There's a Word for That

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thoreau
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Re: There's a Word for That

Post by thoreau » 08 Dec 2011, 19:01

GinSlinger wrote:
thoreau wrote:
GinSlinger wrote:I coulda sworn there was a thread for words one can't think of, but ten minutes of "Searching" produced nothing.

What is the voting system called where a voter is given a number of votes (perhaps equal to the number of races) to distribute as they see fit across the entire ballot? For example, say there are 20 races and a voter is given 20 votes. They can spend all their votes on a single race (most would probably opt for the presidency every four years), or distribute them one vote per race, or some combination.
I've not heard of this, and I'm very much a voting systems geek. I see from your post below that you already looked into cumulative voting. Do you know of places that have actually used this method?
No, it's based on a hypothetical. I just assumed all possible means of voting were covered. Speaking of that, I know there must be some literature on "skin in the game" style voting (pay per vote) somewhere. I'd be interested if you could point me to it, or provide the right words for a JSTOR or similar search.
The closest thing I know of to "skin in the game" voting is shareholder voting. You might also look for the literature on cumulative voting, and add a word like "variant" or "modified" or something.
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Re: There's a Word for That

Post by Jadagul » 08 Dec 2011, 19:12

GinSlinger wrote:
Jadagul wrote:Uh...because democracies naturally have a problem with concentrated interests overwhelming diffuse-but-greater interests (e.g. tarriffs, height restrictions, liquor licenses). Why would we build a system that seems almost designed to make that problem worse?
Given the binary of "have a problem" or "doesn't have a problem," how does one get worse than "has a problem"?
By rejecting the binary?

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Re: There's a Word for That

Post by thoreau » 08 Dec 2011, 19:16

Jadagul wrote:
GinSlinger wrote:
Jadagul wrote:Uh...because democracies naturally have a problem with concentrated interests overwhelming diffuse-but-greater interests (e.g. tarriffs, height restrictions, liquor licenses). Why would we build a system that seems almost designed to make that problem worse?
Given the binary of "have a problem" or "doesn't have a problem," how does one get worse than "has a problem"?
By rejecting the binary?
Kobayashi Maru!
"ike Wile E. Coyote salivating over a "4000 Ways To Prepare Roadrunner" cookbook without watching his surroundings, the Road Runner of Societal Inertia snuck up on them both and beepbeeped them off the mesa."
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Re: There's a Word for That

Post by GinSlinger » 08 Dec 2011, 19:36

Jadagul wrote:
GinSlinger wrote:
Jadagul wrote:Uh...because democracies naturally have a problem with concentrated interests overwhelming diffuse-but-greater interests (e.g. tarriffs, height restrictions, liquor licenses). Why would we build a system that seems almost designed to make that problem worse?
Given the binary of "have a problem" or "doesn't have a problem," how does one get worse than "has a problem"?
By rejecting the binary?
So, the problem exists, as you acknowledge, and your solution is to reject the status quo, how?

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Re: There's a Word for That

Post by Jadagul » 08 Dec 2011, 19:44

GinSlinger wrote:
Jadagul wrote:
GinSlinger wrote:
Jadagul wrote:Uh...because democracies naturally have a problem with concentrated interests overwhelming diffuse-but-greater interests (e.g. tarriffs, height restrictions, liquor licenses). Why would we build a system that seems almost designed to make that problem worse?
Given the binary of "have a problem" or "doesn't have a problem," how does one get worse than "has a problem"?
By rejecting the binary?
So, the problem exists, as you acknowledge, and your solution is to reject the status quo, how?
I don't have a good solution to the problem. I see no reason to adopt policies that are virtually designed to make it worse.

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Re: There's a Word for That

Post by GinSlinger » 08 Dec 2011, 19:51

Jadagul wrote:
GinSlinger wrote:
Jadagul wrote:
GinSlinger wrote:
Jadagul wrote:Uh...because democracies naturally have a problem with concentrated interests overwhelming diffuse-but-greater interests (e.g. tarriffs, height restrictions, liquor licenses). Why would we build a system that seems almost designed to make that problem worse?
Given the binary of "have a problem" or "doesn't have a problem," how does one get worse than "has a problem"?
By rejecting the binary?
So, the problem exists, as you acknowledge, and your solution is to reject the status quo, how?
I don't have a good solution to the problem. I see no reason to adopt policies that are virtually designed to make it worse.
Based on? a one for one system you say allows the minority to control it, how does that get WORSE under what I addressed?

