Gambling to Select for Robustly Functional Voting Algorithms

I think it’s plausible to heuristically test out or compare voting systems using gamification. For example, one could set up a gambling game, where individuals are guaranteed monetary returns or losses contingent on the winning candidate (or group of candidates) of an election, with the game-players serving as the electorate. The monetary returns would vary from player to player and would be a stand-in/model for their immaterial “gains” or “losses.”

If players were allowed to gamble freely among various different voting games, i.e. games with different voting systems in place, one could then observe whether certain voting systems would be played more frequently than others in the long run. This might be an indication that the typical gamblers would prefer certain voting systems over the others, perhaps indicating that the less preferred voting systems are in some ways riskier and/or less fair or less intuitive.

A gambling game by nature is zero-sum, or negative if you only count the gamblers and not the casino/bookie/etc, which limits how well it corresponds with elections. Of course this criticism may be missing the point since gambling is as much about the game itself as the final outcome, or people wouldn’t do it, and I suppose that your aim with this is to analyze how the process of getting to the final outcome of an election might also affect how palatable a voting system is to voters even before we consider the outcomes the systems produce.

However what makes a good gambling game on these terms might not make for a good voting system. Gambling is about the thrill of possibility, the idea that the night could turn around with one roll of the dice. You want drama. Now, when people spend their election nights watching returns, they often look for the same thing. But dramatic races that could turn on a dime are also more prone to having their legitimacy questioned. An Instant Runoff Voting election with a large number of competitive candidates could make for a thrilling gambling game. The instability we criticize it for would add tension and excitement, and the paradoxical features wouldn’t be a problem because they’d just be part of the game, like getting blue-shelled in Mario Kart. But in an actual election they translate to expensive lawsuits and supporters of the losers feeling cheated regardless of who comes out on top.

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