Friday, 11 November 2016

Brexit, Elections, and population in 2016

Define: “effective political unit”

If politics is the name we give to a group of people making decisions that affect all the members of that group, then we can use “effective political unit” (EPU) as a catch-all name to reference that group.

Your household is an EPU. Your local sports team is an EPU. Your neighborhood and your city are both EPUs, as is your country, and each of your online communities.

We can get a rough feel for the relative size of an EPU by adding the search term "population" and hitting the "I'm feeling lucky" button on google:

EPUSize (million people)
London (England)8
London (Ontario)0.5
You & Me together0.000002
North America (*)580
OECD (*)560
Eve Online0.4
New Zealand4

(*) The OECD includes all of North America, so as with any "I'm feeling lucky" google search, the error bars are large.

A natural question to ask: "Given each Effective Political Unit is a group of people making decisions, what size of EPU is the most successful?" It's hard to pick an exact number, but like many trends associated with people, it's increasing over time, and the rate of increase is increasing:

EPUSize (million people)Year
Toba Catastrophe0.0770,000 BCE
Nomadic tribe0.001prehistory
Ancient Greece5400 BCE
Ptolemaic Egypt7300 BCE
Han dynasty572 CE
Ancient Rome (peak)60160 CE
Mayan city0.1700 CE
Walmart Employees22015 CE


A vote for a protectionist like #Trump favors smaller (USA, 320) over #Clinton's larger (World, 7500).

A #brexit vote favors smaller (UK, 65) over #remain's larger (EU, 500).

A #califrexit (California, 35) is even smaller still.

Which brings us back to the core question of this blogpost: What size of EPU is the most successful?

Historically, every EPU has had a maximum size, once it extends past that point, it is doomed to collapse. At the same time, history is filled with EPUs that were too small, and were out-competed by slightly larger EPUs which were more effective.

It's a classic value judgement.

As social animals, we weigh the perceived risks and benefits between larger EPUs and smaller EPUs, and make a call, then find a post-hoc rationalization for our decision.

What I find fascinating is the schism between younger voters and older voters. If you look into the various exit polls around the world, a clear trend starts to emerge: Older voters seem to be favoring the 10MM-50MM range, while younger voters seem to be consistently voting in support of larger and larger EPUs.

What does it all mean? At the risk of rampant speculation, do younger voters have more confidence in technology to enable larger and larger EPUs? Do older voters have more hands on experience with large EPUs getting out of control and collapsing? I really have nothing to back up either of those statements, but it sure is fun to make sweeping generalizations :D

Let me know your thoughts in the comments down below!