# Reactor Performance/Design As A Political Ideology

nelson
Summary
Reactor Performance;Reactor Design;Political Ideology;Legal;Legislative
Hello,

I had an extremely unusual question I was hoping someone could answer (my sincere apologies if I posted this in the wrong forum).

I am currently working on a project which aims to assign a point/performance value to new legal legislation (using criteria associated with reactor performance as its basis).

The goal of the project is to score new legal legislation in a way, such that prospective voters have a general understanding of the implications of new legal legislation (via a simple point system).

For example, if the cost of new legislation is expected to be over budget (given historical data), lacking in usefulness to the general population, etc.; then the score of said legislation should be low.

If on the other hand, the new legislation is extremely beneficial to the general population, not expected to go over budget, sustainable long term, etc.; then the score of said legislation should be high.

I initially attempted to tackle the problem of scoring legal legislation via a moralistic set of criteria, based in legal philosophy.

However, to my surprise, the literature regarding such criteria is either extremely vague, extensively debated, or non-existent.

During my research, a Professor in Legal Philosophy mentioned that I shouldn't be attempting to determine whether a piece of legal legislation is good/moral or not/immoral (as what is good or bad depends greatly on an individual, society, culture, etc). Rather, I should attempt to determine whether a piece of new legislation is stable, efficient, etc. or not.

This got me thinking about how complex/critical systems (like reactors) are rated for safety, stability, efficiency, etc.

During my research, I was exposed to literature/videos regarding phenomena affecting reactor performance (specifically chemical reactors).

Though not extremely pertinent to legal systems/legislation, one could at least draw some parallels to the legal/legislative domain.

For instance, yield could serve as a parallel to legislative efficiency/output.

Catalyst on the other hand, could serve as parallel to legislative cost.

Though it's quite a stretch to go from reactor performance to legislative performance, I think it is indeed possible and could be quite useful (given the universally agreed and understood mathematical models behind rating reactor performance).

My question to you is this; is there a general set of criteria used to gauge the performance (e.g., safety, stability, efficiency, etc.) of reactors in general (rather than being specific to a type of reactor - e.g., nuclear vs chemical)?

If so, would you happen to know where I could find such information?

Also, could this information be generalized/abstracted to apply to any complex/critical/realtime systems (outside the reactor domain)?

What draws me to reactor performance as a gauge of legal performance, is that the science behind reactor performance seems to be settled, universally agreed upon and mathematically/logically sound (unlike legal philosophy).

Ideally, one would be able to input the various costs, timelines, benefits, etc of some upcoming legislation into the variables of various equations associated with reactor performance, to get essentially a legislative performance value (or set of values). The importance of this legislative performance value(s), would be that the math behind it was sound/universally agreed upon (which gives the math more credibility and makes it less susceptible to corrupting forces - whether they be for or against some piece of legislation).

My sincere apologies for the long winded question.

Thank you,
Nelson

Staff Emeritus
Summary:: Reactor Performance;Reactor Design;Political Ideology;Legal;Legislative

My question to you is this; is there a general set of criteria used to gauge the performance (e.g., safety, stability, efficiency, etc.) of reactors in general (rather than being specific to a type of reactor - e.g., nuclear vs chemical)?
Not just nuclear, but in all engineering systems, the criteria for good or better are numeric, and can be measured. For a simple example, an automobile is better if it goes faster, uses less fuel, and costs less. In political systems, good and better are highly subjective, subject to opinions, and not directly measurable. Ditto for social systems. Imagine using that diagram to help a young person find a mate; preposterous.

Therefore, I am skeptical about your idea of borrowing engineering ideas to apply to social issues.

nelson, PeterDonis, Astronuc and 2 others
Staff Emeritus
Summary:: Reactor Performance;Reactor Design;Political Ideology;Legal;Legislative

During my research, I was exposed to literature/videos regarding phenomena affecting reactor performance (specifically chemical reactors).
In the image, one provided an example of a 'chemical reactor' as opposed to a 'nuclear reactor', however, they are both process systems.

We already have legislation through acts of Congress, which have become Public Law (e.g., Atomic Energy Act of 1954, and subsequent acts) and Code of Federal Regulations, Title 10.

There are similar CFR chapters pertaining to the US Department of Energy

The laws provide a framework for regulation of the nuclear industry with the objective of protecting the health and safety of the public, including those who work in production facilities, nuclear power plants, and related industry. How a utility goes about generating electricity and operating a nuclear plant is primarily an internal decision.
Summary:: Reactor Performance;Reactor Design;Political Ideology;Legal;Legislative

My question to you is this; is there a general set of criteria used to gauge the performance (e.g., safety, stability, efficiency, etc.) of reactors in general (rather than being specific to a type of reactor - e.g., nuclear vs chemical)?

If so, would you happen to know where I could find such information?
For nuclear plants, there is something called the 'General Design Criteria' in 10 CFR 50 Appendix A.

For other types of plants, there should be types of regulations, for example
https://www.epa.gov/regulatory-information-sector/chemical-manufacturing-sector-naics-325
https://www.epa.gov/enforcement/toxic-substances-control-act-tsca-and-federal-facilities

nelson and PeterDonis
nelson
In political systems, good and better are highly subjective, subject to opinions, and not directly measurable. Ditto for social systems. Imagine using that diagram to help a young person find a mate; preposterous.

Therefore, I am skeptical about your idea of borrowing engineering ideas to apply to social issues.
Hello Anorlunda,

You do bring up some good points; however I disagree slightly with the idea of not being able to directly measure some piece of new legislation.

Though you are correct that you can't accurately measure a new piece of legislation (as there are many unknowns with any piece legislation). The hope is to at least provide constituents with some sort of general measurement, as to how effective, stable, efficient, etc some piece of legislation might be.

