Metrics to evaluate a Presidency

post by ArisC · 2017-01-24T01:02:21.629Z · LW · GW · Legacy · 70 comments

I got lots of helpful comments in my first post, so I'll try a second: I want to develop a list of criteria by which to evaluate a presidency. Coming up with criteria and metrics on the economy is pretty easy, but I'd like to ask for suggestions on proxies for evaluating:


Note: a few people have pointed out that the president is restrained by senators and congressmen etc - I realise that; but if we are willing to admit that presidents do have some effect in society, we should be prepared to measure them.




Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by James_Miller · 2017-01-24T01:19:08.424Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Gender equality: reduction in male female differences in lifespan, deaths on the job, % victory in custody disputes, % in prison, % in college, % in medical school, % in law school, and eliminating any gender favoritism in college sexual harassment complaint adjudication.

Replies from: ArisC, Daniel_Burfoot, scarcegreengrass, Good_Burning_Plastic, Fluttershy, gjm
comment by ArisC · 2017-01-24T04:03:45.304Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I suspect you are coming from a "men are actually "less equal" than women" perspective...

Replies from: James_Miller, Viliam
comment by James_Miller · 2017-01-24T15:06:39.694Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

In many ways. I actually think that on average men have a higher variance of outcomes than women so most people on the top and bottom of society are men.

comment by Viliam · 2017-01-24T17:38:40.165Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If x < y is inequality, so is y < x.

Or perhaps we should call it "greater-than-or-equality" to avoid confusion.

Replies from: bbleeker
comment by Sabiola (bbleeker) · 2017-01-25T10:26:03.690Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

"Less equal" is a reference to "All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others" from Animal Farm.

comment by Daniel_Burfoot · 2017-01-24T15:58:27.009Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

reduction in male female differences in lifespan

The lifespan gap may be enforced by biology, but it seems wildly unjust to me that retirement-related social programs like Social Security and Medicare do not take the lifespan expectancy gap into account. For example, if the life expectancy gap is 5 years, the Medicare age of eligibility should be 68 for women and 63 for men, so that both sexes get the same number of years of expected coverage.

Replies from: DryHeap
comment by DryHeap · 2017-01-24T19:17:49.848Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would wager that the majority of gender inequalities in the Western world are reinforced by biology.

comment by scarcegreengrass · 2017-01-24T20:42:46.969Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

(Also income and other professional phenomena.)

comment by Good_Burning_Plastic · 2017-01-24T16:11:01.333Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

male female differences in lifespan

I think those are extremely unlikely to be in any way the fault of former US presidents.

Replies from: whpearson, James_Miller
comment by whpearson · 2017-01-24T16:49:24.916Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Vietnam? runs away

Replies from: Good_Burning_Plastic
comment by Good_Burning_Plastic · 2017-01-26T12:21:13.496Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Good point.

(But FWIW Scott expressed skepticism at the idea that Trump will decrease that particular kind of male deaths.)

comment by James_Miller · 2017-01-24T16:44:04.947Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Certainly not most of it, but:

"According to estimates from the National Institutes of Health, in the United States in 2010, 207,090 women and 1,970 men will get new cases of breast cancer, while 39,840 women and 390 men will likely die from the disease. The estimated new cases of prostate cancer this year — all affecting men — is 217,730, while it is predicted 32,050 will die from the disease....In fiscal year 2009, breast cancer research received $872 million worth of federal funding, while prostate cancer received $390 million."

Replies from: Good_Burning_Plastic
comment by Good_Burning_Plastic · 2017-01-24T18:02:04.929Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If breast cancer is a more serious disease than prostate cancer, it does make sense to spend more on the former.

