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Re: supermajority options

On Fri, Nov 22, 2002 at 03:42:12PM -0500, Buddha Buck wrote:
> Obviously -- The paper defines "neutrality" as "all options are treated
> the same".  If we are asserting a supermajority requirement on certain
> actions, like constitutional amendments, then we are not treating all
> options the same, and therefore lose neutrality.
> The remaining question:  Do we want "neutrality"?
> "Neutrality" isn't always a desirable condition.

I argue that we do want neutrality.  It's the same thing as arguing
against supermajorities.

> >Note especially the last sentence.  Is insincerity really a feature we
> >want in our voting system?
> Defend against what?  Replaced by what?  If the proposed alternative to
> an extreme status-quo is an extreme in the opposite direction, and my
> real position is that the status quo is in the right direction but too
> extreme, I'd defend the status quo over the proposed alternative.

Fortunately, Condorcet voting and the Standard Resolution Procedure
give us the opportunity to constuct ballots in which multiple viewpoints
are reflected, and the voters can rank-order them.

This is a big advantage over California-style ballot propositions, where
there is one text before and you vote it up or down.

So it is unlikely that the only alternative to an exteme status quo will
be an extreme proposition.  There should be moderate propositions on the
ballot as well, if it occurs to anyone to suggest them, and if they can
acquire seconds.  The SRP doesn't make it too difficult to add
propositions to the ballot, at least if people are paying attention to

> >"With super-majority voting, the status quo is privileged­if there is no
> >alternative for which a super-majority votes, the status quo is
> >maintained.  Following Rae's (1975) argument, given that the status quo
> >is more desirable to some voters than to others, some voters are
> >effectively privileged.  It is certainly the case that super-majority
> >rules can privilege (protect, if you prefer) some voters.
> >Unfortunately, it is not possible to privilege every group over every
> >other group. If super-majority rules create a privileged group, there
> >must be a corresponding under-privileged group."
> This argument seems circular.  The "priviledged group" is the group that
> supports the status quo over a proposed alternative.  This "priviledged
> group" has no other definition, and can't be identified except by voting
> records.

I'd have to read the referenced by paper by Rae to rebut this, so I'll
let your point stand.  :)

> >"Using some simple examples, we can illustrate some of the problems that
> >super-majoritarian rules can produce.  Such rules can lead to the
> >complete exclusion of minorities, to immobilism where the status quo is
> >impossible to challenge, to situations where ideologically concentrated
> >minorities are advantaged over more dispersed majorities, and even to
> >situations where points at the very extremes are strategically defended
> >by blocking coalitions."
> These are examples?  These are some purported problems, but no examples
> of where they actually occur.  Or is that elsewhere in the paper.

Yes; you should read it.

> These are also extreme problems.  How often do they really show up?

I expect they'll show in Debian as nowhere else.  We have a lot of
shrewd, conniving types.  ;-)

(Manoj: that was a joke.  No, it wasn't directed at you.  You've had
trouble spotting my jokes recently, so I thought I'd point it out.  Let
me know if you no longer require this assistance.)

> >"Majority rule offers most protection to minorities because it makes it
> >easiest for a minority to form a coalition that can overturn an
> >unacceptable outcome.  Super-majority rules can certainly protect (or
> >rather privilege) some minorities, but only at the expense of others.
> >It is not logically possible for every minority to be privileged over
> >every other minority."
> Given the definition of the priviledged minority (those in opposition to
> the current proposed change) is so fluid and changeable, I find this
> conclusion to be overly strong based on the argument and evidence put
> forth.

As I interpret the paper, the point is that any truly unpopular
proposition that is railroaded through will energize the opposition, and
result in its prompt repeal.

However, if you're sneaky enough to ram something through, especially if
there wasn't a supermajority required to pass it in the first place,
you've given yourself some time to lock in your change and dig in your
heels if the opposition gets organization.

Consider that if we do away with supermajority requirements under the
Constitution and all hell breaks loose, it will only take a simple
majority to restore them.  If all hell breaks loose, do you think 50% +
1 of the voters will agree on that fact?

> "Can lead...to" is very open-ended, wishy-washy words.

You should read the whole paper, including the examples.

> Likewise majority-rules can lead to situations where there is no
> stability, and adapted positions flip-flop back and forth between
> extremes.

Why would they flip-flop between in extremes under our system, where we
can have multiple options on the ballot, and rank-ordering by the voter?

> Witness, for instance, the recent US Congressional elections, and the
> declared "conservative mandate" from a very narrow majority for the
> majority party.

You're claiming this is evidence for what, exactly?

> >Is it your assertion that Debian's salvation and preservation of
> >identity lies with an especially esteemed minority group?  Have we
> >already been overrun by a group of developers, a group now comprising
> >the majority, who are all too willing to sacrifice our identity to
> >so-called pragmatic concerns?
> The "esteemed minority group" of import here are the folks who wrote,
> argued about, and agreed to the identity embodied in the documents in
> question.  The only existing "minority group" that would be so
> priviledged are the people that still support the principles embodied in
> those documents.  That priviledged minority group is probably a majority.

So what's the problem?

> And I find your cited refutations weakly documented and not convincing.

You haven't even read the whole paper!  I was quoting so as to give
Manoj pointers to the parts of the paper he might want to review.

G. Branden Robinson                |    Any man who does not realize that
Debian GNU/Linux                   |    he is half an animal is only half a
branden@debian.org                 |    man.
http://people.debian.org/~branden/ |    -- Thornton Wilder

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