Take for example, the following piece of legislation (this is not a real piece of legislation):

AB 217 - Speed Rail From Los Angeles To Las Vegas

Though one can't know for certain whether AB 217 will:

1. Be delivered on time.
2. Be delivered within budget.
3. Be an effective means of travel between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

...projects of a similar nature could be used to measure what the worst/best case scenario would be for such a piece of legislation.

Take for example budgeting; if we know that the contractor for AB 217 is Bechtel (a large public works contractor), we could look at their track record and see how often their contracts are delivered within budget.

For example, if the last 5 major contracts for Bechtel within Los Angeles were initially budgeted at:

a. 1 billion
b. 1.2 billion
c. 5 billion
d. 6.2 billion
e. 8 billion

...and the actual cost (to the taxpayer) for those 5 previous major contracts were actually:

a. 2.7 billion
b. 2.2 billion
c. 7 billion
d. 9.3 billion
e. 12 billion

...we could estimate that the actual price of some new piece of legislation (related to construction by Bechtel), would be on average 40.73% over budget.

So if a perfect budgeting score is 100 (meaning that the legislation will be delivered within budget), then the actual score for any legislation associated with Bechtel will be 100 - 40.73 = 59.27

This score, along with other scores, would be used to give voters an idea of how effective, stable, efficient, etc some new piece of legislation will be at delivering what it promises.

That said, it's completely possible that Bechtel could deliver AB 217 within budget. However, without any past evidence to go by, one would only be able to conclude that Bechtel will most likely not be able to deliver the contract within budget.

Whether the legislation is good/moral or bad/immoral, is not what I'm trying to determine (as such things cannot be effectively modeled mathematically).

Thank you,
Nelson

nelson
In the image, one provided an example of a 'chemical reactor' as opposed to a 'nuclear reactor', however, they are both process systems.
Hello Astronuc,

Thank you very much for your response, as I think you've helped me key into where I should be focusing next.

I briefly examined the CFR's you linked, and unfortunately they seem to be very specific to the nuclear energy industry (e.g., how to properly dispose of waste water).

Even Appendix A to Part 50—General Design Criteria for Nuclear Power Plants , is very nuclear specific.

That said, I think what I need to be focusing on now, is figuring out how to use Process Systems Engineering to model how effective, stable, efficient, etc. some piece of new legislation will be.

Keep in mind, I don't come from a Physics/Nuclear Engineering background, so this is all pretty new to me (my sincere apologies for my lack of expertise).

One last question for you; regarding Process Engineering:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Process_engineering

...is it safe to assume, that what I should be focusing on, is primarily the Process Design portion:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Process_design

...of Process Engineering (on second thought, it might be a mix of Process Design and Process Economics that I need to look into).

Furthermore, is the list below an exhaustive list for "general" process design considerations (i.e., not specific to any industry/domain), or would you be able to recommend a more exhaustive list?

I only ask, as some of the process design considerations seem to be very Chemical Engineering specific (e.g., product purity), though I suppose one could generalize "product purity" to mean something like, "how pure/truthful are the parties involved with some specific piece of legislation" (possibly using previous legislation related to the parties/individuals involved, as a metric).

(From Wikipedia)

## Design considerations​

There are several considerations that need to be made when designing any chemical process unit. Design conceptualization and considerations can begin once product purities, yields, and throughput rates are all defined.
Objectives that a design may strive to include:
Constraints include:
• Capital cost: the amount of budget or investment to construct end to end process.
• Available space: the area of the land to build the plant.
• Safety concerns: consideration towards risk analysis on industrial accidents or hazardous chemicals.
• Environmental impact and projected effluents and emissions
• Waste production/recycling: manage waste produced as side product of the process for not to harm the surroundings.
• Operating and maintenance costs: represent the variable cost of the operational of the plant.
Other factors that designers may include are:
• Reliability
• Redundancy
• Flexibility
• Anticipated variability in feed stock and allowable variability in product.
Thank you very much for all your help,
Nelson

Last edited:
Staff Emeritus
• Safety concerns: consideration towards risk analysis on industrial accidents or hazardous chemicals.
• Environmental impact and projected effluents and emissions
• Waste production/recycling: manage waste produced as side product of the process for not to harm the surroundings.
When it comes to regulation (through legislation), safety concerns (as the process affects health and safety of workers and the public) and environmental protection (restrictions on effluents and emissions, e.g., clean air and clean water), and waste as it relates to the other two concerns listed, these are the extent to which legislation is limited.

The initial focus in this discussion was 'reactor performance/design' with respect to 'political ideology', and while this forum focuses on nuclear engineering, one seemed to asking more generally about process engineering, which could be energy generation regardless of source of thermal energy, which could be nuclear, or fossil (coal (traditional), oil/distillate, or gas), or concentrated solar), and some non-thermal (e.g., wind, hydro (water), or solar (photovoltaic), or chemical processing, which is a broad subject. Nevertheless, legislation primarily covers health and safety aspects through requirements on operation, to the extent of safe conduct, which means the process operates safely, and when necessary, the process can be shutdown (nuclear reactor scrammed and decay heat removed, or chemical processed stopped, feedstock stopped, chemical reactants and products removed, and reactor vessel cooled). There are various national standards that are determined by 'practitioners of the art', i.e., many of whom are licensed engineers, and these standards are often invoked in legislation.

With respect to nuclear production facilities and nuclear energy generation, in addition to the various legislative acts (Public Law, US Code) and Code of Federal Regulations, the US NRC has a body of Regulatory Guides, which provide a framework for the various parties involved in design and construction of production and generation facilities, including many processes, and components, and systems.

