[EM] Moral standing of Approval?

MIKE OSSIPOFF nkklrp at hotmail.com
Sun Sep 18 17:27:37 PDT 2005


I've printed out your other recent posting, because it's something that 
requires much study and reply. But let me comment now on this posting.

You wrote:

For voters, "approving" a candidate is cheap, and in the context of an
election, has little to do with any sort of absolute
approval/disapproval of the candidate, and much more to do with
increasing/decreasing the relative strength of that candidate to the
rest of the field.  In other words, Approval asks voters to assign an
absolute property when the question is all relative.

I reply:

Of course the choice of one candidate from several is a relative choice. But 
there's no reason why an absolute point-score shouldn't be used to make that 
relative choice. Yes, I like Condorce wv, MDDA, and MDDB, because they're 
ordinal, and because of SFC compliance. But you need to give a good reason 
if you want to ask people to reject point systems for making relative 
political choices. Point systems, which means RV versions, including 
Approval, are tremendously better than Plurality or IRV. By some standards 
they're better than the rank methods, and by other standards the rank 
methods are better. It's a _subjective, individual_ matter.

If winnability were not an issue, my ranking of voting systems for public 
use would be something likek this:

3. RV (including Approval)

My ranking of MDDB over MDDA is tentative, because I haven't really studied 
MDDB's properties, though I point out that it meets FBC and SFC, as does 

So I like rank methods too, though I claim that RV is much more winnable 
with the public.

You continued:

I would have many fewer problems with Approval if there were an absolute
question being asked.  For example, rather than always awarding the
winner of an approval election a full-length, full-power term, we could
make the length and nature of their term depend on their approval score.
For U.S. president, we currently give four year terms to the winner.
Under this proposal, a candidate with an approval score under 50% only
gets an "interim" 12 month term, and cannot fire the current cabinet
without approval from Congress, though would be able to fill any
vacancies.  A candidate with over 50% approval would get a standard four
year term (still eligible for re-election to a second four year term),
and would have the standard privileges of appointing a new cabinet.  A
candidate with over 65% approval would get a six year term, and be
eligible for another four year term after that.

I reply:

I don't object to that, but it's a separate issue. A much more radical 
proposal, asking for much bigger changes. Right now we should work on more 
immediate reforms: Better ways of voting for the elections that we now have. 
We should rate the methods for these elections. By criteria for judging 
methods for these elections that we do, Approval and RV do very well.

You continued:

More importantly, the question of "approval" would have real meaning as
an absolute number, and wouldn't be a purely relative concept.  I'd be
more inclined to treat it as a meaningful measure of something real,
than as a purely abstract number with no moral standing.

I reply:

I don't know what moral standing a ballot needs to have. The voter, in 
Approval, states that he wants to vote one set of candidates over the other 
candidates. This set is better than that set. Why do you object to that?

I understand your objection to the name "Approval Voting". I'd rather call 
it Set Voting. Or maybe Scattergun Voting, to emphasize that the idea is 
that one of the points that you award might be one that can affect the 
outcome for you, by helping someone to beat someone worse. Maybe the 0,1 
Point System would be the best name for Approval.

You continued:

As it is,
whenever we talk about favoring a candidate with higher approval or
range score over a candidate preferred by a majority (or even a mere
plurality), I can't see /any/ basis for choosing the former.

I reply:

That candidate, more than any other, was included in the sets of candidates 
that people wanted to help against the other candidates. With sincere 
voting, s/he is considered above average by more people than anyone else. 
With strategic voting, s/he is considered better-than-expected by more 
people than anyone else.

The process leading to the choice of that candidate is one that never gives 
anyone any incentive to vote someone over their favorite.

A candidate who would beat everyone else in separate pairwise 
contests--that's another standard, and is likewise a good one. As I said, 
it's an individual subjective matter. As stated in my ranking, earlier in 
this posting, I prefer, for public elections, the methods that meet FBC and 
SFC. SFC protects that candidate who would beat each of the others in 
separate two-candidate races. But that standard isn't everything, and 
Approval & RV would bring tremendous benefit.

For instance, Approval or RV would be much better than any Condorcet 
Criterion method other than wv Condorcet.

Mike Ossipoff

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