[EM] Is it professional?

Juho Laatu juho4880 at yahoo.co.uk
Wed Jun 26 01:10:43 PDT 2013

On 25.6.2013, at 12.13, Kristofer Munsterhjelm wrote:

> On 06/25/2013 09:17 AM, Juho Laatu wrote:
>> On 25.6.2013, at 1.25, Benjamin Grant wrote:
>>> On Mon, Jun 24, 2013 at 6:19 PM, Kristofer Munsterhjelm
>>> <km_elmet at lavabit.com <mailto:km_elmet at lavabit.com>> wrote:
>>>    Scenario 1: Voters don't rank now, but will rank when they see
>>>    it's worth it. Here IRV will eventually crash but BTR-IRV is,
>>>    well, better.
>>>    Scenario 2: Voters rank, contrary to your assumptions (but
>>>    suggested by international evidence). Again, BTR-IRV does better.
>>>    Scenario 3: Voters don't rank and never will. BTR-IRV is here no
>>>    worse than IRV.
>>>    Under what scenario does BTR-IRV *lose* against ordinary IRV?
>>> I am quite interested in the answer to this as well, as I imagine that
>>> whatever the answer is is a defining advantage, should any exist.
>> One can see this problem from two quite different points of view.
>> One approach is that BTR-IRV is simply an improved version of IRV that
>> it avoids some of the key problems of IRV. Therefore it could be
>> straight forward to get also BTR-IRV accepted if the society accepts IRV.
>> Another approach is to have a more political power oriented viewpoint.
>> IRV tends to favour major parties. If the incumbent strong parties (that
>> do have a lot to say on what route the politics take) may well count
>> their chances in each proposed method. This might lead to favouring
>> methods like IRV that still allow the largest parties to take a lion's
>> share of the victories.
> Right. I've heard this argument from others: that IRV, favoring the large parties, will get greater support from them. But the problem with that argument is that on the face of it, it seems to apply just as well to Plurality.

The rule may apply to all political parties with ability and interest to plot and plan and be power hungry or be afraid that other parties are power hungry. That is thus a considerable temptation to all parties in all competitive political systems.

Some political forces might think that if reform is imminent, then one should pick a method that causes least harm. Adoption of IRV (replacing plurality) might lead to further reforms and therefore this path is risky to the incumbent major parties, but other methods might be even more dangerous to them. In that situation IRV may be the least threatening one of the proposed changes.

From this point of view a "good" reform might be one that will cause so many problems that it wll be soon cancelled. I note that in Burlington the reform was cancelled. The reasons behind the cancellation are probably quite complex, but in real life political situations also fake reforms and watered down reforms are quite common.

My theory thus is that in all organizations (not just in politics) people tend to maintain and increase their own power and position. In this situation, and if someone understands the dynamics of the election methods well enough, also reforms may proceed on such paths that are most useful and least harmful to the ones that are in power right now. For example in the USA Plurality (and the whole political system around it) may thus be the most popular approach to the incumbents. IRV might be one of the least harmful reforms, and at least less harmful than e.g. Condorcet.

> The ones who already have power, have power to some degree because of the imbalances in the power allocation system.

Yes. I think in most systems also the initiatives and alternative proposals come from the ones that already have power. Therefore already the concrete proposals are usually filtered by them in some suitable way.

> Therefore, they'll be disinclined to switch the power allocation system or parts of it, for something that will distribute power away from them. Or to be more direct: the people who are in power because of Plurality would see no need to advocate IRV unless they would also be in power under IRV -- and if they already have power, why take the chance?

Yes. In all political systems those who were elected in the previous election tend to dislike electon method reforms since it was the old method that elected them. In this situation any changes in the method carry a risk of not electing the same candidates next time.

On the other hand it is the job of the politicians to make changes in the society and thereby market themselves as active politicians. Sometimes the discussion goes also on the (unwanted) election method reform track, and sometimes that even leads to something. In that situation some watered down reform (or a reform that improves the chances of the politician / party in power) is the favourite one.