(Assuming that the number of breast cancer deaths equals the number of breast cancer cases times exp(-(federal funding for breast cancer research)/k) and likewise for prostate cancer disease, the constant k is $529M for breast cancer and $204M for prostate cancer, and the allocation of $1.262bn among these two diseases that minimizes the total number of deaths is about $765M for breast cancer and $497M for prostate cancer, resulting in about 68,200 combined deaths compared to the actual 71,890, so the actual allocation is at least in the right ballpark.)

comment by Fluttershy · 2017-01-24T23:56:10.232Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

(This used to be a gentle comment which tried to very indirectly defend feminism while treating James_Miller kindly, but I've taken it down for my own health)

Replies from: James_Miller
comment by James_Miller · 2017-01-25T00:24:13.656Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I was trying to humorously point out a common false assumption: that improving gender equality would necessarily benefit women relative to men.

consider ways in which they can avoid or soften this sort of framing in the future.

I'm not good at tone (and this does get me in trouble) so could you please explain why what I wrote might be considered offensive?

Replies from: TiffanyAching, Fluttershy, Fluttershy
comment by TiffanyAching · 2017-01-25T01:22:58.853Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

To stick my oar in for a minute, as I am wont to do, I didn't find your comment offensive. That which is true should never be offensive, and those are some real metrics by which gender inequality can be measured.

However I didn't get "humorous". I thought it was intended to be serious, though I could interpret the intended message in several different ways - interpretations to which my responses could range anywhere from "total agreement" to "not even worth engaging", so I decided to see where the discussion went before joining in anywhere.

I think if the humour was intended to arise from "this is not the type of list you expected", you might be underestimating how frequently points about "gender inequalities which disadvantage males" are made in public discussions of anything related to gender equality.

I'm not criticizing your tone - I think tone-policing is rarely useful unless someone's being an egregious dickhead - so I guess I'm just criticizing your comedy.

comment by Fluttershy · 2017-01-25T01:18:45.584Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Regarding tone specifically, you have two strong options: one would be to send strong "I am playing" signals, such as by dropping the points which men's rights people might make, and, say, parodying feminist points. Another would be to keep the tone as serious as it currently is, but qualify things more; in some other contexts, qualifying your arguments sounds low-status, but in discussions of contentious topics on a public forum, it can nudge participants towards cooperative truth-seeking mode.

Amusingly, I emphasized the points of your comment that I found agreeable in my first reply, both since you're pretty cool, and also since I didn't want the fact that I'm a hardcore feminist to be obvious enough to affect the discourse. However, to the extent which my reply was more serious than your comment, this could have made me look like the less feminist one out of the two of us :D

Replies from: James_Miller
comment by James_Miller · 2017-01-25T01:34:02.116Z · LW(p) · GW(p)


comment by Fluttershy · 2017-01-25T00:45:33.201Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Fair enough! I am readily willing to believe your statement that that was your intent. It wasn't possible to tell from the comment itself, since the metric regarding sexual harassment report handling is much more serious than the other metrics.

Replies from: James_Miller
comment by James_Miller · 2017-01-25T01:36:40.963Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, I probably should have omitted that one. My information bubble keeps discussing cases in which men are treated horribly in college sexual harassment disputes, but I should have recognized that other peoples' bubbles don't and so my including it would send an unintended signal.

comment by gjm · 2017-01-24T03:10:44.823Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Is there any reason to think that % in prison "should" be more equal?

(Some alleged psychological differences between typical men and typical women are controversial. Some are less so. That men are statistically more prone to violence is surely one of the ones that's less so.)

Replies from: ZankerH
comment by ZankerH · 2017-01-24T13:06:51.571Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Is there any reason to think that % in prison "should" be more equal?

Since we're talking about optimizing for "equality" between two fundamentally unequal things, why not?

Are you saying having the same amount of men and women in prison would be detrimental to the enforcement of gender equality? How does that follow?

Replies from: gjm
comment by gjm · 2017-01-24T14:36:21.783Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

"Gender equality" is a fuzzy term. Taken sufficiently literally, it's absurd (We demand equal rights for men to bear children! We demand equal rates of breast cancer for men and women!). So, when the goal is reasonable discussion (as opposed to, say, making one's ideological opponents look silly), we should either avoid using the term or interpret it more charitably.

I think there is a useful thing that the term "gender equality" is gesturing towards, even though taken absolutely literally those words don't point in quite the right direction. It means things like not giving preferential treatment to one sex or gender over another when there isn't an actual reason for doing so, and finding ways to reduce disadvantages faced by one sex or gender even if they are (incidental) consequences of real differences.

