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Beta State

Try out an experimental law in one small area of the country, as a beta test on a sample population.
  [vote for,

Worried about the effects of legal changes that might divide a country and start a civil war? Your country needs a Beta State.

A Beta State is one area of the country dedicated to trying out a new law or change in a long-standing law that just might be great for the country, but happens to be a hot-button topic for half the population.

For example, here in the USA, some states:
* allow and recognize gay marriage
* allow concealed-carry guns
* have decriminalized marijuana in certain amounts

Now, imagine that we had one state in the country, let's say Delaware, where any of the above policies is passed for the residents of the state, and observed for effects. There can be a designated trial time, depending on the anticipated impact of the legal change, to see what happens in that state once the changes are effective. Do riots break out? Does the crime rate decrease?

This concept is inspired by the process for preparing software applications for all users by testing on a smaller segment of the users. The users are volunteers, so the Beta State should also be known to be a beta state to all the residents, so they can make any decisions about whether they are willing to live there and be part of the test population or not.

I think fear of the unknown is keeping progress from being made in my country, and possibly others. The implementation of a Beta State for trying new ideas that are controversial could mean peace of mind for the nation's leaders, and concrete statistical data upon which to rely to support arguments for or against policy changes.

There should be no special compensation for living in the Beta State. The only motivation for living there should be the intention to try a proposed law change in a smaller segment of society and wanting to be part of political testing that could help shape the entire nation.

I tend to like trying Beta software and giving feedback. I think I might want to live in a Beta State, too.

XSarenkaX, Mar 20 2011

The Poll Tax Riots http://en.wikipedia...wiki/Poll_Tax_Riots
Of course, the British government didn't take any notice until the tax was applied nationally and when there were riots in London. [Jinbish, Mar 20 2011]

The Community Charge (Poll Tax) http://en.wikipedia...ki/Community_Charge
It was applied in Scotland about a year before being rolled out to the whole of the UK. It was widely met with protests and non-payment. [Jinbish, Mar 20 2011]

Evidence-based policy http://en.wikipedia...idence-based_policy
[xaviergisz, Mar 20 2011]

Charter cities http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charter_city
[EdwinBakery, Mar 22 2011]


       I'd be willing to live there, for the advancement of society.
blissmiss, Mar 20 2011

       This would need to be carefully formatted or it will just become a VHS state.   

       I love it [+]   

       Although, one could make the argument that every state in the US is essentially a beta state for different things already as it is since each state and city has their own rules and legislation so long as it doesn't violate the constitution... the US forefathers were essentially political programmers in a way as it were.   

       Although, it wouldn't hurt to expand on the process to a significant degree, as we could certainly afford to cut out much of the intrinsic bureaucracy that currently exists :)
quantum_flux, Mar 20 2011

       Basically, I'm hoping to eliminate all the BS fear-mongering that people use as supporting their arguments for NOT implementing changes that could help us make progress.
XSarenkaX, Mar 20 2011

       But the best way to prove it is to test, no?
XSarenkaX, Mar 20 2011

       One concern is scalability. Is the outcome on a statewide scale the same as that for a nationwide scale? Fun idea though, we could cut its budget to zilch and kill two birds with one stone.
daseva, Mar 20 2011

       If we cut its budget AND put sanctions in place would they be considered beta blockers? Just asking...
Canuck, Mar 20 2011

       Old stuff. As Justice Brandeis wrote in 1932, quoted by Justice O'Connor in 2005: "One of federalism's chief virtues, of course, is that it promotes innovation by allowing for the possibility that 'a single courageous State may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory, and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.'"

In this 2005 case, the argument didn't fly, and the feds won the power to regulate everything we do.
ldischler, Mar 20 2011

       Baked, and widely reviled - poll tax in Scotland.
pocmloc, Mar 20 2011

       [ldischler]: I'm surprised this was brought up so recently... and rejected. :(   

       [pocmloc]: Can you elaborate? I'm not familiar with Scotland's poll tax. A link would be helpful if you have one handy.   

