Tag: Hubert Huzzah

The revelations about Cambridge Analytica indicate clearly that western governments are subverting democracy

Image result for PR companies manipulation

I wrote an article about Cambridge Analytica, the commodification of voter decision making and the marketisation of democracy, along with previous articles about western government strategies for subverting democracy. I have also extensively criticised governments’ use of ‘behavioural economics, and the authoritarian neuroliberal turn more generally. 

Within the neoliberal framework, it seems that anything which may be commodified and marketised is, including our consummer preferences, Facebook likes, behaviours, emotions, subconscious inclinations, cognitive habits, perceptions and decisions. If companies like Cambridge Analytica could mine and sell our souls, they would do so in much they same way they did their own collective conscience.

The CEO of Cambridge Analytica has been suspended, Alexander Nix, has been suspended. However, Nix is a symptom of a problem, rather than being the problem itself. 

Cambridge Analytica is just the tip of a very dirty, subterranean iceberg. It’s worth keeping in mind that without paying clients, among which are governments, antidemocratic companies like this would not thrive and profit. The extensive Public Relations (PR) and ‘strategic communications’ industry, along with the ‘behavioural economics’ technocrats, are all working on sustaining power relations and extending corporate and right wing political interests. 

The hidden persuaders behind the Conservative government

During last year’s general election, the government used a number of companies that bear a lot of similarity to Cambridge Analytic during their election campaign.

textor

From the Crosby Textor Group site

The government used data from Experian (paid £683,636.34),
Reed Consultancy (paid £178,558.03),
G
oogle Analytics  (paid £1,020,232.17),
Facebook 
(paid £3,177,416.68),

Twitter was paid £56,504.32, to “research, canvass and advertise” their party ‘brand’. And £76,800 was spent advertising through Express Newspapers.

Another company that the Conservatives used for their campaign, paying them £120,000 for market research and canvassing, is OutraJim Messina is the executive director, and the team includes Lynton Crosby.

outra.png

However, Crosby Textor (listed as CTF) also earned £4,037,400 for market research/canvassing.

The Messina Group Inc were also paid £544,153.57 for transport, advertising, market research and canvassing. This company uses data analytics and ‘intelligence’ services. The company conducts “Targeted Ads Programs [….] ensuring precise targeting via Facebook, geo-targeting, zipcodes, IP addresses, and other tactics”.

Crosby and Messina made staggering amounts of money from the Conservative’s election campaign, using three separate, listed companies between them.

The company also says:

MGI.png

Apparently, the Messina Group are in a strategic partnership’ with Outra, “serving as one of Outra’s primary advisors on data, analytics, and ‘customer engagement’.”

(See also: World leaders across 5 continents trust TMG with the highest stakes in politics.)

British electoral law forbids co-ordination between different campaign groups, which must all comply with strict spending limits. If they plan tactics or co-ordinate together, the organisations must share a cap on spending.

Combobulate Limited, which is listed as a management consultancy, earned £43,200 for research/canvassing and for ‘unsolicited material to electors’.

The director is listed as Nicholas Jack Walton Mason, also listed as the director of Uplifting DataMason is also listed as Director of Mason Investment Consultants Limited, which was dissolved via compulsory strike-off . However, I couldn’t find an information site for Combobulate, the only site I found bizarrely took me here. I can’t find any other website.

combob

Another similar company, An Abundance Limited, which is listed as a ‘behaviour change’ agency, were paid £2,400 for market research and canvassing by the Conservatives in the run-up to the election. 

Populus Data Solutions, who say they provide “state of the art data capture”, were paid £196,452 for research/canvasing and ‘unsolicited material to electors’. This company have also developed the use of biometrics – facial coding in particular.

St Ives management services (SIMS) were paid £3,556,030.91, for research/canvasing, ‘unsolicited material to electors’, advertising, overheads and general administration, media and rallies, and manifesto material.

sims

Edmonds Elder Ltda digital consultancy, were paid £156,240.00 for advertising. The site  says the company also provides services in vague sounding ‘government affairs’ “We use cutting-edge digital techniques to help government affairs teams make the case for their policy and regulatory positions – harnessing support from communities across the country to ensure a positive outcome.”   

Craig Elder is also the Conservative party’s digital director. Tom Edmonds was the Conservative party’s ‘creative director’ between 2013 and 2015.

Hines Digital  who is a partner of Edmonds Elder Ltd, is a conservative digital agency that builds strong brands, huge email lists, and big league fundraising revenue for our clients, helping conservative campaigns & causes, and companies, achieve their goals.”

It says on the site that “Hines worked with conservative campaigns & causes in fifteen U.S. states and nine countries.” The company designed the ‘digital infrastructure’ of Theresa May’s leadership campaign launch in 2016, they built her website (but aren’t listed in election expenses.) Hines says: 

That timely initial website launch proved invaluable. Approximately 35% of her overall email list signed up on that first day, a significant shot in the arm on Day One made possible because her team — led in part by our partners at Edmonds Elder—was prepared to capitalize on the day’s earned media through effective online organizing.

