A system for scoring political candidates. RFC (request for comments) on methodology and positions

bykbog5d13th Feb 201914 comments

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Wouldn't it be great if we had a formal rigorous system for determining who to vote and lobby for?

Would you like EA discourse on politics to be smarter and closer to double-cruxing than it was in 2016?

Wouldn't it be neat and convenient if we could share simple ratings on politicians, the way that lobby groups and think tanks do (like the letter grades given by the NRA etc)?

I have created a model that will score American presidential hopefuls, though it can be adapted with more or less difficulty for other kinds of elections.

But before we actually use it at all, we need to get the foundations right. I have created a rough draft report which justifies appropriate policy desiderata on the basis of EA goals, and assigns cardinal weights for how important they are. E.g.: our policy goal on animal farming is to reduce numbers and improve conditions, and the weight is calculated on the basis of the number of farm animals in the United States. I do this across multiple issues. Here is the report. Remember, this is a rough draft and many of the positions are not well established.

The scores are aggregated to create an overall score for each politician, as can be seen in the Excel spreadsheet.

Now I am looking for people to share information, sources, and arguments that can be used to improve the model, as my knowledge of specific issues is limited and my estimation of weights is very rough.

Comments on any issue are generally welcome but naturally you should try to focus on major issues rather than minor ones. If you post a long line of arguments about education policy for instance, I might not get around to reading and fact-checking the whole thing, because the model only gives a very small weight to education policy right now (0.01) so it won't make a big difference either way. But if you say something about immigration, no matter how nuanced, I will pay close attention because it has a very high weight right now (2).

More refined estimates of the weights to assign to various issues are especially welcome. For some issues I have nothing to go on but my own guess, and therefore your own guesses will be useful as well (I will take some kind of average). Also, there are a few big topics which I have not yet included at all because I lack information on them: Social Security, unemployment benefits, and abortion. For the first two, I'm not well read on what politicians and economists typically say. For the last one, I need some clarity on the impact of abortion access on the size of the human population, because that will be a crucial consideration for evaluating abortion policy under standard utilitarian assumptions.

I will review your comments, respond to you, and use the ideas to update the model and make it more rigorous. Hopefully we will get to the point where we can comfortably move ahead with evaluations of specific candidates.

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