VA, Margins, & voter wishes

Hugh R. Tobin htobin at
Tue Oct 6 20:04:20 PDT 1998

Blake's reasoning is very similar to that of Condorcet in his Essai,
where he expressly postulates that each voter has the same probability,
between 0.5 and 1, of choosing the "right" alternative in each pairwise
choice.  This is why I believe Condorcet intended margins as the
tiebreaker.  Even if one believes people vote self-interest rather than
attempt to select the best alternative for society, I think there is a
commonsense utilitarian argument, based on egalitarian principles and
the assumption (faute de mieux) that the benefits/detriments to
individuals of victory/defeat are equal across voters and pairwise
races, for reversing the result with the lowest margin in order to
create, in Condorcet's words, a "possible" opinion (transitive social

-- Hugh Tobin

Blake Cretney wrote:
> 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.
> Blake
> "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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