And then there is the transmission aspects such as power lines to get electricity from the generator to the consumer, or pipelines to bring petroleum or some chemicals (intermediates) to refineries and chemical plants, or bulk carriers (rail, trucks, barges, ships, . . . ). Regulations are needed to ensure that transmission lines and pipelines

@anorlunda pointed out that the original question(s) apply to any engineered systems. Indeed, one introduced a piece of legislation, which is yet again another engineered system (public transportation) that is a different process utilizing engineered systems.
AB 217 - Speed Rail From Los Angeles To Las Vegas
This type of legislation is different from the initial example of 'reactor performance/design' or regulation of an industry based on process engineering. The industry is primary non-governmental organizations, which public transportation is a government (or quasi-government) function. Part of the legislation is how best to allocate (spend) taxpayer money.

And there are two aspects of transportation, one being the fixed infrastructure, e.g., rail lines, bridges, terminals (for railroads), airports and traffic control (for aviation), ports and harbors (for shipping), highways and roads (for cars, trucks, buses, . . . ), and the motive power (engines/motors of the various vehicles) and carrier vehicles themselves. Some parts of the infrastructures are regulated by the federal government, some by state governments (within their borders), and the rest by counties and cities/towns/villages, and there may be systems that are regulated by a combination of federal, state and local regulations (legislative acts).

The infrastructure design and performance is regulated to the extent that the design, materials used, and construction methods must produce a 'safe' system that fulfills its role in the transportation processes of 'safe conduct or operation'. For example, fixed infrastructure, such as a bridge, rail, or pipeline, must be designed and constructed such that it does not abruptly or catastrophically fail (which is the same goal for a reactor or process vessel or process pipe/tube) such that damage to property or injury or loss of life would result.

With respect to vehicles, the motive power plants (combustion engines, e.g., gasoline engines, diesel engines, aviation engines) must be designed and constructed such they operate safely without abrupt failure and with minimal emissions (used to be unburned fuel, but now encompasses combustion products (effluents) such as CO2, SO2 and NOx). Then there are regulations related to being able to control or stop the vehicle safely, e.g., regulations on brakes or 'safety appliances'.

So the scope of regulation is complicated, and certainly, regulation is necessary in order to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public effectively and efficiently without undue burden.

nelson
Staff Emeritus
jim mcnamara and nelson
nelson
@nelson,
You talk about statistics to predict project performance. May I recommend a book that could help you to clarify your thinking. The book is the canonical classic in this field.

The Mythical Man Month, by Fred Brooks.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Mythical_Man-Month

Hello Anorlunda,

Though I haven't read the book; I've heard of it, as I work in Software Engineering (specifically QA).

Though you are correct that you can't guarantee the performance of a project using statistics. You must at least admit that statistics can be used to provide at least a rough estimate of the performance of a project (which may be good enough for my purposes).

For instance, one of the major difficulties with Software Engineering, is that there are a multitude of unknowns when developing a new piece of software.

These unknowns make it impossible to guarantee when a project will be finished.

However, these unknowns are not "completely unknown". This means that if the parties involved are competent/experienced, they should be able to provide at least a rough estimate to how long it should take to complete a task.

For instance, let's say a Software Developer is attempting to integrate a third-party library into his/her project.

Depending on the number of unknowns associated with that third-party library, it could take more or less time to integrate the third-party library into his/her code.

For example:

- Is the 3rd party library alpha quality (i.e., new/in development) or gold master (i.e., officially released to the public/finished)? The more alpha quality of software, the more bugs (which increases the number of unknowns associated with the 3rd party library).

- Are the number of changes/fixes associated with the 3rd party library increasing with time, or decreasing? The more fixes over time (assuming a similarly sized development community), the more unknowns (as code changes can lead to more bugs - even if those code changes are related to fixes).

- Are there many people maintaining the 3rd party library, or is the 3rd party library abandonware? The fewer people maintaining a project, the more unknowns associated with that 3rd party libraries future.

In summary, choosing things which have fewer unknowns (like a mature 3rd party library), results in more accurate performance estimations. Though estimations are by definition inaccurate, I feel that there's still something useful that can be gleaned from them.

Thank you,
Nelson

Last edited:
nelson
When it comes to regulation (through legislation), safety concerns (as the process affects health and safety of workers and the public) and environmental protection (restrictions on effluents and emissions, e.g., clean air and clean water), and waste as it relates to the other two concerns listed, these are the extent to which legislation is limited.

The initial focus in this discussion was 'reactor performance/design' with respect to 'political ideology', and while this forum focuses on nuclear engineering, one seemed to asking more generally about process engineering, which could be energy generation regardless of source of thermal energy, which could be nuclear, or fossil (coal (traditional), oil/distillate, or gas), or concentrated solar), and some non-thermal (e.g., wind, hydro (water), or solar (photovoltaic), or chemical processing, which is a broad subject. Nevertheless, legislation primarily covers health and safety aspects through requirements on operation, to the extent of safe conduct, which means the process operates safely, and when necessary, the process can be shutdown (nuclear reactor scrammed and decay heat removed, or chemical processed stopped, feedstock stopped, chemical reactants and products removed, and reactor vessel cooled). There are various national standards that are determined by 'practitioners of the art', i.e., many of whom are licensed engineers, and these standards are often invoked in legislation.

With respect to nuclear production facilities and nuclear energy generation, in addition to the various legislative acts (Public Law, US Code) and Code of Federal Regulations, the US NRC has a body of Regulatory Guides, which provide a framework for the various parties involved in design and construction of production and generation facilities, including many processes, and components, and systems.

