Beginning

I can’t worry about getting every blog post exactly right, because then I’ll never publish a post, obviating the purpose of having a blog.

I might need to repeat that sentence at the beginning of every post, so don’t be surprised if you see it a lot.

What is my purpose in starting this blog? Transparency. I want the people in Manchester Ward 4 to be able to come here if they’re confused about why I voted the way I did.

I also think it will be helpful as a record for myself. If I make a mistake in my thinking, it will be recorded here, and I will be able to look back on it and learn from it.

Here is my big confession: I am in a state of flux. My opinions are not fixed. I am capable of changing my mind.

What can change my mind? Evidence. If you have strong evidence that a policy will have good results, please bring it to me, and I will consider that policy.

You might be wondering: if I’m not confident in my beliefs, why did I run for office? Isn’t ego the engine that drives politicians?

Here is how I originally decided to run for office:

Fundamental goal: helping people by reducing the causes of human suffering. (This hasn’t changed.)

I believed government is a major cause of suffering. E.g. war, the prison-industrial complex, the criminalization of poverty.

I believed as a general rule, peaceful, voluntary interactions (liberty) are superior to coercion (government). I self-identified as a libertarian and moved to New Hampshire as part of the Free State Project.

I saw some wins for liberty in the State House and some losses. I wanted to help liberty “win” in the State House, so I decided to run for state representative.

After I won my primary, I realized that I could very well have power (albeit a small slice, 1 seat out of 400 in 1 out of 2 chambers of the legislature, in 1 out of 3 branches of the government) and that my decisions would affect other people. I decided it was time to read the Sequences on the blog Less Wrong. I started with How to Actually Change Your Mind. I knew that I would hear a lot of arguments at the State House, some good and some bad. I wanted to be persuaded by good arguments and fail to be persuaded by bad arguments. I wanted to be certain that I was thinking clearly and rationally.

As it turns out, such certainty is hard to come by.

As an aspiring rationalist, I started questioning everything. Well–not everything. I still think suffering is bad. I still want to reduce suffering and promote flourishing. But all my assumptions are under consideration.

If you’re a libertarian reading this and you think that the weight of the evidence is on “your side,” this should not be cause for alarm.

If you’re not a libertarian and you have good evidence for a specific policy you think I should support, please e-mail me at ecomstockedwards (at) gmail (dot) com. Anecdotes are insufficient.

I’m going to do the best I can.

Advertisements

14 thoughts on “Beginning

  1. ” If you have strong evidence that a policy will have good results, please bring it to me, and I will consider that policy.”

    What method will you use to determine if a policy has good results?

    What makes politics impossible to resolve is that people determine if something is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ using different criteria. The Left tends to approach things in a utilitarian fashion, aggregating policy results among entire groups of people. Many of them try to use science to give them their answer. Many people who have a strong faith in God will use God’s word to determine ‘good’ and ‘bad’; and many Libertarians start with the premise that each individual should make this determination for himself. Hence, with their approach, there is no way to determine what’s good or bad in any aggregate sense.

    Like

  2. Thank you. So few people are willing to reconsider their established beliefs and opinions.

    There is always room for consensus and coalition building, even without compromising on principle.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My most sincere congratulations. You may be right the scope of your legislative choices, and the impact of making them rationally, is quite limited. But you may be the first elected representative who is expressly rationalist, and that gives you a special power beyond the legislature – a power to promote rationalism, publically in the media and privately inside the government. I suggest you take time to make a convincing estimate of how much good you can do doing that, and act upon it.

    For rationalist reasoning specifically on how exactly political topics are difficult for rational debate, and what might be done about it, check out the Star Slate Codex blog, especially the posts “I Can Tolerate Anything But The Outgroup” and “Five Case Studies on Politicization”.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I just want to vocally second this recommendation of Slate Star Codex, including links:
      http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/09/30/i-can-tolerate-anything-except-the-outgroup/
      http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/10/16/five-case-studies-on-politicization/

      I’d also recommend these even-more-recent posts, which kind of draw on those earlier ones, and integrate things from LessWrong too.
      http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/11/03/all-in-all-another-brick-in-the-motte/
      http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/11/04/ethnic-tension-and-meaningless-arguments/

      Like

  4. Congratulations!

    I regret that I don’t live in New Hampshire. You’re exactly my kind of libertarian– I focus on harm reduction, too.

    What I’ve seen go wrong with libertarian and libertarian-flavored public officials is that they *don’t* focus on harm reduction. Instead, they start by cutting useful public services. You’ve got principles which keep you from making that mistake.

    It’s going to be interesting. I don’t think a lot of libertarians *or* rationalists know much about the specifics of government. (I don’t either, I’ve merely picked up the idea that there are a lot of specifics.)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I am astonished, ecstatic, and refreshed to see you publicly endorsing central principles of rationality. I sincerely hope that “I wanted to be persuaded by good arguments and fail to be persuaded by bad arguments,” will not be a revolutionary statement in ten years, but as of now you are the only politician I have ever heard express something that cuttingly sane. If the people of New Hampshire appreciate this a quarter as much as I do, your slice of power needn’t be so small for long.

    I second the Slate Star Codex recommendation.

    Like

  6. Congratulations, madam representative! I *don’t* self-identify as libertarian, but by the sound of it, I’d have voted for you if I were there; regardless of political affiliation.

    Thirding (or whatever number we’re on now) the Slate Star Codex recommendation, obviously. They have some great stuff, especially if you dig through the archive.

    I … suppose I should probably step up with some arguments, since I’m on the record as non-libertarian. Hmm.

    >I believed government is a major cause of suffering. E.g. war, the prison-industrial complex, the criminalization of poverty.

    >I believed as a general rule, peaceful, voluntary interactions (liberty) are superior to coercion (government). I self-identified as a libertarian and moved to New Hampshire as part of the Free State Project.

    Oh! War is good! I am firmly pro-war 😛

    Like

  7. Congratulations Ms Edwards! I am confident you will help to bring some sanity to government. I’m going to fourth/fifth/sixth/whatever the Slate Star Codex recommendation. I particularly recommend the post ‘Meditations on Moloch’.

    What’s your opinion on Pigovian taxes? I’d like to know where you stand before I start arguing for them 🙂

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s