Overall, the initial holding page saw a 18% conversion rate on day one — meaning nearly 1/5 people who visited the website signed up to join the campaign. That’s a fantastic response to a site optimized for supporter recruitment.”

eldre

And“We are experts at identifying people online – and targeting them to drive the activity your organisation needs.”

With political adverts that are targeted and ‘dark’, which aren’t fact checked as only the person targeted gets to see them. 

Walker Media Limited are a digital marketing and media company, they facilitate Facebook adverts and campaigns, among other services. They were paid £798,610.21 from the Conservatives’ election campaign. One of their other social media marketing campaigns listed on their site is for “The Outdoor and Hunting Industry”.

Simon Davis serves as the Chief Executive Officer at Walker Media Holdings Limited and Blue 449. Davis served as Managing Director of Walker Media at M&C Saatchi plc, a global PR and advertising company, who have worked for the Conservatives before, designing campaign posters and anti-Labour adverts – including the controversial ‘New Labour, New Danger’ one in particular.

There are a few subsidaries of this company which include “harnessing data to find, engage and convert customers efficiently through digital media.” M&C Saatchi acquired the online media ‘intelligence agency’ Human Digital, whose “innovative approach marries rich behavioural insight with robust metrics.”

Under the 1998 Data Protection Act, it can be illegal to process ‘sensitive’ data – a category that includes ‘political opinions’ – without explicit consent from the individuals concerned, though consent is only one of a number of conditions under which sensitive personal data may be legally processed. Despite numerous attempts to contact Conservative HQ last week, the party refused to say if they used any data, modelling or insight gathered during either the election or the referendum campaigns.

There is a whole submerged world of actors making huge profits from data mining and analytics, ‘targeted audience segmentation’, behaviour change techniques, ‘strategic communications and political lobbying. Much of the PR industry is built upon the same territory of interests: financial profit, maintaining power relations and supporting the vested interests of the privileged class. The subterranean operations of the surveillance and persuasion industry and citizen manipulation has become the establishment’s normative tool of authoritarian control, and it is hidden in plain view.

Blue Telecoms were paid £375,882.56 for ‘unsolicited material to electors’ and ‘advertising’. It says on their site that Blue Telecoms is a trading name for Direct Market Solutions Ltd. The company director is Sascha Lopez , a businessman who stood as a local council candidate for the Tories in the 2017 local elections. He is also an active director of the Lopez Group, although that company’s accounts are very overdue, there is an active proposal to strike off on the government’s Companies House page. If directors are late in filing their company accounts, and don’t reply to warnings from Companies House, their company can be struck-off the Companies House register and therefore cease to exist. Other companies he was active in have been liquidated (3) and dissolved (2).

A Channel Four investigation uncovered underhand and potentially unlawful practices at the centre, in calls made on behalf of the Conservative Party. These allegations include:

● Paid canvassing on behalf of Conservative election candidates – illegal under election law.

● Political cold calling to prohibited numbers

● Misleading calls claiming to be from an “independent market research company” which does not appear to exist

The Conservative Party have admitted it had commissioned Blue Telecoms to carry out “market research and direct marketing calls” during the campaign, but insisted the calls were legal.

The government is attempting to align citizen perceptions, decisions and behaviours with the desired outcomes of the government, turning democracy on its head

The internet has rapidly become an environment in which citizens and populations are being sorted, profiled, typed, categorised, ranked and “managed”, based on data mining  mass surveillance and psycho-profiling.

It was only a matter of time before the powerful tools of digital tracking and corporate surveillance, including techniques designed for  manipulating opinions and behaviours, shifted from the realm of PR, product and service marketing to politics and voter targeting. The markets for personal data have always been markets for behavioural control also. And markets of behavioural control are composed of those who sell opportunities to influence behaviour for profit and those who purchase such opportunities.  

Daily Mail article showing that Theresa May wanted to work with Cambridge Analytica back in 2016

Profit-seeking private PR companies are paid to brand, market, engineer a following, build trust and credibility and generally sell the practice of managing the spread of information between an individual or an organisation (such as a business, government agency, the media) and the public.

Most of these companies use ‘behavioural science’ strategies (a euphemism for psychological warfare) to do so. It’s a dark world where governments pay to be advised not to talk about “capitalism,” but instead discuss “economic freedom” , “business friendly policies” or the “free market”. Austerity is simply translated into “balancing the budget” or “living within our means”. The political coercion of sick and disabled people to look for work by cutting their lifeline support is “equality and social justice” or “helping to move them closer to employment”. Propaganda and deception is “strategic communications” and “PR”. Psychological coercion is “behavioural science”. The democratic opposition are described as “virtue signallers”, “snowflakes”, “marxists”, “militants” and “the hard left.” 

Chris Wylie on Cambridge Analytica, microsurveilance, information weapons and the politics of psychological warfare.