This is not the same thing as claiming that there must be absolute equality according to all measures. Neither is it the same thing as saying that any sort of equality must be enforced. (Yes, I saw what you did when you slipped in "the enforcement of". That's rude. Please desist.)

Yes, I am suggesting that a modicum of charity be extended even to your political opponents in these discussions. If that is unacceptable to you, then unsurprisingly it is going to be difficult to have a useful discussion.

So, anyway. We are not talking about 'optimizing for "equality" between two fundamentally unequal things'. We are talking about making the thing called "gender equality", which is fuzzily defined and doesn't in fact mean exact equality in all things, one of the things we would like to see more of. At least, that's my interpretation of ArisC's use of the term, and it's what I would mean if I wrote something similar. (As it happens, I generally avoid the term "gender equality", precisely because of the issue we're seeing here.)

If we need to have something more like an actual definition of "gender equality", I suggest that it means "treating men and women more fairly". That's still fuzzy, it's still open to plenty of argument about what constitutes fairness, and what we're doing now is engaging in some of that argument. Except it seems almost as if some participants are less interested in arriving at a reasonable answer than in giving answers they don't themselves believe in in order to make the whole notion look bad. (I should maybe say explicitly that I don't think James_Miller was doing that.)

Would having a more equal fraction of men and women in prison necessarily mean that society was treating men and women more fairly? Well, men are more prone to violence than women (#notallmen, of course, but statistically) and commit a lot more violent crime than women (statistically), and there seems little prospect that any actually-possible social intervention will undo that. So whatever the target, it shouldn't be 50/50. Maybe there are feasible changes that would make men less likely to engage in violent crime; maybe some of those are best thought of as aiming at "gender equality" rather than at trying to reduce violent crime overall; if so then yes, we would want to see the ratio become more equal, but not because the goal was 50/50, and I don't in fact know of any credible changes of that sort. In any case, I'm pretty sure that the reachable states of society in which there are as many women in prison as men are mostly ones in which either lots of violent crime is going unpunished or else lots of women are being imprisoned for reasons that would generally be regarded as insufficient.

comment by gjm · 2017-01-25T02:14:23.349Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

So what's your problem?

That a bunch of people are deliberately misinterpreting what ArisC wrote in order to make snarky points about how People These Days are too nice to women and not nice enough to men. I think that sort of discussion is better conducted more straightforwardly, and I am rather bored of the way that every. single. time anyone on LW says anything suggesting what fir want of a better term I'll call progressive social values, someone comes along to display their oh-so-brave contrarianism by boldly sticking up for the idea that maybe Social Justice Has Gone Too Far and men are the truly oppressed ones / the only real race problem is that black people are less intelligent and no one is willing to say so / etc., etc., etc. There are places where it takes real courage to say that sort of thing, but if LW was ever one of them it was a long time ago, and it really isn't necessary to turn every discussion that touches on these issues into a whataboutthemenz-fest.

(I would say the exact same thing if every time anyone mentioned a problem faced particularly by men, or white people, or whoever, they got jumped on by a bunch of people saying "how dare you say that when women / black people / whoever have it worse?". That is ... not a problem LW has right now.)

[...] what you really mean by "gender equality" [...]

I don't mean anything by "gender equality"; as I said elsewhere in the thread, it's not a phrase I use. The question is what ArisC meant by it.

And no, my impression is not that he meant that women are "more equal". Rather, (1) traditionally women have had it worse than men, so (2) "gender equality" and similar phrases have mostly been about fixing that problem, and (3) I'm guessing that in Aris's opinion, as also in mine, women still on balance have it worse than men, so (4) it's reasonable (or would be in an environment where anything resembling the principle of charity is applied in political discussions) to continue to use such terms to point specifically at ways in which women have it worse and we might want to fix that.