XSarenkaX, Mar 20 2011

       Can I ask why you think we established a colony in the USA?
MaxwellBuchanan, Mar 20 2011

       Gun Rights = Higher incidence of gun-related crime and death.
(Some might be of the opinion that Hitler did not proceed with Operation Tannenbaum because Switzerland was not a priority due to the D-Day landings. Besides, the Swiss were neutral and quite happy to take the Nazi gold...)
Jinbish, Mar 21 2011

       Would you need a control group state? Set everything up to be the opposite of your beta state? Make them neighbors so that weather would be a constant ;-)
normzone, Mar 21 2011

       I think we call it California.
RayfordSteele, Mar 22 2011

       Actually, I considered the control group to be the rest of the country. I know it's not the scientific way, but it's the way the leaders decide it to be. The purpose of the Beta State is to satisfy the curiosity and quell the false prediction arguments over various proposed changes.
XSarenkaX, Mar 22 2011

       I also call it Massachusetts...I live here.
xandram, Mar 22 2011

       "Gun Rights = Higher incidence of gun-related crime and death"   

       false. Higher incidents of accidents? Of course. Crime? no correlation exists. Various states vary widely in their crime rates, some with gun rights some without. Gun rights might not decrease crime but it is certain that they do not increase it.
EdwinBakery, Mar 22 2011

       the problem is the human moral/psychological element. Some people just don't want to hear certain things because it's so outside of their world view. Take the gun-rights claims above.   

       And even outside of basic denial, there are actual differences of values. Maybe this country prefers more freedom, and that country prefers lower incidents of sickness, etc.   

       or for example, I know that guns don't increase crime, and I believe from an esoteric/philosophical point of view people do have the right to own guns... but I don't think I care. The idea of being helpless should I be subject to some sociopath's actions scares me, but I know that any such incidents are a hell of a lot less likely living here in the NY/NJ metro area than anywhere else, and that's because of various policies and perhaps demographic (money, not race, if that's what you were thinking) trends
EdwinBakery, Mar 22 2011

       I think that there is a correlation - but that doesn't necessarily mean cause and effect. I'm certainly not educated enough, nor motivated enough, on the subject to argue one way or t'other. The thing is that the statistics are so bloody complicated to unravel that they can be used, probably in equal measure, for both sides of the argument.   

       I mean - the go-to statistics would be homicide rates per 100,000 population vs homicide rates using firearms per 100,00... There is, unsurprisingly, typically a higher proportion of homicides with firearms in countries that have legal access to guns. However - that isn't the whole story by any manner of means because those stats don't take into account things like "number of homicides averted due to firearms per 100,000 pop".   

       The funny thing is, I am happy to live in a country that, on the whole, doesn't accept gun onwership - and I wouldn't own one even if it were legal - but when thinking that other nations have nuclear capability, I'm quite happy for us to have it too...
Jinbish, Mar 22 2011

       incorrect. The metric for higher crime rates would be various crimes, not homicides. Homicides includes accidents. Again, of course there are more gun accidents, there are more guns. Hunting is a dangerous sport. Try it some time, you'll see how great is the propensity for accidents.   

       there is no correlation for crimes overall. John Lott in his book "More guns, less crime" found a weak correlation with more guns producing less CONFRONTATIONAL crime (crimes where the criminal expects to confront the victim, like mugging). Problem is he does a linear regression, which assumes a linear relationship, which may not be true. Overall I don't think there's much there.   

       the anti-gun activists love to use tricky statistics too. Claims of children dying based off of statistics where even a 19 year old is a "child", and statistics that include suicides; if someone's going to off himself, there are plenty of other ways to do it without guns. And of course the above-mentioned use of accident statistics.   

       Whatever really lowers crime was found out and is being used by the authorities in the North Jersey/NYC metro area. It started with Giuliani, and got better from there. This whole area really is very very safe. You can walk around Brooklyn at all hours of the night. Even Hackensack, a blue collar town that looks quite seedy in some places, has crime rates significantly lower than both New Jersey and the nation. In "freakonomics" it is proposed that both the legalization of abortion and stricter mandatory sentences is what did it for the whole country after the 70's, and the Giuliani regime is specifically cited. I think a lot of it is might also be a development/gentrification thing. They're always putting up luxury condos in this town or that - in NYC there's even the effect of the rent control laws that incentivizes luxury development and the destruciton of lower-income housing, which might not be a good thing, but I would imagine that rich people necessarily have a lower rate of crime (though I wouldn't necessarily believe the converse, that people below certain incomes always have higher rates of crime)
EdwinBakery, Mar 22 2011

       [RayfordSteele], I take that as a compliment, I think.
blissmiss, Mar 22 2011

       //incorrect. The metric for higher crime rates would be various crimes, not homicides. Homicides includes accidents. Again, of course there are more gun accidents, there are more guns. Hunting is a dangerous sport. Try it some time, you'll see how great is the propensity for accidents.//   

       I don't think jinbish was actually incorrect with what he said, though. Accidental killing of someone else with a gun[1] is going to be higher when they are legal and thus lots of people are actually carrying them around. See - he didn't actually say 'crime rates' at all.   


