[EM] Voting methods & utility

David Catchpole s349436 at student.uq.edu.au
Mon Nov 6 21:01:41 PST 2000

If we're to express any meaningful concept of utility we have to do it on
an individual basis. There's no such thing as aggregate social utility
within the meaning of an assessment of the continuous value of each
outcome. So, for instance, utility has meaning when one talks about
marginal utility when one is talking about a firm's satisfaction, or when
one's talking about what Nash called the "payoff" from an interaction. You
can't sum utilities because they're scale-less and have no basic
comparison. An actor with utilities from three respective outcomes (no
others can occur)-


will have exactly the same response if his utilities are-


When one talks about utility, one's not referring to utilitarianism etc.

PS About Pareto efficiency- I didn't really express myself well. Obviously
that rule before wasn't a declaration of Pareto efficiency, but with the
other rules Pareto efficiency _implies that rule_. Which means if you
replaced that rule with Pareto efficiency, you'd get the same result.

On Tue, 7 Nov 2000, LAYTON Craig wrote:

> David Catchpole wrote:
> >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.
> I don't know what you mean by utility in relation to voters' behaviour.  If
> you're equating utility with preference satisfaction, I've already stated
> this is a crude approximation.  Do you mean that the more voters who are
> satisfied by the outcome, the higher the utility?  In most cases this is
> true, but it is hardly a matter of significant differences in utility.  As I
> have said, there is strong reason to believe that disutility should be
> avoided over maximising utility, and as a result it is more important that
> few people are strongly opposed to the outcome of an election.  This can be
> encouraged by a system in which more people have a representative in
> government.  I have written a diatribe on this, so I will not repeat it.
> This is the reason I have not written much on single winner systems.  I
> think all single winner systems that 1) choose a winner from the Smith set
> and 2) do (1) in such a way so as the voters are happy with the outcome (ie
> don't pick a winner from the Smith set out of a hat, this violates 2) are
> all roughly utility equivalent.  I see no reason to refine a system further
> for single winner political elections, although there is much merit in
> refining voting systems for other purposes, most importantly deciding
> between particular proposals, rather than representatives.  But at present
> systems for deciding between proposals or courses of action are badly
> hampered by assumptions that preferences are linear.  I've not seen much
> progress on this front.

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

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