[EM] Why I think IRV isn't a serious alternative 1

Abd ul-Rahman Lomax abd at lomaxdesign.com
Fri Dec 5 11:24:54 PST 2008

At 10:37 AM 12/5/2008, Kristofer Munsterhjelm wrote:
>Something I've always wondered about Asset Voting. Say you have a 
>very selfish electorate who all vote for themselves (or for their 
>friends). From what I understand, those voted for in the first round 
>become the electors who decide among themselves who to pick for the 
>final decision. Wouldn't this produce a very large "parliament"?

No. It would produce a large "electoral college," which doesn't have 
legislative power directly. As I'd have it, these small-vote electors 
could not introduce motions or speak to the Assembly directly by 
right, as anyone with a seat can.

Now, it's not going to happen. Yes, some people will say, "I can't 
trust anyone else to vote for me," so these people will become 
electors, possibly with only one vote. But this creates a problem 
only for this person! The person is now a public voter, all votes 
will be public record. If they don't combine their vote with others 
to create a seat, they won't have anyone to, say, introduce a motion 
that they'd want, unless they can convince someone else with a seat. 
They can still vote, if they want, but that could be a lot of work 
compared with the obvious: choose someone to represent you in the 
Assembly and let that person vote on your behalf unless you *choose* 
to participate in an Assembly vote. This isn't the original Asset, 
this is hybrid direct/representative democracy Asset, where any 
elector can vote on any matter before the assembly. If the elector 
votes, the fractional value of one vote is subtracted from the vote 
of the seat that represents the elector.

My guess is that only rarely would these fractional votes make a 
difference. Remember, just as electors can simply vote for themselves 
and are unconstrained in their choices -- beyond choosing a 
registered elector, they'd have to register to vote for themselves or 
to receive the votes of others -- they are only restrained in their 
election of a seat by the need to make, possibly, compromises with 
others, which they do deliberatively (i.e, through negotiation; all 
that is necessary is to get enough electors together to vote on one 
person to elect that seat. There is no opposition, it is pure 
democratic cooperation.

So if you are very unrestrained, only people with strong and isolated 
positions would find it very difficult to identify someone to 
represent you. There is much more that may not occur to people at first blush.

The "selfish voter" problem is self-limiting, not a problem at all. 
Asset creates pure representation, unopposed. It's direct democracy 
at the elector level, and becomes negotiated representation at the 
Assembly level, the purpose of electing a seat being representation 
in deliberation, which is where the problem of scale knocks direct 
democracy upside the head. This separates deliberation from 
aggregation. The electors retain absolute voting power, but they 
routinely delegate it to a maximally trusted holder of a seat.

>Perhaps the situation that the voters vote for themselves is 
>unlikely, but some of the problem remains.

It's not a problem, it's a *feature.* There is no candidacy required 
to become an elector, just registration. You then can vote to elect 
seats, can vote directly in the Assembly if you choose, and there may 
be other functions as well. Electors, however, would not be paid, 
though they might collect donations from those they represent. 
(Should that be prohibited? Probably not, but *limiting* it might 
have some value. Some electors might really work full-time 
representing their constituents -- who know who they are -- in 
communication with a seat holder.)

"Large" is not a limitation in this case, since there are no 
large-scale decisions made by the electoral college. Rather, such 
decisions would be made in the Assembly, where electors can vote or 
not as they choose. If they don't vote, they are still represented, 
and I'd expect that to be the norm. It's much more efficient.

>  Asset's advantage is supposed to be (again, as far as I understand 
> it) that it involves more people than would be directly elected. So 
> if it involves too few, that's a problem, but if it involves too 
> many, that's a problem as well because the deliberative process doesn't scale.
>How's that solved?

You've made a basic mistake. The deliberation takes place on a small 
scale. Not a large one. There is no "Electoral college election," 
with collective vote on the Assembly to be elected. Rather, when N 
electors agree and register this, a seat is created as they have 
agreed. It's not an oppositional decision, and these N electors don't 
have to convince anyone else. There are plenty of social networking 
methods that will work to connect electors so that they can 
voluntarily create seats. I'd make the electoral college be, 
effectively, an FA/DP organization.

Every elector names a proxy, voluntarily. This has nothing to do, 
perhaps, with the official vote of the elector, which might be 
delegatable, but this isn't that delegation. It's purely for 
negotiation on behalf of the elector. Choose the other elector you 
most trust. This creates "natural caucuses" which will be able, I'd 
predict, to coordinate recommendations to the electors as to how to 
reassign their vote. The decision remains with the elector, not with 
anyone else.

It's chosen representation, as minimally constrained by the 
necessities of scale, which really never had to do with voting, but 
only, as you've noted, with deliberation. Delegable proxy allows 
deliberation to take place in *very* small groups, but still 
amalgamate consensus on a large scale.

Every seat is elected through consensus of those who choose to trust 
the holder of the seat. Don't agree? Vote for someone else, or 
continue to vote for yourself in the Assembly, as you can, being an elector.

It's kind of a radically libertarian/anarchist idea, don't you think? 
Except that there isn't any assumption about the powers of government 
and no tearing down of anything. Simply beginning to realize the 
ideal of decisions being made by true representatives of the people. 
Not of "a plurality of this district and a plurality of that 
district," etc., nor even the much better STV representation, which 
can still leave out in the cold a major chunk of the electorate, and 
which leaves voters with no idea who *specifically*, they elected 
with their vote. In Asset, voters may know with high precision 
exactly where their vote went, most of the time. Next election, they 
can choose an elector differently, if it didn't work out.

There is no investment in incumbency, every vote counts, and it stays 
that way up to the Assembly.

By the way, involving "too few" is also not a problem. If everyone, 
for example, freely chose one person to decide on the seats, they 
would be electing a dictator. Can a democracy do that?

Yes, it can. But it won't. It would be extraordinarily stupid. And 
people aren't that stupid. *Nobody* is smart enough to make all 
decisions on their own. To prevent that outcome, though, by 
constraining what the people can decide, will cause more damage than 
to simply allow the people to become informed, which they will with a 
system like this, since their vote always counts, and to make free choices.

I'm actually opposed to supermajority rules, in the long run. They 
are good for preventing rash decisions, but, note, generally an 
absolute majority can make any constitutional amendment they choose. 
Asset makes an absolute majority, through direct vote or 
representation, a realistic possibility!

An absolute majority need not even give notice of a pending 
amendment! A drastic power, one might think... but there are good 
reasons for it. Usually a majority of those voting would think there 
should be, at least, wide discussion before making a major change. If 
a majority of all people, or their most-trusted representatives, 
decide that immediate change is needed, who are we to think that 
something else is better?

Absolute majority is a majority of all eligible voters, not a 
majority of those voting. The Australians use the world to mean the 
latter. Absolute majorities are hard to come by, normally, unless you 
use some kind of proxy voting, and most people name a proxy, or 
remote voting is used -- which would be normal with Asset for 
collecting direct votes by electors.

(Procedural rules would address the difficulties, certain questions, 
mostly procedural, would only be presented for decision by seats, but 
the procedural rules themselves would always be subject to vote by 
all electors, should they so choose. The Assembly could not run away 
with the ball, but only play with it as permitted by the electors.)

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