[EM] FARCS: Be careful how you use it

Michael Ossipoff mikeo2106 at msn.com
Fri Mar 23 04:12:26 PDT 2007

Maybe there should be criteria for evaluating criteria. For instance, FARCS 
doesn’t pass the laugh test.

I consulted my JoAnn Q. Citizen consultant.

I said, “I’m going to tell you two criterion definitions. They’re supposed 
to be very similar, but they don’t sound at all alike. Tell me which one 
makes you laugh harder.”

I told her the definitions of SDSC,  and then Minimal Defense with FARCS. 
Well, I should say I _tried_ to tell her the definition of Minimal Defense 
with FARCS. I must admit she didn’t let me finish the FARCS definition.

Here’s what I old her, quoted reasonably accurately:


If a majority of the voters prefer X to Y, then they should have a way of 
voting that ensures that Y won’t win, without any member of that majority 
having to vote a less-liked candidate equal to or over a more-liked one.


Then I told her about Minimal Defense with FARCS:


If a majority of the voters rank X over Y, and don’t rank Y, then Y 
shouldn’t win.

Now, you might say, that only applies to rank methods. Oh no, you’re wrong. 
It can apply to nonrank methods too. For instance, it can apply to Pluralty. 
All we have to do is assume that the voters come to that Plurality election 
intending to vote rankings. Rankings that have, in first place, the 
candidate that the voter wants to vote for in the Plurality election.

You might ask why these voters, on their way to a Plurality election, are 
intending to vote rankings. We aren’t supposed to ask that. I don’t have to 
explain that to you.

Now, the actual use of a criterion is in writing a failure example, an 
example in which a method fails that criterion. The failure example writer 
can derive an actual  ballot from a particular voter’s intended ranking as 

1. The actual ballot must not vote X over Y if the ranking ranks Y over X.

2. If the ranking ranks X over Y, then voting X over Y is “voting an 
ordering in the ranking”

    The actual ballot must not fail to vote any ordering in the ranking that 
the balloting system in use would  have allowed it to vote in addition to 
whatever orderings in the ranking it actually did vote.

[Note that I left out, for brevity, the definition of voting X over Y]

The example writer can contrive, for a particular voter, any actual ballot 
that complies with those two rules. If he can thereby write a ballot set 
that violates the criterion’s requirement, then he has found a failure 


Actually, I didn’t get that far. When I was trying to tell her how the 
example writer can derive an actual vote from a ranking, she stopped me and 
said that no one wants to hear that.

Kevin and Chris can, of course, use FARCS criteria among themselves, or with 
others who are willing to listen to the definition of FARCS. But just try 
using them in a speech to political or reform activists. Well, looking on 
the bright side, it could be the beginning of your career in stand-up 

“But the professors don’t like us to speak of preference. They prefer FARCS. 
They’re professors. Doesn’t that  mean that they’re right and that we should 
follow them?

Now I’m not saying that this is really for sure the explanation, but voting 
system academics seem to be acting  as if their goal were to obfuscate the 
subject.  As if their goal were to never give you anything that you could 
take to the public without getting laughed or booed out of the room.

“But they’re professors. Don’t they know something we don’t?”

Yes, it would seem so. Maybe they know that they’re making a fool of anyone 
who trusts and follows them.

Mike Ossipoff

More information about the Election-Methods mailing list