[EM] Academic paradox of election methods.

Kristofer Munsterhjelm km_elmet at t-online.de
Sun Sep 24 06:31:24 PDT 2017

On 09/24/2017 10:45 AM, Richard Lung wrote:
> The academic paradox of election methods.
> The widespread assertion that there is no such thing as right and wrong, 
> in election methods, is a paradox. If this statement were right, it 
> would contradict itself, and is therefore wrong. If this statement were 
> wrong, it would still contradict itself, and therefore be right: in 
> other words, it is right to say this assertion is wrong.
> Over half a century of academic apology, for the world anarchy of 
> election methods, is a paradox.

Gibbard-Satterthwaite and Arrow say there's no such thing as a perfect 
election method. It doesn't say that this implies that every method is 
equally bad. All it means is that you have to decide what's important 
and then choose the election method on that basis since you can't have 
it all. Somewhat like politics in general, perhaps?

> This academic paradox complements the political paradox of electing an 
> election system by referendum.
> Without knowing the right election method for electing an election, 
> there is no way of knowing how to elect it. If you do know, the election 
> of an election is superfluous. This supports HG Wells awareness that 
> voting method is not a matter of opinion but of demonstration.

You could always do it by a combination of referendum and deliberation; 
or in general, by a method that would be impractical to use on every 
election (like repeated balloting).

One example of this would be BC's Citizens' Assembly for Electoral 
Reform recommending STV as the new voting method; another would be New 
Zealand's two stage referendum, where the first vote was about whether 
the system should be changed, and the second was about what it should be 
changed to.

It's also possible that (in the right circumstances), you could get a 
convergence to better methods. E.g. suppose election method X was 
replaced with method Y which, though somewhat better, is not ideal. Then 
later, Y is replaced by Z which in turn improves on Y. However, I think 
that's less likely since voting reform is such a tough thing to 
accomplish even once.

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