[EM] Voting methods & utility

David Catchpole s349436 at student.uq.edu.au
Mon Nov 6 12:32:11 PST 2000

I think it's wholly appropriate to discuss utility when discussing voters'
_behaviour_ but not their vote. A vote may well reflect the _cardinal_
utilities of a voter but they will in no way (in fact it is apparent that
it will not) reflect any kind of continuous utility.

On Mon, 6 Nov 2000, LAYTON Craig wrote:

> For some time, I've been seeing comments relating to maximising utility in
> voting systems.  Very rarely have these comments had anything to do with
> utility/utilitarianism.  As a committed utilitarian, I would like to clear a
> few things up;
> The preferred candidate (whichever way you determine who this is) is not
> necessarily the best candidate.  It is impossible to design a voting system
> to select the best candidate.
> Systems like Borda, cardinal ranking &c. are NOT utilitarian.  They have
> nothing to do with utilitarianism.  There might be a crude 'preference
> satisfaction = utility' argument, but this isn't really adequate.  These
> voting systems normalise preferences (so that everyone's top & bottom score
> is the same, no matter how strongly they feel about the candidates).  Also,
> the consequences of a non-majoritarian candidate winning are severe enough
> to mitigate any utility advantage these systems might have.
> There is perhaps some argument about, say, weighting voting systems to
> eliminate the most disliked candidates while maintaining majoritarianism.
> This might be utilitarian, as there are strong reasons to suggest that
> avoiding disutility should be prioritised over maximising utility.
> But, again, this only works well when voters are voting sincerely.
> Elected representatives do not always make decisions in such a way as to
> maximise utility.  There is no reason to suggest that changing the way these
> representatives are elected will change the way in which they make
> decisions.  The task of utilitarians (and indeed most political
> philosophers) is to challenge the decisions that representatives make.  How
> those representatives get to power does not significantly affect
> utilitarianism, unless the system that got them there causes some
> significant disharmony (or the reverse).  There are few proposed systems
> that do this (perhaps non-majoritarian systems are the only ones).
> I would ask people to think twice about referring to utilitarianism / social
> utility &c. when discussing voting systems.

"I only said we'd make it across"
				-"Road Trip"

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