instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

I do not think that word means what they think it means

Someone recently told me about something called Downs paradox, or the paradox of voting. As the Wikipedia page puts it, the paradox
is a reference to the fact that for a rational, self-interested voter, the costs of voting will normally exceed the expected benefits.... The fact that people do vote is a major problem for public choice theory, first observed by Anthony Downs.
This interests me strangely.

I work with computer models for a living. When what I'm modeling doesn't do what my model predicts, it's called an "invalid model."

When what public choice theorists are modeling doesn't do what their model predicts, it's called a "paradox."

Invalid models lead to uncomfortable questions from people who expect you to produce valid models. Paradoxes lead to research papers and panel discussions at conferences.