PR is concerned with selling products, persons, governments and policies, corporations, and other institutions. In addition to marketing products, PR has been variously used to attract investments, influence legislation, raise companies’ public profiles, put a positive spin on policies, disasters, undermine citizens campaigns, gain public support for conducting warfare and to change the public perception of repressive regimes.

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The revolving door of mutually exclusive political and corporate favour operates by keeping up the spin.

The company at the centre of the Facebook data breach has boasted of using honey traps, fake news campaigns and operations with ex-spies to swing election campaigns around the world, the recent Channel 4 investigation has revealed. 

Executives from Cambridge Analytica spoke to undercover reporters from Channel 4 News about the “dark arts” used by the company to “help” clients, which included entrapping rival candidates in fake bribery stings and hiring prostitutes to seduce them.

In one filmed exchange, the company chief executive, Alexander Nix, is recorded telling reporters: “It sounds a dreadful thing to say, but these are things that don’t necessarily need to be true as long as they’re believed.”

The excellent Channel 4 News investigation, broadcast on Monday, despite threats of legal action from the company, comes two days after the Observer reported that Cambridge Analytica had unauthorised access to tens of millions of Facebook profiles in one of the social media company’s biggest data breaches. 

Nix detailed the deception, glorified propaganda techniques, entrapment and other dirty tricks that the company would be prepared to pull for money behind the scenes to help its clients. When the Channel 4 reporter asked if Cambridge Analytica could offer investigations into the damaging secrets of rivals, Nix said it worked with former spies from Britain and Israel to look for political dirt. He also volunteered that his team were ready to go further than an ‘investigation’. 

“Oh, we do a lot more than that,” Nix said. Deep digging is interesting, but you know equally effective can be just to go and speak to the incumbents and to offer them a deal that’s too good to be true and make sure that that’s video recorded.

“You know these sort of tactics are very effective, instantly having video evidence of corruption.”

Nix suggested one possible scenario, in which the managing director of Cambridge Analytica’s political division, Mark Turnbull, would pose as a wealthy developer looking to exchange campaign finance for land. “I’m a master of disguise,” Turnbull said.

Another option, Nix suggested, would be to create a sex scandal. “Send some girls around to the candidate’s house, we have lots of history of things,” he told the reporter. “We could bring some Ukrainians in on holiday with us, you know what I’m saying.

Facebook’s own little investigation

Facebook in CA s office

Facebook seems to have missed its opportunity to get a handle on the Cambridge Analytica scandal, having been told to stay out of its offices by the UK Information Commissioners Office.

Digital forensics firm Stroz Friedberg was hired by Facebook yesterday “to conduct a comprehensive audit of Cambridge Analytica,” according to a Facebook announcement. Apparently the private company at the centre of the scandal was happy to give Facebook full access to its servers and systems but the UK Information Commissioners Office (ICO), which is ‘sponsored by the governmental department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, apparently had other ideas.

On 7 March, my office issued a Demand for Access to records and data in the hands of Cambridge Analytica,” said Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham.

Cambridge Analytica has not responded by the deadline provided; therefore, we are seeking a warrant to obtain information and access to systems and evidence related to our investigation.

On 19 March, Facebook announced that it will stand down its search of Cambridge Analytica’s premises at our request. Such a search would potentially compromise a regulatory investigation.”

It’s not known how long Facebook, via its proxies, had access to Cambridge A’nalytica‘s files and how much investigating it managed to do, but being kicked out by the ICO is presumably a major inconvenience.

The Information Commissioner, Denham, has criticised Cambridge Analytica for being “uncooperative” with her investigation, and she confirmed that the watchdog will apply for a warrant to examine the company’s activities.

Someone is currently editing the information about Cambridge Analytica on  Wikipedia: re-writing history

CA editing wiki

The Conservative election guru Lynton Crosby had his staff engage in an ‘edit-war’ to delete details of his links with the tobacco industry and his election strategies from Wikipedia. Channel 4 News investigation found that substantial sections were removed from the Wikipedia page of Lynton Crosby, an Australian political strategist, by staff at the Crosby Textor consultancy firm that he co-founded. On 15 July 2013, accounts linked to Crosby Textor staff deleted multiple times sections on the controversy when the Conservative party dropped its policy for plain cigarette packaging. 

In 2015, Wikipedia also blocked a user account on suspicions that it was being used by the Conservative party chairman, Grant Shapps, “or someone acting on his behalf” to edit his own page along with the entries of Conservative rivals and political opponents.

The online encyclopedia, where pages are edited and created by readers, had tracked the changes made by a user calledContribsxthought to be a sock puppet who had systematically removed embarrassing references on Shapps’ Wikipedia page about the Tory chairman’s business activities as Michael Green, the self-styled millionaire web marketer.

wayback machine

Screenshot from The Wayback Machine – an initiative of the Internet Archive, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, building a digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form. Other projects include Open Library and archive-it.org.

