[EM] Absolute Utilities

Martin Harper mcnh2 at cam.ac.uk
Sat Apr 21 04:30:32 PDT 2001

There's only one decent way that I can think of to fairly use absolute 
utilities: It's something like this:
Voter goes into polling booth, and votes a ballot of their choice, and 
also indicates the degree to which they are liable to be effected by the 
election. Example: 2-way election between two seemingly identical 
politicians, degree = low. 2-way election between candidate who wishes 
to have you executed and candidate who wishes to give you a several 
million dollar tax rebate, degree = high.

Upon leaving the polling booth, the candidate is detained for an amount 
of time proportional to the degree they have indicated on the ballot 
paper, less the time they spent in the polling booth. If they spent more 
time in the polling booth than their voted degree would indicate, then 
the balance is saved up and may be used in the next election.

Here I'm using time-penalties to ensure a sincere assessment of the 
degree of effect. Other people might suggest electric shocks, or amounts 
of cash. My argument would be that we all have 24 hours a day to spend, 
but some people have more money or tolerance to pain than others.

I'm not advocating this - but that's how I'd measure Absolute (though 
not all sincere) utilities for non-factual issues. Myself, I'm sticking 
to the concept of normalised utilities, and I'll rashly claim that, in 
the absence of any other information we might be able to obtain, that 
normalised sincere utilities are the best estimate of absolute sincere 

In other words, the aim for me is to maximise ASU, but this isn't 
remotely possible, because you can't collect the info. Maximising 
normalised SUs is possible, and it's as close to ASU-maximisation as we 
can get.

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