And then there is the transmission aspects such as power lines to get electricity from the generator to the consumer, or pipelines to bring petroleum or some chemicals (intermediates) to refineries and chemical plants, or bulk carriers (rail, trucks, barges, ships, . . . ). Regulations are needed to ensure that transmission lines and pipelines

@anorlunda pointed out that the original question(s) apply to any engineered systems. Indeed, one introduced a piece of legislation, which is yet again another engineered system (public transportation) that is a different process utilizing engineered systems.

This type of legislation is different from the initial example of 'reactor performance/design' or regulation of an industry based on process engineering. The industry is primary non-governmental organizations, which public transportation is a government (or quasi-government) function. Part of the legislation is how best to allocate (spend) taxpayer money.

And there are two aspects of transportation, one being the fixed infrastructure, e.g., rail lines, bridges, terminals (for railroads), airports and traffic control (for aviation), ports and harbors (for shipping), highways and roads (for cars, trucks, buses, . . . ), and the motive power (engines/motors of the various vehicles) and carrier vehicles themselves. Some parts of the infrastructures are regulated by the federal government, some by state governments (within their borders), and the rest by counties and cities/towns/villages, and there may be systems that are regulated by a combination of federal, state and local regulations (legislative acts).

The infrastructure design and performance is regulated to the extent that the design, materials used, and construction methods must produce a 'safe' system that fulfills its role in the transportation processes of 'safe conduct or operation'. For example, fixed infrastructure, such as a bridge, rail, or pipeline, must be designed and constructed such that it does not abruptly or catastrophically fail (which is the same goal for a reactor or process vessel or process pipe/tube) such that damage to property or injury or loss of life would result.

With respect to vehicles, the motive power plants (combustion engines, e.g., gasoline engines, diesel engines, aviation engines) must be designed and constructed such they operate safely without abrupt failure and with minimal emissions (used to be unburned fuel, but now encompasses combustion products (effluents) such as CO2, SO2 and NOx). Then there are regulations related to being able to control or stop the vehicle safely, e.g., regulations on brakes or 'safety appliances'.

So the scope of regulation is complicated, and certainly, regulation is necessary in order to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public effectively and efficiently without undue burden.

Hello Astronuc,

Thank you very much for the detailed explanation.

Ultimately, I have to rethink things (which happens when working on something new/different).

That said, I am extremely thankful for your input, as you've rightly (in my opinion), pointed me in a direction which I believe will eventually lead me to the answer I'm looking for.

I still believe that there's a way to express new legislation to the voters in a more mathematical/engineering-centric manner (in the general case). I just need to figure out how to do that.

Hopefully further research into Process Engineering gets me closer to my end goal.

A sincere thank you for everything,
Nelson

Staff Emeritus
I still believe that there's a way to express new legislation to the voters in a more mathematical/engineering-centric manner (in the general case). I just need to figure out how to do that.
Legislation can be quantified in a cost-benefit analysis. However, the details can be murky, because some costs or benefits can be subjective. In process engineering, or in transportation, there are commonalities as well as mode-specific costs and benefits, and both can be tangible and intangible. Clean air and clean water are beneficial to the general welfare, but how does one measure the benefit, and the cost of achieving the clean air and water.

Another factor would be price/cost variability. For example, look at the price of lumber products over the last month or two, or the price/cost of petroleum over the past two or three years. Where will those values be later this, year, next year, a decade from now, 2 decades, 3 decades, . . . .

nelson
nelson
Legislation can be quantified in a cost-benefit analysis. However, the details can be murky, because some costs or benefits can be subjective. In process engineering, or in transportation, there are commonalities as well as mode-specific costs and benefits, and both can be tangible and intangible. Clean air and clean water are beneficial to the general welfare, but how does one measure the benefit, and the cost of achieving the clean air and water.

Another factor would be price/cost variability. For example, look at the price of lumber products over the last month or two, or the price/cost of petroleum over the past two or three years. Where will those values be later this, year, next year, a decade from now, 2 decades, 3 decades, . . . .

Hello Astronuc,

You make some valid points; but I disagree with the overall thesis of your post.

For instance, when you say, "how does one measure the benefit (of clean air and clean water)".

Though you are right that the calculation is not straightforward or simple, there are indeed ways to measure the benefits of clean air.

Take for instance China; air pollution in certain cities is so bad, that people need to wear face masks when going out.

So at least from the average citizen's perspective:

1. They now have to wear face masks (which over time need to be replaced). So there's a cost there.

2. Because of the toxins in the air, operations/procedures to remove cancerous growths have increased sharply. Yet another cost to the average citizen/city.

3. Heavy toxins in the air could also lead to premature infant mortality (which is a problem for a country who is trying to increase the birthrate - after decades of suppressing it), as well as a lowering life expectancy (with a likely increase in medical care required, due to the long term exposure to air pollution).

...and the list goes on and on (these are just a few things I came up with off the top of my head).

As for how to measure the cost of air pollution, one could simple add the cost of face masks sold in a specific region, plus the cost of medical care (related to air pollution), etc.

Other costs, such as the economic impact of a dwindling work force (as people die earlier, or decide to to move to locations with less pollution), are difficult to measure. But even in such situations, one could simply deduct a percentage (no matter how small) from the GDP of a city to calculate the potential impact.

That said, the problem with these types of calculations is that they tend to require a lot of different data points (from potentially many different sectors). Or in other situations, the difficulty in calculating the impact of something could simply be due to the data not being readily available.

The important thing to keep in mind is that these things aren't impossible to solve for, but merely not as straightforward as calculating something in the Processing Engineering domain.

