Trying things out - say voter ID - is very rarely a waste of time

A useful enough description of a market economy is that everyone gets to try out whatever it is that crosses their synapses then we observe what works and do more of it. Hopefully with the concomitant doing less of what doesn’t. Of course, to an orderly mind this appears ridiculous but experience tells us that this is the system which works better than any other. Not without its problems or faults of course, but still better.

Thus we should be extremely wary of anyone insisting that trying things out is a waste of time. Who knew that humans desired, in their billions, to send cat pictures to each other?

Voter ID trial at local elections is a waste of time, say campaigners

ID required in 10 districts, but Labour and Electoral Reform Society say scheme should be dropped

Hmm, well, maybe:

Voter impersonation comprised just 3% of all alleged electoral offences at last year’s council elections, campaigners have said, warning that an extended trial of compulsory voter ID at Thursday’s local polls is a counterproductive waste of time.

An analysis by the Electoral Reform Society (ERS) found that of 266 allegations investigated by police at the 2018 local and mayoral elections, eight involved claims of voter impersonation, which voter ID is intended to reduce.

Of the eight cases, no action was taken in seven, and one was resolved locally. In contrast, 140 of the allegations were about campaigning offences.

We’re perfectly willing to believe that’s true. That voter impersonation isn’t something to be worried about, it’s something that happens at such a small scale, low level, that it’s not even a rounding error. We’re also open to being persuaded by evidence that it’s not such.

So, err, why don’t we find out?

That is, instead of assertions from one side or another on this point, why don’t we collect the best empirical evidence we can and then discuss that? You know, as with science, set up a hypothesis, design tests hoping to invalidate, disprove, that assertion and then see whether the evidence does so?

You know, as with markets, trying stuff out and seeing what fails being what advances the civilisation. There’s also always that soupcon of a suspicion of those who don’t want to test their own assertions or hypotheses. After all, if voter impersonation really isn’t a problem at all then the current tests will show that once and for all and we can forget about it.