[EM] Voting methods & utility

David Catchpole s349436 at student.uq.edu.au
Thu Nov 9 15:35:14 PST 2000

On Tue, 7 Nov 2000, LAYTON Craig wrote:

> -----Original Message-----
> From: David Catchpole [mailto:s349436 at student.uq.edu.au]
> Sent: Tuesday, 7 November 2000 16:02
> To: 'election-methods-list at eskimo.com'
> Subject: RE: [EM] Voting methods & utility
> >If we're to express any meaningful concept of utility we have to do it on
> >an individual basis.
> If that were true, there would never be any basis for measuring any action
> (political or otherwise) against any other aside from self interest.  While
> this is actually a very strong argument, I doubt if you believe it, nor most
> people reading this.  I agree that that is the approach when you are
> modeling, but I wouldn't say that expressing utility on an individual basis
> is meaningful at all.

No, but the basis has to be individual judgement and values. My
point is that there's no grand intangible that we can identify and
maximise for the whole of society. In the end, we have to make our own
decisions about what it needs. And that isn't a social relativistic
argument - in fact, if it's argued that all decisions require individual
judgement, it sends the ball of responsibility back into our court, making
it a highly non-relativistic argument.

> >An actor with utilities from three respective outcomes (no
> >others can occur)-
> >
> >1,2,3
> >
> >will have exactly the same response if his utilities are-
> >
> >-5,-3,-1
> In order for this to be the case, you must assume the following; the actors
> preferences correspond to utility outcomes (often not the case); the actor
> has omnipotent control over the outcomes by virtue of his own actions (never
> true); all of the possible actions require no effort whatsoever (also never
> true).  I understand your point, but it is still not an approach I endorse.

No, none of these are assumed. In fact, they're all rejected. In game
theory, actors have a limited set of available inputs (not omnipotent
control!) that they use to produce favourable outcomes. Voting is a
perfect example of how if they are asked to express their true
preferences, it might not pay to be truthful. Also, the difficulty
entailed in making a choice is bundled in the value of the outcome.

> >When one talks about utility, one's not referring to utilitarianism etc.
> You cannot talk of utility unless you support its pursuit and you cannot
> support its pursuit unless you are a utilitarian.

That's certainly not true! I am a utilitarian but the word has a sense
that is separate from concepts of utility. A utilitarian believes that the
ideal of a social order is human comfort. But how do we dole out human
comfort? Again, there is no universal intangible available. A utilitarian
has to make decisions that overcome any notion of that intangible.


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

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