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Re: There's a Word for That

Post by GinSlinger » 08 Dec 2011, 19:52

thoreau wrote: The closest thing I know of to "skin in the game" voting is shareholder voting. You might also look for the literature on cumulative voting, and add a word like "variant" or "modified" or something.
Thanks, I might also look for Sandy's dots-on-a-whiteboard as well.

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Re: There's a Word for That

Post by Jadagul » 08 Dec 2011, 20:06

GinSlinger wrote:
Jadagul wrote:
GinSlinger wrote:
Jadagul wrote:
GinSlinger wrote:
Jadagul wrote:Uh...because democracies naturally have a problem with concentrated interests overwhelming diffuse-but-greater interests (e.g. tarriffs, height restrictions, liquor licenses). Why would we build a system that seems almost designed to make that problem worse?
Given the binary of "have a problem" or "doesn't have a problem," how does one get worse than "has a problem"?
By rejecting the binary?
So, the problem exists, as you acknowledge, and your solution is to reject the status quo, how?
I don't have a good solution to the problem. I see no reason to adopt policies that are virtually designed to make it worse.
Based on? a one for one system you say allows the minority to control it, how does that get WORSE under what I addressed?
Because in the current system, the people with the diffuse cost still can/might vote on it. In the proposed system, you have no incentive to vote on that issue at all--it reduces the threshold of effort needed for a concentrated interest to capture a specific issue.

And, for that matter, makes for more effective threats. If you control a block of votes, you say, "anyone who crosses this bright line, I'll tell my whole block to throw all their votes against you." Whereas right now they can only throw one vote per person.

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Re: There's a Word for That

Post by GinSlinger » 08 Dec 2011, 20:10

Jadagul wrote:
Because in the current system, the people with the diffuse cost still can/might vote on it. In the proposed system, you have no incentive to vote on that issue at all--it reduces the threshold of effort needed for a concentrated interest to capture a specific issue.

And, for that matter, makes for more effective threats. If you control a block of votes, you say, "anyone who crosses this bright line, I'll tell my whole block to throw all their votes against you." Whereas right now they can only throw one vote per person.
So, you're saying 1:1 is fine, but 20:20 is bad?

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Re: There's a Word for That

Post by Jadagul » 08 Dec 2011, 20:44

No, I'm saying that it allows people to be disproportionate.

The first and second points are different. The first is that, say, suppose every parent would mildly prefer candidate A for the school board, and every teacher would strongly prefer candidate B. (Yes, this is an extreme split, but work with me for a moment). Then under our current system, some of the parents will vote for A and some won't bother, and the teachers will vote for B and A will probably win. Under that system, most of the parents won't vote in the race at all because they can put all their votes in something they care more about, and the teachers can dump all their votes into the school board race and candidate B wins. Whether this is good or bad depends on whether you think it's more likely that the concentrated benefit or diffuse cost is greater; I suspect our system is already slanted towards screwing the diffuse for the benefit of the concentrated.

The second point is different, and sort of relies on the economy of threats. You don't have to actually get your people to throw all their votes against anyone. You just have to credibly promise that you could. If you say, "Okay, first dude who steps out of line, my entire block throws all twenty of their votes at your opponent," then it doesn't matter that you can't possibly follow through on everyone--you can follow through on the first dude, so no one wants to be first.

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Re: There's a Word for That

Post by GinSlinger » 08 Dec 2011, 20:55

Jadagul wrote:No, I'm saying that it allows people to be disproportionate.

The first and second points are different. The first is that, say, suppose every parent would mildly prefer candidate A for the school board, and every teacher would strongly prefer candidate B. (Yes, this is an extreme split, but work with me for a moment). Then under our current system, some of the parents will vote for A and some won't bother, and the teachers will vote for B and A will probably win. Under that system, most of the parents won't vote in the race at all because they can put all their votes in something they care more about, and the teachers can dump all their votes into the school board race and candidate B wins. Whether this is good or bad depends on whether you think it's more likely that the concentrated benefit or diffuse cost is greater; I suspect our system is already slanted towards screwing the diffuse for the benefit of the concentrated.

The second point is different, and sort of relies on the economy of threats. You don't have to actually get your people to throw all their votes against anyone. You just have to credibly promise that you could. If you say, "Okay, first dude who steps out of line, my entire block throws all twenty of their votes at your opponent," then it doesn't matter that you can't possibly follow through on everyone--you can follow through on the first dude, so no one wants to be first.
No, in your first case, if the genuinely strongly prefer candidate B, moreso than any other candidate on the ballot, they'll dump their votes for candidate B. If the number of teachers outnumbers the number of committed and indifferent voters (really?) what's the difference in outcome? If, on the other hand, the voters for candidate A are for whatever reason hell-bent on preventing teachers from getting their way, they'll dump their votes for A. I notice you don't break down your hypotheticals--but I've seen schoolboard races narrow enough to be decided by teachers and their families.