(I have no objection at all if someone chooses to use "gender equality" to mean something more like what it literally says, or for that matter to use it for a discussion of ways in which men have it worse. But that's not what happened here; what happened is that someone used it the other way, and several people came along and pretended they thought he meant something else.)

comment by sdr · 2017-01-24T13:57:55.218Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

note: topic text was originally different, and included a recently-elected president's name; which would've ranked on google for related-keywords. Below is unedited comment, asking for that name not to be included

Since "Downvoting temporarily disabled", I would like to express a very, very strong disapproval of this topic being discussed on lesswrong. Rationale:

1, Politics is the mindkiller

2, It attracts the sort of people who would like to discuss these sorts of things, at the expense of those (including myself), who do not; specifically, by ranking for relevant keywords on Google (with lesswrong's reputation)

3, There exists almost the entirety of the rest of the Internet to discuss these issues, including rationality-related groups, forums, and mailing lists

4, For a specific case study, we just had a CFAR-alumni discussion group blown up by a topic similar to this, which got 100s++ replies, with no measurable convergence; which strongly implies that no, actually, we do not have a collective-intelligence / social tooling to tackle these issues yet.

For this reason, I -along with all upvoters of this comment- would like to ask for an Admin intervention, specifically by either deleting this post, or modifying it to "Metrics to evaluate a president"; that is, talking about general evaluation criterias, instead of ranking for T-related keywords.

Replies from: gjm, ArisC, ArisC
comment by gjm · 2017-01-24T14:02:40.567Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I started to read this comment, went to upvote it, read the last paragraph, and didn't upvote.

Replies from: sdr
comment by sdr · 2017-01-24T14:09:52.267Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Can you point at the part which you find objectionable?

Replies from: gjm, niceguyanon
comment by gjm · 2017-01-24T14:41:17.690Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The point isn't that I find any part objectionable. It's that I thought it was a good comment but I would not in fact "like to ask for an Admin intervention". (Perhaps my memory is failing, but I think that when I read it before it said that "all upvoters of this comment" wanted an admin intervention specifically to delete the post; what it says now is more reasonable, though I still would not go so far.)

As it happens, I do find it very slightly objectionable to claim that "all upvoters of this comment" want some particular thing (some people might upvote without noticing that claim, aside from anything else). I would object less to the formally-kinda-equivalent "Please upvote this comment if you would like X, and downvote it if you think X would be a good idea", but in general I think it is better to leave upvotes and downvotes to mean approve/disapprove; if you want upvotes to be interpreted as advocacy of a particular thing, post a comment that only advocates that particular thing.

comment by niceguyanon · 2017-01-24T17:14:14.996Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Admin intervention is way too much.

comment by ArisC · 2017-01-24T14:12:46.353Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I am actually looking for criteria to evaluate any president. I only wrote Trump because it's whom I had in mind, obviously. Can I edit my own article?

Replies from: whpearson
comment by whpearson · 2017-01-24T14:19:15.851Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes. The pen icon underneath your post will allow you to do that.

Replies from: ArisC
comment by ArisC · 2017-01-24T15:07:07.652Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Done! Thanks.

comment by ArisC · 2017-01-24T14:15:52.102Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

(And since this is a rationalist forum, let me just point out that...

  1. Personal opinion, everything else pertains to politics, and is kind of pointless if not;
  2. Yeah, so? Unless is specifically designed for you, that's a bizarre comment;
  3. Again, very specious argument. You can apply it to literally everything ever written anywhere on the internet.
  4. Anecdotal evidence, inadmissible.)
comment by gjm · 2017-01-25T04:44:23.551Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Large difference in estimated competence even when plenty of other information available; plausible differences in competence are mostly not large. Largest differences I've heard of from actual scientific investigations are about one standard deviation, for "mental rotation" tasks; most are smaller and they go in both directions. So for most tasks, and still more for most jobs (since a job typically involves multiple diverse tasks), I would expect average sex differences to be well under one standard deviation. Now suppose a nontrivial amount of relevant information is available (e.g., examination results); away from the extreme tails of the ability distribution this will make knowing the person's sex substantially less informative. End result: in most cases of this sort, discovering whether someone is male or female makes a very small difference to any rational estimate of their competence given the other available information.