A sharp-eyed friend, Hubert Huzzah, has spotted that there are currently lots of edits and re-writes on the Cambridge Analytica entry page on Wikipedia. Curiously, it is also possible to trace a Wikipedia edit in a linked reference being deleted on another website. It seems that in editing Wikipedia someone (or a group), is somehow then using what they have edited to take down the information “in the wild”.

It appears that the availability of the information is being removed more generally elsewhere on other sites.

What seems evident is that someone has gone through the links in the Wikipedia article and removed them from the Wikipedia article. It’s possible to simply cut and paste the link into a browser and go to the original. But quite a number of the originals now do not exist. Or they exist with different content.

Here is a snapshot of the Wikipedia entry from 3 January, 2018.

This is one taken on 19 March 2018 (one of five)

And another today (one of ten)It’s reasonable to expect the page to be updated, but you can see from some of the edits that this is rather more that a simple updating of information. 

It’s something of a Winston Smith moment…

The bottom line

It is fundamentally wrong for private companies and authoritarian governments to use alter public information, use personal information, data mining, psychological profiling, targeted ‘strategic communications’ (a euphemism for propaganda) , ‘behavioural science’, ‘social science insights’ and military grade psyops – in short, deception – in order to manipulate citizens’ decision-making, perceptions and behaviours in order to profit and maintain their power.

All of this has profound and dark implications for democracy, or at least what is left of it. Totalitarians throughout history have sought to change the perceptions, decisions and behaviours of populations. These are the intentions and actions of tyrants.

Governments in so-called democratic nations are assumed to seek to be elected or remain in office on the basis of the preferences of voters, their accountable policies and their capacity for public representation – based on those meritocratic principles that they preach to everyone else.

The fact that governments are paying – using taxpayers’ money – to attempt to manipulate the electorate – regardless of whether or not the methodologies used actually work – speaks volumes about government intentions, their lack of transparency, their disregard of citizens’ agency, their disdain for human rights, lack of respect for civil liberties and utter contempt for anything remotely resembling democratic accountability.

The Channel 4 News exposé  of Cambridge Analytica

 


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Choice Architecture of a Democratic Politics – Hubert Huzzah


A lot has been written in recent years about the value of Behavioural Economics in nudging the Electorate to do make good choices. A lot less has been achieved in the area of nudging politicians. Politicians are pivotal in society and nudging them will have far greater impact on society than piecemeal and dissipated nudging of Citizens. Indeed the nudging of politicians is not only the most rational and efficient way to achieve positive outcomes for society but also ensure that both politicians and Electorate are of one mind when it comes to being “all in it together”.

The Choice Architecture of Parliament has, for centuries, favoured unaccountable and poor decision-making in isolation from the actual needs and wants of the Electorate. Indeed, women only acquired the right to vote in 1918, voting only became one person one vote in 1948 and the franchise has only been extended to 18 year olds since 1969, in the United Kingdom. Democratic participation has never been the primary aim of Parliament, for reasons that can be understood through a consideration of Behavioural Economics: Parliament is about the allocation and distribution of Power.

Reducing the tyranny of choice.

The sheer number of choices available to politicians is a tyranny.

From expenses for underpants to abstaining from critical votes, the sheer amount of time and energy devoted to Politicians’ choices diminishes political utility. The Electorate can become the Choice Architects of Parliament by democratically limiting alternatives and providing decision support tools.

Traditionally, Parliament has excluded the Electorate from many Parliamentary processes. Indeed with around thirty-five million eligible voters, Parliament can only function by being efficient. The true scale of the tyranny of choice can be expressed, mathematically, and this gives the Choice Architects of Parliament powerful tools to determine how efficient Politicians are being. The exclusion of the Electorate from some Parliamentary processes and admission into others can end the moral hazard and confirmation biases inherent in a closed decision-making group.

Queueing theory has its origins in research by Agner Krarup Erlang when he created models to describe the Copenhagen telephone exchange and has provided such important results as the Queueing Rule Of Thumb, which can be used to determine how many Politicians are required and if a Politician is efficiently making choices. This reduction of the tyranny of choices only begins the radical reform of Parliament by transforming Politicians into fit for purpose Decision Makers whose optimisation of resources for the Electorate is a Public Good. Identifying which Politicians are failing the Electorate in aggregate becomes a simple task of a well designed Randomised Control Trial.

Defaults

A large body of research has shown that, paribus ceteris, Politician are people and choose options that are presented as a default.

The Choice Architects of Parliament will create the defaults of deselection and prosecution for Politicians cause harm to the Electorate. The Precautionary Principle, applied to Legislators will ensure the best choices are available to Parliament at all times.

Historically, the defaults presented to Politicians have been those defaults prepared by Think Tanks, Lobbyists, Consultants and the Civil Service. While there is nothing undemocratic about seeking the advice of Experts, the pool of expertise has diminished in recent years until it has, largely, become an unnecessary barrier to efficiency and a source of largesse for rewarding anchoring biases and bandwagon effects. Fundamentally the Choice Architects of Parliament will minimise the framing effect of these expert consultations which can result in failure by default as the direct outcome of the Dunning-Kruger Effect discovered in a range of notionally independent Think Tanks, Lobbyists and Consultants.

