The Hazards Of Criterial Fixation

Do we wish to satisfy various simple, narrow requirements (criteria), or do we wish to attain substantial, consequential goals (objectives)?

I have long been advocating (what I see as) the simplest form of score/range voting, 1 to 10, plus explicit abstention, because I saw it as a way to overcome ‘party lock-in’ (usually termed ‘two-party domination’). (And the electorate would still need to use a ‘hedge strategy’ for that to work.) Actually, the problem it poses would be just as bad if there were a dozen different parties, if they were all fronted by one common movement. And the problem is truly far worse than one of simple domination – the electorate has been totally locked into a two party regime all along. Disruption of party lock-in appears to be much more of a hard-to-attain substantial objective, than simple, narrow criterion. So, here we are dealing with a substantial objective, rather than some simple picked-and-chosen criterion.

Many, many people dwell at great length upon things like the Condorcet criterion. Really, what does meeting this very attractive, albeit narrow criterion actually accomplish in the real world? To satisfy this would do nothing to advance the disruption of party lock-in, which is a very substantial objective. Yet people fixate upon it relentlessly.

Then there’s the ever-fashionable ‘majority favorite criterion’. This beauty insists that if a candidate wins over 50% of the ‘first place votes’ then he or she ought to be declared the winner. For example, in a (currently ubiquitous) ‘choose-one’ method election, if a candidate wins over 50% of the votes, they win, and that surely sounds reasonable. Now, in a ‘RCV’/‘IRV’ method election, the weakest first-rank-place candidates are ‘eliminated’ on individual ballots, and the second-rank-place candidates on that ballot are ‘transferred upward’ to the first rank-place, and this ballot editing is repeated until some candidate achieves an artificial ‘majority plus one’ number of first-rank-place ‘votes’. Since this scheme eventually provides somebody with over 50% of the (edited) first-rank-place ‘votes’, the system is claimed to meet the ‘majority favorite criterion’.

But with score voting, in an election with 10 voters, some candidate might get 8 voters to grant 10 votes, for a total of 80 votes, while some other candidate might get 10 voters to grant them 9 votes, for a total of 90 votes, and the latter candidate would win (in the simplest case). But notice the former candidate (who lost) had won 8 of the ‘first-score-place votes’ while the latter (who won) had won (in the simplest case) only 2 of the ‘first-score-place votes’. This must be a dreadfully wrong violation of the (‘crucially important’) ‘majority favorite criterion’. Never mind that it has nothing whatever to do with any substantial, consequential objectives. This should illustrate the problem with the criterial fixation mentality.

Let us suppose that RCV actually meets the ‘majority favorite criterion’ often via weak candidate eliminations and ballot editing. Then, there is surely no reason to suppose it cannot also meet a ‘supermajority favorite criterion’. All the vote tabulators need to do is go beyond the point where somebody has more than a majority, and simply continue to eliminate weak candidates, and edit the appropriate ballots, until the winning candidate obtains 2/3rds of the (artificial) votes. Surely winning by 2/3rds is far better than having a paltry majority plus one. And while we are at it, why stop there? Why not go all the way to glory and just continue the eliminating and editing until the winner achieves a unanimous victory. Yes, ranked choice voting actually furnishes a unanimous victory in every single election.

It’s very possible that it would have been better if I had just added to the ‘stub’ topic I started previously, which you refer to.

Frankly, I am a bit stunned at what it has evolved into. I have more to add here. The main point now is that I am questioning the entire pervasive agenda constructed around the notion of ‘criteria’. And am beginning to question of whether employing the ‘criterion’ approach should perhaps be abandoned entirely.

It is quite challenging to develop a sense of direction when one is questioning something that has become so entrenched, and essentially ‘out of control’.

For example, there must be hundreds of ‘criteria’ that have been applied to the election methods analyses. And the Wikipedia seems to have published a page about every one of them. I am reaching the point where I believe that all those pages ought to be erased. I have been personally stunned by the scope of this dilemma.

There is much more I have to say about this, and I am a little unsure about how to approach it. What would happen if we were to begin anew, sans the now-endless criteria?

The reason that the social choice community has focused on criteria for so long is that they are objective. A voting system either passes the Condorcet criterion, or it does not. A voting system passes favorite betrayal, or it does not. Of course, these are still usually useless because it only moves the question to which criteria are important (e.g. FailVote saying “later no harm” is the quintessential criterion, while CES says “later no harm” is a bad thing).

You yourself are using a criterion to meet your objective. That criterion is “enables hedge strategy”.

Not if voters stop ranking the candidates after a certain point.

=/ You yourself are using a criterion to meet your objective. That criterion is “enables hedge strategy”. /=

Well, I guess the notion of ‘criteria’ is legitimate. What I am focusing upon now, however, is the fact that criteria are actually addictive, and that they easily engender a mental state of ‘fixation’ on their many victims. I’m hopefully not fixated on the ‘enables hedge strategy’ criterion. I would gladly use anything else that would disrupt party lock-in.

Why would the Condorcet criterion not disrupt party lock-in? If every voter (or even a majority) ranks the favored candidates of either side higher than the lesser evils of either side favored candidate of the other side higher than their greater evil, and ranks their own side’s favored candidate over their lesser evil, the favoreds will win, won’t they?

Also, why would Asset Voting not disrupt elite lock-in? As long as (1) voters can tell indies from elites and (2) there is reasonable ballot access, voters can simply honestly vote for independents, and then those independents can negotiate to ensure that elites do not win unless they get enough votes themselves.

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