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

Kristofer Munsterhjelm km-elmet at broadpark.no
Tue Dec 30 05:56:39 PST 2008

Abd ul-Rahman Lomax wrote:
> At 04:44 AM 12/28/2008, Kristofer Munsterhjelm wrote:
>> Abd ul-Rahman Lomax wrote:
>>>>  [it was written:] I am satisfied that there are perfectly adequate 
>>>> "vote once"
>>>> systems available for all public elections, both single-office 
>>>> elections and assembly elections.
>>> If they are good for public elections, why are they *never* used for 
>>> smaller organizations where repeated ballot is easy? Wouldn't it save 
>>> time?
>>> Yes, advanced methods *can* save time, *if* a majority is still 
>>> required. Otherwise the result can *easily* be one that a majority 
>>> would reject. How often? Depends on the method, I'm sure, but my 
>>> estimate is that it's about one in ten for IRV in nonpartisan 
>>> elections in the U.S. It's pretty easy to show.
>> Wouldn't that be because you can do RRO type iteration because of the 
>> small size?
> Of course. (i.e., nobody considers using advanced methods in such 
> organizations when, for example, face-to-face meetings are possible and 
> normal for election. There are exceptions, and, I'd say, they have been 
> warped by outside political considerations; there is a sense among some 
> student organizations, for example, that by implementing IRV, they are 
> advancing a general progressive cause. They've been had.)
>>  Consider the extreme, where there's just you and a few friends. There 
>> would seem to be little point in voting when you can just all discuss 
>> the options and reach a conclusion.
> Absolutely. However, this kind of direct process indicates the 
> foundations of democracy. There are problems of scale as the scale 
> increases, but the *substance* does not intrinsically change, until not 
> only the scale has become large, but the culture expects alienation and 
> division. When the scale is small, people will take the time to resolve 
> deep differences, ordinarily (if they care about the cooperation being 
> negotiated). That cannot be done, directly, on a large scale. *However, 
> it can be done through a system that creates networks of connection.* 
> These networks are what we actually need, and not only is it unnecessary 
> to change laws to get them, it actually would be a mistake to try to 
> legislate it. If it's subject to law, it is subject to control and 
> corruption. It would be like the State telling small groups how they 
> should come to agreement!

I would say that the problem is not just that culture expects 
alienation, but that a full on "everybody discusses with everybody else" 
scales very poorly (worst case quadratic) so that the common opinion 
never converges, or converges very slowly. This is somewhat related to 
Parkinson's coefficient of inefficiency - as the number of members in a 
committe grows, subgroups form and there's no longer direct discussion.

The networks of connections would presumably make groups that readjust 
and form in different configurations according to the political 
positions of the people - like water, hence *Liquid* Democracy. I think 
vote buying would be a problem with that concept, though, because if the 
network of connections is public, then those who want to influence the 
system can easily check whether the members are upholding their ends of 
the "bargain" (votes for money).

>>  Perhaps there would be if you just can't reach an agreement ("okay, 
>> this has gone long enough, let's vote and get this over with").
> Absolutely. And this happens all the time with direct democratic 
> process. And those who have participated in it much usually don't take 
> losing all that seriously, provided the rules have been followed. Under 
> Robert's Rules, it takes a two-thirds majority to close debate and vote. 
> Common respect usually allows all interested parties to speak before the 
> question is called.
> However, it takes a majority to decide a question, period, any question, 
> not just an election. That's the bottom line for democracy. Taking less 
> may *usually* work well enough, but it's risky. It can tear an 
> organization apart, under some circumstances. That's why election by 
> plurality is strongly discouraged in Robert's Rules.

Given the above, maybe advanced methods would have their place as 
figurative tiebreakers when one can't reach a majority by other means. 
Say that the discussion/meeting goes on for a long time, and a 
supermajority decides it's been long enough. If there are multiple 
proposals, one could then have an election among those (law, no law, law 
with amendment, law without rider, whatever). If there is no method 
that's good enough to provide the majority certification you seek, there 
could be a runoff afterwards - but I'll note that a runoff doesn't 
magically produce majority support, since if one of the runoff 
candidates/options is bad, most would obviously align themselves with 
the other. The Le Pen situation would be a good example of that. Just 
because Chirac got 82%, that doesn't mean that Chirac is best, just that 
he's best in that one-on-one comparison.

>> In short, you'd have something like: for very small groups, the cost 
>> of involving a voting method is too high compared to the benefits. For 
>> intermediate groups, iteration works. For large groups, voting is the 
>> right thing to do, because iteration is expensive and may in any event 
>> lead to cycling because people can't just share the nuances of their 
>> positions with a thousand others, hive-mind style.
> Right. However, there is Range Voting, which simulates negotiation, 
> actually. If there are stages in it, it more accurately simulates 
> negotiation. There are hybrid methods which address most of the concerns 
> that I've seen raised. However, having two possible ballots taken rather 
> than one is a *huge* step toward simulation of direct process, so large 
> that I'd be reluctant to replace TTR with Range, unless it becomes 
> Range/runoff. Robert's Rules notes as another problem with the 
> preferential method they describe that voters cannot base their votes in 
> subsequent process on the results of the first election.

You say that Range simulates negotiation (because people vote according 
to VNM utilities and all that). If that's true, why do we need a runoff? 
Is it because you want a true majority?

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