> I think the argument would be better if adapted to a sort of "internal discontent" scenario. For simplicity's sake, say you have a 1984-like structure with three classes:
> - The upper class wants to stay in power,
> - The middle class wants to switch places with the upper class,
> - The lower class wants to remove the class system itself.
> Then you could appeal to parts of the middle by using a conservative reform like IRV. The argument would go: "you're strong, but not strong enough. You would like some leveling, but not so much that you can't enjoy your share of the power. Well, how about this method? It slightly levels the playing field - enough for you to now compete with the powerholders, but not enough that those third-party dudes will compete with *you*".

Most (democratic) political systems are majority based. Those in power need the approval of two of the classes above. The upper class is probably close to the power anyway, so the most natural thing is to get the approval of the middle class. You might sell IRV to them using arguments like "now also others than the two ruling groupings have equal chance". That would take the pressure off from the rulers for a few years. People would be happy with the reform since now they can run e.g. as independent candidates without being spoilers, and voters are free to vote for them too. But the power balance stays close to what it was. So, maybe this was a way to keep the masses happy and to avoid any political unrest in the country. One can to some extent also rely on that the media and public are slow to analyze the dynamics of the political system, and that good propaganda about the benefits of the new system always helps too.

I'm not saying that politics consists of selfish plotting only, but that in all organizations also selfish plotting is present. In slow changes such thoughts may lead also to electing the final solutions accordingly.

>> A classical example is one where there are two major parties and a
>> smaller compromise party candidate between the lajor party candidates.
>> Should the mathod allow that compromise candidate win? Condorcet
>> compliant methods seem to think that the compromise candidate should
>> win. (I also note that different political systems may have different
>> needs. In some systems the strongest are expected to rule whil in others
>> compromises are the default mode of operation.)
> Ideally, I'd want the compromise candidate to win if he's genuinely a compromise candidate, but not if he's a bland "nobody's favorite" that gets the second place by default. But handling that will require some sophistication. Runoffs may work.

For example Condorcet methods may in theory elect some low utility candidates. 49:A>>>B>C, 49: C>>>B>A, 2:B>A=C. In real life this kind of opinion spaces do not however probably emerge (there are also better compromise candidates available than B). And if those voters really think that B should not win, they should rank B last and not second. They are tus happy with the idea that a "weak" candidate should win. With these votes one can thus say that people prefer B to both A and C, and they would not like to change the end result of the Condorcet election.

If we want to measure the level of acceptance in ranked methods, ranked methods can handle also cutoffs like A > B > acceptabilityLevelMark > C > D. The method could be such that in order to win, the winner has to be above the acceptabilityLevelMark in some percentage of the ballots. Otherwise there would be no change, or one would elect the next best candidate with sufficient level of "approvals" (details to be worked out). This could be lighter and less random than actual runoffs.

> Or perhaps given Condorcet, the voters will learn to punish bland candidates with last-place votes. That would be sort of like market adjustment: demand of compromise candidates increase due to Condorcet, then supply follows, giving multiple compromise candidates, and finally, the good ones win as the bland ones are ranked lower. I don't know if that would happen, but on the other hand, I haven't heard of "bland candidate syndrome" reports from any of the organizations that are currently using Condorcet methods.

I believe part of the bland candidate problems come from the fact that Condorcet methods are nowadays used mainly in environments where voters don't know the numerous candidates and their opinions, where anyone can become a candidte, and there are numerous candidates. I believe in competitive political environmnets things will be clearer. Everyone would roughly know the programs of the existing parties, and probably there would be some limitations on who can become a candidate (e.g. in order to become a candidate you must have the names of 10 000 supporters, or your party must have had 1 000 000 votes in the previous election). And the candidates will make a lot of noise about themselves.

In politics limiting the number of candidates in some suitable way to some suitable level may thus make sure that no candidates are "bland". Or if we allow high number of candidates to run (more than regular voters will be interested to know), then one simply should make sure the the method ranks unlisted candidates last.

I don't believe that there is high risk of voters ranking all the bland and unknown candidates above the strongest competitor of their favourite (just to make sure that that competior will not get any support), and thereby get a bad and bland winner. If this happens once, the correct guidance is "that was a stupid strategy that does not work, vote sincerely next time". Of course this guidance should be given already before the election if someone starts spreading ideas about voting in such senseless way.


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