In contrast to genuinely principle based policies, Politicians have come to rely on the self-assembly policies, for which consultations provides defaults and instructions, in the same way that people value furniture that they have assembled themselves. Research has shown that people value a book shelf more if they assemble it themselves than if it is already assembled. The Political Pareidolia of Consultation Defaults will be ended by the Choice Architects of Parliament by evidence based defaults for Politicians.

A simple and enduring evidence based default for Politicians is to be recalled from office should they choose a default purely because it is a default. In evidence based policy, default policies can be randomised in order to ensure that Politicians are not simply choosing the first option on the list. Research at the Department of Work and Pensions has demonstrated that Claimants understand and appreciate the value of sanctions in making good choices and there is no evidence that Politicians are not the same as Claimants. The Sanction Regime will be the Primary Default for Politicians in Policy Formation and no secret will be made of that; because, then, Politicians can make the right and informed choice and, importantly, feed back those choices to Think Tanks, Lobbyists, Consultants and the Civil Service with appropriate behaviours.

Choice over time

Choices where outcomes manifest in the future are influenced by several biases.

Politicians tend to be myopic, preferring present opinion poll or ideological outcomes at the expense of future concrete outcomes for the Electorate. This leads over exploitation of present day resources at the expense of the future. Political projections about the future tend to be inaccurate with uncertainty promoting overestimation of the likelihood of positive outcomes for vanity projects.

The Choice Architects of Parliament have several ways to structure choice architecture to compensate for or reduce these ideological and opinion poll biases. Where Politicians have an uncertain future, they are motivated to overestimate the likelihood of salient or desirable outcomes and the resulting poor choices cascade outwards into the Electorate with consequences that are, generally, unforseen by the Politician. By making all Political Choices by a politician contribute to the future wellbeing of the Politician, Policy will be driven to improve.

The default Sanction Regime is only functionally effective if the Sanctions escalate over time. The current Sanction Regime for Politicians consists of not being elected at the next General Election. There are rare occasions when a Politician resigns inducing a by-election. This is not a Sanction in the same way as a General Election as it is controlled by the Politician. Similarly, being Suspended from the House is a Sanction under the control of the Speaker.

Partitioning options and attributes

The ways in which options and attributes are grouped influence the choices that are made. 

Option partitioning requires division of a budget into categories. The attributes of a category are clumped or divided according to Government Department and Ideology. Politicians have a tendency to claim resources are scarce and allocated equally across categories. By itemising ideologically acceptable attributes and aggregating ideologically undesirable attributes, Politicians managed consumption by managing the number of attributes into types of categorizations.

The Choice Architects of Parliament will undertake a root and branch review of ideological choices and manage Political expectations by recalling Politicians where their ideological categories do not match those of the Electorate. The choice tools available to Politicians will cease to be limited to those provided by Lobbyists and Think Tanks.

Indeed each Individual Lobbyist and Think Tank will cease to be treated as an attribute of Political Life in Parliament and become a Category within the Register of Members’ Interests. Similarly, each Elector will become a Category for each “Elected Representative”. This will ensure that Politicians allocate the scare resources of their time equally across Electorate and Special Interests. The consumption of Lobbying can, therefore, be managed by the Choice Architects of Parliament.

Avoiding attribute overload

Politicians would optimally consider all of a Policy’s attributes when deciding between options. Cognitive constraints, result in weighing attributes in the same way as choices. As a result, The Choice Architects of Parliament will choose to limit the number of attributes of a policy, weighing the cognitive effort required to consider multiple attributes against the value of improved Governance. In order to ensuring cognitive attribute overload does not occur, the number of Politicians will be increased by reducing the size of Constituencies. Thus Politicians will be both more accountable and less prone to attribute overload.

This presents challenges if Politicians ideologically commit to different attributes to the Electorate and so the Choice Architects of Parliament provide tools for sorting, informing and recalling Politicians. The principal means of avoiding attribute overload will become the Political Capability Assessment. Rather than belabouring the difficulties of partitioning attributes and categories, Politicians will be periodically assessed for their suitability by Political Activity Practitioners selected from the General Electorate.

Translating attributes

The presentation of information about attributes reduces the cognitive effort associated with representation and so reduces the failure of Politicians to do as the Electorate instructs. The Choice Architects of Parliament will accomplished this by increasing evaluability and comparability of attributes. The Choice Architects of Parliament will convert commonly used metrics into metrics Politicians are assumed to care about. Such as “Expenses per Majority” and “Lobbyists per Day”. Non-linear metrics will be transformed into linear metrics and evaluative labels will be added to numerical metrics, explicitly calculating consequences such as “Swing to deselection” and “probability of prison”.

