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Voting is not the fairest, most effective way to make decisions in a group. ArrowsTheorem gives fundamental constraints on voting, while Wiki:AbileneParadox shows how a vote can fail due to implicit social forces.

Ultimately, the root failure of a vote is that it forces the participants to come to one of a limited set of choices. In the article summarized on HealthyConflict, "Managing Conflict: How Management Teams can have a Good Fight" Harvard Business Review Nov '97 clearly demonstrates that organizations that limit choices create much more conflict than organizations that actively seek out and debate alternative options, even if they are later discarded.

The deep reason is because often the choices presented are either not the most optimal choices or are not obviously the most optimal choices. Thus, people who disagree with the final outcome may not be suitable assuaged that the choice was done with due procedure.

Indeed, procedural justice (ala FairProcess) is another reason not to limit input on the options. First, people need to know that the decision was made in full awareness of all information that could be made available in a reasonable amount of time

cf. VotingIsGood


Just to be clear, voting is not always evil. Most people don't understand voting, which is why it is often used badly, and often as a tool of DemaGogues. It can be useful in two circumstances:

I do not believe in referenda on issues, as no one ever votes for anything. It's better to expend energy creating more natural options than forcing (scalarizing) a single decision amongst bad choices. I'm also personally very very dubious about the merit of voting out people, especially to vote to CommunityExile someone, as that will lead to LynchMobs. Or the converse, when a troublemaker calls for a referendum on whether the community wants him to stay. The effect is everyone has to declare explicitly how strong their relationship is to the person, which is always fraught with falsehoods, both positive and negative, and it is hurtful as some things are better not known. I'd rather see a FairProcess of reconciliation or determination that was rational. -- SunirShah


Voting and RatingSystem?s tend more to crystalize GroupThink than a truly open discussion. Criticism is society's only great weapon against the powers that be. Scalarizing the discussion limits criticism to a narrow band, averaging out a multiplicity of reasons to a single dimension. This really does create GroupThink, especially when mechanisms are not enacted to protect minority opinions, such as a constitution or charter of rights.

The same effect is at work when people are fed up with politics but demonstrate against globalisation and support various NGOs. Voting gives people the choice between "old government" and "new government" in the US, or "strenghten party X out of three or four" in Europe. That is not much of a choice. People prefer to vote on particular issues, and would like it even better if government actually acted upon some of the changes proposed by NGOs. Writing, proposing, criticizing -- it all provides alternatives and food for thought. Voting just dumbs you down.

Of course, in the current system, no voting is even worse, but that doesn't mean that better alternatives don't exist!


Online voting suffers badly from StuffingTheBallotBox issues; to a lesser extent, PushPolling is an issue.


in societies as highly centralised as this one voting by way of opinion poll is meaningless. voting to achieve socio/political aims is disempowerment/ indirect action/ symbollock.

i hate the way "democracy" is interpreted to mean that a slim majority has the moral right to rail road up to 49% of the population who might strongly disagree with them.

i also dislike the idea that majorities elect governments when only a percentage of the population votes and only a percentage of the voting population choose the government.

- OceanHorgan

In many voting systems, you don't even need a slim majority of those voting. But voting is probably often a FairProcess - you can choose to be engaged, and it's fairly transparent. Maybe that's why it's seen to confer moral authority, even though it doesn't always give a FairOutcome?. MartinHarper

* I disagree that voting is meaningless. Votes add up, etc; important decisions do hinge on voting results.

* Yes, slim majority != "the will of the people" (in fact, in many cases "the will of the people" does not exist). It bothers me that some consider it the same. The situation gets slippery with a better majority, though; i'd say a 75% majority indicates a "will of the people", but what about 60%?

* I don't mind about the majority taken from the percentage that votes. But, I would prefer a "none of the above" option.

* Interesting point about FairProcess.

-- BayleShanks

Moderation systems on WebLogs are very tempting to attack because they are so narrowminded; they are algorithms after all. Consequently, the trolling escalates beyond mere attention getting to point scoring. Witness the KarmaWhores who play off of their current karma score in addition to community reaction. (Contrast better ways to RewardReputation.)

