A Warning on Asset


#1

The version of Asset I and others have touted around (use regular ballots, candidates get a week to trade votes, single-winner) has convincingly been argued to allow major parties to draconianly restrict ballot access, making it FPTP instead. Consider Abd’s time-unlimited version instead for PR, though I don’t know how the major parties would react to that.


#2

Restricting ballot access will prevent any election method from returning fair outcomes. There’s a reason why it’s a popular tactic among dictators running show elections.

Anyway, I think that in setting rules for an Asset system, permanent vs revocable transfer is another important distinction, not just time limits. By permanent vs revocable transfer, I mean: if candidate A gives her assets to candidate B, but B lacks the support to win, who decides where the assets that originally went to A go next? If transfers are permanent, then B decides when to give up and who gets the assets he received from A. If transfers are revocable, then A decides when to give up on B, and where the assets she gave to B go next. Temporary transfers limit the number of degrees of separation between the voter and the person deciding where their assets go, so transfer decisions should more closely resemble the original intent of the voter. However, when transfers are permanent, the negotiation process gradually simplifies as the number of people making decisions decreases, which may be more practical.

A key feature of Abd’s rules for Asset is that transfers are hyper-revocable: the person who originally received assets (the person whose name was actually on the ballot; Abd called them electors) that they later used to support a different candidate could revoke them even after the candidate they supported had already been seated in the legislature and was in the middle of serving their term. This would cost the candidate who lost the assets their seat, and they would need to make up the difference by gaining assets from another elector to get the seat back.


#4

The obvious advantage to hyper-revocable transfers is accountability: to stay in power, legislators have to keep their supporters happy (or rather, their supporters’ proxies).

However, the disadvantage is instability, especially since Abd’s rules require candidates to have Hare Quota of assets to be seated. Of course, a Hare Quota is the maximum amount of support a candidate could be required to have to win a seat that still makes it possible to fill every seat. Abd’s purpose behind this was that to completely fill a legislature, every vote would need to be allocated to a candidate. He described this as requiring unanimous consent to elect the entire legislature. (Note: as this would probably never actually happen, the likely result would be that the last couple seats would always be empty. Votes in the legislature requiring a majority or supermajority of support would base the number of votes required for the vote to succeed off of the theoretical maximum number of seats.)

In such a setup, a legislator could lose their seat if they lose any assets. So you could have cases where very small defections (e.g. one elector representing 4 voters) lead to headaches where even popular legislators have to replace a couple of defectors every month or so (it’s hard to estimate how frequent this would be in practice, though it’s clear that the larger someone’s coalition, the more often this would happen.) If it is too frequent, electors may spend a lot of time rebuilding their coalition after micro defections. Legislators may be able to make these instances rare by trying to get slightly more than one quota so that they can survive a couple of defections, but if any one legislator does this, one seat will always be empty. If the last seat is always empty, there will always be some unused assets, so there will be no reason for a seated candidate not to try to exceed the quota slightly.

In practice it will be as though the legislature has one fewer seat than intended, legislators need a Hagenbach-Bischoff quota to be elected, and supermajority thresholds, which are often arbitrary anyway, are slightly larger. (The threshold for a majority would also be slightly larger only if the legislature was intended to have an odd number of seats. Otherwise it would not change.)


#5

Anyway, requiring candidates to exceed the Hagenbach-Bischoff quota to be seated (this is the smallest possible quota which forbids more candidates meeting quota than there are seats) and having an odd number of seats ensures that a legislative majority requires a majority of assets, and that a majority of assets can command a legislative majority. For example, if there are 99 seats, the Hagenbach-Bischoff is 1% of the votes, and a legislative majority requires the support of 50 legislators. Each has more than 1% of assets, so in total they have more than 50% of the assets.

While this won’t work for supermajorities or unanimity, as noted earlier, most supermajority thresholds are arbitrary, so slight differences wouldn’t be terrible. Thresholds requiring a unanimity of assets would be impossible in practice, so the legislature would not use that as a threshold for any decision (e.g. a legislature elected via Abd’s Asset might allow the use of the consent calendar when there is no more than one unfilled seat.)


#6

If you are going to allow politicians to be unseated in the middle of the term, at least make it so you need a Droop quota to win a seat, so there is breathing room.

With the HB quota, you could still have W+1 candidates exactly meet the quota. Droop is better because it uses floor(V/(W+1)) + 1, which at most W can satisfy.

Honestly, if we are going to go any farther than Citizens vote, candidates trade, and winners go to their term then we would need a constitutional amendment, and at that point we may as well upgrade to Liquid Democracy. (The nice thing about LD is that it constitutionally forces the gov to ensure every citizen has education, housing, and internet access!)


#7

I proposed requiring candidates to exceed the HB quota, not meet it. It’s possible W+1 candidates exactly meet the HB quota for W seats, but then they won’t have exceeded it. The only support requirement where an asset majority is both necessary and sufficient to gain a legislative majority is to require candidates to exceed the HB quota to fill the seat (and this only works when the total number of seats is odd.)


#8

OK, although exceeding HB is logically equivalent to meeting Droop.