campaigns would no longer have any reason for existing, because votes would be cast all the time. Voting parties would no longer work - you can choose whenever you want, so you vote at the voting party, then cast vote b later at home.
    Excessive two-week political campaings no longer work either - for the same reason.

    Now THAT's a system I'd like to see in action, running in paralell with the "real" votes ;)

  • The system you are advocating - if I understand your scheme correctly, that each of us has a given amount of "vote" that we can split between the candidates - would still possess the same fundamental flaw of our current system! If you agree completely with two different candidates, you are still not free to give both of them complete support. What we need is Approval Voting, in which you vote for or against each candidate; in this way the fact that you like more than one candidate does not make your vote less important than the votes of people who only like one.

    IT HAS BEEN SHOWN BY MATHEMATICIANS that the approval voting system is the only one which accurately reflects each politician's degree of support by the public. I am surprised that more Slashdot "nerds", who are normally pretty sharp with respect to mathematics, do not already know about it and champion it. See the Approval Voting Home Page [] for details!

  • I think that having such a market for the American political system would be a really great idea. It would certainly make me more involved in what my representatives are doing. I'm fairly apathetic about politics, and many other people are, but regardless of my apathy, if it was framed in the way the the HSX is framed, I would certainly play and give more than the usual small attention that I do to politics.

  • Why does this remind me of the "Delphi Pools" from "Shockwave Rider" by John Brunner?

    I also recall that, in the book, the government was found to be manipulating the pools...

  • by hawk ( 1151 ) <> on Wednesday September 15, 1999 @12:38AM (#1681460) Journal
    The Iowa game is also (primarily?) an academic research project. Particularly, it is experimental economics, which works by getting people to make choices and reveal their preferences by using real money.

    When someone buys into the Iowa game, they get a share in each candidate for each dollar they put in. They can then buy and sell at any price, and can leave bids at multiple prices for automatic execution if anyone offers (e.g., I'll take 100 at 40c, 200 at 35c, and 1000 at 25c).

    After the election, every share is paid by the percentage of the vote: 35% becomes 35c, so exactly one dollar is paid in return.

    "surprisingly accurate" to describe the results predicted is an understatement. I don't think they've ever been off by more than 2%.

    During Perot's first run, someone bought in with $500 (rather than the typical $20), to support Perot. He sold everything else, then bought Perot, driving the price up. Right until the $500 ran out, at which point the price *immediately* dropped back to the pre-binge levels.

    hawk, wearing his Ph.D. economist hat for the moment

  • Is a politician who refuses to compromise on his principles, but by doing so manages to not accomplish anything (due to refusal to budge) ethical?

    Yes. By making a stand for his principles, as long as they are in alignment with those of his constituency, he provides a definite voice for those principles.

    We all have core principles, the ones that we are not willing to comprimise on for almost any price. We also have more flexable principles, where we are willing to have some degree of comprimise to get some of what we want in exchange for something that the other person or party wants.

    The problem is that few politicians seem to have any core principles. Everything is for sale.

Experience varies directly with equipment ruined.