[EM] Saari's Basic Argument

Alex Small asmall at physics.ucsb.edu
Thu Feb 20 17:50:01 PST 2003

Forest Simmons said:
> But worrying about the details of symmetry cancellations is to bark up
> the wrong tree.


> This result may make sense in the context of dispassionate decision
> making such as in robotics when a robot is trying to decide what
> movement to make or whether a visual image represents the letter U or V.
> But in the context of public elections, this supposed equivalence is
> almost ludicrous.

I seem to recall reading somewhere a comment by Saari that he actually got
interested in election methods because they were pertinent to some
problems he was studying in the context of decision-making algorithms for
machines.  I'm willing to believe the people who have studied the matter
and concluded that machines using the Borda count to make decisions tend
to produce excellent decisions.

However, people electing politicians are clearly not machines.  We have
our idiosyncracies and legitimate differences of opinion, and we debate
matters that don't have obvious, objectively correct answers.  Because we
don't behave or think like machines, there's no a priori reason to think
that procedures which work for machines will work well for us.

Otherwise, we'd all come with instruction manuals and manufacturer's
warranties.  Medicine would be easier;  instead of getting MRI's and
X-rays we'd just check the schematics.  And people with congenital defects
could get God to pay their medical bills.

That's about all I have to say on Borda.


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