Lesson: never rate people with scores; if you must evaluate them, use paragraphs of text to coach their performance.


The Case of news:soc.culture.tibet

In 1993, Tibetans tired of carrying out the discussion of their culture in newsgroups hostile to the recognition of Tibet [proposed] the creation of two newsgroups. The first, news:talk.politics.tibet was to be an unmoderated newsgroup to slew off all the arguments and flamewars surrounding the recognition of Tibet as a separate country. The second, news:soc.culture.tibet, was to be a moderated newsgroup to discuss much of the same plus any other aspect of Tibetan culture of interest to the participants. The proposal was fair in the sense that if you could not find room for yourself in the moderated newsgroup, the unmoderated newsgroup was always available for your ranting and raving.

The result of this proposal, which on the face of it seemed very reasonable, was one of the great FlameWars of UseNet. Many Chinese students that adamantly held Tibet to be a province of China considered the creation of a newsgroup dedicated to Tibetan culture to be a contradiction. And while that would normally be acceptable--after all, they had the RightToLeave news:soc.culture.tibet -- the UseNet procedure for creating new newsgroups was not so flexible. On UseNet, every participant has one vote. A newsgroup requires a 2/3 majority YES vote and more than 100 votes. The [results] were telling. Although news:soc.culture.tibet acquired a majority of the votes, they did not pass the threshold for creation. (On the other hand, news:talk.politics.tibet passed, undoubtedly because the Chinese students maintained their ability to troll and rant.)

While some may rationalize that this was the procedure of UseNet created for just and fair economic reasons--i.e. a news carrier shouldn't have to pay for a feed it does not want, and its userbase would be a reasonable measure of what it does want and does not want--it really is not. First, the Chinese aligned against these newsgroups had the option to abandon it on their own servers. Second, the creation of a Tibetan newsgroup was a non-competitive action with the Chinese students (unless you support their "right" to cultural genocide over subjugated territory). The Tibetans have a moral right to have their own newsgroup to express their suppressed culture.

So, although it would be reasonable to assume the vast majority of UseNet participants would be in favour of creating such a newsgroup if pressed into making a decision, the fact is they did not vote. Why? Probably a combination of a lack of a compelling personal reason as well as the aggravating factor of the FlameWar. This allowed one minority to oppress another, becoming yet another example of the number one threat to society in a pluralist democracy.

In this case, voting failed because it could not reach a demographically uniform quorum. The simple quantifiable quorum of a hundred votes was not sufficient to guarantee a smoothness in the curve. And in fact, for something as small as a Tibetan cultural newsgroup, the voting process failed because it was too powerful for something so trivial. The situation should have leaned more heavily towards EnlargeSpace.

More to the point, a socially just system should not allow an external entity to judge whether or not your group may form. It was sufficient that there were Tibetans who wanted to talk about being Tibetan; it was unnecessary to ask anyone else's opinion, especially their antagonizers--except in the purely economic sense of who was paying for the bandwidth. Since the Chinese students were not paying for the bandwidth either, they should not have been enfranchised. Fortunately, there will always be the alt.* hierarchy of newsgroups to pick up the overflow.

CategoryCase

As I see it, the problem here was not voting per se, but rather a combination of

Any group decision-making process can be subverted by a sufficiently strong, interested minority if everyone else is apathetic. (a fringe example: if consensus was needed to create new newsgroups, this one still wouldn't have been created) The only reason there seems to be a particular failure here is because a group decision was made when seemingly none was needed. -- BayleShanks


I can understand how people building community would frown on dishonesty, but I'm confused about this stuffing the ballot box stuff. Why is voting so important? What exactly do you want to have fair voting on? There's a raging debate over whether voting is worthwhile in representative democracies that most of us live in. How can any vote online amount to more than a consumer preference? In which case who cares: screw market research and insurance salesmen! I doubt the ability of any group to effectively control somone who's committed to maintaining a SockPuppet identity. But there's an awful lot of very strange people out there that we can't do anything about and I'm not going to lose sleep over someone elses dysfunction. -- OceanHorgan