As for your point about lumber costs (or any other material), though I suppose there is no way to guarantee the cost of some future thing (like lumber prices in 2 months). Thankfully, major cost overruns (in my opinion - I could be wrong about this), don't occur due to misjudging the price of some building material. Usually, the overruns occur due to companies/contractors knowingly using unrealistic bids, to net a contract. Or, on the flip-side, cost overruns can occur due to scope creep (politicians/officials tacking on new requirements to the project - which increase the cost of that project). That said, to bake in the potential jump in cost of some building material, one could simply add a 5% to 10% (or more) additional cost to the project/legislation, as a buffer to catch unanticipated costs (not related to unrealistic bids/scope creep).

In summary, you're right that the calculations are difficult (and require a lot of disparate data points). But if done properly (or even semi-properly), can go a long way in better informing the population and ensuring that tax money is well spent on useful projects (rather than pork barrel projects or roads to nowhere).

Thanks again,
Nelson

Staff Emeritus
What makes you think that the public does not want pork barrel projects? Why do you think politicians continue to "bring home the bacon?"

russ_watters and nelson
nelson
What makes you think that the public does not want pork barrel projects? Why do you think politicians continue to "bring home the bacon?"

Hello Anorlunda,

You are correct that certain portions of the population want pork barrel projects (those for instance who benefit directly from such projects).

That is okay if society on average is doing well.

If society on average is not doing well, then that is not okay.

I'm not sure where you reside (I reside in the US - born and raised), but I've noticed a continued decline in the US for many years.

- Tuition at colleges has sky rocketed (when I started in 2001, undergraduate semester tuition fees (6+ units) were approximately $650.00 - now it costs$3,300.00).

- More and more infrastructure is being ignored.-

- The number of homeless in certain cities has exploded.

- Housing prices have exploded in value (which is great if you own a home, but not if you don't).

- Healthcare costs have grown at a geometric or nearly exponential rate (I've heard horror stories of a single ambulance ride, consisting of only a few miles, costing an individual $15,000.00 - this is just the ambulance ride, and does not include anything done during the hospital visit - and no, there was no crazy life saving measure required when transporting the patient). I could go on about the issues, but for a large (but ever dwindling) portion of society, it doesn't matter. This group of society was able to live their lives at a time when things weren't this bad. And it's because of that to a large extent, and only that, that they've amassed a large wealth of homes, stock, etc. and have been able to live fruitful lives (.e.g., go on vacation, have children, live the American dream, etc). The problem is that the younger generations (who work just as hard, if not harder), aren't able to succeed as their parents did, because things have become so much more difficult. If you take anything from this reply, take this at least; 2014 (I think) was the first time in the history of the US (per government agencies), that the new/upcoming generation, has fewer opportunities than the previous generation. I'd argue that this should have been announced/confirmed a good 10 years before, but I when it was announced doesn't really matter. Merely that it's now clear as day, if you were born in the US in 50, 60's or maybe even 70's, your life was much easier than the lives of the teenagers/young adults now. The only person that could argue that this is fine (i.e., pork barrel spending/wasteful spending/etc), are people whose livelihoods depend on this pork barrel spending. That's fine if the number of people benefiting from this wasteful spending is large, but that's clearly not the case (given the extremely low approval ratings of government officials). One way to counter this continued decline, is to ensure voters are properly informed as to what/whom they are voting for. One way to do this (easily), is to associate a rating system with a piece of legislation (or even a politician). The problem with such a system, is that unless it is founded in a universally agreed/mathematically sound system, it will be misused by the parties who wish to continue wastefully spending the US (and other countries') wealth, to the benefit of themselves and their families (making the point system useless - for all intents and purposes). Hopefully Process System Engineering provides some insight on how to come up with a usable mathematical system, to gauge legislative efficiency, waste, etc., so that voters have a fighting chance at stemming the tide. Thanks for the input, Nelson Mentor That is okay if society on average is doing well. Unfortunately, this very logic causes the problem, because all these pork barrel programs that are put in place when society is doing well don't just go away when society is no longer doing well. Instead, they get even more entrenched, on the theory that the government now has to help more people since society isn't doing as well as before. That's fine if the number of people benefiting from this wasteful spending is large, but that's clearly not the case (given the extremely low approval ratings of government officials). Approval ratings are highly misleading, because most people only disapprove of government officials that represent constituencies other than their own. Most people approve of their own Senators and Representatives, but disapprove of Congress as a whole. Most people approve of the President if they voted for him, but think he's prevented from doing all the great stuff he promised by other political forces. Also, there is plenty of independent data to show that the fraction of people who are receiving some form of government benefits is close to, if not more than, half of the population. nelson Science Advisor Gold Member I am currently working on a project which aims to assign a point/performance value to new legal legislation (using criteria associated with reactor performance as its basis). The goal of the project is to score new legal legislation in a way, such that prospective voters have a general understanding of the implications of new legal legislation (via a simple point system). What you are talking about is generally called 'Regulatory Impact Analysis' or 'Regulatory Impact Assessment' (both conveniently abbreviated to RIA) and there is a vast amount of literature on the subject, for example this from the OECD. Do you have a particular territory's legal system in mind; for instance in the UK our Better Regulation Framework requires that all prospective legislation with an economic impact must be supported by an RIA? For example, if the cost of new legislation is expected to be over budget (given historical data), lacking in usefulness to the general population, etc.; then the score of said legislation should be low. That is not normally how it works: if the cost is expected to be over budget then the budget needs to be raised or if this would make the project uneconomic it should be abandoned (assuming this is a discretionary project). If on the other hand, the new legislation is extremely beneficial to the general population, not expected to go over budget, sustainable long term, etc.; then the score of said legislation should be high. In practice, assessments often separate the score into two factors related to the expected value of the benefits and the associated risk. This facilitates more sophisticated decision making; for instance if you have a binary choice of either Option A (high net value, high risk) or Option B (low net value, low risk) then depending on the (lack of) appetite for the risks of Option A you might well choose Option B, however if you have 20 projects to choose from and you can afford to do 10 of them you may well want a blend of high net value/high risk and low net value/low risk. I initially attempted to tackle the problem of scoring legal legislation via a moralistic set of criteria, based in legal philosophy. Can you give some examples of the kind of thing you were thinking of? Last edited: nelson nelson Unfortunately, this very logic causes the problem, because all these pork barrel programs that are put in place when society is doing well don't just go away when society is no longer doing well. Instead, they get even more entrenched, on the theory that the government now has to help more people since society isn't doing as well as before. Approval ratings are highly misleading, because most people only disapprove of government officials that represent constituencies other than their own. Most people approve of their own Senators and Representatives, but disapprove of Congress as a whole. Most people approve of the President if they voted for him, but think he's prevented from doing all the great stuff he promised by other political forces. Also, there is plenty of independent data to show that the fraction of people who are receiving some form of government benefits is close to, if not more than, half of the population. Helo PeterDonis, Regarding pork barrel programs; you are correct that it should never be okay to misuse tax payer money for pork barrel projects. However, there will always be some government waste as no government is perfect (nor will such a government ever exist - as humans are fundamentally imperfect). What I'm trying to do,is to merely ensure that voters are well aware of the true costs/benefits of whatever legislation they are voting on (in a manner that is as simple as possible). As for approval ratings, though there is some truth in what you say. As a whole, more and more of the voting population disapproves of the job that government is doing. This can be especially seen in the voting populaces demand for a true third party (which 20 or 30 years ago, would've seemed preposterous ) as well as the drop in voter engagement (as fewer and fewer people are actually voting). Thanks for the input, Nelson Mentor the voting populaces demand for a true third party What demand are you referring to? nelson nelson What you are talking about is generally called 'Regulatory Impact Analysis' or 'Regulatory Impact Assessment' (both conveniently abbreviated to RIA) and there is a vast amount of literature on the subject, for example this from the OECD. Do you have a particular territory's legal system in mind; for instance in the UK our Better Regulation Framework requires that all prospective legislation with an economic impact must be supported by an RIA? That is not normally how it works: if the cost is expected to be over budget then the budget needs to be raised or if this would make the project uneconomic it should be abandoned (assuming this is a discretionary project). In practice, assessments often separate the score into two factors related to the expected value of the benefits and the associated risk. This facilitates more sophisticated decision making; for instance if you have a binary choice of either Option A (high net value, high risk) or Option B (low net value, low risk) then depending on the (lack of) appetite for the risks of Option A you might well choose Option B, however if you have 20 projects to choose from and you can afford to do 10 of them you may well want a blend of high net value/high risk and low net value/low risk. Can you give some examples of the kind of thing you were thinking of? Hello PBuk, Thank you very much for your response, as you've provided even more useful information to look into. Regarding RIA, at least upon first glance, it doesn't seem to be well suited for smaller legislation. Per the following document on RIA: https://aspe.hhs.gov/system/files/pdf/242926/HHS_RIAGuidance.pdf ...we see the following quote: "1.3 WHEN IS AN RIA REQUIRED? An RIA is required for significant and economically significant regulatory actions as defined under Executive Order 12866 (§3(d-f)) and Executive Order 13563. An economically significant regulatory action is one that: is likely to impose costs, benefits, or transfers of$100 million or more in any given year, or “adversely affect in a material way the economy, a sector of the economy, productivity, competition, jobs, the environment, public health or safety, or State, local, or tribal governments or communities” (Clinton 1993, §3(f)(1))."