       //the anti-gun activists love to use tricky statistics too. Claims of children dying based off of statistics where even a 19 year old is a "child", and statistics that include suicides; if someone's going to off himself, there are plenty of other ways to do it without guns. And of course the above-mentioned use of accident statistics.//   

       If what they have to work with is data split on age of majority[2] , then that would be unavoidable. It may make the statistic misleading, but then, if you look at jinbish's comment again you'll see he spent some time saying that the statistics were difficult and may be misused by anyone.   

       Also, there's an argument for including suicides in some of the statistics. Yes, there are other ways of killing yourself, but guns *may* make it easier or more desirable somehow. Only an experiment could determine this beyond reproach.   

       Suppose one wished to determine the desirability of gun legality totally dispassionately. One would then need to weigh up their benefits and costs to society. Data involving deaths by suicide and gun-related accident as well as gun-facilitated crimes would then need to be compared to similar statistics from an equivalent population without guns - and weighed up against the goods - entertainment value and whatever else you like doing with them. Pretty obviously, one would need an equivalent population varying in the chosen parameter... which is where the idea came in.   

       Once the issue was resolved one way or the other, one could then do the same sort of experiment with other parameters.   


       [1] (oh sorry, a bullet - guns don't kill people, bullets do, right?)   

       [2] Which apparently varies by state, most being 18, a couple being higher, and some also involving high-school attendance.
Loris, Mar 22 2011

       I, for one, would prefer to live in a state with fewer obsessive gun-toting weirdos drawn to that state by loose policies than one where reasonably sane non-gun hoarders conglomerate due to more restrictive gun laws.
RayfordSteele, Mar 22 2011

       Since we've gone off on the tangent of the gun control debate, I just want to add that I'm pretty liberal, believe in human rights and freedoms. To me, freedoms include gun ownership. I'm not Republican (not even close) and I don't know why gun rights became a right-wing issue. The left is about rights and I think it should include the right to own and legally use firearms. I don't advocate giving guns to kids or untrained people, but I know how to safely fire a gun and demand that I retain the right to have one in case an armed wacko threatens my life in any way.
XSarenkaX, Mar 22 2011

       no way. If someone's going to kill himself, he's going to kill himself. It's way too easy to do to say that guns are going to make it happen more often.
EdwinBakery, Mar 23 2011

       Hold on guys - let's not turn the idea into a discussion about pro/anti gun laws. That's a debate (worthy and proper) for another place and time.   

       The idea is about testing policy in a "Beta State".
Jinbish, Mar 23 2011

       Thank you [Jinbish], for wrangling the conversation back to the idea.
blissmiss, Mar 23 2011

       I'm wondering how much of a positive feedback loop it is in the relatively mobile US population demographic for states with loose control of controversial subjects to attract people who take a particular side on that subject. Also wondering what 100 years from now the US will look like with states becoming more polarized by this trend. I know I, for one, would never consider moving to Arizona, and its not because of the weather.   

       In short, how much beta testing can we as a nation tolerate without serious conflict?
RayfordSteele, Mar 23 2011

       I don't know - let's do a test and find out.
XSarenkaX, Mar 23 2011

       // my own nuclear reactor //   

       Better to lease rather than buy.
8th of 7, Mar 23 2011

       You have legal rights, though; just because there's a label on the reactor vessel that says "Do not disassemble - no user-serviceable parts inside. Refer to qualified service personnel", you're still entitled to the 12-month on-site warranty.
8th of 7, Mar 23 2011

       I voted for this just because I share the ideal ... however, in practice it's going to be tough. Modeling human behavior is complex. For example, let's say one state de-criminalizes drugs. It will become a haven for drug trafficking and will be considered a failure. But would the same have happened if ALL states passed the same law? Similarly with issues that take a while to test. What if a policy doesn't give a short term benefit? And needs generations to show up? .. You'll have some arguing that we haven't beta tested long enough, others will want to stop and try something new right away. .... result ... same old politics with a new BETA sticker on it.
ixnaum, Mar 23 2011


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