[EM] Some brief campaign argument

Blake Cretney bcretney at postmark.net
Mon Apr 16 16:53:40 PDT 2001

I put this back under the "brief campaign" subject to separate the
argument about methods from the flame war on "Blake takes the low

> This list has had problems in the past.  For example, the whole
> of the misinterpretation of Condorcet's words.  As far as I can
> the claim of Condorcet's method using Mike's "defeat-support" was
> generally spread by this list.

> Are you still on that? I've agreed that Condorcet's interest in
> probabilities suggests that he'd have used margins, but the fact
> remains that, according to French usage in his time, defeat-support
> better matches the words _in his drop-weakest method definition_,
> though not elsewhere.
> Now that I've agreed that, from his interest in probabilities, he'd
> have likely used margins, can't that issue be laid to rest??

When you thought Condorcet was on your side, you trumpeted it all the
time.  But if he agrees with me, I should never bring it up.

Also, whenever you address the issue, you mention the dictionary
quote, without mentioning Condorcet using plurality size to describe
margins, and then basing his method on plurality size.

> You yourself have discounted and criticized Condorcet's wordings and
> proposals. So why do you continue to use them?

There's a difference between giving some specific criticisms, and
completely rejecting someone's views.

The main problem here is that I bring up Condorcet as part of an
argument that reaches its conclusion further down.  Unfortunately, you
started replying before you finished reading.

> Contrary to your claim that all of Condorcet's wordings refer to
> Ranked Pairs, the fact is that if you're right that Condorcet wanted
> to solve all cycles in his drop-weakest method, then we get
> something that drops weakest defeats till there are no cycles. I
> think you want to propose that. So can we get off the issue of what
> Condorcet meant???
> Can we just agree that Condorcet wasn't as specific as we'd have
> , and leave it at that? I'm more interested in what methods meet
> criteria that measure for standards that I consider important, and
> I suggest that you address that subject, and drop the issue of what
> Condorcet meant.

First of all, although I said one of his wordings sounded like Ranked
Pairs, I immediately went on to describe what I thought it actually
meant.  I don't think any of his wordings refer to Ranked Pairs.  I've
carefully explained what I think Condorcet meant.  Do you have a quote
where I said that all of Condorcet's wording referred to Ranked Pairs?

> Blake continues:
> You still see this on a few web pages.
> The important lesson here, is that you shouldn't believe everything
> you read on this list
> I reply:
> Thank you for clarifying that lesson for us, Blake. You mean we
> believe everything that Craig Carey & Don Davison say?
> An astounding new suggestion.

When I first started reading this list, I took the accepted wisdom on
various issues, like Condorcet's meaning, to be true.  I've learned to
be cautious.

> We also shouldn't believe that the definitions at your website
> are correct, but that's another subject.
> Blake continues:
> Realizing that Condorcet specified margins
> I reply:
> ...but not in the wording of his drop-weakest proposal, according to
> a French dictionary of Condorcet's time. But can we drop the issue
> what Condorcet meant?
> Blake continues:
> puts Mike's
> "defeat-support" in a new light.  It suggests that since it is so
> and peculiar to this list, it really is possible that we might rid
> ourselves of it.
> I reply:
> I suppose it's possible to rid ourselves of anything we want to be
rid of. 
> And for you, Blake, newness is reason enough to want to be rid
> of something. I sometimes point out that following tradition isn't
> the best way to achieve progress :-)
> Defeat support is peculiar to this list because the intention of
> meeting criteria that measure for getting rid of the
> problem is pretty much (but not entirely) peculiar to this list.
> Yes, the IRVies claim that IRV gets rid of what they call "the
> lesser-of-2-evils dynamic". But I'm talking about serious
> efforts to get rid of that problem.

I would say that your definition of those problems, rather than the
problems themselves is what is peculiar to the list.

Anyway, my point is not that we should get rid of defeat support just
because it is new, or just because we can.  My point is, that since we
can, we should take the opportunity of an election to do so, and that
this should motivate people to study the issues.  That's why I brought
up Condorcet.  If Condorcet really had specified defeat support, we
couldn't hope that the method would just disappear.  