This could break down (1) looking at extreme tails of the distribution, especially if as commonly suggested there are substantial sex differences in variance (though I seem to recall hearing it claimed that most of the "men are more variable" finding comes specifically from men having more catastrophic failures rather than from the distribution being generally wider), or (2) in cases where there's a really big typical difference between male and female (physical strength might be an example).

comment by ArisC · 2017-01-24T04:02:13.036Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, but by the same standard, all metrics are interesting to the extent they are causal to happiness!

comment by tukabel · 2017-01-26T15:57:57.126Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

best metric, one of the very few that are easy to meawsure:


... and who paid for it ;-)

Replies from: Lumifer
comment by Lumifer · 2017-01-26T16:46:41.948Z · LW(p) · GW(p)


And girth.

comment by ChristianKl · 2017-01-25T22:37:13.870Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Note: a few people have pointed out that the president is restrained by senators and congressmen etc - I realise that; but if we are willing to admit that presidents do have some effect in society, we should be prepared to measure them.

If I go to a homeopath and get better afterwards, I could use the metric of my health to measure that the homeopath is great at helping me.

While you might not reason that way in the domain of medicine and see the error if I frame that example this way, you want to reason this way in the political domain. You want to measure the quality of a presidency by looking at one run of the presidency.

Establishing causality is hard. Given that politics is the mind killer, this kind of poor reasoning often comes up in political discussions.

If you are generally looking for metrics, take a look at .

comment by gjm · 2017-01-25T04:14:40.251Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

[...] principle of charity [...] the most rational interpretation of what someone said, even if you're pretty sure he meant something dumber.

"Most rational" and "most literal" are not the same thing.

comment by gjm · 2017-01-25T04:13:01.180Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

A better metric for gender equality

Oh, I dunno. I don't think it's a particularly sensible thing to try to evaluate a president on after four years. These things change slowly, and their effects propagate slowly. We could maybe measure, e.g., whether the Trump administration itself is biased against women when hiring, but gender equality in society at large? There's not that much Trump can do about it, and any effects he might have will take a long time to show up and be very difficult to disentangle from other causes.

But the sort of thing you could do is: take a selection of jobs; look at men and women in those jobs and try to pair up men and women who are comparable in various plausbly-relevant respects (e.g., similar IQ, similar number of years' experience, same hours worked, etc.), and compare their pay. The matching process should minimize the impact of any actual differences in ability (note: this might not work well for very "extreme" cases, so e.g. I wouldn't recommend it for assessing putative biases in theoretical physics, but it should be OK elsewhere). It's important to control for full-time versus part-time because it's known that women are much more likely to work part time. (That could itself be the result of discrimination of some kind, but best to leave that aside for now.)

A small difference wouldn't necessarily indicate anything bad; there are all sorts of non-prejudicial mechanisms that could make men's and women's pay not come out exactly equal. But big differences would be cause for concern, and if the differences are not small then movement towards equality would probably indicate reduction in bias.

That addresses just one aspect of gender equality, of course. Some others would be really hard to measure. (E.g., women sometimes complain that they aren't taken as seriously as men; e.g., they say something and get ignored and then a man in the same meeting repeats the exact same thing they said and everyone listens. Maybe this is a real effect, but I wouldn't want to try to measure it accurately -- but if it is real, it could be a big deal.)

Although I don't think ArisC had inequalities going "the other way" in mind, I think some of them would be good to measure and to try (with the usual caveats about small differences) to get more equal. For instance, men don't live as long as women; it would be great to make male lifespans more like female ones. But most likely this is mostly biological and improving it would be a medical, not a social, problem. For another instance, James alluded to the gap in college attendance: more boys than girls leave the educational system early. That might be the result of some sort of social messed-up-ness (e.g., it might come from overcorrecting for discrimination against girls), and if so it would be good to fix it.

comment by gjm · 2017-01-25T03:54:06.632Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

So basically [...]


I don't think anybody is claiming to be particularly courageous here.

The bit about courage is my attempt at figuring out some of the mental processes that lead people to behave that way. I could of course be wrong.