As to your second point, why yes. and vice versa. Not to mention the same is said to exist today.

Maybe the problem is with the diffused being diffused? (Not to bomb disposal, not defused.) It's a staple in public choice theory that concentrated benefits with diffused costs will win, yes? So, what is the difference other than magnitude of election results?

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Re: There's a Word for That

Post by Jadagul » 08 Dec 2011, 21:23

The public choice point is exactly the point I'm trying to make. With the exception that I realize statements like that aren't absolute. This sort of reform would make it _easier_ for concentrated benefits with diffused costs to win. which isn't a good thing.

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Re: There's a Word for That

Post by Sandy » 08 Dec 2011, 21:23

According to Wikipedia, Dot Voting is a Thing, and called Dotmocracy in decision-making/facilitation systems. Similarly according to the hive mind, it is possibly an application of range voting, but is usually not considered such because there's no forcing you to consider all options. I'm not sure I see that, but I'm as far from a voting geek as you can get while not actively being a totalitarian. I mostly think the imagined fixes by different voting systems likely have enough real-world drawbacks to make them all a wash. (See: Butterfly Ballots)
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Re: There's a Word for That

Post by thoreau » 08 Dec 2011, 21:29

Sandy wrote:I mostly think the imagined fixes by different voting systems likely have enough real-world drawbacks to make them all a wash. (See: Butterfly Ballots)
I'll go to the mat for Approval Voting and a few of its simpler variants, but, yeah, you have an important message here. When somebody starts explaining that their Condorcet method with a second ballot added on to provide additional information for cycle resolution is the way to go, um, somebody needs to remind them about Florida.
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Re: There's a Word for That

Post by Sandy » 08 Dec 2011, 21:35

Yeah, the discussions often remind me of a lot of the results of the facilitation I did in consulting: at the end it's a technical fix to a social problem. The success record for those is poor. If technology is involved, it's some unpredicted side-effect of a different technology that obviates the issue.

ETA: Like, for example, our robot overlords.
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Re: There's a Word for That

Post by GinSlinger » 09 Dec 2011, 07:39

Jadagul wrote:The public choice point is exactly the point I'm trying to make. With the exception that I realize statements like that aren't absolute. This sort of reform would make it _easier_ for concentrated benefits with diffused costs to win. which isn't a good thing.
But there are alternatives to that. The special interest vote, in this game, is the first mover, as it is known beforehand how they will vote. The countermove is to withhold a vote from that race, and distribute it elsewhere to counter. Under "cumulative voting," Wikipedia presents both these strategies:
Plumper votes

Allotting more than one vote to the same candidate, or plumping, can make that individual more likely to win. The issue of "Plumper Votes" was much to the fore in the early 18th. c., when a candidate such as Sir Richard Child was returned for Essex in 1710 with 90% of his votes having been "Plumpers".[16] This was therefore a sign of his high popularity with the voters. The term is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as: (verb) "to vote plump, to vote straight or without any qualification", (attrib.noun) "plumper vote, a vote given solely to one candidate at an election (when one has the right to vote for 2 or more)".[17]
[edit] Spread-out votes

Conversely, spreading out votes can increase the number of like-minded candidates who eventually take office.

The strategy of voters should be to balance how strong their preferences for individual candidates are against how close those candidates will be to the number of votes needed to win. Consequently, it is beneficial for voters to have good information about the relative support levels of various candidates, such as through opinion polling.

Voters typically award most, if not all, of their votes to their most preferred candidate
This is easier to conceive of in, say, school board, or city-council-at-large elections where there are other race alternatives at the same level to the voter. In some respects, this system tests Tip O'Neil's "all politics is local."

I'll add that I am not advocating to replace the current system with this, in the original context my thoughts on this system are closer to the way Sandy's seen it used, e.g. in platform building.

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Re: There's a Word for That

Post by JasonL » 09 Dec 2011, 10:33

I'm a voting methodological skeptic, for reasons DAR suggested when he posted the link to the philosophy of votes. Voting is a hilariously bad decision method. For anything. The only justification for voting is the very circular "you vote on this because this is the sort of thing you vote on". The various types of voting don't actually get at an aggregated set of preferences - that's just what we tell ourselves. I often wonder if a two party election isn't really the best you can hope for out of a stupid process. It allows each person to aggregate all issues, weigh them against the alternative, and make a general statement of preference. The more parties present in the voting, the more convoluted the tradeoff matrices get, which makes each voter's message muddier and muddier and the problems of aggregation get worse and worse.

