[Election-Methods] a story for christmas

Juho juho4880 at yahoo.co.uk
Wed Dec 26 12:03:05 PST 2007

Maybe the new proposal of the locksmith would have been to install  
new apartment specific locks on the inner doors of the vestibules.  
That would leave the vestibules open for more balanced and more  
voluntary social trials. :-)


On Dec 26, 2007, at 8:35 , rob brown wrote:

> I decided to write a little story to share with the voting geeks on  
> Christmas.  Enjoy and Merry Christmas!
> -rob
> A large housing complex was under construction, and a locksmith was  
> hired to install the locks on all the apartments.  He suggested  
> that they key all the locks to use the same key.  There are many  
> advantages, the most obvious being cost, he suggests.  The landlord  
> doesn't need to keep hundreds of keys, and if anyone loses their  
> key, they can just borrow a key from a neighbor to get into their  
> apartment.
> The owner of the complex doesn't understand.  "But any resident can  
> simply walk into any other apartment and take what they want! That  
> seems like a supremely bad idea."
> "Not to worry," says Warren, the locksmith.  "Look, it should be  
> obvious that what we are after here is maximum net utility, right?   
> That is, the most happiness for all"
> "Umm, well sure...." says the owner.  "Happiness is a good thing.   
> I'm having trouble seeing where you are going with this, though...."
> "I can prove that everyone having the same key results in greater  
> net utility.  More happiness all around.  I've done polls as to  
> whether people will take items from each other, and based on those  
> results, I've simulated the situation on my computer.  The net  
> utilities are always greater if everyone's lock has the same key."
> He goes on to show how, if everyone was to honestly rate the  
> utilities afforded by each thing they own or might want to own,  
> that taking others' property, on average, causes an net increase in  
> utility.  Typically those taking other people's things are less  
> wealthy than those they are taking them from, so they usually will  
> value the item they take more than the original owner did...meaning  
> an increase in net utility!
> Furthermore, he has polled people, and the great majority of them  
> have said they wouldn't take stuff from their neighbors even if  
> they could.  But even if everyone *were* to take others' things,  
> that situation is *still* better than having locks, from a net  
> utilities perspective -- since those taking stuff probably want the  
> item more.  If it turns out the original owner wants the item more,  
> well, he can take such an item from another neighbor.
> The owner thinks about it.  "Well, that may increase happiness, but  
> it doesn't seem fair to those who don't take property".
> "Nope," says the locksmith.  "The system is perfectly fair.   
> Everyone has equal opportunity to take other people's property, so  
> no one is at a disadvantage.  Anyway....fairness schmairness. If  
> people are happy who cares about fairness?"
> Finally Warren shows, as support for this working, that honeybees  
> have been shown to freely share property with colony-mates this way  
> for one hundred million years, and they are no worse off for it.   
> If it didn't work for them, natural selection would have eliminated  
> it long ago.
> He shows the polling data.  He shows the math.  He shows the  
> computer simulations.  He talks about bees. It all makes sense.   
> And the owner just can't find a good argument otherwise.
> They do it, and it works great.  Well, for a while.
> At first, only a few people take other people's stuff, and when  
> they do, it is just little stuff, like grabbing a beer out of their  
> neighbor's fridge.  One resident gets fired from his job because he  
> calls in sick too much, and he realizes he can just take a low  
> paying part time job, since he can just tap into his neighbors  
> groceries and such.  Eventually those that previously didn't want  
> to take their neighbor's stuff start to resent that they are doing  
> more than their share of purchasing, and they decide to start  
> taking things from their neighbors.
> After a few years, some people have lost their desire to work hard  
> and work overtime and get raises, since they can live with an equal  
> lifestyle to those who earn more than them.  This means the total  
> amount of property within the housing complex is less, so the  
> utility has gone down -- way down -- even though Warren the  
> locksmith's calculations had shown otherwise.
> The owner calls the locksmith in.  "Look, your system didn't work.   
> It might have worked in the short term, but you didn't take into  
> account the long term.  The people you said wouldn't steal from  
> each other....even if they wouldn't have back when you asked  
> them....seem to have no problem whatsoever with taking each others'  
> stuff now.  Actually they have no choice, since most of them don't  
> bother going to work anymore.  This place is miserable.  The  
> residents are demanding a solution."
> Warren the locksmith thinks about it a bit.  "Well, sorry that  
> didn't work out,  I have no clue why it didn't....the math was all  
> in place.  Well, here, I have an idea.  We could find out what the  
> residents want to do.  Let's put it to a vote!"
> The owner says "now there's a good idea, I think I'll do that!"
> "And by the way, I have a perfect system of voting for you," says  
> the locksmith.  "It's guaranteed to maximize the residents'  
> happiness with the result."
> The owner thinks for a moment.  "Ummm....you know what?  Thanks,  
> but, uhhh...no."
> ----
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