Though I could be mistaken, from what I've read so far, it seems as if it is up to those performing the analysis on some piece of legislation to determine the cost, efficiency, stability, etc of some piece of legislation.

For my purposes, this wouldn't work. What I'm trying to do is to perform something like an RIA, but for local level legislation. For example, something simple like the following:

https://ballotpedia.org/California_Environmental_and_Sustainability_Education_Initiative_(2022)

...which the petition summary described as follows:

"Requires public school students and teachers to receive thirty hours of education, training, and hands-on learning relating to sustainability or the care of the Earth, every two years."

Currently, the fiscal impact of the initiative is described as follows:

"Potential costs to schools up to the low hundreds of millions of dollars annually to hire substitute teachers while teachers receive training and provide trainers for teachers."

Voters have no real way of understanding what the true implications are of such a measure. If however, we assumed that by "low hundreds of millions" we mean something like "between 250 to 500 million dollars", we can perform the following calculation:

Current annual school budget in California = ~200 billion dollars.

(250 million / 200 billion) * 100 = 0.125% increase in budget
(500 million / 200 billion) * 100 = 0.250% increase in budget

If we wanted to then assign a point value to the initiative, we could do it two ways (and with that get wildly different valuations).

If we use the total budget percentage increase, (assuming no increase in budget is a value of 100), then our point value for the cost of the legislation would be:

100 - 0.125 = 99.875
or
100 - 0.250 = 99.750

Let's assume higher scores (closer to 100) are better.

If we instead use the average annual school budget increase (which is around 2 billion each year), then we get something far different:

(250 million / 2 billion) * 100 = 12.5% of annual average budget increase
(500 million / 2 billion) * 100 = 25% of annual average budget increase

Using a similar point system, we'd see:

100 - 12.5 = 87.5
or
100 - 25 = 75

Though the cost/benefit analysis is made more difficult by the fact that we don't know which set of numbers to use (though I suppose we could use both), at the very least, it provides the voters a much easier to understand impact analysis of the legislation being proposed.