The Choice Architects of Parliament

For too long, Politicians have avoided the reality of their situation. In particular, the finances of Parliamentary Politicians has been allowed to drift along making poor choices with poor consequences for Constituents.With the advent of Behavioural Economics it has become clear that something must be done to curb the poor choices of politicians.

Imagine how much easier it would be for a Minister to refrain from sending an aide out to purchase sex aids if all purchases of goods or services by all Politicians were restricted to the use of a Parliamentary Credit Card. By having a Parliamentary Credit Card updating a database in real time, Politicians can make good purchasing decisions and demonstrate their accountability in real time. The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority would transform from being a bureaucratic nightmare into being a modern and efficient Politicians’ Financial Services Organisation.

Paperwork would be eliminated as transactions would automatically register and enter the public domain through the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority Website. The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority showing approval or rejection of expense items giving feedback to the Electorate in real time. Rejected items could be annotated quickly to ensure Politicians understand the consequences of their choices.

Politicians have always been accused of using the ambiguity of Parliamentary and Constituency Homes as a source of income. The difficulty of maintaining two dwellings is a common one that can result in suboptimal resource allocation. The resulting problem of spare rooms has been solved for a range of Benefits Claimants by adjusting the level of support available. The same principle, applied to Politicians, has a simple and elegant solution which helps them to avoid attribute overload – both in their own accommodation and in policy formation.

By housing Politicians in the Tower Blocks in and around the precincts of Parliament, the suboptimal resource allocation of resources to accommodation vanishes and Politicians are motivated to ensure the highest standards for accommodation within the constraints provided by the Tenant Management Organisation. By ensuring the Tenant Management Organisation is responsible for providing Tower Block Housing within Local Authority constraints, Politicians can both choose to relieve themselves of poor choices about maintenance and provide a pathfinder for excellence in housing choices over time.

While expenses and housing are major concerns, the single most important behaviour Politicians engage in is voting in Parliament. Poor voting decisions have serious, long-term outcomes that adversely affect the Electorate. Politicians who have expectations that decisions made in the first year of office will not have an effect in the fifth year of office experience no loss aversion. By following the Precautionary Principle, Politician who make poor voting decisions would have their term of office shortened thus bringing the date of their next election forwards. Sufficient poor voting decisions would trigger an early General Election. This ensures Party Whips are given the opportunity to avoid loss though an early election with motivation to ensure Politicians make good decisions at all stages of a Parliament.

The danger of applying a time tariff to voting decisions is that Politicians will attempt to game the system with poor decisions. In order to ensure Politicians are as motivated as their Party to make good decisions, Randomised Control Trials will be run against each and every vote in Parliament. Politicians are randomly matched against a representative sample of voters from their Constituency and their actual vote. Politicians who are so selected will be obliged to discuss their decision-making during a Political Capability Assessment.

In order to ensure that the Political Capability Assessment is fair and realistic, the Political Activity Practitioners will be selected from the General Electorate and Expertise will be excluded in order to ensure avoidance of The Political Pareidolia of Consultation Defaults. In line with the practices of the Work Capability Assessment process, there will be a rejection rate for all assessments. The rejection rate will be evidenced based on the number of people who voted against the Politician at the last election. The ordeal of appealing against the Political Capability Assessment will focus Politicians on making better decisions and becomes a necessary part of political life.

The Choice Architects of Parliament are in their early days and have little, if any, concrete proposals developed to the state of implementation. Randomised Control Trials have a role to play in the selection and election of Politicians prior to any Parliament. Not only are Politicians going to be more efficient and effective at making decisions they will be making better decisions. The kind of decisions that they can be responsible for. Because they will be held to be responsible and that means there will be consequences for all they do.

 Independent Standards Authority MP costs. Interactive map.

Article by Hubert Huzzah.

 Picture: George Grosz and John Heartfield: “Jederman sein eigner Fussball”, 1919.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Raincoat. Age. Die. A guest post by Hubert Huzzah

Hubert

In 2008 there were 700,000 people with dementia in the UK. That number is rising rapidly and is projected to be over 1 million by 2025. One in three people over 65 will end their lives with a form of dementia. In 2008 there were 580,000 people with dementia needing Carers in England.

Not all Dementia Sufferers are home owners. For the age group most likely to suffer Dementia 71.6% (45-75+) of the population do own their own home. The average home is worth £215,847 at 2017 prices. So, of the one million people with dementia by 2025, 716,000 will be sitting on assets worth a total of £154Bn.

Imagine being able to take ownership of £154Bn of assets simply by waiting ten years. That is the Dementia Tax. By 2027 those who are currently suffering from even mild dementia symptoms will have to pay for care as the value of the Home will be taken into account when means testing financial support for social care.

Currently, Carers put £132Bn into the Economy purely through Caring Services. This is the amount of money after all benefits – not just Attendance Allowance or Carers Allowance – are paid out. Carers are, in general, the next generation for Dementia sufferers – the children and grandchildren. In total, the Dementia Tax will be taking £286Bn from people who already pay substantial amounts into the economy and have been doing so for two generations.

