[EM] basic fairness question

Fred Gohlke fredgohlke at verizon.net
Sat Apr 16 12:25:56 PDT 2011

Good Afternoon, Owen

re: "The problem I am facing is a difference in name recognition
      between Groups A and D. Group C has the distinction of
      having overlapped with everybody, and having spanned as much
      time in the fellowship as both Groups B and D. So candidates
      from Group C are known best, and Group B is known by
      everyone, too. Group A would seem to be at the worst
      disadvantage, since members of their group may have formed
      opinions of group D simply by virtue of having paid
      attention to the fellowship after their own graduation, and
      this is implausible in the reverse."

This statement of the problem suggests you want to be sure every member 
has an equal opportunity to be elected,  When you refer to 'name 
recognition', you seem to be referring to the qualities the names 
represent, in the sense of each person's perceived fitness for election. 
  If so, fairness --- and good sense --- dictates that each member have 
an opportunity to present their 'name' in a way that generates a 
positive perception of themselves.  Stated another way, each member 
needs a chance to persuade their peers they have the qualities deemed 
desirable for election.

When persuasion occurs between two people, it takes place as a dialogue 
with one person attempting to persuade the other.  In such events, both 
parties are free to share in the process.  The person to be persuaded 
can question the persuader as to specific points and present alternative 
points about the topic under discussion.  Under such circumstances, it 
is possible that the persuader will become the persuaded.

When persuasion involves multiple people, as in campaign situations, 
there is a greater tendency for it to occur as a monologue.  The 
transition from dialogue to monologue accelerates as the number of 
people to be persuaded increases.  The larger the number of people, the 
less free some are to participate.  They have fewer opportunities and 
are less inclined to question points or offer alternatives.  The 
campaigners dominate the discussion and the viewpoints of the less 
assertive members are suppressed.  In such cases, campaigners are less 
likely to be persuaded of the wisdom of an alternative view, because 
that view will neither be expressed nor discussed.

To ensure fairness, and to accomplish a broad expression of views, an 
electoral process that encourages dialogue is preferable to one that 
relies on a monologue.  Having fewer people in the "session of 
persuasion" encourages even the most reticent members to participate. 
The optimum group size to encourage active involvement by all 
participants when a decision must be made is three, and that can be 
easily implemented in the circumstances you describe.

To illustrate, we'll use numbers and upper and lowercase letters to 
represent the 45 individuals, like this:

|<--GroupA-->|   |<-GroupB->|  |GroupC|  |<-GroupD-->|
ABCDEFGHIJKLMN   OPQRSTUVWXYZ   123456   abcdefghijklm

and sort the members into 15 groups of 3 members each.  This will 
produce 15 triads, something like this:

hUY VI5 lZN AEM d4H 13K eGF PSj cgJ XD2 CIR kmT QWa 6fb OLB

The leftmost triad has one member from Group D and two members from 
Group B.  The next triad has one member from Group B, one from Group A, 
and one from Group C.  The rest are similarly configured.

Give the triad members a period of time to become acquainted with each 
other and determine which of the three they believe most qualified for a 
seat.  Then let them choose the individual they prefer.  We will use 
random choices to simulate the selection process ...

  Y   5   Z   M   H   1   G   P   g   D   C   k   W   b   L
  |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |
hUY VI5 lZN AEM d4H 13K eGF PSj cgJ XD2 CIR kmT QWa 6fb OLB

... but in real life, the choices will reflect the decisions of the 
triad members.  This method ensures that all members ...

* have an opportunity to persuade their peers they have the
   qualities needed for election

* are able to examine their peers and make informed decisions
   about them instead of relying on whatever perceptions they have
   been able to glean in an informal atmosphere.

Perceptions vary; they are influenced by a multitude of factors.  It is 
possible the most fit individual will inspire an adverse perception 
because of physical features, manner of speech, or other inconsequential 
peculiarities.  The best way to discern a person's qualities is through 
face-to-face interaction, as described here.

This description happens to work naturally because the 15 people elected 
are exactly one-third of the 45 graduates.  In other circumstances, that 
will not be the case.  There are simple rules for handling the 
irregularities that occur in different settings.  I can describe them, 
if you wish.

This concept is a change from current electoral practice and the various 
attempts to achieve fairness through mathematics.  Instead, it replaces 
campaigning with critical evaluation. Several thoughtful people have 
recognized the need for such a change:

* John Dewey
   The old saying that the cure for the ills of democracy is more
   democracy is not apt if it means that the evils may be remedied
   by introducing more machinery of the same kind as that which
   already exists, or by refining and perfecting that machinery.

* Jane Junn
   We must ask whether citizens are being presented with adequate
   resources to act, and how we might re-envision the incentives
   for political engagement to be more inclusive of all citizens.

* Alasdair MacIntyre
   Human beings, as the kind of creatures we are, need the
   internal goods/goods of excellence that can only be acquired
   through participation in politics if we are to flourish.
   Therefore, everyone must be allowed to have access to the
   political deci
sion-making process.

The described method ensures that the effect of extraneous matters, such 
as station in life, ideology, wealth and popularity is reduced.  Every 
member has an equal opportunity to influence the election.  The success 
of one's desire for election and the extent of one's influence on their 
peers depends solely on each member's own qualities.

I hope you find this material of some value,

Fred Gohlke

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