The issue isn't about control, it's one about collaboration. The group isn't some abstract other that is in opposition to individual interests, but a collective of all the individual interests working together for a SuperordinateGoal. Voting serves as an instrument of TheCollective to quickly make a decision, although it isn't a particularly effective instrument. The problem with SockPuppets is that they undermine the trust necessary for the group to work together. There are better ways of addressing your concerns than undermining the system. There's nothing to gain by trying to force the group to do something you want only to have them CommunityExile you in response. And, indeed, as a group there are a lot of things you can do about the strange people. (cf. SoftSecurity) -- SunirShah


This should be called PollingIsEvil? (as "votes" are actually called polls). People too often resort to scalarizing arguments via polls, however people's actual perspectives are very rarely so narrow that they lend themselves to a simple scalar. It's not a very good idea, then, to use such an low bandwidth CommunicationChannel when you can afford to sit there and listen to what people actually think. And distressingly frequently people use the low bandwidth channel of a poll as a bludgeon to force everyone's opinions down their favourite axis. Consider the evil of WikiWiki's tactic of voting people off. Voting is a great HardSecurity tool, in that respect, however. It is also a good tool when the community would undergo InformationOverload and the ConnectedGraphSquaringProblem if everyone was afforded time and space and money to voice their opinions. Those cases only happen in larger communities, especially if you consider that not everyone will express an opinion, especially if that opinion is already clearly and cogently expressed and considered--something wikis are good at capturing.


Voting is one of the worst ways to make decisions in a group. is just plain untrue. There are tons of worse ways to make decisions than voting: a belching contest. Coscinomancy. Rock-scissors-paper. Random.

actually after having tried each of voting, belching contest, rock-scissors-paper and random, I'd say that when [FairProcess] reduced the quantity of available choices, voting is the most damageable way of actually making the decision. Sometimes It contributes to grudge unnecessarily and too often lead to a choice that doesn't really satisfy anyone. Of course voting is just a tool, and as such is neither good or bad. but people who actually know how to use this tool are scarce and those who actually make a good use of this tool are even scarcer. I have yet to witness a vote where all participants use voting in a good way.

Voting is an effective and fair way to make some decisions. I think it's important to point out that voting is not the only way to make fair and effective decisions in a group, and is often not the fairest, most effective way.


...Voting is not the fairest...

What, then, is the fairest way? Consensus is ruled out, is no "way", it is a possible state at the end of some decision process. IMHO it is wrong to say that voting is fair or unfair. The decision can be fair or unfair. Access to the decision process (e. g. voting) may be fair or unfair. Voting is just a mechanism. In the end there is nothing but voting. If I'm to decide something autonomously, then I'm the only one voting. -- HelmutLeitner

FairProcess is fairer. Voting is often (and perhaps typically) unfair because voting systems are designed to exclude certain voices, but with an endowed sense of process legitimacy. Even in the United States, there are still people fighting for the right to vote, and voting reform continues. In Canada, we are constantly fighting over how to change the voting system, and yet it never changes since it is designed to favour the "natural governing parties".

I disagree that there is nothing but voting. Voting only works when there is obligation, but there is no obligation amongst SelfishVolunteers. As you say, you can decide autonomously. If you disagreed with the outcome of the vote, there is nothing binding you to adhere to the decision. There are circumstances where votes do matter, but not in most of the cases they are used on wikis. Those cases are more like surveys rather than votes, but if they are treated by votes by some people, they can create a lot of conflicts since expectations and results do not match. Perhaps you mean--stoicly--there is nothing but vetos. -- SunirShah

No, ...obligation...amongst SelfishVolunteers... That's the point I don't understand: its all about decision making (see: first sentence of this page). SelfishVolunteers don't make decisions. Decisions are either done by one person (dictator, delegated) or by a group. Delegation is again a decision. When a group makes a decision, at some points in the process the opinions will have to be counted formally or informally. There is a gray zone between surveys and votes, but to me all this is voting. The questions are about the process (how, who) and the significance of the voting (result can legally bind, can just be an information or advice, ...). -- HelmutLeitner