> Blake continues:
> I expect that 20 years from now, people will still
> be talking about Condorcet, but will have forgotten about
> "defeat-support".
> I reply:
> I have no idea if that's so, but I question Blake's belief that
> that claim of his has any relevance to the question of whether wv
> is better than m.
> I'm not doing this because I believe Condorcet(wv) will become
> popular and get enacted. I'm doing this because I intend to do my
> part, regardless of whether or not the work will succeed. I'm not
> saying Condorcet(wv) won't succeed. Only that I don't know if it
> and whether or not it will has nothing to do with my intention to do
> my part.
> But don't let Blake's personal prediction distract you from the
> question of whether margins methods do as well by criteria as wv
> methods. Margins method fail all the defensive strategy criteria.
> I've asked Blake if he has other criteria by which he measures
> compliance with the standard of getting rid of the lesser-of-2-evils
> problem. And the standard of majority rule in multicandidate
> No reply. Maybe Blake isn't interested in those standards.
> not, because margins methods fail those standards.

I think that Independence of Clones and the Mutual Majority criterion
are useful in regard to those problems.  As well as the Smith and
Condorcet criteria.

> Blake continues:
> That would be a good thing, because having so many
> Condorcet completion methods weakens the cause in general.
> I reply:
> In other words, Blake is saying: "In order to get rid of all this
> dissension, let's all just adopt my proposal."

Of course, it isn't "my proposal" in the sense that I invented it. 
But, you're basically right.  I think that the multitude of methods is
a bad thing, and that the best way to resolve it is to choose the
method I advocate, but not just because I advocate it.

> I'm curious what kind of a "cause" is furthered by margins. Not
> majority rule or getting rid of the lesser-of-2-evils problem.
> Blake is sounding a lot like the IRVies here. His "the cause"
> is the replacement of existing voting systems with new ones, and he
> doesn't want to talk about such divisive things as which of those
> proposed replacements are any good, and which aren't.

I talk about those issues all the time.  Some might say ad nauseum.

> Blake continues:
> Of course, Mike claims that "defeat-support" is actually superior to
> margins.  I expect him to give voluminous accounts of why this is.
> I reply:
> Where have you been. I've told why defeat-support gives better
> than margins. I've told it within the last few days, in this thread,
> and I've told it numerous times on EM in the past.

I didn't claim that you haven't spoken about defeat-support at great
length already, just that you would continue to do so.

> Blake continues:
> Please tell me if you find any of it convincing.  I can't possibly
> respond to every argument Mike makes
> You can't respond to any of them. Blake would like to portray this
> as a situation where I've written so many different arguments for
> defeat-support, and against margins, that there just isn't time to
> reply to them all.

I remember once posting an email on the issue, and you responded with
15 numbered replies.  Then, when you forgot what number you were at,
you started replying with subjects N+1, N+2, etc.

Some arguments, like the argument that Defeat Support is more ethical,
I am likely to dismiss as nonsense.  Much like the argument that
Approval violates one man one vote.  But, if people actually find this
argument convincing, I'll respond to it.  I just don't want people to
think that because I haven't answered a particular point, that I don't
have a response.

See:   http://www.fortunecity.com/meltingpot/harrow/124/path/inc.html

> No, I've used two arguments. Defeat support methods comply with
> that measure for the standards of majority rule and getting rid of
> the lesser-of-2-evils problem. And defeat-support doesn't overrule
> as many voters as margins methods. That's 2 arguments.
> I've repeatedly asked Blake how _he_ would prefer to measure for the
> standards of getting rid of the lesser-of-2-evils problem and the
> majority rule standard.

I've answered that above.

> , but I suspect that I can respond
> to those people find sensible.
> I reply:
> Are you going to post your replies to EM, or are you going to send
> them by individual e-mail, so that they won't be refuted?

Individual emails I'll respond to individually.  Posts I'll respond to
on EM.  The main advantage of individual emails is that I know the
other person is reading.  Is anyone still reading this thread other
than you and me?  I have no idea.  I'm not interested in posting
replies purely for your benefit.

