On Lies and Diversification

06Oct08
[Note: I saw this draft from two weeks ago and decided that with the smears heating up to October levels, it would still be pertinent to publish today.]
So I just saw a post of a video that gave me a chilling thought.

Let’s presume lies are acceptable, though risky investments in a candidate’s campaign portfolio. They obviously carry high risk of being branded as dishonest, but the returns are large as well if you can successfully tar your opponent in a way he can’t recover from.

Now, if you’ve allocated a portion of your portfolio, say 25%, to high risk… then what must you obviously do to improve your chances with that allocation?
You diversify, right?
But now, if we switch back and look at that “campaign” portfolio  with a lies and smears allocation, what’s the optimum strategy?
You diversify, right?
This has me scared when thinking about our political discourse, because I’m afraid that the incentives to maximizing the return on a presidential portfolio, given an allocation of lies, is to invest in multiple smaller lies rather than a big, single claim that can be refuted.
I’m going to nickname it right now the MLL theory, or the Multiple Little Lie theory.
The reason I think it works is that fact-checkers, or similar organizations that restrain lies, are much better at poaching a small handful of big lies rather than multitude smaller ones. So by using MLL’s, not only does one increase potential for a lie to resonate, but one also makes it harder to fact check, and thus neutralize the claims as well. And that doesn’t even touch what the overall impression of the smeared candidate would be to a voter. The video above was noting a joke Obama was taking out of context, but I’d heard that claim weeks ago, with multiple new McCain claims since then.
So… if the incentives work similarly for investment portfolios and campaigns, there needs to be a solution that keeps this diversification low. Off the top of my head… provide a better asset that outperforms lies, increase scrutiny or punishment (decrease return) on the lies… those both have their individual problems, but I can’t think of anything else.

How do you get people to not do in politics exactly what you want in investing?

If you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them in the comments.

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One Response to “On Lies and Diversification”

  1. Nice writing. You are on my RSS reader now so I can read more from you down the road.

    Allen Taylor


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