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Re: There's a Word for That

Post by Jennifer » 09 Dec 2011, 14:10

Ideally, I'd like to see American voting changed so that instead of one election, there's at least two: first election, anyone who qualifies can run (qualifies according to constitutional age and citizenship limits, NOT "qualifies according to the damnable two-party system which is NOT mentioned in the constitution though you'd never guess that to look at the system now), and the second election being a runoff election of the two or three candidates who got the most votes in the first one.

Or, if nothing else, at least remove party affiliations from the ballots. In theory, that would force voters to learn something about the issues or candidates they vote on, rather than do the quick-n-mindless "vote the straight party ticket." (I say this as someone who is convinced the main problem facing America today is all those goddamnable partisan whores who'd gladly see the country flush down the toilet, if by doing so they could score points for their own beloved Team Red or Team Blue.)
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Re: There's a Word for That

Post by thoreau » 09 Dec 2011, 14:19

JasonL wrote:The more parties present in the voting, the more convoluted the tradeoff matrices get, which makes each voter's message muddier and muddier and the problems of aggregation get worse and worse.
Yet somehow many rich, liberal democracies actually have relatively stable multi-party systems. Even if the results aren't great, I don't know that they're much worse than ours.

Granted, those countries (usually) run their multi-party races through party list systems, which are (for good or for ill) the simplest possible way of doing proportional representation. I think that is actually resonant with Sandy's point. Among voting system enthusiasts, there are people who will explain some incredibly complicated algorithm for getting proportional results...and then most countries use some variant of a list system (which includes open lists, mixed-member system, etc.). Australia uses a fairly complicated proportional system, but voters have the option to check a box that says "I'm casting my ballot however this party prefers" because doing their own game theoretic calculations for the ranking of 50 different candidates is just too hard.

Interestingly, my mathematical work (which I need to write up one of these days) has shown that if you want a system where you can give top billing to your favorite without any strategic disincentives, all of the systems that satisfy this criterion are equivalent to a small handful of systems that amount to "Tell us who you like and who else you find acceptable, and the candidate backed by the most people wins." Your only strategic decision is whether you should support just your favorite or somebody else as well. If your favorite is a contender, just support him. If he isn't a contender, support your preferred contender.

There are more details, but that's the gist. And, if people are wondering why I'd spend so much time on something that turns out to be so obvious, the short version is (1) the result might make sense, but it isn't obvious that it's the ONLY way to do this and (2) even though I've lost most of my political enthusiasm for alternative voting systems, proving that there's only one procedure that satisfies a property is actually a very exciting intellectual exercise, and it has similarities to some of the questions that I ask in my physics research.
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Re: There's a Word for That

Post by JasonL » 09 Dec 2011, 14:59

When comparing systems, it is probably important to define what we mean by "better". If one is using a definition that suggests more people having more nuanced votes over more things is better, it may be that parliamentary arrangements are better than two party systems, and it may be that direct votes on issues are best of all.

If we try to use a utility measure of "better" we are doomed to failure because all voting is stupider (has a lower correspondence to reason or any specific desired outcome) than almost any other way of making a decision. If you happen to get something that makes sense, it's almost pure luck.

We can maybe think about legitimacy - to what extent does a given system successfully satisfy the socio political need for the polity to be empowered against tyrants. Here again, things are mucked up. Voters who get exactly what they voted for will feel most empowered and those who lose will feel least empowered. Issue voting and proportional representation looks good at one level - voters who like the Green party can see a Green coalition, but in another sense it's more frustrating - so what if you have a 2/250 or whatever green coalition?

When I think about simplicity and fewer voting options being "better", what I really mean is that the system of aggregation of preferences is left more to each voter, which may mean that the voter has a more clear understanding of what will happen when they pull the lever without concordet oddities and tradeoffs during the aggregation process mucking up the choice. A shit sandwich is a shit sandwich and you don't know much but you know it's not a giant douche. I remain completely unconvinced that alternative systems produce better alternatives once the whole process is taken into account, and I fear that each person pulling the lever has a very small understanding of what tradeoffs will percolate through the system due to the way preferences are ordered and aggregated.

Or something.

