Taxing times

Taxing times, by Michael Gold – The Economist Intelligence Unit

Contains a reference to my data tax idea, some quotes of mine and is an interesting read in its own right.

I have written about the Data Tax in:

#BREXIT: Vox Populi

Why the parliament expresses the “will of the people” better than any of its MPs including its PM and better than the brexit referendum

In 1907 Francis Galton published a paper in Nature titled Vox Populi. In it he discusses how the collective judgement of the crowd is better than that of the average individual (a fact which goes back to a simple mathematical identity, also known as diversity prediction theorem, which states that the squared error of the average of all predictions is smaller than or equal to the average squared error of all prediction because from the latter we need to subtract the diversity of the individual predictions to get the former). In what we would, today, call policy recommendations of his paper, Galton states:

The result is, I think, more creditable to the trustworthiness of a democratic judgement than might have been expected.

On the other hand, consider as Marquis de Condorset might have done in the 18th century, three voters Peter, Paul and Mary ordering three different alternatives, let’s say: Remain, Deal Brexit and No Deal Brexit. Here is how their preferences might be:

Peter: Remain, Deal Brexit, No Deal Brexit

Paul: Deal Brexit, No Deal Brexit, Remain

Mary: No Deal Brexit, Remain, Deal Brexit

All three are opinionated “patriots” who want “the best” for the UK. Peter wants to remain but if not feasible he wants an amicable divorce. Paul wants a divorce but if possible an amicable one and Mary wants no compromises: either leave “proud” or don’t try it at all.

It is irrelevant who is “right” or “wrong” but we can assume whatever contributes to the opinion of each individual does so consistently. In other words they might change their minds but each time you ask them they have an ordering which puts the three options in order. Their personality, gender, hormonal levels, socioeconomic status, childhood etc all might play a role. Now let’s examine which option has majority. Remain is preferred over Deal Brexit by a 2/3 majority (Peter and Mary), Deal Brexit is preferred over No Deal Brexit by a 2/3 majority (Peter and Paul), No Deal Brexit is preferred over Remain by a 2/3 majority (Paul and Mary). So the “democratic process” picks Remain over Deal, Deal over No Deal (hence Remain is better than No Deal) but it also prefers No Deal over Remain. So it prefers Remain over No Deal and No Deal over Remain!

So what gives? The mess the UK is in has some simple mathematics which if paid attention to could help bring emotions down and make some very simple thoughts which might lead to some very reasonable decisions. A referendum is too crude a tool to use to make important decisions especially with a turnout of 72% and a Leave to Remain outcome of 51.89% to 48.11%. Marquis de Condorcet will tell you that when the Leavers say that the referendum is “the will of the people” they are just bullshitting the public opinion. If you posed seemingly equivalent formualtions of the same question you could very well get contradictory outcomes such as leaving is better than remaining and remaining is better than leaving. On the other hand Galton will tell you that the parliament as a collective has a better chance at figuring things out than any MP (or citizen) including the PM.

Toll Index September 2019: inbound -1.8% | outbound -4.3%

For the first time after the Great Recession we are measuring a September-to-September drop in German border crossing lorries: -1.8% for inbound and -4.3% for outbound.

Starting in July 2018 the BAG – Bundesamt für Güterverkeht introduced yet another policy change which affected how lorries pay tolls within the MAUT system as well as the data the come out of this process which is used for computing the Toll Index. The change expanded the network of roads in which toll is due by adding all bundesstraßen to it.

While in the long run this is bound to make the Toll Index more accurate in these past twelve months it made it useless for nowcasting. Even the BAG had difficulty producing the numbers timely. September 2019 is now comparable to September 2018 values. Of course we have a missing value for September 2018 since it is not comparable to “September 2017” due to the policy change.

