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Re: Condorcet Voting and Supermajorities (Re: [CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT] Disambiguation of 4.1.5)

On Thu, Dec 07, 2000 at 04:48:48PM -0500, Raul Miller wrote:
> > 	* What to require for an option to meet quorum
> > 	  (working assumption: count the number of votes that mention
> > 	   the option, and compare against quorum)

This is just flat out wrong, the working assumption we had was count
the number of votes that rate the option above the default, and compare
against quorum.

> > Let me start from the top, perhaps.
> > There's no such "majority requirement", though, per se. This is why I
> > avoided answering when you asked this before.
> The constitution doesn't use the word "majority" except when it requires
> other than a simple majority.  However, it's clear that the concept of
> majority (the greater number) is a way of contrasting the winning vote
> to the nonwinning votes.

Sure, "the greatest good for the greatest number" is the whole point
behind voting.

That's one of the things that encourages an unbiassed voting system: if
you're going to say that:

	60 AB
	40 BA

should be a win for A because most people prefer it, you should also be

	60 BA
	40 AB

should be a win for B, for the exact same reason.

> I'll agree that it's possible to invent supermajority concepts which
> are different than those described in the constitution.

Indeed, and, IMO and by my reading, this is exactly what you're doing.

Can we possible skip the attempts to claw the moral high ground from
each other with "you can't read!! this obviously doesn't mean that!!"?

> > > I'll agree that quorum biases against any change (when there aren't
> > > enough voters). I'll also note, here, that quorum is different from
> > > supermajority.
> > Right. I'm using "bias" as a general term to analyse the effects of
> > any extra requirements we might add beyond just saying `take the Smith
> > set, apply STV'.
> Ok.  I'll take "a general term" as meaning "doesn't have any particular
> negative connotation".  Which means that the absence of bias isn't 
> a positive feature without some further rationale.

This isn't quite accurate. Biasses aren't *necessarily* bad, but they
do need a good justification.

> > > constitution, while a vote in favor of B is a vote in favor of not
> > > modifying the constitution.
> > This, however, doesn't make any sense. Again, there is no such thing
> > as a vote that is simply "for" or "against" modifying the constitution,
> > unless the vote simply has "yes" and "no" options.
> So, a vote which prefers A to B is a vote which prefers an option which
> modifies the constitution to an option which does not.  A vote which
> prefers B to A is a vote which prefers not modifying the constitution
> to an option which prefers modifying the constitution.
> Do you disagree with this statement?

Yes. Take a single vote that ranks:

	[ 2 ] A (change the constitution)
	[ 1 ] B (do such and such, don't change the constitution)
	[ 3 ] S (don't change anything, including the constitution)

You'll note that B is preferred to A: thus it's a vote which prefers not
modifying the constitution.

You'll note that A is preferred to S: thus it's a vote *for* modifying
the constitution.

So yes, I think that's an unhelpful distinction to try to make.

> > So no, I don't accept the implication that a vote where X isn't your
> > first preference should be considered a vote "against" X.
> This sounds like you're try to get around the language of A.6(7).
> In the end, there can be only one.

Yeah, well, good for A.6(7).

If it agrees with you (and I personally think it doesn't) it's wrong too.

> > Because it can represent the preferences of a voter who thinks "Well,
> > changing the constitution (A, say) is a bit drastic, but we should
> > move in this direction; so ideally I'd rather the compromise (B),
> > but I don't mind if we go all out", because he could vote "BAS",
> > and a voter who thinks (like you apparently might) "Changing the
> > constitution is too drastic, we have a compromise, we have to use that
> > instead" could express that by saying "BSA", and someone who'd rather
> > go all out, but will accept the compromise if necessary can express
> > *that* by voting "ABS".
> And, what about the voter who thinks:  "Well, I don't think that a
> solution which modifies the constitution is the right solution, but this
> is a real problem, and it's better than nothing."?

Then if they've got a better solution they (or someone else) probably already
proposed it and they can vote for that.

The only thing you can't express in my way that you can in yours is
`My opinion is worth three times anyone else's, and modifying the
constitution to say foo is much much worse than doing bar'.

> > > > Note that biassing everything over A isn't the only way of handling a
> > > > supermajority (and isn't even a common or usual way --- you're welcome
> > > > to cite one other instance of _anyone_ doing it this way, though),
> > > > you can simply require a supermajority of people preferring A to the
> > > > status-quo (by literally having a "Status-quo" option, or by using
> > > > "No" or "Further Discussion" or both of them as a replacement).
> > > This looks like what you're advocating, but I still don't see a
> > > convincing reason to believe that "do nothing" is any less of a
> > > change to the constitution than "option B" in the above example.
> > Certainly it's not as much of a change to *the constitution*, but that
> > doesn't mean it's any less a *change*.
> Supermajority isn't aimed at preventing all change.  It's aimed at
> biasing against specific forms of change.  I thought we'd already agreed
> on this?

