[EM] Re: fixing DMC page on electowiki

Abd ulRahman Lomax abd at lomaxdesign.com
Wed May 11 22:16:15 PDT 2005

At 01:19 PM 5/11/2005, Araucaria Araucana wrote:
>On 10 May 2005 at 19:56 UTC-0700, Abd ulRahman Lomax wrote:
> > [re wikis] I
> > don't know why Mr. Araucana got the idea that I didn't understand
> > this basic concept.
>Please, call me Q (see sig).  And please don't take offense [there's a
>bit too much of it on the list at present!].

No offense taken, I merely found it curious. Yes, this list has been a tad 
... hot ... lately.

>   I've heard it said that
>written language is only 7% effective -- much more is conveyed in
>intonation and body language.  Email has a long time-lag, so to avoid
>too many separate messages, I tend to err on the side of too much
>information.  You may choose to interpret this as being patronizing,
>but it isn't meant to be.

Excess of information tends to be a fault of mine; I approve of it. 
However, there is something else worth mentioning, and it is of wider 
application than this one incident. "Too much information" can sometimes 
communicate less than more compact information, particularly if the 
information is not sequenced in a way that makes it intelligible. 
Additional information when it distracts from the point being made can 
obscure the point.

I have not been a student of the more arcane aspects of election methods. 
Even with the obvious attempt to be helpful displayed by Q, I find the 
explanation nearly impenetrable. I think my comment about the impossibility 
of actually implementing these methods in real elections, unless a way can 
be found to explain them that can be understood with relative ease, should 
not be overlooked. It's true that I'm aging, and new learning is more 
difficult for me than it was when I was younger; however, I can also see 
that the explanations given by Q, as well as the explanations on the wiki, 
are missing elements; there are concepts and references that must be 
understood before the explanations can be understood; essentially, to 
understand the explanations one must already understand the subject. I'm 
sure that by spending, say, a few hours, I could figure it out. [And this 
was largely true.] More about this below.

>I do apologize for underestimating your abilities, but it was your
>first posting, and I didn't have anything else to go on.  My default
>assumption is that posters to this list usually are stronger at
>theoretical math than web skills.

It's the opposite for me; though math was once a strong suit of mine, 800 
SAT Achievement score, Cal Tech, etc., I don't use the kind of math used in 
the discussion here in everyday practice. I can generally figure it out. 
But most people won't get even close.

> > So the least-approved candidate ... is the winner? Explain this
> > thing to me....
>Okay, here goes:

I spent some time with this; and it will probably take more time before I 
would feel that I grasp it; because I need to understand these methods, 
eventually I will take the time. [And, indeed, I understand more than I did 
when I wrote these words.] In the meantime, this is my experience: if these 
explanations were being given to me by someone suggesting that I vote to 
change the election system to, say, DMC, I'd have to say that I would not 
trust this person one bit.

This is an emotional response, and there are very good reasons for it, if 
we look at how people and society have evolved. If an explanation is too 
complex to understand, it may very well be part of an attempt to deceive. 
I'm not an intellectual Luddite, I'm not claiming that something difficult 
to understand is deceptive, but I will note that there are often ways to 
explain things that might seem to be quite arcane, if not explained in a 
skillful way. Taking an example from physics, time dilation as velocities 
approach that of the speed of light follows quite easily from the constant 
velocity of light. If skilfully explained.

Approval voting is quite easy to understand, so is IRV. Both of them can be 
grasped in moments, and the political implications are relatively clear. 
However, given that the various ways of analyzing a ranked ballot, as in 
DMC and MRAV, produce different winners from the same set of ballots, and 
that it is less than clear, at least to me, *why* one method's results 
would be superior to anothers, I'd have to say that (1) it doesn't matter, 
or (2) the reasons why one might choose one method over another have not 
been elucidated.

I understand Condorcet, though I haven't explored all the implications, so 
skipping a little:

>Because the final total can sometimes be cyclic (i.e., no candidate is
>undefeated), we are interested in finding a satisfactory completion
>method.  There are several strong methods (e.g. Ranked Pairs, CSSD,
>River) that use ranked ballot information alone, but they may be too
>complex for an initial reform proposal.

Without investigating them, based on what is proposed as being simpler, 
"too complex for an initial reform proposal" is a drastic understatement.

I would have stopped here, or even before here, but it may be of some use 
to note where the explanation breaks down for me.