The fundamental value (or principle) behind voting is that all the stakeholders involved in the collective tradeoff (or decision) are given a formalized and simple method of stating how they would prefer to use their stake; and this only has to be done when the stakeholders must work together in some way to achieve a SuperordinateGoal (the tradeoff). So, we vote when we are all sharing capital (e.g. shareholders). We vote when we are sharing our physical lives (e.g. citizenry). But we don't vote when there is no necessity to trade one stake's value for the other since that is pointless.

It works if people can be fooled into thinking they have to go along with the poll, but that is a very fragile situation, and it will break, and when it breaks it will create a huge conflict as some people who do not understand voting will find that their trust has been violated, whereas others who do not understand voting will feel that one group is trying to bully them into accepting the vote (rather than, say, to ControlYourself). And some troll who understands voting will see the ManipulativePower endemic in this confusion, and so I think it is important to say what is actually the case so there is no confusion.

Just because I say you should behave in a certain way doesn't mean you will. Just because we vote that we will all wear pink hats doesn't mean we will. Built into the very voting systems that run our democratic countries is the control of the public treasure, or some other fundamental power. Over some agency that is fundamentally potent. Either capital, or the arms and legs of the military, or the access to information, or what have you. And coupled against that is the realization that social groups may fail to adhere to a vote, and so there are countermechanisms to police the vote.

Votes are just words. Words by themselves are empty. They only symbolize other things, and votes only mean something when the words symbolize real power. Being enfranchised means that you have something that the rest of us want; and to get to that, we agree to trade something we have for something you want. The vote is simply a negotiation process.

Finally, regarding your argument that decisions are either made by dictators or groups. A very real and threatening counterexample is the RightToLeave. We can all, as SelfishVolunteers, quietly exercise our RightToLeave without communicating with anyone else. The group behaviour (death) is emergent. A group is made up of individuals who make a decision. There may or may not be a process to arrive at a collective decision; there is no requirement for a dictator, and there is no requirement for explicitness, and there is no requirement for formality. -- SunirShah

"Ultimately, the root failure of a vote is that it forces the participants to come to one of a limited set of choices." The flaw in this formulation is that it conflates the decision process with the deliberation process. Voting at the beginning of a deliberation process is a terrible idea - it forces participants to make a decision without shaping the choices.

FairProcess is good, but as described, it is orthogonal to voting, since it describes a process of deliberation and not of decisionmaking. It is possible to imagine a FairProcess of deliberation, taking into account multiple considerations and viewpoints, with full communication, followed by a vote, or call for concensus, or decision by a leader.

After a deliberation process, when differences of opinion remain, it is important to have a way for the group to accept a decision -- when the group prefers coherence to splitting. Concensus processes have advantages, but the disadvantage is that an individual or small minority can always block concensus. Therefore, in situations where it is unacceptable to defer decisions indefinitely, concensus is a poor choice. In a community wiki, where the group objective is relationship and deliberation, voting is a poor choice. It forces decisions or splits, in an environment that is quite compatible with deferred decisions.

The Foucaultian position that all power is force is extreme. People make compromises to maintain relationships and group memberships, and accept moderate imperfections all the time in the interest of longer term goals. Healthy communities have vicissitudes in power balance; the sign of trouble is permanent and drastic imbalance, not momentary and minor imbalance.

Taking the extreme position, VotingIsEvil helps to crystallize opposition to a concept that is taken for granted in democracies. But it misses the nuances about where voting is appropriate. -- AdinaLevin

This page has a very specific purpose which is to disrupt (specific, historical) attempts to use voting in situations that are counter to FairProcess (typically to "vote someone off" a wiki or to force through a decision unilaterally with the air of legitimacy), but I agree that FairProcess might include voting if the vote is properly structured. It's important to note that VotingIsGood makes the false equivalence between voting and democracy, which is the myth that this page attempts to address. Real democracy is about directly empowering people, not about cynically validating a power structure against the populace.