It's aimed towards ensuring there's a strong consensus that the change
is acceptable to the voters and that it's a move forward.

> > Again, what is so vastly horrible about changing the constitution that
> > *anything* should be done instead of it?
> [Not *anything*, obviously -- anything which doesn't conflict with the
> constitution.]
> We need to make sure that we have a lot of consensus when we change
> those things which fundamentally define the organization.
> While it's important that we be able to do certain things easily
> (like maintain packages), it's also important that we not do certain
> other things very often (like require everyone to learn a new system
> of red tape).  Supermajority is a mechanism for saying, in my opinion:
> don't change this if you've got another reasonable option.

Well, no, it's not.

What would possibly convince you otherwise? General usage of the
term? You seemed disinclined to care when I asked for other examples of
this interpretation. That the alternative is more expressive? That the
alternative is less biassed? A straw poll on this list? Anything at all?

You keep asserting that this is what supermajority means, and is there for,
but you've yet to say how it's a good thing.

The alternative, again, is that supermajority is a mechanism for saying:
don't make this change unless it's clearly considered better than what
we've got now.

> > > > On that grounds, consider a vote that goes like:
> > > > 	200 A over B over F over N
> > > > 	 70 B over A over F over N
> > > > and having B win. Do you really think the 200 people are going to be
> > > > happy to be overruled by a minority of 70, who *didn't even dislike*
> > > > option A?
> > > They disliked it enough to prefer option B.
> > That doesn't mean they actually disliked it however.
> Our voting system doesn't have a way of ranking B above A without also
> ranking A below B.

And since when is ``I prefer ice-cream to chocolate'' the same as saying
``I dislike chocolate'' ?

> > If they really did detest the option, they could have voted B over N
> > over F over A, and there'd have been no question.
> This seems to contradict your earlier statement about what you meant
> by supermajority:
> <quote>
>   Well, yes, but I'd rather consider biasses in a pairwise manner. That
>   is, that when considering any two options, A and B, you're biassed
>   towards he one that doesn't require the supermajority.
> </quote>

Note the word *you're* in the above. My apologies if it's not clear when
cut and pasted out of context, but that is *not* what I think a useful
definition of supermajority is.

> > > > > > > > (assuming there aren't any sensible combinations of two or
> > > > > > > > more amendments).
> > > > > > > An important assumption.  
> > If you would rather, "an assumption no more important than that there
> > were three amendments to the proposal rather than four, ten or one".
> No.  This distinction, between "there are no sensible combinations of
> amendments" vs. "there are sensible combinations of amendments," has a
> more significant effect on the form of the ballot than the difference
> between four and ten amendments.

You don't think adding an option `[ _ ] Original proposal + fourth
amendment' has a significant effect? The supporters of the hypothetical
fourth amendment might disagree.

But whatever. You're obviously not going to accept my interpretation no
matter how it's explained, and you barely even seem to be reading what
I write, so I don't really see the point.

> Sure:
> Original proposal: P
> proposed amendment: A
> proposed amendment: B
> proposed amendment: C
> I'll assume that the following represent plausible forms of the final
> resolution:
> P, P+A, P+B, P+A+B, P+A+C, P+B+C, not P.
> I'm assuming that we want to decide this relatively quickly, and that
> we don't want to allow for the possibility of an additional minimum
> discussion period before we pick one of these options.
> What would your voting message look like?

Conveniently, your options aren't independent enough to actually be
decided in separate ballots in any fair way (at least as far as I
can tell [0]).

Please rate your preferences for the final form of the draft resolution:
	[ _ ] P
	[ _ ] P+A
	[ _ ] P+B
	[ _ ] P+A+B
	[ _ ] P+A+C
	[ _ ] P+B+C
	[ _ ] Further Discussion

Should P be the final form of the draft resolution, please rate your
preferences for its acceptance:
	[ _ ] Yes
	[ _ ] No
	[ _ ] Further Discussion

Should P+A be the fin...

> You were claiming that you couldn't discuss the issue properly because
> you didn't know my criteria for interpreting the constitution.  You were
> implying that this was the case even after I presented those criteria.
> To imply this, you deliberately failed to quote the bulk of those 
> criteria.
> That strikes me as unreasonable.
> I'd really prefer that you discuss this in a reasonable fashion.

