A few questions

Saari at aol.com Saari at aol.com
Mon Feb 17 15:53:49 PST 1997

Hello, I'm new to this list.  I've been intently studying "group
decision-making" for several years now, seeking a rational solution.  I've
come up with some different conclusions, but am unsure if they would be
appropriate for this list.

Some questions:

1) Does this list cover general "parliamentary procedure" ala Robert's Rules,
or is it restricted to "choose from a set of alternatives" -type of
situations?  For the basic "Should we do XXX?" problem, I've come up with a
simple scenario which seems to show that the basic "amend, then vote"
paradigm seems to be broken.

2) Has this list come up with a basic system for representing the opinions of
potential voters?  It is good to have a basic "opinion scale", SEPARATE from
all of the possible voting methods.  For example, it is common for discussion
of different scenarios to begin with statements as to how the voters "rank"
the candidates, e.g.
5 voters: A>B>C
3 voters: C>A>B
Yet such statements do not include the degrees of preference (a lot more, or
a little more?).  Plus, they often do not include useful like/dislike info
(such as what is contained in approval or yes/no votes).  Thus, two voters
may both rank the candidates A>B>C even though one voter likes B and the
other voter dislikes B.  For that matter, one voter might like all three
candidates, another might hate all three - ranking doesn't convey this very

We could use a better way to talk about voter's opinions.  I have a prototype
set of "opinions":
Levels of support: 
   Very strong support, support, mild support (other gradations are possible
Levels of opposition: 
   Very strong opposition ("Over my dead body!"), opposed, mild opposition.
Other opinions (neither support nor opposed): 
   Don't know
   Willing to go along
   Don't care (same as "willing to go along"?)
   Didn't vote
I would like to integrate this into a basic voting system, too.  I like the
basic system where each voter expresses *something* definite about each
candidate (e.g. yes/no, a number between +10 and -10, etc.) The problem is
how to discourage the possible tendency of some voters to exaggerate their

3) Does anyone believe it is possible to design a single robust system which
can handle ALL situations well?  The problem with "different systems for
different situations" is that it requires a "leader" to arbitrate which
method is called for - too much power for my taste. I'm experimenting with
"leaderless democracy" in several small groups but results are still

4) Does anyone share my suspicion that "majority rule" 51% is not necessarily
a strong enough criterium for making group decisions?  (Some groups use
consensus 100% for their decisions.)  I think that 70-90% could be a
reasonable threshold for any group - but some attack this view as
"undemocratic".  Since the dictionary *defines* democracy as "majority rule"
this is hard to refute (!).  But I still think that mere majority is too weak
a passing criterium.  Others attack "supermajority rule" as unfairly biasing
toward the status quo.  But existing consensus systems provide the necessary
counter-example to show that supermajority is workble.

5) Can this group make any decisions as a group, or are we limited to

I'll stop here...
Mike Saari


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