Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Vote Obama

Today is the day of the US presidential election.  The main candidates are the President, Barack Obama, who sits somewhat to the right of David Cameron in the political spectrum, and the Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, who is off in the ultra-violet.  (You might prefer to call it infra-red if you favour the US political colour scheme.)

Intrade is currently selling Obama 'shares', which pay $10 if Obama wins, for $6.99 (it was $6.68 when I looked last night), i.e. they give him a 70% chance of winning.  Whereas you can back Romney on Betfair at 4.6 (£1 pays £4.60 if Romney wins), i.e. they give him a 21.7% chance of winning.  Since these chances add up to less than 100%, if you've got accounts on both exchanges you can lock in a profit by taking both bets in an appropriate ratio, provided you bet large enough to cover the fixed fees, and the exchange you win on doesn't default.  (Which suggests that arbitrageurs are none too confident in the soundness of one of the exchanges.)

Nate Silver, who got the last presidential election almost exactly right, is giving Obama a 92% chance of winning, based on his analysis of all the good quality state and national polls (recent reports that the candidates are neck and neck have been based on the national polls, which have been tighter, perhaps because sampling controls need to be determined state by state).  That suggests that it's the Intrade market which is off.

Conor Friedersdorf attracted a good deal of attention six weeks ago with his article Why I Refuse to Vote for Barack Obama.  His argument was that the only way to get presidents one agrees with is not to vote for candidates one disagrees with, and his principal disagreement was over Obama's drone warfare in Pakistan.

I agree about the drone warfare.  The general counter-argument is that the primaries are for picking a candidate you like; the presidential election is for choosing a president from the candidates on offer.  Specifically, here are two reasons to vote against Romney, and therefore for Obama:

1) Romney supports torture.  I hoped this stain on the honour of the USA had gone with GW Bush, but Romney wants to bring it back.  He prefers to call it by the Gestapo name,Versch√§rfte Vernehmung, translated into English, but whatever you call it the US executed Japanese soldiers for it at the end of the second world war.  This is a line the US must not again cross.

2) It's possible to persuade oneself, based on Romney's more moderate statements of the last few weeks, that he'd be not much worse than Obama - that he won't start a war in Iran, or try to fix the deficit by cutting taxes and increasing military spending.  But that's a dangerous game, because he speaks in code, and it's a code you may not pick up on.

Here's a quote from his website, on the subject of Marriage:
Marriage is more than a personally rewarding social custom. It is also critical for the well-being of a civilization. That is why it is so important to preserve traditional marriage – the joining together of one man and one woman.
This might not be an important issue for you. But look at the argument, which can fairly be paraphrased as "Marriage is critical for the well-being of civilization: that is why we should stop some people getting married".  Which doesn't make any sort of sense.  Romney has got reasons to oppose same-sex marriage, but he's not telling us what they are, because the people he's talking to already know and he's better off not spelling it out for the rest of us.  (On the other hand, if he wanted to campaign for restrictions on divorce his argument would work quite well, I think that's a clue to what he really thinks.)

I haven't got a vote in this election. If you have, and you like Romney's policies, then thank you for reading.  Otherwise, please vote for Obama.

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