And again, I don't really see the point. English can be stretched and
strung out a million ways, and in any event, it's not your sole or even
primary method of judging an interpretation.

> > > > Your definition of `using English as a basis for interpretation'
> > > and > mine are wildly different and probably irreconcilable. I'd
> > > like to believe otherwise.
> > I believe, first and foremost, that we should read the constitution
> > in as if it were written to be straightforward. We shouldn't look for
> > subtle shadings of the word "strict", say, or try rearranging the
> > order of clauses to see what result that has.
> I'll agree with straightforward, as long as you're not trying to claim
> that straightforward implies paradoxial.

A straightforward reading of "This sentence is false" interprets that
sentence as paradoxical.

If that sentence were in the constitution, and had an effect, I'd try to
change it. You'd try to interpret it differently so it's not paradoxical.

Given any interpretation, I'd judge it based solely on how obviously
the constitution says it. You'd judge it, at least initially, on how
(dys)functional the result is.

> I think this conversation that we're having is valuable, as it lets me
> see how someone else (who really thinks about the issues) interprets
> the constitution.  But I don't want to accept what you say just because
> you say it -- I only want to agree where you say something that I find
> convincing.

Which you won't do because we have fundamentally different bases for
interpreting the constitution. Which is why this whole digression is
pointless: you're not going to convince me to look for subtleties and
avoid any chance of the constitution being broken; and I'm not going to
convince you to accept that the constitution actually does say something
downright stupid.

This shouldn't be a problem: I'm motivated to fix it so it makes
sense, you're motivated to disambiguate it or clarify it so it can't
be misinterpreted.

The only time it *is* a problem, is when you start from "This is what
the constitution says, you just have to squint a bit and rearrange some
paragraphs, and just look at the vibe of the thing" and end up at "Since
this is what it says, the only acceptable change to the constitution is
to make it absolutely clear that this is what it says".

> I think that when we do get around to amending the constitution to fix
> any perceived ambiguities, it would be best to try to hold the discussion
> and vote(s) in a fashion which, as much as is reasonable, avoids those
> ambiguities.

Note that both your and my proposed single-vote schemes would have
Manoj/Branden's vote as:

	[ _ ] Branden's proposal
	[ _ ] Manoj's proposal
	[ _ ] Further discussion

(with the exception that you might include a "No" option, and I might
rewrite "Further discussion" as "Status-quo") Further, note that either
supermajority requirement would have the same effect: both options are
biassed against when compared to further discussion, but simple majority
decides between them.

> > > I have reason to believe that Darren would be available, if needed.
> > > I have reason to believe that he's waiting for the discussion to draw
> > > to a close, and for (if nothing else) Manoj+Branden to indicate what
> > > form they want the ballot to take.
> > I hope he's not waiting for _this_ discussion to close? Discussion
> > actually relevant to Manoj/Branden's proposals seems to have died
> > about a month ago.
> I think this discussion is relevant.  One of the major things we're
> talking about is, essentially: what form(s) ballot are reasonable for
> Manoj/Branden to propose.
> You've essentially been claiming that what they propose to do is
> unconstitutional.

The only clear basis in the constitution I can see is 7.1(3), and I'm
perfectly willing to accept that, especially since the form they're
proposing would almost exactly match the form I think's best.

> > More accurately, it just feels like I'm banging my head against a
> > wall.
> > I actually tried that in response to this message, but the wall flexed
> > alarmingly, so I decided to stop.
> I think you're trying to say that my reasoning is specious?

No, I just thought I'd mention that my walls suck.


[0] That is, it might be reasonable in some situations to have something like:
	Ballot 1:
		[ _ ] Apply amendment A
		[ _ ] Don't apply amendment A
	Ballot 2:
		[ _ ] Apply amendment B
		[ _ ] Don't apply amendment B
	Ballot 3:
		[ _ ] Apply amendment C
		[ _ ] Don't apply amendment C
	Ballot 4:
		[ _ ] Apply amendment D
		[ _ ] Don't apply amendment D
	Ballot 5:
		[ _ ] Apply amendment E
		[ _ ] Don't apply amendment E
    on a single message, followed by a final vote which is just:
	Final ballot:
		[ _ ] Yes to P+B+D
		[ _ ] No to P+B+D
		[ _ ] Further discussion
    which saves the secretary from having to list all 32 options on any
    single form, or have to conduct six votes one after the other, or
    anything similarly tedious.

Anthony Towns <aj@humbug.org.au> <http://azure.humbug.org.au/~aj/>
I don't speak for anyone save myself. GPG signed mail preferred.

     ``Thanks to all avid pokers out there''
                       -- linux.conf.au, 17-20 January 2001

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