I'm not sure why equality is being treated as a terminal goal

I don't think it really is. It's just a convenient shorthand. I can't speak for ArisC, but I would certainly not welcome (e.g.) equalizing incarceration rates of men and women by framing a lot of women for crimes they never committed and throwing them in jail, or equalizing how often men and women are victims of rape by raping lots of men.

So what's an example? Preferably one that's not justified by psychological differences.

Women are much more often victims of rape and other sexual assault than men.

There is good evidence that in many contexts women are viewed as less competent than men simply on account of being female. (E.g., you take a job application, make two versions of it differing only in the forename, and send it off, and consistently you find that the "male" version is regarded more favourably than the "female".) Now, if in fact women are less competent than men on average in the fields where this sort of experiment has been done, some effect of this kind could be justified on rational grounds; but the size of the effect seems to be too large to be credibly explained by any plausible size of actual ability difference.

Replies from: Lumifer
comment by Lumifer · 2017-01-25T05:06:23.876Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

but the size of the effect seems to be too large to be credibly explained by any plausible size of actual ability difference.

From the employer's point of view the problem is that women are usually less committed to their career. Specifically, they tend to get pregnant, have kids, and then decide that racing other rats for the position of the senior assistant to the junior manager isn't really worth it. Men are much more reliable in that respect :-/

Replies from: gjm
comment by gjm · 2017-01-25T11:13:03.164Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That could affect willingness to hire, but it shouldn't affect estimates of competence. Some of those studies that found that female names made otherwise-identical candidates less likely to get hired also looked at hirers' estimates of how competent they were likely to be, and found that female names meant lowered estimated competence.

comment by ArisC · 2017-01-25T03:52:23.656Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Jesus Christ. This is beyond derailed. For what it's worth, gjm is right, people are either purposefully misrepresenting what I wrote (in which case they are pedantic and juvenile) or they didn't understand what I meant (in which case, you know, go out and interact with people outside your bubble).

And anyway - the reason I want to measure progress towards closing the gap where women have it worse is so that I can fairly evaluate feminist arguments about Trump in 4 years time. If in 4 years time it turns out that women earn more than men across the board, that >50% of governors are women and that women are CEOs of like 80% of the Fortune 500, you will be able to say "rhetoric aside, it looks like Trump actually helped women".

Going for "aha! Trump improved men's lot in these fields where they were disadvantaged" will only increase polarisation. Maybe worth tracking, in the name of truth and science; but again, not what I was going for.

comment by gjm · 2017-01-25T02:15:35.979Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

can you give an example of a better metric?

A better metric of what than what?

James was being extremely charitable.

Deliberately taking someone to mean something you are pretty sure they didn't mean -- which I'm not sure whether James in particular was doing, but others in this discussion certainly have been -- is not "extremely charitable", it is rude.

comment by TiffanyAching · 2017-01-25T01:59:15.135Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It means things like not giving preferential treatment to one sex or gender over another when there isn't an actual reason for doing so, and finding ways to reduce disadvantages faced by one sex or gender even if they are (incidental) consequences of real differences.

gjm already stated what he meant by gender equality quite clearly. I see no justification for putting words in his mouth.

comment by James_Miller · 2017-01-25T01:55:18.327Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I was trying to be funny so at least in this case, yes.

comment by The_Jaded_One · 2017-01-24T20:34:16.272Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This is not at all easy to do, for multiple reasons, and probably not great content for LW because we will probably be attempting to reinvent a lot of wheels from political science and economics.

It might make a good topic review post if someone goes and does a literature review on the subject.

Replies from: ArisC, NatashaRostova
comment by ArisC · 2017-01-25T03:43:59.421Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Guys, come on. I am not setting up a formal tribunal for Trump. I want your measured opinions. Don't let's be pedantic.

Replies from: The_Jaded_One
comment by The_Jaded_One · 2017-01-25T06:57:52.265Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well I would honestly start by doing a literature review of what the relevant academic fields have already studied.

If I had to guess on the spot what makes a government good, I woild caution that a lot of what one sees in outcomes in the short term is determined by economics. On top of that there are broader political processes that are just gping to happen.