That means penalising people until 2050 and it does not even make financial sense.

A report from the London School of Economics and King’s College London commissioned by the Alzheimer’s Society estimated the financial cost of dementia at over £17 billion for the state and families in 2008. This cost grew significantly as the number of people with dementia rose. A King’s Fund study estimated that the cost of dementia in England would rise from £14.9 billion per year in 2007 to £24 billion (at 2007 prices) by 2026, making up 74% of mental health service costs. Using £154Bn of assets to pay for £24Bn of expenditure is not only poor economics it is an invitation to fraud on an industrial scale.

The less well understood outcome will be a house price collapse leaving first time buyers in negative equity for the first time since the 1980s. In efforts to reduce the amount paid for Care Services, it will become rational for Carers of Dementia Sufferers to undervalue the property to bring the total estate under £100,000 for the purposes of means testing. Undervaluation to receive benefits is, in Social Security Law, fraud. Which will result in a market in avoidance and evasion promoting corruption. The policy, itself, is about effective money laundering which is, always, corrupt.

This undervaluation of properties will, inevitably, signal to the markets that house prices are dropping and so provide pressure to further reduce house prices. This will leave existing first time buyers at risk of negative equity. When Dementia Sufferers within the Dementia Tax Regime begin to die, First Time Buyers will sell to escape negative equity. Resulting in an extreme boom and crash market that will last for decades. The initial boom will be hailed as an economic miracle until the initial crash reveals the depth of the problem. In 2007 the National Audit Office estimated that £102 million could be saved by reducing the time people Dementia Sufferers stay in hospital.

A Lincolnshire case study they found that people with dementia on orthopaedic wards were staying over 24 days on average compared to under 17 days for people without. That increased length of Hospital stay is increasingly expensive as Private Contractors provide the service. At the same time, the Private Contractors, driven by profit, have no incentive to move Dementia sufferers out of Hospitals. The overall outcome is that Hospitals will become bed blocked by Private Contractors and that will feed back to poorer Accident and Emergency Service, longer waiting times and increased ill health in the general population.

The Dementia Tax is a poorly thought out policy that has one objective: releasing £154Bn of assets into financial markets. With the net contribution of £29Bn to the UK economy from the Insurance Sector in 2015, the indication is that the £154Bn will be a five year soft landing for the Insurance Sector on exit from the EU. That soft landing will, inevitably, be a source of capital flight from the UK to other EU capitals such as Dublin, Paris and Berlin. Which leaves the policy cascading out from the Health and Social Care Sector to cascade destabilisation across the Economy.

There are 379 authorised Life Insurance Companies in the UK. 200 are UK authorised and 179 are headquartered in another European country and passport in under the EU Third Life Directive. With the unfolding of Exit from the European Union, the Dementia Tax creates a mechanism for capital flight from the UK via those 179 passported Life Insurance companies. If the UK wishes to retain a working financial services relationship after exit then those 47.2% of Life Insurance Companies passported into the UK market will become the potential source of almost £73Bn of capital flight.

It is a poorly thought out, uncosted, scheme that seeks to buy time for the Tories. Given the public availability of information that can be used to cost the scheme, and the pieces of past research that show how poor equity-release is for solving financial problems, where did the Dementia Tax actually come from?

 

Sources: National Audit Office, Alzheimers Society, Association Of British Insurers. Picture: Madeline Von Foerster. “The Promise II” (Death And The Maiden).

Written by Hubert Huzzah

A Naiad Cortege I

Hubert

Penelope and her suitors

A guest post written by HUBERT HUZZAH·

Sometimes Science reveals something we would prefer not to know. For Medieval Popes, who could control the World by deciding the date of Easter, Natural Science revealing that Aristotlean Wisdom was flawed was one of those things. Giordano Bruno was dressed in yellow and burned at the stake. Galileo Galilei was forced to write a retraction of experimental findings. Natural Science showed that Venus had phases which may seem obscure. However, when the only consistent explanation of those phases is that Venus is orbiting the Sun the Papacy is challenged. The knowledge, that the Earth orbited the Sun, was not something Galileo originated. The big offence of Galileo was that he proved the thesis: that the Earth is not the Centre of Creation.

The date of Easter is an important illustration of Papal Power. The Computus was the process by which Easter was calculated and, once determined, the Computus fixed all of the significant dates of the calendar for the entire year. Fixing the date of Easter was not simply about deciding a single date. The Computus was as the centre of determining the way the World would work. Not only fixing Easter but also significant moveable feasts which were non-working days and even Quarter Days, when rents, tithes and obligations were due. Controlling Easter was a proof of mysterious power and a very worldly power.

Science proved something far more significant than Heliocentricity: it proved no mysterious power was needed to know things. It proved that the Papacy, the Computus and all of the moveable feasts were constructed by society, not ordained, and this could be proven without any need to ask for permission. Natural Science demonstrated that the Aristotlean Method has distinct limitations and that those limitations can be overcome by a Socratic Method.

