[EM] Why I think IRV isn't a serious alternative 2

James Gilmour jgilmour at globalnet.co.uk
Sun Dec 21 15:14:05 PST 2008

Abd ul-Rahman Lomax   > Sent: Sunday, December 21, 2008 1:44 AM
> LNH as an absolute principle, which, as an election criterion, it is, 
> is harmful. 

That is a value judgement  -  which of course you are perfectly entitled to make.  

> It prevents the system acting as a negotiator seeking 
> compromise, because it prevents compromise until and unless the 
> favorite is eliminated. Frankly, I doubt that anyone who fully 
> understands the implications would prefer an LNH system to one which 
> more appropriately negotiates on behalf of the voter, seeking the 
> best compromise. LNH means *no compromise unless you eliminate my 
> candidate totally!* That kind of position will readily be seen as 
> fanatic, intransigent, and selfish, in normal negotiation situations. 
> LNH in a system *enforces* this, requiring all voters to be just this 
> intransigent.

I would hesitate to describe the electors I have experienced as "fanatic, intransigent and selfish".  What interests me particularly
is that their insistence on LNH (or at least, their reaction to the effects of its presumed absence) is an intuitive response.
Other comments made by ordinary electors over the years lead me to suspect that this intuitive response reflects the importance
ordinary electors attach to their first preference.  I know some voting system theoreticians say that no more importance should be
attached to a first preference than to any other preference, but I don't think ordinary electors view the world that way.  And as a
PRACTICAL reformer, it is ordinary electors who concern me (along with the politicians and party activists we have to get on-side if
we want to achieve actual reform).

I do think ordinary electors approach voting for a candidate in a public election differently from how they might approach a
discussion and deliberative vote in a meeting  -  but "no compromise" can be the order of the day there, too!!  As you suggested in
your post, it MIGHT be possible to "educate" the electors to see the value of giving effect to compromise and how insistence on LNH
prevents that.  But my experience leads me to think they would still make their "intuitive" response, based on their attitude to
their first preference choice.

> It is no wonder that a referee, reviewing Woodall's original paper 
> describing and naming Later No Harm, called it "disgusting." (This is 
> reported by Woodall in the paper.) So this is not just my view, James.

The comment by the referee was a personal value judgement.  That comment and that language should have had no place in a
professional review of an academic paper.  I am pleased that Woodall published it.

I never suggested that this view of LNH was yours alone, Abd.  I am well aware it is shared by quite a number of others, who put
other criteria above (or well above) LNH.

I am not going to comment of the rest of your interesting post in detail, but I am surprised that anyone should take Bucklin
seriously.  I, and some of our intuitive electors, would regard it as fundamentally flawed because a candidate with an absolute
majority of first preferences can be defeated by another candidate.  Such a result may measure some "compromise view" computed from
the voters' preferences, but it is not considered acceptable  -  at least, not here for public elections. 


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