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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=/ Also, why would Asset Voting not disrupt elite lock-in? /= – NoIRV

First of all, as W. D. Smith pointed out, many people simply feel that there is something objectionable about electing a ‘pool’ of candidates, and then forcing them to ‘eliminate’ each other in ‘reality TV show style’.

More specifically, it would reinforce elite-fronted candidate lock-in by a ‘back door’. The elites, by definition, have plenty of money. With the secret ballot it is not practical to buy off the voters. But the prohibition of vote buying among a small number of individuals would be unenforceable.

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Discussion about electoral methods has tended to be focus upon either the ‘demand’ for this-or-that criterion to be ‘satisfied’, or the proposal of various new methods, many of which are complex or problematic. And many of which require individual ballot ‘re-inspection’, or much worse, ballot ‘editing’ (physically or more abstractly). I have decried the problem of ‘criteria fixation’ before, for example:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ //
It is not sufficient to just begin with a collection of criteria. That approach is what I would call the ‘box-of-chocolates’ approach. There are 100 chocolate pieces in the box, and you may choose five. Maybe you would like a cherry-filled? And a toffee? And a chocolate covered pecan, perhaps? And so on. But this is not any way to begin a project. If you want to start a project, you need to begin with goals, not criteria. You must ask: “What do I want from the creation of this project?”
// ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

What we really should be doing is deciding what we want an electoral system to accomplish – or in other words, we should ask “why should we expect people to expend energy to bother to vote?” And to begin with, we should ask “what is democracy ‘for’?” And different people will have different ideas about that.

All of our lives we have been indoctrinated to believe that the reason we elect officials is that they will ‘represent’ us (since having referendums on all sorts of issues that the electorate has no time to analyze is probably not practical). However I, for example, am convinced that this notion is inaccurate, or at least inadequate. I believe that the primary reason we elect ‘representative’ officials is that we simply require the services of some individuals to ‘make the rules’. What is the difference here?

Suppose we just had a King or Queen? If this was a benevolent monarch who looked after our best interests, we could be just as well-served as we would were we governed by elected officials. And please note that no ‘representation’ exists in this scenario. So, having a King or a Queen, or a system of elected officials could provide us with good governance (but of course not in every instance). Please note that royal power is not (at least ostensibly) conferred by dint of the simple possession of richesse; it is generally conferred via a genealogical line of descent. Some thing are universally held to be too significant to be bought and sold, such as people, silence, sex, body organs, education, friendship, love, and elections,for example. Let us now ask what the worst kind of system would be.

In every society there exists a very small faction of moneyed individuals that is quite determined to achieve the role of acting as elite power usurpers; they want to become an elite ruling class. Such individuals always tend to be psychopathic or at least remorseless, and to rely upon the influence of their richesse to gain dictatorial control. I would say that the worst kind of governing system would be one in which such elite supremacists could rig an ostensible ‘democracy’ in such a way that it could exert power from ‘behind closed doors’ as all the while some system of supposedly democratically elected officials act as mere vassals to assert that elite ruling class power indirectly. That would be the worst.

Of course there is nothing that could prevent an elite ruling class from exercising strategy. And obviously such a strategy would would first seek to deprive the ‘other side’ of strategy. And this is why I advocate strategic hedge simple score voting. It provides strategy to the masses, which can disrupt their vulnerability to double-bind lock-in dilemmas. This represents my own ‘primary objective’. I tend not to fixate upon various supposedly ‘all-important’ criteria.

I know this is old but I just realized something.

The United States Congress does not use secret ballot when it passes laws. If this were an issue, then by extension, the elites would be able to bribe off Congress to vote their own way, and that appears to make all electoral reform pointless until we can find a way to crack down on this.

(And yet in another thread you don’t seem to be concerned about dividing electorates into SRV/IRV districts in ways that can be easily gerrymandered.)

That’s already happening (it’s mentioned in arguments for campaign finance reform), and it’s one of the reasons electoral reform is needed.

If we’re using Israel-style PR, a representative who can be thrown out of the legislature with 3% of the voters preferring someone else may have to choose between taking big bribes to do very unpopular things for short-term gain, or maybe taking small bribes and doing mildly unpopular things over the long term of their career. So electoral reform can provide an answer by creating the competitiveness necessary to make politicians more accountable, and seeing as how most of them seem to prioritize lengthy careers over rapid short-term gains, this may work quite well.

Here is what I believe we really need to do right now: We must stop fixating on the notion of ‘criteria’. The ‘criteria’ fetish has been profoundly pernicious to everything in elections methods analysis. Instead, we need to begin thinking in terms of ‘objectives’.

Since mathematics in not a human artifact, nothing in it has an ‘objective’, it only has ‘criteria’. Election systems, however, involve human interaction and must therefore be guided by objectives.

My objectives reflect my position that truly political (not merely casual) elections are fundamentally contests between a very small elite camp and a very large commonalty camp. They are not fundamentally contests between various candidates, parties, commonalty factions or sub-camps, or ideologies.

My primary objective, above all others (and certainly above any criteria) is that, for the human race to survive, the commonalty must win, and the elites must lose. The common people may be good or bad individually, and the quality of their collective values reflects the nature of their zeitgeist, but the elites have always tended strongly to remorselessness or psychopathy. History, with all its wars and oppressions, is an unquestionable testament to this reality.

Obviously the elites will utilize all manner of strategies, most prominently, elite-fronted candidate lock-in, to elect officials who will enforce their pitiless agendas. It doesn’t ultimately matter to them if there are a dozen marginally distinct, yet ultimately controlled ‘adversarial’ officials. Therefore, any electoral system must empower the common people to use strategy of their own to elect officials who will blunt the power of the oppressive elites.

The most reliable system I know of that would enable the common people to resist the agendas of the elites, by means of strategic hedge voting, is the most simple form of score/range voting. Since they are sentient beings, and not algorithmically programmed machines, they would use the hedge strategy of granting maximum leverage to truly favored candidates, and lesser, hedge leverage to lesser-evil elite controlled candidates.

Since around the turn of the millennium the elites have built a powerful, albeit covert, social machine to institute democracy revocation via promotion of the deceptively plausible, yet illusory, ‘IRV’/‘RCV’ election method, largely by means of duping the ‘progressive’ camps. There do exist very good strategies for creating opposition to this agenda.

Similar to STAR, one could do “elect the highest-scored candidate in the Smith Set”, which only further increases voters’ ability to weaken their support for lesser evil candidates, while still being precinct-summable.

It seems to me that to determine the Smith set is a complication, and I believe it is important to keep the tallying as simple as possible.

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So from a perspective of keeping tallying simple, would a Condorcet method done purely on ranked ballots be good?

Which one? Minimax (which can be described simply as "find the minimum number of additional first-place X votes needed to make X a Condorcet winner) and Schulze Beatpaths are both Condorcet methods, but they are on entirely different ends of the complexity scale.

Except for the Condorcet-RCV hybrids and possibly some others, aren’t all Condorcet methods equally complex in terms of precinct-summability (tallying)? Minimax and Schulze both require pairwise tables to determine a winner.