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Re: There's a Word for That

Post by thoreau » 09 Dec 2011, 15:46

My problem is that a system with room for only two parties enforces a lot of rather artificial trade-offs and makes it possible for historical accidents to get locked in. I'm not looking for a system where every fringe party gets its 1% of seats, but I'd like to see 3-4 major parties competing successfully. Why should a person who is socially liberal and fiscally conservative have to choose between those in every single race? Why, for that matter, should a religious person have to consistently choose between the cultural issues and the economic redistribution issues that they value?

I don't envision a system where Greens, Blue Druids, and the like are winning seats. I envision a system where sane, socially liberal and fiscally conservative candidates win seats alongside sane, socially conservative but economically liberal candidates.

A simple way to bring this about is by using Approval Voting (yes or no on every candidate, most yes votes wins, and you get to say yes to more than one if you like) for single-winner races and elect at least some state legislators (one of the two chambers) from multi-member districts of 4-8 seats via simple open list systems (vote for a list, vote for your favorite(s) in the list, seats apportioned among lists by the number of votes for the list, those with the most votes within each list get the seats for that list, and independents can run as a list of 1). (I have no recommendations for the House of Representatives, since state boundaries and apportionment issues are complicated.)
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Re: There's a Word for That

Post by JasonL » 09 Dec 2011, 16:19

"I'm not looking for a system where every fringe party gets its 1% of seats, but I'd like to see 3-4 major parties competing successfully. Why should a person who is socially liberal and fiscally conservative have to choose between those in every single race?"

I hear you, but again, my concern is that people don't actually know what they are voting for. In a two horse situation, I know the tradeoffs even if they are suboptimal. In a 4 choice situation, I begin to get baffled by preferences in permutations of outcomes. I may really want A, consider B and C about the same, and find D totally unacceptable. Maybe I want B only if C is absent from the scene because for the thing I like about B would be neutralized by the presence of C. Is the system going to aggregate preferences correctly given condorcet type issues?

Is it a problem to explicitly pull the lever for someone who you half like and half hate? Maybe, but I'm not sure that the tradeoffs reflected in a multi option election don't put you in the same spot but without the clarity of knowing what you are doing.

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Re: There's a Word for That

Post by thoreau » 09 Dec 2011, 16:36

JasonL wrote:"I'm not looking for a system where every fringe party gets its 1% of seats, but I'd like to see 3-4 major parties competing successfully. Why should a person who is socially liberal and fiscally conservative have to choose between those in every single race?"

I hear you, but again, my concern is that people don't actually know what they are voting for. In a two horse situation, I know the tradeoffs even if they are suboptimal. In a 4 choice situation, I begin to get baffled by preferences in permutations of outcomes. I may really want A, consider B and C about the same, and find D totally unacceptable. Maybe I want B only if C is absent from the scene because for the thing I like about B would be neutralized by the presence of C. Is the system going to aggregate preferences correctly given condorcet type issues?

Is it a problem to explicitly pull the lever for someone who you half like and half hate? Maybe, but I'm not sure that the tradeoffs reflected in a multi option election don't put you in the same spot but without the clarity of knowing what you are doing.
There's a lot of clarity in Approval Voting. You look at the polls for how many are planning to say "yes" to each candidate, identify the two front-runners, and decide which to vote for. Then you decide whom else to throw symbolic support behind. The main difference between Approval and the current system is that there's room for a third option to climb in the polls without the problem of people refusing to back him on the grounds that he can't win.

EDIT: Also, in a simple list system, what's the complexity? You ask yourself with list of candidates you like best in your 4-8 seat district, you vote for that list, and then you indicate which members of that list you like.
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Re: There's a Word for That

Post by Jadagul » 09 Dec 2011, 17:10

Ginslinger: I think the issues are much smaller if it's, say, distribute four votes among the school board members. I was responding to the suggestion of trading of votes for school board against votes for president, which sounds like a horrible idea.

Thoreau: Jason's point is sometimes which candidates you're okay with having in office depend on which other candidates are in office. The classic example is the libertarian desire for gridlock--a number of people here will prefer a democrat for president if and only if republicans control congress.

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Re: There's a Word for That

Post by GinSlinger » 09 Dec 2011, 17:15

Jadagul wrote:Ginslinger: I think the issues are much smaller if it's, say, distribute four votes among the school board members. I was responding to the suggestion of trading of votes for school board against votes for president, which sounds like a horrible idea.
I'd wager serious donuts that the bulk of voters throw away their votes at the top of their ballots. You've seen full election results, yes? This is about rewarding (even for "special interests"--like "liberatians") those who vote economically.

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