The Toll Index was first proposed in IZA DP5522 which ws published in the Journal of Forecasting. It has been widely covered in national and international media (selection):

The German statistical office, in cooperation with the Bundesamt für Güterverkehr,  has taken the MAUT data in its portfolio of data products and their efforts can be found here. The Destatis document describing the data is here and here is their publication calendar for 2019.

Toll Index August 2019

Starting in July 2018 the BAG – Bundesamt für Güterverkeht introduced yet another policy change which affected how lorries pay tolls within the MAUT system as well as the data the come out of this process which is used for computing the Toll Index. The change expanded the network of roads in which toll is due by adding all bundesstraßen to it.

While in the long run this is bound to make the Toll Index more accurate in these past twelve months it made it useless for nowcasting. Even the BAG had difficulty producing the numbers timely. August 2019 is now comparable to August 2018 values. Of course we have a missing value for August 2018 since it is not comparable to “August 2017” due to the policy change.

The Toll Index was first proposed in IZA DP5522 which ws published in the Journal of Forecasting. It has been widely covered in national and international media (selection):

The German statistical office, in cooperation with the Bundesamt für Güterverkehr,  has taken the MAUT data in its portfolio of data products and their efforts can be found here. The Destatis document describing the data is here and here is their publication calendar for 2019.

“European way of life” damaged by opinion copula

Ursula von der Leyen will be the next president of the European Commission and she is already drawing a shit storm of criticism, among other things, because she was never a “Spitzenkandidat”, something which, as some say, creates issues with democratic transparency.

 

One of Von der Leyen’s top team appointments, announced on Tuesday, included responsibility for migration in the remit of Greece’s commissioner-designate, Margaritis Schinas, under a newly created “Protecting the European Way of Life” portfolio. Because the phrase “protecting the European way of life” is considered a “dog-whistle” phrase used by the far right a new shit storm broke out.

Is Von der Leyen’s understanding of our “European ways” one that excludes migration? Is it a right wing one? It remains to be seen. What this incident is however is an instant of “opinion copula” which I studied here.

In principle the desire to protect your ways is not necessarily wrong if they are virtuous. Also what your ways include is not affected by your desire to protect them or not. The phrase “protect the European way of life” however is being used by those who think of “our ways” differently than others, in a way that excludes migrants etc. and hence as soon as Von der Leyen wants to protect our ways she is also assigned a particular understanding of our European values. Why? Because the phrase is copulated with far right opinions.

The open question, besides what Von der Leyen really believes, is: how would you express your desire to protect our European ways if your version of these “ways” includes compassion, migration, protection of human rights of refugees etc. If the bad guys hijacked the sequence of words “protecting the European way of life” what would we say to mean the same thing if your and my version includes migration?

Askitas N (2017) Explaining opinion polarisation with opinion copulas. PLoS ONE 12(8):
e0183277.
https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0183277

Toll Index July 2019 (we are back) – a slow down

Starting in July 2018 the BAG – Bundesamt für Güterverkeht introduced yet another policy change which affected how lorries pay tolls within the MAUT system as well as the data the come out of this process which is used for computing the Toll Index. The change expanded the network of roads in which toll is due by adding all bundesstraßen to it.

While in the long run this is bound to make the Toll Index more accurate in these past twelve months it made it useless for nowcasting. Even the BAG had difficulty producing the numbers timely. Today for the first time after a year we seem to be back to the old rhythm and we can compare the July 2019 to July 2018 values. Of course we have a missing value for July 2018 since it is not comparable to “July 2017” due to policy change.

After five years of uninterrupted July-to-July growth in border crossing lorry activity we have a slightly negative data point which is in line with current fears of an approaching “technical recession” in Germany.

The Toll Index was first proposed in IZA DP5522 which ws published in the Journal of Forecasting. It has been widely covered in national and international media (selection):

The German statistical office, in cooperation with the Bundesamt für Güterverkehr,  has taken the MAUT data in its portfolio of data products and their efforts can be found here. The Destatis document describing the data is here and here is their publication calendar for 2019.