21 Oct 2010

Ideology vs tradeoffs

A few years ago, I read Jennifer Government (a dystopian book) and then went to the author's website and discovered NationStates, a kind of SimCountry where you create a nation and choose policies that affect your people. These policies create feedback that affects the health, happiness and success of your people, as measured by population growth.

So I clicked on my two nations to see how "my people" were doing.

In The People's Republic of Do the Right Thing, I always enact policies that are "the right thing" as far as government interference. As a result we get:
The People's Republic of Do the Right Thing is a huge, devout nation, notable for its anti-smoking policies. Its compassionate, cynical population of 449 million are ruled without fear or favor by a psychotic dictator, who outlaws just about everything and refers to the populace as "my little playthings."

It is difficult to tell where the omnipresent, corrupt, moralistic, socially-minded government stops and the rest of society begins, but it juggles the competing demands of Social Welfare, Education, and the Environment. The average income tax rate is 100%. The private sector is almost wholly made up of enterprising fourteen-year-old boys selling lemonade on the sidewalk, although the government is looking at stamping this out.

Do the Right Thing's educational system is the envy of many and regarded as a pinnacle of academic achievement, an enormous health awareness programme is underway, citizens are expected to be proficient in at least five languages, and manufacturers are sued for almost anything not covered in their catalogue-sized manuals. Crime -- especially youth-related -- is totally unknown, despite the fact that it is difficult to make it through a day without breaking one of the country's many laws. Do the Right Thing's national animal is the warm and fuzzy, which frolics freely in the nation's many lush forests, and its currency is the monopoly buck.

Do the Right Thing is ranked 54,043rd in the world [out of 54,331 nations] for Greatest Rich-Poor Divides [meaning everyone is equally dirt poor].
In The Dictatorship of Respectful Anarchists, I try to maximize individual freedom while preventing harm to others (a basic libertarian stand against negative externalities). Thus:
The Dictatorship of Respectful Anarchists is a huge, socially progressive nation, renowned for its absence of drug laws. Its hard-nosed, hard-working population of 556 million enjoy some of the most opulent lifestyles in the region, unless they are unemployed or working-class, in which case they are variously starving to death or crippled by easily preventable diseases.

There is no government in the normal sense of the word; however, a small group of community-minded, pro-business individuals devotes most of its attentions to Education, with areas such as Healthcare and Defence receiving almost no funds by comparison. Citizens pay a flat income tax of 10%. A healthy private sector is dominated by the Gambling industry.

Councils up and down the country wrangle over legal matters, the military has had to quell a recent insurrection by uninsured revolutionaries, travellers are often forcibly evicted by torch-bearing mobs, and the children of Respectful Anarchists are often remarked upon for their cheery attitude to extreme violence. Crime -- especially youth-related -- is a major problem, and the police force struggles against a lack of funding and a high mortality rate. Respectful Anarchists's national animal is the cockroach, which is also the nation's favorite main course, and its currency is the platinum thaler.

Respectful Anarchists is ranked 3,057th in the world for Greatest Rich-Poor Divides.
Note that the "right way" to win is by playing a lot (more decisions means more years means more opportunity for population growth) and doing things that the creators have decided are correct.

Bottom Line: Tradeoffs exist, so don't pretend that your great idea comes without a costs or unintended consequences. Be humble.