Maybe one thing I feel fairly confident about is that starting expeditionary wars of aggression has a very bad track record.

comment by NatashaRostova · 2017-01-24T20:53:51.034Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's hard to think of how one could do a lit review on that without, like, a thousand sources to try and characterize the general scope of the problem.

comment by gjm · 2017-01-24T12:04:44.697Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Are you really looking for metrics to evaluate Donald Trump as president or for metrics to evaluate any president? The title says the first; I think we actually want the second.

I think it's really difficult -- the important things a president can influence are all affected by lots of other factors too. Consider e.g. "Obamacare"; for good or ill, the healthcare reform Obama was actually able to get done was (for better or worse) strongly influenced by what congressional Republicans were willing to do, and of course its actual overall effect is liable to be somewhat affected by the incoming administration's commitment to destroying it. So it could (if not dismantled) be a huge success only because the Republicans blocked a bunch of much worse options Obama would have preferred. Or a huge failure only because the Republicans blocked a bunch of much better options he would have preferred. Or anywhere in between.

Trump, on the other hand, may reasonably expect the House and the Senate to be on his side for at least two years, and probably longer unless the first two years make him unpopular enough to have really big effects on the next round of congressional elections. (In the Senate, there are 26 D and only 8 R up for re-election or replacement.) But "on his side" doesn't mean "their actions are mere consequences of his".

Replies from: TimS
comment by TimS · 2017-02-03T21:49:47.168Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

In the Senate, there are 26 D and only 8 R up for re-election or replacement.

Worth noting that many of those Ds are in states that voted R in the most recent election. We should increase predicted probability they will lose now, and not be surprised or change our evaluation of evidence when it actually happens.

Replies from: gjm
comment by gjm · 2017-02-04T00:08:58.685Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yup. Key point here: no, the Democrats are not in any way likely to retake the senate in 2018, even if Donald Trump is conspicuously disappointing.

(If, as some have suggested might transpire, he is not so much "conspicuously disappointing" as "full-on fascist totalitarian dictator" then that might bring enough unpopularity to others in his party -- but in that case I wouldn't be too optimistic about the prospects for improving anything by voting, no matter what the result.)

comment by whpearson · 2017-01-24T09:10:29.434Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Depends on your values. You might think free trade is causal to world peace. Or causal to world development and avoidance of XRisk. Or reduction in non-war suffering.

If you only look at the american economy you miss the other stuff.

comment by maxjmartin · 2017-01-24T17:04:12.618Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Coming up with criteria and metrics on the economy is pretty easy

I think it can be quite hard to do this in the context of evaluating a presidency. For example while you could look at GDP, unemployment, etc. it can be hard to determine if the president had much impact on those numbers.

Does anyone know if there have been efforts to quantify the impact of a president on the economy? I would imagine that most of the change is due to randomness/external factors.


This is another tricky one, in that we might need to wait more than 4 years to see the results for a lot of metrics.

Replies from: NatashaRostova
comment by NatashaRostova · 2017-01-24T20:55:29.705Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Coming up with criteria and metrics on the economy is pretty easy

I agree. In fact, I think coming up with criteria and metrics on the economy is profoundly challenging within the US context. We know there are right tail events (inflation, unemployment, etc) that are very strong. But when they are all generally stable, or within the realm of stability, but the variation within demographics and geographies of the US is huge, the value of the metrics can start to dramatically collapse IMO.

comment by WalterL · 2017-01-24T07:10:40.640Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It sort of seems like you have to decide what constitutes 'success' in your eyes. Going by what you've listed, I doubt you'll think that he's a success.

I'm a supporter. For me, I'd settle for:

1: Don't attack Syria 2: Sign the stuff that Congress passes as long as we have a Rep majority. 3: Appoint conservative justices to the SC if he gets the chance.

Bonus: 1: Make the countries that President Obama called 'free riders' start paying up. This seems like a passion of Trumps, he's been talking about it for 30 years. I'm moderately hopeful here, but realistic enough to know that this is probably a stretch.

