nonmajoritarian disadvantages

Saari at Saari at
Mon Jul 20 15:31:04 PDT 1998

>But even if you like the nonmajoritarian methods, majority rule
>still can't be avoided. For one thing, the decision to enact
>such a mathod would have to be made under a majoritarian system.

Certainly, any existing group wishing to change their methods would have to
use the existing methods to move forward, whether that is unilateral by the
"leader", a 2/3 vote by the board of directors, a majority vote by the
members, or whatever.  Any new groups being formed can establish a starting
set of rules by fiat or by consensus or whatever.

You forget that not all existing groups use majority rule today.  For example,
"consensus" is a popular method used by a variety of groups.  And many
existing "majority" groups have 2/3 requirements in place for some situations.

>And, even when the nonmajoritarian system is in effect, a vote
>on repealing it couldn't properly be done as just one of the
>issues between which points or currency are allocated in that
>system--it's a separate issue deserving a y/n vote by itself.
>A majoritarian vote.

Not if whatever rules are in effect say otherwise. For example, in the U.S.
changes to the Constitution require a complicated 2/3 state-by-state vote.
You can't change this with a majority as much as you might believe it would be

Arguments about the inherent worth and logic of "majority rule" fall apart in
the face of the "consensus counterexample".  Many small or informal groups use
consensus as a decision method - meaning that a single objection is enough to
block passage of any given proposal.  Many groups are happy operating under
consensus - there is no fundamental contradiction, just a different standard
for making decisions.

Under consensus, a minority of objectors can PREVENT the reaching of a
decision, but a minority of proposers CANNOT FORCE a decision over the
objections of the rest of the group.  This serves to protect the rights of the
minorities in the group, but does NOT allow a minority to "take over" either.

If we use the "support/oppose ratio" model of scoring, then some versions of
"majority rule" will equate to a passing threshold of 1:1 (or 51% if you
prefer % notation).  "Consensus" can be modelled as a passing threshold of N:1
(or 100%), where N is arbitrarily large (the entire group cannot override a
single objection).  This is a simplistic model - when you consider that
opinions are really tri-state (support or oppose or "neither") it gets more
complicated.  "majority" can have a variety of meanings - but I digress.

Consensus is not a great system for large groups because as the group gets
larger and larger, it becomes more and more impossible to reach decisions.
But in my view, this is simply a matter of the very large N:1 passing ratio is
TOO LARGE.  A more reasonable value, such as 3:1 or 5:1, would in my
estimation yield fine results regardless of group size.

In a small group it would look very much like conventional consensus.  But
with larger groups you would not be subject to the gridlock problem (where a
single cantankerous individual brings the group to a total halt).

>My point is that even if you believe in nonmajoritarian
>systems, you can't get away from majority rule, which is an
>unchangeable fact of life.

Respectfully, this is bully-mentality nonsense.  There are lots of nonmajority
rules in place today in lots of situations.  

A good case can be made that a 3:1 semi-consensus system would result in
overall satisfaction by nearly an entire group instead of merely half-plus-
one.  Every argument that "majority rule" is inherently wise and sound and
inevitable cannot stand up to the simple counterexample that a group of 5
people operating under consensus can still reach sensible decisions.

Mike Saari

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