Another thread ( A new(?) STAR variant ) was going down the rabbit hole of discussing whether it makes sense to say that a score of 4 means that the voter likes that candidate “twice as much” as a candidate that they rank as 2. This is relevant in determining if it makes sense to consider a ballot that rates 3 candidates as [100,75,50] as providing significantly different information compared to one that rates them as [100,50,0].
I decided to break it off into this new thread, since it was detracting from and getting mixed up in the original topic. (even if it was relevant to it)
My position is that the first voter rather foolishly weakened their vote (unless of course the tabulation system ignores the difference between them by pre-normalizing them). Instead of trying to consider some absolute scale of bad to good (where zero represents some absolutely defined degree of dislike, variously described as “no support”, “hatred”, or just “meh”), I’d suggest that voters should just pre-calibrate their scales such that their least favorite candidate represents zero and their favorite is 100 (a.k.a. “max”). In other words, the numerical utilities should be considered to be relative to the field of candidates who are running, rather than to some absolute concept of goodness and badness.
I can respect that others don’t agree with my position that liking something “half as much” as something else is meaningless. Regardless, a whole lot of mainstream economic/social choice theory appears to agree with my position on that.
And it’s of course true that many people, from babies to random adult “advocacy targets,” have an intuitive sense of “absolute utilities.” An often heard counterpoint to that intuition is the expression “first world problem,” which calls attention to the intrinsic relativity of any measure of utility.
This is Wikipedia’s version of exactly what I was trying to say in the other thread: (from the article on Utility: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utility#Cardinal ):
One cannot conclude, however, that the cup of tea is two thirds of the goodness of the cup of juice, because this conclusion would depend not only on magnitudes of utility differences, but also on the “zero” of utility. For example, if the “zero” of utility was located at -40, then a cup of orange juice would be 160 utils more than zero, a cup of tea 120 utils more than zero.
Some people take a stronger position than my own, rejecting cardinal utility outright (and thinking only ordinal is meaningfully measurable). That seems to be the general position of this article, but the quote below is something I agree with: https://mises.org/library/cardinal-utility-its-worse-you-thought
A ratio-level measure requires a nonarbitrary zero point, but there is no way of finding that. Zero utility is obviously nonsense; again, this is shown to be true before we ask whether my zero point and yours are the same or different
This one discusses it in a lot of detail: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Paul_Louangrath/post/Is_marginal_utility_affected_by_the_units_in_which_utility_is_measured/attachment/59d63251c49f478072ea17da/AS%3A273632255774753%401442250421428/download/04064.pdf
with a key line that concisely represents my position:
I do not think there is any way of measuring, or even conceptualising, the zero-point in the absence of specific choice options.
Rejecting “ratioed utility” seems pretty much universal everywhere I can find.
Again, it’s fine if people want to take another position, but I’d hope they can recognize that for people who view it as I do, it isn’t for lack of someone explaining it to them so they can wrap their little heads around it. Honestly, I find such suggestions to be quite condescending. It’s a valid perspective that sure appears to be shared by most people who approach this with academic rigor, as opposed to basic intuition. (or, what works in the context of STAR/Score advocacy)
That said, if anyone can find any literature that makes the case for the meaningfulness of such ratioed utilities, I’d happily read and consider it.