Replies from: ArisC
comment by ArisC · 2017-01-24T10:44:55.801Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

OK that's not a well thought out response. So if Trump launches a nuclear war, or tanks the economy, or deports all Muslims &c, that's fine as long as he meets these 3 criteria?!

I am trying to list criteria by which to evaluate any president. I am not trying to set up Trump to fail - else I could just have "appoint a liberal Justice".

Replies from: WalterL
comment by WalterL · 2017-01-24T14:07:35.288Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Certainly, I'd agree that Trump would be a failure (nay, THE failure) if the world ends in nuclear fire. It sort of seems like at that point we don't need itemized lists though?

I don't buy that presidents can affect the economy in a big enough way to tank it. At least, none that I've seen have done so. Grading a prez on what the econ does feels like grading him on the weather.

I wouldn't have a problem with deporting all illegal immigrants. All Muslims, on the other hand, would involve deporting a lot of Americans. I'm not sure where you'd deport them too? But, sure, I'll certainly agree that deporting American citizens would be grounds for failure.

Replies from: ArisC
comment by ArisC · 2017-01-24T14:10:45.501Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I was exaggerating a bit - but I am sure you agree that your criteria are too few and unimportant to judge a whole presidency...

comment by TheAncientGeek · 2017-01-24T06:08:26.885Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Aren't we already using the hand size metric?

comment by James_Miller · 2017-01-24T03:59:51.794Z · LW(p) · GW(p)


comment by ArisC · 2017-01-25T04:47:29.307Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I apologize for assuming you meant something semi-reasonable by what you wrote, I will refrain from making that assumption in the future.

Okay, let's go into "talking to a 5yo mode". We have these facts: a) the vast majority of people use "gender inequality" to refer to the fact that women are disadvantaged. b) terms like this are defined by common usage. c) since common usage means "women are disadvantaged", the reasonable think to do is that when a random person utters the phrase, they refer to that. Whether women are in fact disadvantaged doesn't matter. What matters is what information I was trying to convey. I used a common phrase. It's not rocket science.

And why would this be obviously desirable? I didn't say it would be. I said it would mean feminists would have to admit Trump did well by women.

So "women are more equal than men" it is. I have not done an extensive analysis to see in which fields men are disadvantaged and in which fields women are, then weighted them by importance to determine what's the fact here. I assume that neither have you. So to be overly aggressive with people who believe in the common knowledge that women are disadvantaged (again, even if that isn't so), is not productive. It's pedantic, juvenile. It doesn't achieve anything. If you just want to shout "MEN ARE OPPRESSED!!!", fine. Don't be surprised when no-one takes you seriously.

comment by gjm · 2017-01-24T11:28:37.574Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't see why it makes any less sense than gender equality in general.

I didn't say it does. (LW has no shortage of people objecting to "gender equality in general". I'm offering a bit of metacontrarianism here.)

If you look at the evidence, as opposed to the squid ink being thrown around to make things "controversial", it's about as well supported as most of the others.

So, just to be clear, are you saying it is well supported or it isn't? It seems to me that it is but there may be a pile of evidence I'm not familiar with.

(What I hope you and James_Miller aren't saying: "Lots of people think there should be gender equality, so let's propose measuring something that everyone knows isn't equal just to poke them in the eye".)

Replies from: James_Miller
comment by James_Miller · 2017-01-24T15:10:07.120Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

As Scott Alexander wrote "Society is fixed, biology is mutable.". If gender income inequality is caused by society but gender prison inequality is caused by biology then we have more hope of fixing prison inequality.

Replies from: gjm
comment by gjm · 2017-01-24T15:55:26.720Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

We may, but probably not on a timescale of 4 years.

comment by Oscar_Cunningham · 2017-01-24T10:05:32.305Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Obviously congress is also going to be doing things at the same time as Trump and might well have more of an effect on these measures than him personally. If there is a Democrat congress in two years time then could we perhaps try to isolate Trump's contribution by comparing between the two time periods?

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2017-01-24T07:31:36.092Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm concerned about Trump's potential effect on the economy. Effects on employment and pay are also worth evaluating.

comment by metatroll · 2017-01-24T04:34:19.655Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Subthread for metrics to evaluate the metrics.