This is what I'm looking for; a very simple numerical analysis of any piece of legislation (especially small/local level legislation). So that voters would be presented with something like the following:

California_Environmental_and_Sustainability_Education_Initiative_(2022)
Financial Cost (99.875 - 99.75 / 87.5 - 75)

Note: Academic benefit was calculated in the following manner:

Number of graduates per year in Natural Resources & Conservation is approximately 10,220 students / 4,000,000 students who graduate annually (in all majors) results in a percentage of 0.2555 of students (who go to college and graduate in Natural Resources & Conservation).

Keep in mind, this is just one way of performing the analysis, but if voters were provided the following data:

Financial Cost (99.875 - 99.75 annual budget / 87.5 - 75 yearly budget increase)

Rather than this:

"Potential costs to schools up to the low hundreds of millions of dollars annually to hire substitute teachers while teachers receive training and provide trainers for teachers."

I think the numerical analysis would go a long way at stemming the tide of wasteful spending legislation.

All of that said, I am looking for something more standardized and mathematically sound than an RIA. The ideal, would be a set of equations that one could simply plug in few numbers into, to get a single or set of numerical results (as seen above).

Hopefully Process Systems Engineering has some general set of equations that can be altered/modified to determine legislative cost/benefit/stability, etc.

Thanks for your input (especially on RIA'),
Nelson

nelson
What demand are you referring to?
Hello PeterDonis,

I'm referring to the following Gallop poll (discussed in the following article):

https://news.gallup.com/poll/329639/support-third-political-party-high-point.aspx

...which states the following:
• 62% say a third party is needed, up from 57% in September
• Highest support for a third party by one percentage point
• A record-high 63% of Republicans favor a third party
If approval with the dominant two parties was high, there wouldn't be such a demand for a viable third party.

Thanks again for the input,
Nelson

Mentor
I'm referring to the following Gallop poll
Polls mean nothing if they don't translate into votes. If people disapprove so much of Democrats and Republicans, why do the vast majority of them vote for those parties?

If approval with the dominant two parties was high, there wouldn't be such a demand for a viable third party.
If approval of the dominant two parties was low, the incumbent reelection rate would not be in the nineties. Again, polls mean nothing if they don't translate into votes.

nelson
nelson
The 2020 US Presidential election had the largest voter turnout percentage since 1960, according to Wikipedia:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voter_turnout_in_United_States_presidential_elections

The trend in between does not look like one of steady decline, either.
Hello PeterDonis,

There will always be outliers with any data.

Furthermore, presidential elections tend to draw out the most voters.

If we look at the following study:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3158614/

...entitled:

Thirty Year Trends in U.S. Adolescents’ Civic Engagement: A Story of Changing Participation and Educational Differences

...we see the following conclusion:

"Our results indicate that over the past 30 years, high school seniors’ civic engagement has decreased in some areas and increased in others. Notably, the typical pattern of change was not the steady upward or downward trend often portrayed in commentaries on the civic lives of younger generations. Rather, patterns included multiple reversals and short-term plateaus. Our findings underscore the need for a historical perspective and suggest that snapshots of youths’ civic life need a wider interpretive lens.

Our data support the predominant view that recent cohorts of young people prefer volunteer work over participation in electoral politics. Since 1990, conventional and alternative participation have trended in opposite directions from community service. These trends likely reflect both the institutionalization of service-learning in high schools (National Youth Leadership Council, 2006) and the protracted transition to adulthood, which has led to a delay in conventional civic participation, such as voting (Flanagan & Levine, 2010)."

Thanks once again for the input,
Nelson

nelson
Polls mean nothing if they don't translate into votes. If people disapprove so much of Democrats and Republicans, why do the vast majority of them vote for those parties?

If approval of the dominant two parties was low, the incumbent reelection rate would not be in the nineties. Again, polls mean nothing if they don't translate into votes.

Hello PeterDonis,

Regarding disapproval not translating into votes. The problem we have (in my opinion) is a chicken or egg first dilemma. In order for people to vote for a third party, there actually needs to be a viable third party. I would argue that there isn't such a party, as for the time being in the US, voters only real options are the Libertarian or Green parties.

As for the incumbent reelection rate, once again, without a viable third party, there really is no other choice.

You could also argue that how districts are divided up, as well as the lack of funding for third parties (which predominantly comes from lobbyists, special interests, etc - rather than members), makes things very difficult for a 3rd party challenger to rise up.

That said, whether a third party option is viable or not, at the very least, we can work on making the current two parties better. One way of doing that, is by making the parties more accountable. In order to do that, we need the voters to hold those parties to account. In order for that to happen, voters need to be keenly aware of the costs/benefits/etc of the legislation they are voting for.

I am currently focusing on finding ways to make voters more aware of the costs/benefits/etc of the legislation they are voting for.

Thanks once again for the input,
Nelson

Mentor
In order for people to vote for a third party, there actually needs to be a viable third party.
And the question is, why not? If there really is that much disapproval of the two major parties, it ought to be simple for a third party to find plenty of policies that voters support but the two major parties aren't promoting. So why hasn't a third party done that?

nelson
Gold Member
Hopefully Process Systems Engineering has some general set of equations that can be altered/modified to determine legislative cost/benefit/stability, etc.
Personally I don't think Process Systems Engineering (PSE) has much to offer here: in (chemical) processes the quantitative measures are usually well defined whereas in political economics (which is the name of the field of study we are talking about here) one of the biggest problems is agreeing on what the quantitative measures are: who decides that educating 90% of the state's children about global warming is worth 20 points whereas providing shelter for 80% of the state's homeless is worth 10 points?