>   Therefore, some have proposed
>combining Condorcet with Approval Voting.  Here's some background on
>    http://wiki.electorama.com/wiki/Approval_voting

It was actually an Approval voting mailing list that suggested I join this 
list, as part of an interchange where it was claimed that what I was 
writing was not relevant to the list. That judgement was reversed, but I 
don't think they understood what I was suggesting. Election methods are of 
interest to me, but the interest is secondary. Rather, my primary interest 
is organizational structure. Elections are only one method among many of 
making choices in an organization, and are often not the best way at all. 
Nevertheless, a knowledge of election methods would be an important tool in 
the kit of any organization. But in order to choose election method 
intelligently, one would have to have some understanding of how various 
election methods would produce various effects. Simple plurality elections, 
for example, encourage the formation of two-party systems. Some people 
think that's desirable. Especially those with entrenched privilege within 
an existing two-party system.

So what is the *goal* of an election system? If it is simply to determine a 
winner, tossing coins would serve. If it is to choose the single strongest 
individual, plurality elections serve. (In fact, a simple solution to the 
Condorcet indeterminacy under some conditions might be to choose the winner 
among the possible winners by coin toss, on the argument that the 
candidates are equally suitable, close enough for folk music. This 
technique is actually used in one major organization, albeit with election 
rules that require a two-thirds vote; if after a certain number of ballots 
and eliminating less-acceptable candidates, if there is no two-thirds 
winner, the winner is chosen by lot. But this organization is actually the 
premier Free Association, Alcoholics Anonymous, where it is delegates to 
the national convention being chosen, and this process averaged over the 
whole organization produces a representative body. I think there is a 
better way, but, remember, this is an organization of alcoholics, inventors 
of K.I.S.S., Keep It Simple, Stupid.)

Of course, my own preference is to eliminate elections entirely. It isn't 
at all necessary to have elections to have a representative, deliberative 
democracy. Still, even if elections as such are eliminated, there will 
still be a need to make choices, and election methods will remain relevant.

>[election example cut]
>There are no undefeated candidates ==> there is no Condorcet winner.

We could decide that this means that the election is actually 
indeterminate, that the organization which is holding this election has not 
yet found an agreement on the result. The election methods being considered 
as a solution to this problem are an attempt to avoid the need for further 
exploration of the issues, to produce a result without having to discover 
why agreement has not been found.

Elections of this kind are not deliberative. They are a device.

>So, using DMC (aka Ranked Approval Voting), let us begin by ignoring
>the row and column of the least-approved candidate, Dave.  We then see
>that Brad defeats all remaining candidates.  We're done -- Brad wins.
>As it happens, there are several candidates who are undefeated by
>other candidates with higher approval.  Erin, Abby and Brad all
>qualify.  In DMC, we call this set the definite majority set.  Among
>the definite majority set, Brad defeats all others.
>*** It is a corollary of the definite majority set's construction that
>*** the winner is the least-approved member of that set.

You say. Yes, I can see that this is true for the algorithm given.

Here is what is missing from the explanations: why would that algorithm be 
used? There are some explanations on the pages, but they do not effectively 
explain. As an example:

>The philosophical motivation for removing marginally defeated candidates 
>from consideration is that their approval "lift" is smaller than the 
>"drag" of lower-ranked candidates who defeat them, and so they are dragged 

Is there any discussion of exactly what this means? We are talking about an 
election, a method of making a choice from voter preferences. The 
explanation is disconnected from the purpose of the election. Sure, 
probably connections could be made. But an explanation is supposed to make 
those connections, I'd think, not merely suggest them.

>Compare with this idea:
>    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sieve_of_Eratosthenes

Uh, what does the Sieve have to do with this? Is Q putting me on?

>IMO, DMC/RAV may not be the best possible single-winner election
>method, but it has enough strong features that it will discourage
>insincere voting and give much more satisfactory results than
>single-vote or IRV.

This is theory. Is there any practice, any experimental result in actual 
elections? Introducing a complex election system, difficult to understand, 
essentially requires those choosing the system to trust experts who 
supposedly *do* understand the system. And nobody really knows what would 
happen if these systems were implemented.

My suspicion is, not much. The structural flaws of present democracies are 
largely a result of the very concept of elections; in an election there are 
winners and losers. Improving elections so that the results are more widely 
satisfactory won't change this. This may well be appropriate for the 
choosing of officers, for probably no officer would please everyone, but it 
is a serious problem when what is being chosen is supposedly a 
representative. How can someone who rated the DMC -- or any election method 
-- winner at the bottom be considered to be represented by that winner?

> > Actually, even stupid and ignorant comments can be very useful.
>Yes, Socratic method, etc.  But it's kind of a flimsy excuse for not
>doing your homework. ;-)

I'm not a student in a class, and, like most people who are actually trying 
to accomplish something, I have little time; what time I can spare for this 
is pretty much stolen from my business and my family. It is far more 
effective and efficient for me to make an ignorant comment, which is then 
confronted, by which I learn, than it is to sit silent until, supposedly, I 
know enough not to sound stupid. The reluctance to make public mistakes is 
a huge impediment to learning.