However, that being said, I agree there needs to be a better description of how to properly conduct a vote. If the people participating in the vote do not feel it is fairly constructed, the outcome of the vote will not be accepted. That might result in some stakeholders reneging on the outcome, which is an organizational decision-making disaster. (A crisis of non-confidence.) -- SunirShah


This page only suggests VotingIsInefficient? - and even then only for certain definitions of "inefficient". If a group of voters and vote-organizers set up a vote in which there is no real choice, or one in which the choices are all bad, why would it be Evil if, through their mistake, malice, stupidity or ignorance, they suffered a crummy result? Would this not simply be PoeticJustice?

Take an example from, ahem, the private sector: Ebenezer Scrooge, before his "conversion" in the events of A Christmas Carol. He was miserly, cruel and tyrannical - as a result, he led a lonely, largely empty life. Would you (general or specific) think it is justice to force people to be friends with him, visit his home, be his bosom companions, even though they rightly despised him? Certainly not. It's his decision to act that way, (and others in his life were exercising their RightToLeave.) And also note that Scrooge came to his change of heart by realizing via the visions of the four ghosts the UnintendedConsequences? of his actions. If he was protected from those consequences because we dislike the idea of the wicked suffering due to the effects of their wickedness, would he have ever changed his heart? Wicked, malicious or even just mistaken voters may, similarly, be educated by their contact with the UnintendedConsequence?s of their wrongfully cast vote.

Of course justice is about punishment. Furthermore, in the case of the idiotic (or malicious) voters, they demanded to suffer - they may have even campaigned to convince others to suffer. If they suffer as a result, where's the evil? Where is the injustice in letting the wicked suffer the effects of their own cruelty? "I killed my parents, but have mercy because I'm an orphan!"

Perhaps you might convince me that the foolish voters ought be protected from the ill effects of their own foolishness, but it's still an uphill battle. A different issue is when the malicious or foolish voters impose their bad solutions on those they outvoted. That's another story. --anon.

EvilIsEvil; but no, that would not be justice. It would only be irony, but only viewed from our frame as objective omniscient outsiders. I think it is cynical to view ironic suffering as just. Justice is the adherance to what is right, true, and fair; it's about rectitude, not punishment. Suffering is never just. Punishment is only an instrument of a judicial system, and a judicial system's goal is a just society, but judgment and justice are not tied up inexorably.

You have several judgments of wrongdoing tied up all at once. You need to separate them to make sense of your claim. No one is saying that people who game the voting system are just, but there is no PoeticJustice there at all. JFK cheated wildly to get elected, and he was better than Nixon. No one is saying that fielding only two candidates is good, but voters who choose bad from worse are not faulted. I can only address the assessment that the voters themselves are to blame for their votes when faced with such a system. The rest are separate issues. As in, how much of the American voting system's irregularities (which I assume you refer to, although you could be Italian or Indian or French or Canadian or anywhere really) are the fault of the voters it caters to? But I understand the sense of PoeticJustice you have presented here is that the voters themselves are suffering, and that is the just punishment. So, I will address at the claim that the voters are at fault for their votes.

There is an equivocation here I think between the wrong process and the wrong outcome, which is where the concept of PoeticJustice comes from no doubt. I don't believe voters went through the wrong process, even if the voting system induces the wrong process. There is AnIndividual that the system induces through ImposedRationality, but TheIndividual which is a sense-making rational person that operates within the bounds of the system. There is I and there is It. Both have processes, but TheIndividual will not normally self-assess as being immoral. -- SunirShah

Some of these tangents are indeed red herrings. The decision between bad and worse, for example, doesn't implicate the nature of voting itself at all. That reflects a dysfunction in the process of deciding what's voted on. But "don't believe voters went through the wrong process, even if the voting system induces the wrong process"?? What process do voters go through if not, well, voting?