If you do want to learn more about PSE then this article gives a good overview of the current (April 2021) state of the art and a comprehensive bibliography for further research.

nelson
nelson
And the question is, why not? If there really is that much disapproval of the two major parties, it ought to be simple for a third party to find plenty of policies that voters support but the two major parties aren't promoting. So why hasn't a third party done that?

Hello PeterDonis,

You have a point; but there's an easy counterpoint.

Computers have been around since the 40's (at least vacuum tube-based).

Question: Given how popular/necessary computers are now, why were personal computers such a niche product until the late 90's/early 2000's?

Answer: Computers became cheap enough, easy enough to use (they were also taught in schools for 1 to 2 decades) and sold in many different locations/stores (rather than in specialty stores like RadioShack).

The same applies to third parties, and what's different than with computers,is that we have data proving that the demand is there. The problem is that we simply don't have a viable product (i.e., a viable third party), to present to voters. Once we do have such a thing, then it will be clear as day how much the voters want a third party (the problem is that we're currently in the 1970's/1980's equivalent of the computer era).

All of that said, if we can't have a viable third party, we can at least work towards making the current dominant parties better (as this isn't an either/or situation).

Thanks again for the input,
Nelson

Mentor
there's an easy counterpoint
I see the analogy you are making, but I don't agree with it. The roadblock to making personal computers a viable product was technological; people had to figure out how to make the necessary components. The roadblock to having a viable third party "product" is political.

nelson
nelson
I see the analogy you are making, but I don't agree with it. The roadblock to making personal computers a viable product was technological; people had to figure out how to make the necessary components. The roadblock to having a viable third party "product" is political.

Hello PeterDonis,

We can agree to disagree.

That said, whether the roadblock is technological or political, it's still a roadblock that must, or at the very least, should be overcome.

Take care and thank you for the input,
Nelson

nelson
Personally I don't think Process Systems Engineering (PSE) has much to offer here: in (chemical) processes the quantitative measures are usually well defined whereas in political economics (which is the name of the field of study we are talking about here) one of the biggest problems is agreeing on what the quantitative measures are: who decides that educating 90% of the state's children about global warming is worth 20 points whereas providing shelter for 80% of the state's homeless is worth 10 points?

If you do want to learn more about PSE then this article gives a good overview of the current (April 2021) state of the art and a comprehensive bibliography for further research.
Hello PBuk,

Unfortunately, you are likely right (but I'll at least attempt to ask someone on one of the PSE forums).

That said, you've likely helped me get closer to my end goal. Especially with your recent post.

It sort of hit me recently; instead of trying to find a rigid/set mathematical framework to judge some piece of legislation by.

Why not instead allow both the proponents and opponents of some piece of legislation to come up with their own numbers. That said, there should be at least some sort of peer review of those numbers (to spot and correct any factual inaccuracies). If however, the mathematics behind the point value (both pro/against) for some piece of legislation are sound (though debatable), and the proponents and opponents detail how they came up with their point value.

Then the voters could decide, based on which set of numbers they wish to go by, whether they approve or disprove of some piece of legislation.

In other words, provide voters both the pro and anti value for some piece of legislation, and if they wish, the ability to see how the values came about.

For instance, when I came up with the following value (for California_Environmental_and_Sustainability_Education_Initiative_(2022))

I argued that the value was defined as the following:

Number of graduates per year in Natural Resources & Conservation is approximately 10,220 students / 4,000,000 students who graduate annually (in all majors) results in a percentage of 0.2555 of students (who go to college and graduate in Natural Resources & Conservation).

So, in other words:

(10,220 / 4,000,000) * 100 = Percentage of students directly impacted by such legislation

However, it could be that I chose too narrow of a selection of students. One could argue that you don't have to specialize in some field of study, for information to be useful to you. In other words, history can be just as important to a Computer Engineering student than a History student.

In that case, the percentage (pro the legislation) could be 100% (denoting that all students will find an academic benefit to conservation).

Thus, we could present both values to voters:

Anti Value = Academic Benefit (0.26)

Pro Value = Academic Benefit (100.0)

...and simply allow the voters to make up their mind.

Furthermore, we don't fall into the trap of single sources of truth. In other words, there is no single fact checker, or decider as to what some legislative value is.

Instead it's a peer reviewed process (hopefully open to all - though I'd have to work this out) by both the proponents and opponents of some legislation. As long as the mathematics are sound (i.e., no dividing by 0 to prove a point), then it's left to the voter (which is who it should be left to, to begin with).

Once again, I'll have to look into this more, as this requires a crowd-sourced/online peer reviewed system (that needs to be resilient against malicious actors), but that is open to as many people as possible.

The problem with such a system, is sort of what you get with Wikipedia. Where people who are opposed/pro some specific ideology/topic, will make edits to articles that express their opinions/beliefs, rather than some hard science or fact.

A sincere thank you for all your help and input,
Nelson

Staff Emeritus
The problem with such a system, is sort of what you get with Wikipedia. Where people who are opposed/pro some specific ideology/topic, will make edits to articles that express their opinions/beliefs, rather than some hard science or fact.
What's wrong with that? Everyone gets a vote and to express their views. That includes the whole range from those opposed the proposed project, down to hardened anarchists. I think you fail to see your own bias inherent in the way you pose the problem. There can be more political viewpoints other than to "find the best way to do this government program."

Staff Emeritus
2021 Award
It's hard to figure out what this thread is about - it's all over the place - but as far as I can tell, it's an argument to replace democracy with the Science Council of Krypton.

May I remind you of how well it worked out for them?

Bystander, russ_watters, Astronuc and 1 other person
Mentor
Yeah, this is too political now, so I'm closing it. But the basic problem here that many people pointed out and @nelson you really need to learn to accept, is that people just plain want different things. There is no getting around that, no matter how sophisticated the analysis.

berkeman and Astronuc