FAQ Candidate (Re: [ER] Methods versus Selling)

Rob Lanphier robla at eskimo.com
Tue Feb 18 15:26:05 PST 1997

On Sun, 16 Feb 1997, John De Lasaux wrote:
> At 04:02 PM 2/16/97 -0800, Rob Lanphier wrote:
> >Here's my attempt to rephrase (yes, this is slightly different than the
> >question you initially asked) and respond:
> >
> >Q:  All of these methods are so difficult to understand.  How can
> >something I can barely grasp benefit me, and how can I be sure that it
> >will?
> >A:  [top-of-my-head draft of an answer for a FAQ]

I just want to say up front that I realize my answer needs a lot of work,
and that's what I'm hoping for, is for us to work on a good answer for
this.  This means not only shooting holes in the answer that is presented,
but providing alternatives.  That's not to say you shouldn't shoot holes
into bad answers, but I want the thread to stay focused on finding an
answer, and that generally means offering a counter-proposal.

I hope we can agree that this is a worthy question to answer.  Is there
someone else willing to take a stab at answering it?

To address some of your specific points:

> How do the people get "experience" with a particular voting system, so they
> can find out that it gets the outcome they want? How do these people avoid
> being bamboozled by the "spin doctors", who can take whatever side of an
> argument their "political employer" pays them to support? We are not dealing
> with rationality or logic in this arena ... only what argument the biggest
> pile of dollars can buy.

People can get experience by trying this in "low-risk" situations first.
Perhaps we should be lobbying for Condorcet's method to be used to pick 
Academy Award winners, or NCAA football rankings rather than trying to go
directly to the governmental arena.

> [Elected representatives asked to look at alternative votings systems]
> may be dumb, but they aren't stupid. The VERY FIRST thing they will
> check out will be: How will this new scheme affect MY chances of being
> reelected?

If they feel even a little bit threatened by this, we'll have won our
first battle.  The fact is, no one even CARES about this stuff right now.
I think our first job is to get this on the radar.  A stealth campaign
is going to be counterproductive.

> I AM mathematically and logically and statisticallyinclined. But, I get
> frustrated when the mathematical discussion ends with a conclusion that
> someone was "talking about a different situation", so the mathematics
> presented doesn't really apply to the case at hand.

Ask questions when someone writes something that isn't obvious to you.
If they don't answer your question, ask again.  I know I'll never kick
someone off of this list for asking questions (at least, not unless they
could have easily gotten the answer out of the FAQ).

> >d)  Read about it.  There have been several articles printed in magazines
> >and journals about various election methods, as well as web sites
> >dedicated to them.  Try your best to understand the debates there.
> Make the above statement to the average voter, and he/she will ignore you
> and wait for Sam Donaldson to come on the TV and clarify everything for them.
> UGH!!!

Well, if we assume that they are actually reading the EM-FAQ, they aren't
your typical bird.  We've got to get the low-hanging fruit (i.e. an
interested reader who genuinely want to evaluate this stuff) before trying
to generalize our stuff for the mass audience.  This part of the answer
should probably include links to other information, rather than saying
"run along and study".

> So, how do we "sell" the "appropriate methods" (more than one!!) to the
> electorate?

Very good question.  I'll allow you to answer that.

In the meantime, I hope we:
1)  Work on a FAQ
2)  Work on other educational materials
3)  Find email aliases where potentially interested people congregate nd
subtly raise the issue there
4)  Find web sites with potential supporters and bring them into the fold

We've got plenty of work to be done before trying to make this into a
mass-media issue.  Let's concentrate on that.

Rob Lanphier
robla at eskimo.com

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