VA, Margins, & voter wishes

Blake Cretney bcretney at
Tue Oct 6 11:43:44 PDT 1998

On Sun, 4 Oct 1998 00:04:31    Mike Ositoff wrote:
>But you never said why margin of victory is important. We know
>that majority is important to many, when a result is desired
>by more than half the voters.

To explain this I am first going to explain why I like majority
rule.  I favor majority rule because of the somewhat hopeful belief
that given two alternatives, people will on average be drawn to
the better one.  Of course, sometimes everyone will pick the wrong
one, and almost always some people will, but on average and over time
people will slightly favor good over bad ideas.

For the same reason, the more people who say A is better than B, the
more I suspect it is true, but the more people say that B is better
than A, the more I have reason to doubt.

Now if there are only two choices, A and B, then it doesn't matter
if A wins 51 to 49 or 100 to 0, because no matter how great or
little our confidence is that A is the better candidate, A is still
a better bet than B.

Likewise, if there are multiple candidates, and for each one, more
voters prefer A to the other than the other to A, I have to bet on
A being the best candidate.  In this case, I say that in the
pair-wise contest between A and any candidate X, a majority of those
expressing a preference pick A.

However, as we all know, sometimes these majorities come into
conflict.  When this happens, I am not horrified, and it does not
reduce my faith in majority rule.  I always knew that majorities
could be wrong, this just proves it.  The only question is, which
of these majorities is more likely wrong?

For example, I have two statements, and I know one is wrong, one is
supported 52 to 48, the other 47 to 3.  Which should I guess is right?
I find I am unable to simply disregard the opinion of those on the
minority side.  Each of those 48 people is contradictory evidence to
the 52.  I therefore, suggest that one person saying A > B and one
saying B > A should be considered to cancel each other out.  This
is the basis for using margins.  


"Democracy is the recurrent suspicion that more than half of the
people are right more than half of the time."
               Elwyn Brook White

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