According to Aristotlean Method, Scientific Knowledge is the Knowledge of Causes. For Aristotle, a demonstration is a deduction in which the premises are true, primary, immediate , better known than the conclusion, prior to the conclusion and causes of the conclusion. In other words, Scientific Knowledge is a sequence of causes back to the mists of existence. Science is not merely a body of knowledge but a body of Authoritative Knowledge. Socrates may have written nothing: an appropriate mystery for someone whose Method consists of asking questions that banish belief but clarify what is known.

The Socratic Method has parallels in Crowdsourcing while the Aristotlean Method tends to be about Expertise. Both have a relevant role to play in Science.

There are infant simulator programmes seeking to prevent teenage pregnancy. These are used in high, middle and low countries. Despite policy popularity published evidence of their long-term effects are rare. The Lancet has recently published a randomised control trial investigating the Virtual Infant Parenting (VIP) programme’s effects on sexual health. This study is registered as an international, randomised controlled trial, (ISRCTN24952438). The aims of registration suggest the Socratic approach of discovering knowledge, yet the outcome of the study suggests the Aristotlean approach of dispensing knowledge.

After statistical analysis, the Lancet Authors concludes:

“The infant simulator-based VIP programme did not achieve its aim of reducing teenage pregnancy. Girls in the intervention group were more likely to experience a birth or an induced abortion than those in the control group before they reached 20 years of age.”

which suggests that, just possibly, infant simulator programmes do not prevent pregnancy and, indeed, might even demystify childcare to such an extent that young women can make a more informed choice about getting pregnant. This would be a reasonable hypothesis to investigate. Young women might well, in Socratic fashion engage in critical thinking and determine that having a child younger is a better prospect as Virtual Infant Programme has demonstrated the challenges of childcare. Programme and Policy creators, in Aristotlean fashion, persist in the idea that the Policy is correct but requires adjustment.

Which leaves Science in the same situation as Giordano Bruno: too badly connected to the political, economic and social infrastructure of society to be merely told off. Science, and Scientists, are dressed in metaphoric yellow and burned at the allegorical stake. The Socratic Revolution of 1615 embraced empirical observation along with socratic questioning and began the slow overturn of Aristotlean Science. Four hundred years later, Science policy has, largely, reestablished Aristotlean Science. Science by fiat.

One of the huge gaps in the narrative around the infant simulator approach is that it fails to acknowledge that the programme seeks behavioural change. The infant simulator is a nudge towards “better” life choices. Yet, the life choices being made are exactly the opposite of those intended. In the intervention group – the group being nudged – 8% got pregnant; in the control – un-nudged group – 4% got pregnant. Instead of engaging with the empirical evidence – that the intervention is associated with higher pregnancy rates – Programme Designers lock themselves into an Aristotlean Behavioral Change Stairway Model whereby the intervention will be redesigned.

What Programme Designers rarely do is question if the underlying assumption – reducing pregnancy rates – is actually realistic. Evolution has reinforced the human behaviour of having children. When parents – particularly women – see a child they are rewarded with the hormone Oxytocin. The same hormone is involved in social recognition, orgasm, childbirth and stress. Designing a programme with the potential to promote oxytocin secretion is designing a programme with the potential to promote childbirth. Evolution trumps Policy. Regardless of Policy Objectives.

Which is a fundamental problem with Nudge. Ultimately, as observed by Sue Jones in her excellent Politics and Insights Blog, Nudge is about the exercise of power. As with a lot of Aristotlean Science of the past, the exercise of power requires control of social construction. The Computus must be a mystery controlled by a Papacy. Anything else leaves open the possibility of transformative change through Socratic Method. Critical Thinking as it is known.

Persuading young women to delay childbirth has an awful lot to recommend it in a society where childbirth is a personal Easter that determines a range of future events. Controlling female fertility need not be about improving opportunities in life by nudging young women to delay conception. There is evidence that particular nudge fails in some situations. In those situations, Policy remains resolutely Aristotlean: it does not change.

The huge truth of the Galilean Revolution is not that Galileo did something new and revolutionary but that between the trial of Bruno in 1593 and the trial of Galileo in 1633 the same thing resulted in two different results. The Papacy ceased to be able to define the social construction of reality as Aristotlean Science failed. Yet, here we are, four centuries later, with Aristolean Policy in a Socratic World.

References:

Lancet Article:Efficacy of infant simulator programmes to prevent teenage pregnancy: a school-based cluster randomised controlled trial in Western Australia”, Brinkman, et al.

Oxytocin Review: “The orgasmic history of oxytocin: Love, lust, and labor”, Magon & Kalra Trial Registration: ISTRN Registry Entry ISRCTN24952438

Politics and Insights: The benefit cap, phrenology and the new Conservative Character Divination.

© 2016 Hubert Huzzah