[EM] RBJ's Brief Comment on IRV debate

David L Wetzell wetzelld at gmail.com
Sat Jan 21 13:39:24 PST 2012

>> From: robert bristow-johnson <rbj at audioimagination.com>
> To: election-methods at lists.electorama.com
> Cc:
> Date: Sat, 21 Jan 2012 15:57:59 -0500
> Subject: Re: [EM] Brief Comment on IRV debate
> still haven't found the time to do another treatise on this thing.

I think the opportunity cost of your time might be greater...

> On 1/21/12 2:47 PM, David L Wetzell wrote:
>> On Fri, Jan 20, 2012 at 3:59 PM, Jameson Quinn <jameson.quinn at gmail.com<mailto:
>> jameson.quinn at gmail.**com <jameson.quinn at gmail.com>>> wrote:
>>        Like I wrote, the only way a non-CW can win w. IRV is if the
>>        two biggest parties do not center themselves around the
>>        center.  This possibility is what will goad them to recenter
>>        themselves more often.  That is what would have happened in
>>        Burlington if the anti-IRV campaign had not succeeded.
>>    1. This sounds to me like: "Sorry about your house. And your
>>    neighbors'. But actually, it's kind of good this happened. It will
>>    teach people in the future to leave enough space between their
>>    houses for us to fire these test missiles. And that way, they'll
>>    have room for bigger gardens." That is, a disaster is excused as
>>    good because it will encourage actions that will prevent later
>>    disasters and also have other benefits. To me, a disaster is a
>>    disaster.
> RBJ:that's a tautology, so it's pretty hard to argue with.  what's not a
> tautology is equating electing the non-CW IRV winner to office to a missile
> disaster or burning houses.

dlw: Amen.

> the election of the non-CW in the IRV election in Burlington in 2009 is an
> "anomaly" and is indicative of a "pathology".  "disaster" is too strong of
> a description.  because of some local political issues (this Prog mayor had
> propped up a city-owned telecommunications company with $17 million from
> the city's cash pool and there is an additional $33 million owed to
> Citibank or Citigroup) some had been calling it a "disaster" and was one of
> the bullshit reasons for opposing IRV.

dlw: It seems safer to say that elections are imperfect deterrents to such
corruption, since they are so infrequent relative to the opportunities to
abuse one's office...  This flaw remains even if every election always got
the CW...

>  dlw: There is no good reason to call the election of the Prog mayor in
>> Burlington with IRV a disaster.  It is an outcome whose effect would have
>> been to move the status quo to relocate the two biggest parties around the
>> true political center for Burlington.  If it was a disaster then you'd
>> think it would have been shot-down by more than just a little over 50%
>> after a very deceptive campaign funded by the defenders of the status quo.
>> Why are you giving oxygen to the tripe peddled by the lovers of FPTP or
>> Democracy In Name Only(DINO)?
> RBJ: because the "IRV happy talk" was lacking of credibility.

I wrote this to JQ for the reasons you pointed out above.

> RBJ: anyone who denied that there was any problem with the 2009 election
> in Burlington quickly lost credibility in the argument.  that is why i am
> mad at that pro-IRV side in the 2010 repeal election even though i voted
> with them on the repeal question.

dlw: Think of this from a marketing standpoint, if you have a product that
works great 99% of the time and 1% of the time, it exhibits a pathology
then do you give time to the 1%?  No, because folks don't handle small
probabilities well and are susceptible to the "law of small numbers",
whereby when the pathology chances to arrive, they give it far more weight
than it deserves.

I think the pro-IRV chose to stick with its frame because that was the best
strategy from a marketing perspective where your audience is very different
from the members of EM_list-serve.   This does not deny them credibility.

