Before I start, let me get one thing over and done with: I fully admit that professional mathematicians are as capable as anyone else of making stupid collective decisions.
But I don’t want to imagine what the world would be like if it were run by mathematical researchers. I just wonder how much difference it would make if politicians understood enough mathematics to be able to understand an argument of more than one sentence. Or to put it more accurately, what would it be like if the following rules of political life were no longer accepted?
1. An argument that is slightly complicated but correct is trumped by an argument that is punchy, amusing, and wrong.
2. If option A is better than B in some respects and worse in others, then instead of weighing up the pros and cons, you decide which side you are on and then just mention the pros of the option you prefer and the cons of the other option.
3. If option A is better than B in every respect, but your party supports B, then you support B.
4. If one of your political opponents points out a flaw in your argument, then count to ten and repeat the flawed argument.
If that were the case, then one consequence would be that one could advocate new ways of doing politics and have them discussed seriously. In this post, I would like to mention a few ideas that would be dismissed as utter lunacy by any politician. But perhaps people who read this blog would be prepared to engage with them properly and weigh up the pros and cons. I’m sure there are cons — but I don’t think the ideas are utter lunacy. (more…)