Rank is a "Double Speak" word

Blake Cretney bcretney at my-dejanews.com
Tue Nov 10 12:47:21 PST 1998

On Tue, 10 Nov 1998 12:25:38   New Democracy wrote:
>Hello John Gear,
>     Good to hear from you again.
>     I liked your letter. Thank you for writing.
>     And thank you for coining the term Cranks for the people who advocate
>Condorcet and/or Approval Voting. They do get cranky at times.

Yes, John has made exciting new inroads in the field of name calling.

>     But that is not the reason I am writing.
>     I want to talk to you and others about a statement that Mike-O
>presented in his cranky replies to you and Ken & Karla. Mike-O wrote:
>     "Most would agree that if more people rank A over B than rank B over
>A, then A can be said to beat B. What part of that don't you understand?"
>     Mike-O and the other Cranks have offered that statement a number of
>times in recent letters. This statement is often used by them as some sort
>of proof of the validity of their methods. Beware, the statement is a trap.
>     Now, on first reading this statement may appear to be true - to be
>honest. What you and others should be aware of is that this statement is
>deceptive. If the word rank were changed to vote, then the statement would
>be a true statement and even I would agree to it. But, the statement is not
>using the word vote - it is using the word rank and that word is one of the
>Cranks' Double Speak words. Yes, they have other Double Speak words.
>Another one is Majority, but that is another discussion for another letter.
>     What does the word rank mean to you? (or ranked or ranking). To me it
>means that my most preferred candidate is to be my first choice, and my
>second preferred candidate is to be my second choice, etc. 

The first part of your definition is obviously true.

> And, my vote
>belongs to my first choice and it is to stay with my first choice for as
>long as my first choice is a contender.

Now you are describing a procedure.  Can the mere though of preferring
A to B imply a particular procedure where your secondary preferences
are held until that procedure rejects a candidate as a contender.  This
seems like reading a lot into the idea of preference.

>     The Crank people will allow us to list our candidates 1-2-3, but they

I thought "Crank" included approval advocates.  They don't allow any

>add other definations to our rankings. To them, rank also means "equal
>rank", plus equal rank at the same time. It is dealer's choice as to which
>defination is to be used at which time.

I don't know what you mean by this.

>     Anyway, before anyone agrees to the Cranks' statement they should
>realize the full ramifications of the added definations to the word rank.
>     If you agree to the statement, you are agreeing that each of your
>lower rankings can be assigned a vote equal to the vote held by your first
>and most preferred choice. And that all these additional votes can be used
>in any calculations at any time in equality with your orginal vote
>belonging to your first choice - even when your first choice is still a

If you agree that ranking A over B means that you prefer A to B, that
means we can make statements about whether a majority prefer A to B
just by looking at the ballots, without defining any particular method
or deciding who is currently a contender.  I don't think accepting
this definition automatically implies agreement with any particular

If you think it means, "I prefer A to B as long as none of my higher
preferences are still contenders."  Then, you would not be able to
interpret it this way.  However, I don't think it is possible to
have a preference that is contingent on a procedure to be used.
You either prefer A to B, or you don't.  It doesn't make sense to
say "I prefer A to B if it is my best interests to do so."

>     The result of this agreement will be that your lower choices may rival
>your first choice in the election - that is, your lower choices may be used
>to help defeat your first choice. This ramification is a major flaw and for
>that reason alone, the methods, Approval Voting, Borda Count, and
>Condorcet, should not be considered valid for any election.

It is true that in Condorcet your lower choices can help defeat your
first choice.  Here's an example:

40 A B C
12 B A C
13 B C A
35 C B A

Assuming these rankings represent mere preferences, and not contingent
preferences, a majority say they prefer B to A, and a majority say they
prefer B to C.  So, B is the Condorcet winner.

In this example, the A first voter's second choice is helping to defeat
A and elect B.  Although this may be in society's best interest, it
isn't what the A voters would want.  Presumably, they might very well
want their votes tabulated as you suggest, keeping the second votes
secret as long as possible.

But lets consider how this election would play out in AV, where 
preferences are kept secret in the way described.

40 A
35 C
25 B - eliminated
52 A
48 C -eliminated

The second preferences of the C 1st voters were also kept locked away.
This was clearly detrimental to them, since it resulted in their least 
favorite getting elected.  In this example, both the B and C voters 
would prefer a method based on non-contingent preferences, one where 
second preferences are not kept secret and can sometimes defeat your 
first choice.  And these voters are in the majority.

In fact, if there is a Condorcet Winner, and the method being used
does not pick it, then based on their ballots the majority of voters
would have got a more favorable outcome if the election had chosen
the Condorcet Winner instead.  So, it's unclear to me why voters would want to use your contingent preferences, if this 
tends to hurt the majority of voters over time.

>     The Cranks need you to agree to their statement because this is the
>only way they can get some validity for their methods.
>     In reality most people want their first choice to be preferred over
>any lower choices. So, therefore most people would not agree to the Cranks'
>statement - if they were aware of its full meaning.

When you rank a candidate, I believe you are saying precisely that you
prefer it to each other candidate ranked lower.

>     You have been warned.
>Donald Davison
>Note: For those who do not know, the term Double Speak comes from the book
>"1984" by George Orwell. A fictional story of a world controlled by cranky

Actually, Orwell coined the term "newspeak".  I think Double Speak was
invented by a group of English teachers who combined "newspeak" and 
"double think" to get "double speak".  They give out satiric awards to


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