[EM] it's pleocracy, not democracy

Jobst Heitzig heitzig-j at web.de
Tue Mar 6 08:06:05 PST 2007

Dear Abd-ul Rahman,

you wrote:
> And the very core of my objection is that "the minority" is not a
> fixed group, such that it is deprived by not getting its way.

Raphfrk just gave us a very prominent example that this indeed can 
happen. So I don't understand you still insist that such a thing was 

> The thinking behind this proposal seems to be that every citizen
> deserves to "get their way," 

No, not at all. The thinking behind this is that voting systems that 
claim to be "democratic", i.e. let "the people rule", cannot be 
majoritarian since that confuses "the people" with "the majority". If 
we want everyone to have some (perhaps even equal) power, we cannot use 
a majoritarian system in which it can easily happen that 49% have no 
power. That's very simple, isn't it?

> yet "getting their way" is not the goal 
> of electoral choice systems, the goal is maximization of benefit, 

*Whose* benefit is the main question! We are going in circles, aren't 
we? How to define "benefit"...

> and 
> benefit is maximized by making choices which actually are the best
> for society, 

Here we have another such term, "best" for society. Why are you so 
convinced there is such a thing? Of course, we may sometimes see that 
some option A is "better" for society than some option B in a certain 
sense. At other times, we may see that some option A is better for some 
people whereas option B is better for others, and it may be all but 
clear that any of the two should be considered "better" for society. To 
me it is obvious that on the social level there are always lots of 
options neither of which can be said to be strictly better than the 
others. So, maximization of benefit does not mean to find something 
which is sterictly better than everything else but to find something 
for which no other thing is strictly better (which is quite a different 
thing unless you deal with a total ordering).

> The theory is that majority opinion, particularly if
> informed, is more likely to be right than wrong. 

Again such a term: "right" as opposed to "wrong". Do you really believe 
there is such a thing when it comes to conflicting preferences? That 
reminds me of Ramon Llulls claim that the "right" (=god-wanted) option 
will always turn up as the beats-all winner since for each other option 
at least half the electorate will realize that it's "wrong"...
> And the converse of 
> this is that in the presence of controversy, minority opinion is more
> likely to be wrong, so following the opinion of a minority merely
> because of the outcome of a random process is more likely to increase
> error. That's noise. 

Minorities being in "error", minority opinion being "noise" -- I get the 
impression that you have a completely different way of thinking about 
group decision processes than I have. Living in a culturally and 
ethnically very diverse society which has learned that there is no 
unique "right" way to do things, I can't understand such thinking. 

Yours, Jobst
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