>> JQ:   Well... OK, I guess, although it's still only summable O(Nˆ3),
>>    which is worse than any other polynomial-summable system I know of
>>    (except some summable RRV-like pseudo-PR systems I've invented and
>>    never published).
>> dlw: Dude, in real life, the difficulties of winning a single-winner
>> election(time/money commitments vs relative chance of winning) keeps N down
>> and so it's not useful to extrapolate....
> with computers counting, i am not terribly worried about the computational
> burden of either IRV or Condorcet.  but the precinct summability remains
> important.  even IRV can be precinct summable, but the number of piles
> (it's the subtotals for each pile that is transmitted up the line to the
> central election authority and also promulgated to the media, campaigns,
> and other interested parties) when the number of candidates grows is much
> higher than either FPTP and Condorcet.  of course, precinct summability is
> important for transparency which is important for election integrity.

dlw: We're talking about IRV3/AV3 which first treats rankings like approval
votes to get three finalists and then sorts votes into only 10 piles at the
precinct level.

>>        dlw: What about IRV3/AV3?  Like I said above, it's not easy
>>        for a third party to get as strong as VT Prog was in
>>        Burlington at the state or nat'l level... and the dynamics wd
>>        be towards a change in the nature of the two major parties
>>        more so than the continuation of a competitive 3-way election....
> RBJ:it can, but does not always.  i would say IRV fixes the hard-core
> spoiler problem (strictly speaking, a "spoiler" is a candidate with NO
> chance of being elected whose presence in the race changes the outcome of
> the election) but not the "spoiler-lite" problem.  the GOP candidate was
> the spoiler-lite in 2009.  nonetheless, IIA applies whether the spoiler is
> hard-core (like Nader) or lite (like Kurt Wright in 2009 and who is the GOP
> candidate again this year).

dlw: But normatively, it matters whether sincere voting is discouraged(or
the potential to spoil exists) by minorities who can be taken for granted
by major parties by virtue of their lack of exit threat or by the members
of a major party that is recalcitrant in adapting to the changing

> RBJ: IRV works like shit when the election is between three or more
> candidates with roughly equal support.  that is how i imagine when we
> finally arrive at a viable and lasting multiparty environment.  if only 2
> parties hog nearly all of the support, it's essentially still a two-party
> system.

dlw: So long as IRV3/AV3 is used then it's only when there's a competitive
3-way that there is a possibility of somewhat pathological outcomes, and if
its use were complemented with the use of American forms of PR with 3
contested seats (perhaps w. city council elections) then the likely outcome
is that there will tend to be 2 bigger parties but they'll have to be
dynamic in meeting the desires of the whole population or one of them will
get replaced, as the D or the R party would have been replaced if IRV had
continued to be used in Burlington...

> dlw:It matters for the world who "spoils" for who.  The threat of spoiling
>> instills a center-ward dynamism that is abstracted from in most rational
>> choice theories of electoral rules because it's hard to model
>> deterministically, as you demonstrate above.
> RBJ: i do not understand what you mean.  *any* spoiler, when discovered,
> will result in a tactical pressure for the group that supported that
> spoiler and hated who was actually elected.  here in Burlington, it was the
> GOP Prog-haters.  if IRV survived to this year, these folks, if they're
> savvy, would have to consider whether marking their favorite candidate as
> #1 will *again* cause the election of their least favorite candidate.  that
> is precisely the tactical voting (the tactic is called "compromising") that
> we were trying to avoid with the adoption of IRV.

dlw: No, it is not.  The R party is located too far right of the true
center in Burlington.  As such, it's not derogatory to its politics for R
voters to be pressed to vote strategically.  This behavior results in the
two parties closest to the center becoming the two major parties or the
center-ward dynamism I alluded to above.

> RBJ: rather than eliminate that burden of tactical voting, it was reduced
> by transferring it from the shoulders of the liberal majority (that didn't
> have a painful choice between Dem and Prog) to the GOP Prog-haters, a
> smaller group who found out that simply by marking their favorite as #1,
> they *caused* the election of their least favorite.  that's gotta make some
> people mad.

dlw: But politics is sex by another means because at the end of the day,
somebody always gets f**k*d.   If people of good will understood the
center-ward dynamism caused by the possibility of the pathological outcome
evinced in 2009 then they'd have resisted the misleading campaign against
IRV and the args that it's no good would not hold water.  The next election
would have very little chance of a similar outcome and we'd likely learn
that an angel doesn't lose their wings whenever somebody votes
strategically... and so the Rs would either adapt or die/become a minor
party in Burlington that benefits from the use of American forms of
Proportional Representation and thereby strategically supports such for
city council elections.


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