Altucher: Criminal? Maybe. Stupid? Yes.

In this post, Zolltan pretty much calls out James Altucher as a criminal. Altucher may be a criminal or not, but he certainly is stupid. I would never invest with him or allow him anywhere near my money, which is neither here nor there.

I’m not going to list all the ways Altucher is stupid. However, at the top of the list is his view that we should get rid of the “republic-based legislative branch so we can have a true democracy commanded by a much more informed electorate.” In its place, he suggest we have government by mass-internet voting. Criticize the current system all you want (lord knows, me and Zolltan have done it multiple times), but reform is better than replacement. And what Althucher’s suggestion for replacement is is stupid.

I’m not even going to make the obvious arguments about security and making sure the results of internet-voting won’t tampered with by hackers or foreign states. Instead, I’m going to assume that these types of issues aren’t major problems and focus on evaluating the premise of Altucher’s idea. Only then can we demonstrate his true stupidity.

His premise is based on two conceits: 1. the electorate will always be focused on the right policies and vote accordingly, and 2. the electorate is informed enough to identify problems, devise solutions and distill both into coherent policy choices.

Lets start with #1: I present as my argument Sanjaya Malakar, American Idol contestant most famous for garnering a sizable chunk of the vote to spite Simon Cowell. Please don’t tell me that the American public will take politics more seriously than a game show, what between the Tea Party having enough power to make Boehner their bitch and Biden getting elected to the US Senate since the 70s.

On to #2: The Frank-Dodd Act, signed into law in 2010, was over 2300 pages and “purportedly representing a significant change in the American financial regulatory environment affecting all Federal financial regulatory agencies and almost every aspect of the nation’s financial services industry.” How precisely would the electorate ever be informed enough to vote on this? Would one vote be held for the whole Act, or several for each of the individual laws that comprise the Act?

That is just one act. The 111th US Congress enacted, proposed and vetoed 383 separate pieces of legislation over a two year span. That equates to the American population voting on legislative acts at roughly the rate of 15 per month. This leads me to make the educated guess that voter participation will fall, especially when certain voting groups or blocs don’t care about one law or the other, not dear to their hearts. Consider this: 435 members and 100 senators were able to consider 383 pieces of legislation in two years. What would happen to the rate of legislation per month, when you introduce 300 million people to the decision-making process? Practically speaking under this system, only voters who care enough about a law will vote for or against it. So then I’m led to believe that rather than driving the costs of lobbying up as Altucher seems to suggest, it would drive those costs down. Special interests could now focus on mobilizing voter blocs to champion their causes. This can be readily done through advertising, social networks, TV, grass roots, etc.

I know the legislative branch of the US government isn’t functioning as advertised. That’s not the point. See argument above: reform is better than replacement.


In related news, Freakonomics finds that citizens today are less literate than the colonials. Government by show-of-hands is a stupid way to govern.



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6 Responses to Altucher: Criminal? Maybe. Stupid? Yes.

  1. zolltan says:

    I’m sorry, I’m not gonna read this guy’s blog posts, so what I say may be totally inaccurate. First off, I’m guessing the feature of this system of government is that only “the right kind of people” vote. It’s essentially a poll tax that you don’t have to burn a cross on some dude’s lawn to support. My impression is that these kinds of voter-limitation schemes always sound like they might be okay in theory, but just end up with really shitty results.

    That being said, you, me, and Altucher all know the US isn’t gonna be replacing elections and legislatures with internet direct voting. At the same time, there’s all these ways of running a country/city/community that aren’t being tried. I feel like in the mid-1800’s there were all these communes that developed and tested out different ways to run communities, but representative democracy with a mixed economy seems to be everyone’s ideal at present (I believe Francis Fukuyama is the guy whose point I’m stealing and oversimplifying). Now the fact is that these 19th century communes were usually really terrible to live in because most ways to run a community ARE really terrible. So I don’t actually wish people would try this stuff out on their own backs. Still, throwing out country-running ideas, even bad ones is an exercise that is worthwhile. So, since I don’t think Altucher is stupid enough to think anyone will take him up on turning the US into an internet republic, I don’t think what he’s doing is that bad or that stupid really. I basically support this kind stuff.

    I wish there’d be more interesting ideas like “Ijon Tichy’s Thirteenth Voyage” (people interchanging social positions daily, among other things) or “A Ticket to Tranai” (how government sanctioned theft would work, among other things) and less “how do we stop poor people from voting?”

    • Zuuko says:

      I find country-running ideas a colossal waste of time. The term I would best use to describe such experimental thinking is mental masturbation. Applying even the most rudimentary skeptical analysis tears them up. I don’t think its productive and it fools people into believing their own bullshit ideas. Now, clearly as long you view them as exercises, I don’t see any harm in them. But what is the point?

      • zolltan says:

        What’s the point of ANY kind of masturbation? Uhh, the climax, maybe? Now if you’re saying what’s the point of putting these ruminations on the internet – perhaps yr right. But look at us writing shit over on this here blog. What’s the point of that? To me the point of it is practice in thinking…

        But I do actually think there’s some use to these country-running schemes in the same sense that there’s some use to thought experiments in physics that can’t be performed as real experiments: you start to figure out what makes sense, and what doesn’t.

    • Zuuko says:

      Does this make sense? Mental exercise is fine but advocacy is not for mental masturbation… err country-running ideas. The point of masturbation is not the climax but to simulate sex…

  2. zolltan says:

    Another thing I must say is the Freakonomix thing is just a bunch of bullshit O Tempora O Mores-ism and not even remotely an argument for declining literacy. Whether you should start a revolution is kinda more important than whether Tom Hanks gets killed or whatever. Also, most American homes have (several) KJV Bibles with rather outdated English. What that don’t mean is that we are all experts on 17th century English. etc. etc. ad nauseam

    That being said, many people in America today ARE functionally illiterate, and that’s scary.

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