Yes, if I were at a face-to-face meeting, taking up a whole assembly's time 
with my ignorant comments, it would be a public offense. But I'm not. This 
is a mailing list and every reader is free at any time to disregard what I 
write, to skip it or delete it or just have a good laugh. Well, perhaps the 
moderator has some obligation to at least skim it....

To respond to this in a different way, if I have to do homework (and 
especially difficult homework) in order to determine that this or that 
election method should be chosen, it is probably much too complex to ever 
win approval and thus will remain little more than a curiosity.

Unless society has developed decision-making systems that can take full 
advantage of expert opinion, without making the experts into dictators. I 
think this is exactly what I'm proposing.

> > I do have comments to make, lots of them. But not yet.
> > www.beyondpolitics.org
> >
>I now see you have your own political agenda.

Agenda, yes. Political, well, that depends on what you mean by "political." 
It's not political in the sense of being partisan. Rather, it is about what 
"election methods" should also be about. How does an organization make 
decisions? How do people coordinate their activities, and especially how 
can they do this when the organization becomes large? "Election methods" is 
a piece, albeit what I think is a small piece, of that. I'm looking at what 
could be a larger piece. Much larger. And among other things, it could make 
it possible for complex but maximally satisfactory election methods to 
actually be implemented.

But it is not biased toward that. It would merely make it possible, if such 
methods were actually superior.

In fact, the genesis of the idea was partly my own frustration when I could 
see public controversies over subject where I was actually well-informed 
and had what seemed to me to be elegant solutions. And there was no way to 
communicate these ideas, short of dedicating my life to one of them. And it 
can take a lifetime, and even that is sometimes not enough, if conditions 
are not ripe. So I started looking at the core problem: why is it so hard 
to be heard?

>   I would be interested
>to see, when you are ready, how your Free Association - Direct Proxy
>ideas compare with other similar proposals such as Direct Democracy or
>Candidate Proxy.

Candidate Proxy is an election method. It is a narrow application of the 
proxy concept. I have not proposed the use of Delegable Proxy as an 
election method, but it could be done. Basically, the whole election would 
be held through proxy meetings. FA, while it is not explicit, strongly 
implies and requires consensus-seeking, so an FA-DP election process would 
probably not be content with a mere majority.

FA/DP is a form of direct democracy because the member retains the right of 
vote on any issue. It is representative democracy because the member may 
delegate the right to vote. (And some meetings may have minimum held proxy 
rules for full participation, i.e., the right to speak without voted 
permission and the right to enter motions. But the right to vote 
individually would exist at all levels.) It is non-electoral because 
elections are not necessarily involved.

There are two independent components to the concept. They are separable, 
you can quite obviously have a Free Association without Delegable Proxy (AA 
is an example). And Delegable Proxy could be used, for example, in a 
corporation, allowing proxy choices to be made on a small scale but still 
collected, boiled down if you will, on a large scale. A for-profit 
corporation holding property is not a Free Association, by definition.

The two concepts taken together what could be a maximally-efficient and 
maximally-effective structure for any organization which depends on the 
voluntary coordination of effort. The organization imposes nothing on its 
members, it is merely a communication device, a nervous system, if you 
will. Among many other things, it should be ideal for political action 
groups. And if the theory is correct, if adopted anywhere, FA/DP, in the 
political realms, would rapidly out-compete traditional forms. FA/DP 
organizations, by design, both fracture and merge easily. "Fracture" might 
seem to imply a failure, but it might be more accurate to describe the 
fracture as fission, for the "pieces" remain connected, at least in 
potential. FA/DP organizations, to be effective, would need to seek 
consensus, for if they merely find the majority will, the minority has no 
incentive whatever to cooperate, since the minority is already organized 
within the FA/DP structure and can act independently. But if factions can 
find common cause, in that they become more powerful.

And this is how the brain makes decisions. In a healthy individual. When we 
make decisions by mere majority vote, internally, i.e., some neurons are 
firing indicating jump left, and some are firing indicating jump right, we 
might make the right decision in an emergency based on majority firing, but 
it would be a poor way to make important decisions requiring consideration. 
Rather, if we are sane, we try to find internal agreement, to find courses 
of action which are the most satisfying, overall.

So, anyway, the relevance of all this here is that if election methods, in 
actual practice as distinct from only theoretically, are to be optimized, 
there will need to be a process. And Lomax's law: if an organizational 
system is inequitable, that is, if it favors one faction over another, the 
favored faction will resist change. And that faction is the more powerful, 
so any political system resists change, no matter how much we might argue 
that change would be an improvement. It has to get pretty bad before other 
forces intervene.

The Beyond Politics plan is to organize independently, outside the existing 
power structures. These organizations could be formed for almost any 
purpose, large or small. I think of new examples every day. I also think 
that once people experience FA/DP, they would never be content with less.

