I am pretty sure that I have made a number of warnings on this politics blog about how deceiving averages can be. I started to wonder recently if Jill Stein’s campaign had been deceived by the numbers coming the Sanders campaign. I hadn’t done any arithmetic to figure out what could be hidden in Bernie’s numbers, but my wondering about the Stein campaign led me to this little thought experiment.
Supposing a million people give $1 each and one person gives $1 million. You have $2,000,000 of donations from 1,000,001 people. This is an average of about $2 per person. However, I bet the 1 person who gave $1 million would have more influence on a candidate than the 1 million people who each gave $1.
This thought experiment is just an example to give you an idea of how deceptive averages can be. I have no knowledge of the contribution details of either the Sanders campaign nor of the Stein campaign.
Questions have arisen lately as to how Jill Stein raised $5 million in a few days for her recount campaign when she was unable to raise money at this rate throughout the presidential campaign. Perhaps she realized that she was letting herself be deceived by Bernie’s numbers to think she could run a national campaign only on small dollar donations. I have no idea if she has learned that it might be ok to take larger donations depending on who was giving them.
It is fashionable to blame all our economic problems on the billionaire class in general and the money they pour into politics. It is easy to get lulled into believing that any contribution from any billionaire is inherently evil. A more discriminating line of reasoning may conclude that not all billionaires are created equal and neither are their contributions. One billionaire in particular is being vilified by the extreme right, and the left is propagating this vilification without considering the source of the smear campaign or its motivations. The motivation from the right might be to get the working-class progressive to disarm themselves in the fund raising war because of a misplaced sense of scruples, whereas the right doing the smearing has no need to disarm because they have no scruples
By now, you may have figured out that I am talking about the anti George Soros smear campaign. He is one billionaire who tends to donate to progressive causes (see The Young Turks video George Soros Pledges 10 Million To Combat Hate Crime). When he takes advantage of people to make his billions, it tends to be other billionaires rather than ordinary people that he focuses on. Of course, the “little” people tend to be collateral damage. Perhaps there would be a better way to take advantage of other billionaire’s greed without hurting “little” people, so I am not completely defending what Soros has done. However, I do see somewhat of a distinction.
I put as this blog’s motto “Extremism is the Enemy of Rationality™” exactly because I know that it is easy to go to extremes without thinking, when thinking is always a better alternative.