Monday, April 07, 2008

Elect or Appoint? Market Theory on Supreme Court

Many of you have heard that there was an election last week, featuring a Wisconsin Supreme Court race.

Some of you have heard the calls for "appointment of Justices" following the race. These folks think that some Group of Experts (political and/or legal) should be vested with authority to recommend and/or appoint justices to SCOWI.

By coincidence, I read the (free PDF) first chapter of a book on (of all things) investing, written by a guy who studied the markets a bit. He's a survivalist, but not a camo-clad trailer-living ammo-buyer. He's ex-chief global strategist at Morgan Stanley (!)

Some of his stuff might be interesting when thinking of appointing justices:


In his book, The Wisdom of Crowds, Surowiecki argues convincingly that groups often are more right in their decision making than brilliant experts. In other words, “the many are smarter than the few.” He points out that experts have biases and blind spots, and that there is little correlation between an expert’s confidence in his prediction and the accuracy of it. You are more likely (but not guaranteed) to get a better estimate or decision from a group of diverse, independent, motivated people than you are from a single or even a couple of experts. Other psychologists have shown that posing a judgment question, then asking a large number of people what they think the answer is and taking the mean is superior to asking a few experts no matter how highly qualifi ed or deliberative and informed a group.

Does this mean that elections are always superior to appointments?

Are elections comparable to investments?

No.

But these are interesting observations, right?

HT: Dreher

3 comments:

m.z. said...

It is a book I should have read by now. It seems to parallel EMT. I'm not a fan of EMT as far as theory goes.

On the judicial question, I think Republicans are being short sighted on the question. Was the public right 4 years ago when they elected Butler following his appointment by Doyle? I don't believe so. For that matter, were we better off having 8 years of Clinton rather than GHW Bush or Dole? It doesn't help matters that there was an under 5% difference between the right and wrong choices.

Reaganite said...

Dad, there are some tremendous differences. While it might be true that often the electorate picks the better of two choices, it is the pool of choices that concerns me. When many or most of the good choices are removed from the process simply because of the process, the decision-making does not work, regardless of the size of the pool of the group. Those of us who want judges to be restrained in their approach should not expect generally positive results when we first make them into politicians.

To achieve the wise approach noted in your post, make the appointing group sufficiently large and diverse. But making the office a normal elected office ensures that only those people who have the taste and personality for elective politics apply for the job. That is a limited group.

Dad29 said...

Well, Reaganite, you'll note in the cited chapter that precisely a "large and diverse" group is required for the mechanism to work.

Say about 80,000 of them?