> Blake continues:
> Putting aside the issue of margins vs. "defeat-support", I think
> are good reasons to choose Ranked Pairs over the other Condorcet
> contenders.  Here are some of the main ones.
> 1.  Simplicity.  The method is simpler and more straight-forward
> most of the other Condorcet completion methods.
> I reply:
> Your simple definition isn't complete. The justification for Ranked
> isn't nearly as obvious as that of SSD.

How is my simple definition incomplete?

> Yes, Ranked Pairs can be defined more briefly than can SSD (even
> when defined completely), but people will wonder why we start by
> dropping the _strongest_ defeat that's the weakest defeat in a
> Blake continues:
> 2.  Quality.  The method is just good!
> I reply:
> Ranked Pairs doesn't do as well by social utility as does SSD.
> At least when both methers measure defeats in the same way.
> Ranked Pairs' lower SU may be the result of overruling more voters.

The SU argument is interesting.  I'll have to consider my response to
this.  I've already responded to the "overruling more voters"
argument, though.

> Blake continues:
> Some of these other methods
> (like Mike's SD method), you basically have to say, I know this
> has problems, but I don't view them as too serious.
> I reply:
> SD's nonmonotonicity isn't a desirable feature, but IRV has a worse
> nonmonotonicity problem, and, as I said, SD has the great advantage
> of being the simplest Condorcet version that dominates IRV in terms
> of criteria. I'd rather beat IRV with SD than lose to it with Ranked
> Your simple Ranked Pairs definition isn't complete.

You must admit that if you rail against IRV's non-monotonicity, and
then propose a method that is non-monotonic, you're going to run into
some rhetorical problems.  And doesn't SD suffer from vote-splitting
(which IRV doesn't) or am I mis-remembering.

> Blake continues:
> You have to say,
> there's a better method, but I don't think you're smart enough to
> understand it.
> I reply:
> I don't know whom you've been talking to, but I don't tell someone
> that they aren't smart enough to understand a complicated count
> _they_ tell _me_ when they don't understand it. SD's great
> certainly counts in its favor.

I don't consider SD to be simpler than Ranked Pairs.

> Blake continues:
> As well, some of these methods can only be justified by quite
> reasoning.  For example, last I read, Mike was claiming that Ranked
> Pairs might find the best over-all ranking, but SSD finds the best
> winner.  But what kind of a best ranking do you have if the best
> winner isn't at the top?
> I reply:
> If I said that RP finds the best ranking while picking a
> winner, of course I spoke incorrectly. A ranking that is topped by
> other than the best winner can't be the best ranking. But did I
> make that statement? Can you post the archived message in which I
> said that?

I didn't claim that you had actually stated that Ranked Pairs was the
best over-all ranking.  Just that you claimed that it might be,
without necessarily providing the best winner.  However, after looking
over the archives, I admit you only suggest that the RP ranking might
be more internally consistent in certain ways, not actually better.

> Blake quotes:
> Ranked Pairs gives the ranking of the options that always reflects
> the majority preference between any two options, except in order to
> reflect majority preferences with greater margins.
> (B. T. Zavist & T. Tideman, "Complete independence  of clones in the
> ranked pairs rule", Social choice and welfare, vol 6, 167-173, 1989)

Just so no one misunderstands, the above is my paraphrase, and not a
direct quote.

> I reply:
> If that were really the goal, then we'd say:
> Drop the weakest defeat that's in a cycle. Repeat till there are
> no cycles.
> Instead, RP says (in its brief but complete wording):
> Drop the strongest defeat that's the weakest defeat in a cycle.
> till there are no cycles.

The main problems with that definition are:
1.  You still have to define what a cycle is.
2.  You still have to define what a defeat is.
3.  You still have to define what makes a defeat stronger.
4.  You still have to make some kind of statement about what the
remaining defeats are meant to imply.
5.  It is unclear that by "in a cycle" you mean only cycles made up of
victories that aren't dropped.  I suspect you view that as part of
what it means to "drop" a defeat, but I don't think that is obvious to
someone who doesn't know how you've used the term in the past.

But I'm curious to know what you think is wrong with the definition of
RP that I give.

Blake Cretney

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