Just imagine if someone proposed to the shareholders of a corporation that 
their right to vote at the annual meeting would be taken away, and that, 
instead of being able to name proxies of their choice, they would instead 
vote on a slate of candidates to be presented, and only those shareholders 
who showed up could vote. Would it cool the ire of these shareholders if 
they were told that the election would be held using DMC? Now, in one 
sense, a corporation is a Free Association: to an extent, shareholders, if 
they don't like how the corporation respects their rights, can take their 
marbles and play elsewhere.

In other words, once proxy voting is allowed, the members or citizens or 
whatever would strongly resist its being taken away. Proxy voting *adds* to 
the freedom of voters.

When corporations formed, they were actually free associations of capital, 
and the number of shareholders was typically relatively small. They held 
elections for officers, but not by secret ballot; rather officers were, and 
are, elected openly at the annual meeting. And because people who had the 
resources to invest also didn't want to have to attend these meetings -- 
unless they were available and personally interested -- shareholders were 
given the right to name proxies. (I suspect that the right was simply a 
common-law right, the right to assign power of attorney.)

In the European proposals for DP, the proxy is called an Advisor, which 
emphasizes the top-down aspect of delegable proxy. That is, the advisor, 
chosen by the member, advises the member how to act. In Demoex 
(Democracy-Experiment), the Swedish political party which used delegable 
proxy for a time and which intends to return to it, the members were 
advised to vote for a chosen candidate for a town council. In return, that 
candidate pledged to vote on the council according to the decisions of Demoex.

This is not how a Free Association would operate, though. Free Associations 
don't control anyone. They only communicate, deliberate, and advise. If 
action is required that involves, for example, holding property, 
independent structures are formed. (In the AA example, AA groups don't hold 
property and don't operate treatment centers, don't take positions on 
controversial issues; but a group of AA members might very well start a 
nonprofit to do these things, and they do.)

The member in a Free Association does not tell the proxy what to do. 
Rather, at least in the structures I envision, the member chooses the 
proxy. The proxy acts in two ways: in the upward direction, the proxy 
discusses and acts according to his or her best understanding. In the 
downward direction, the proxy receives communication from the member and 
advises the member. There is information flow in both direction, but not 
control in either direction. The power remains in the hands of the member. 
That's why it is so important that the organization itself not collect 
property (or other aspects of power besides communication). Once an 
organization has power, decisions must be and will be made with regard to 
that power, and those decisions will disenfranchise the minority. And 
everyone is in the minority with regard to something. Even organizations 
which start out as free associations and which have very strong community 
spirit, over the years become polarized, with the organization being 
perceived as one entity and the members as something else. I've seen it 
again and again in nonprofits. People may still support the organization, 
but often only because there is no alternative. Organizations have to 
struggle to keep people involved.

In the DemoEx example, I'd have had the organization not attempt to elect a 
pledged candidate. Rather, the organization would simply be a means for 
voters to communicate and to attempt to reach agreement on actions to be 
taken, using a delegable proxy structure. However, the organization itself 
would not collect funds, it would not vote to distribute funds (except by 
the individual consent of the members who contributed the funds), and it 
would not make election decisions. It would hold votes, but it would report 
the results of those votes, it would not determine a "winner." "97.3% of 
those voting, in person or by proxy, favored recommending that members vote 
for candidate X, 2.3% favored candidate Y, and 0.6% recommended staying 
home." Now, if I preferred candidate Y, and I saw that (and trusted that it 
wasn't fraudulent), I would first consider whether or not I could accept 
candidate X. If so, I'd either vote for him or her or stay home. If not, I 
might still vote for Y. Or I might stay home.

Now, because the organization would be FA/DP, there actually would be no 
reason for anyone *not* to join it. It wouldn't cost anything. It wouldn't 
even take any significant amount of time. If one already knew who one 
trusted, it could be that simple. Join, choose the proxy, and proceed to do 
whatever else one prefers to do in life.... Because the organization 
doesn't actually hold an election, because one's funds or name is never 
used contrary to one's permission, there, quite simply, is no rational 
reason not to join. It isn't partisan. Except, of course, it favors democracy.

It was the goal of Demoex to get the other politicians in the town to join 
and participate. But because of how they proceeded, the existing political 
structure saw them as an enemy. As they were, at least in some senses. By 
not competing directly in the elections, they would have been much more 
likely to attract the cooperation of incumbents.

I live in a Town Meeting town. About as pure a direct democracy as you can 
get in the U.S. And it is suffering from a distance between the people and 
the town government. The people think of the town and its government as 
"them." At least most of them do. A few, who are well-connected and active, 
do think of the town as "us." But it *could* be nearly everyone who would 
think that way....

>BTW, does ul-Rahman means "the merciful and compasssionate one"?

Yes. and Abd means "slave" or "servant" or "lover" or "worshipper."

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