Certainly, TheIndividual will not normally self-assess as being immoral, but this doesn't mean they can't realize they've made a mistake with horrifying consequences. --anon.

The process is different from the frame of AnIndividual vs. TheIndividual. AnIndividual works within a voting system, which may be corrupt. But TheIndividual as a sense-making person will make a decision on their own, aware of the flaws of the voting system, based on their own personal knowledge, experience, values, goals, and information, using an underlying logic local to that person. Thus, there are two processes. One at the level of TheCollective--the voting system--and one at the level of TheIndividual, the internal mental process of making a decision of what to vote for. In order for it to be PoeticJustice, I think the argument has to be made that the sense-making individual acting wrongly, immorally in some way. As in, voting out of hatred for another party. But suppose they did not, but rather made the best decision they knew how to with the right intentions? Except the final outcome was bad. That would actually be an injustice, not PoeticJustice. It would certainly not inspire any constructive changes to TheIndividual's decision making process, as all it would say is tht they did not know how to make a decision about voting correctly. -- SunirShah


Poetic justice as a social corrective

It's important to note that the accuser has made an unambiguous decision that the voters have chosen wrong because they did something wrong. Hence, from that accuser's point of view, it is PoeticJustice. But clearly that accuser does not feel his or her vote (or how they would vote now) is wrong. Instead, the accusation is made at other parties who voted against the accuser's stance. From the point of view of the voters, they made the best decision they could with the information they have, given the world frame they possess. They did nothing morally wrong--i.e. unjust. Thus, even if the goverment was indeed bad and the wrong choice, this was not PoeticJustice from the frame of the voters who elected the government. It is only from the outside frame of the accuser.

Latour (cf. SocialConstructionOfScience) argues that accusations of illogic, irrationality, or stupidity made of whole societies are to reaffirm the accuser's own beliefs, and they stem from the failure to reconcile one's own society's logical frame with another society's. However, while the relativist would stop there and say we all have different logical frames and sobeit, Latour suggests we do this as well as part of the process of extending our social network (and therefore our society) at the expense of another society's, thus overruning it.

Why is this "important to note", or true at all? (Would AssumeStupidityNotMalice not apply here?) Are you sure about this? If this were true, would there be any point to education? To life experience? Touching a hot stove? If people never change their minds about anything, perhaps PoeticJustice can only be appreciated by an outsider, but if they can, certainly they can say to themselves "what a silly mistake" or "my god, what have we done?" --anon.

If I was a masochist and touched a hot stove even though I knew it was wrong, and then my burn was infected, that would be PoeticJustice. If I was a child and did it deliberately out of curiosity, it would not be. If I did it by an accident, it would not be.

Again only showing that using voting for a single catastrophic end-all decision is inefficient. If you die from it, who cares if you learned anything from it? This is missing the point of the effect of PoeticJustice on voting entirely, and certainly not answering the question: doesn't the ability of an individual to change their minds make PoeticJustice a positive force in voting situations and cure the supposed "evil" of people picking a bad choice? --anon.

Not necessarily, because the connection would not always be between TheIndividual's decision-making process and the outcome. Other possible variables are their personal knowledge, experience, values, goals, and information. They might believe they were misinformed. That would not be PoeticJustice, but simply injustice. It's doubtful TheIndividual will believe they made a morally bad decision (particularly in the same way as the outside accuser would), the essential element for it to be PoeticJustice, unless they voted for something atrocious like the persecution of others. Not likely in our scenarios. -- SunirShah


PoeticJustice as fatalism

I think the problem with saying that the voters deserve what they voted in (in the sense of PoeticJustice) is that it is fatalism, and fatalism leads to social decay. Believing that society cannot be improved, and that people get what they deserve, is an idea that has held back societies many times. Tory conservatism, the Indian caste system, bureaucratic confucianism (I believe?) all took this stance. But there is always a better answer, and the question is what is it? And then, how do we bring it about? So, even if in a given election the wrong decision was made (from your point of view), there are future elections (hopefully), and then how can we effect better decision making in those circumstances? -- SunirShah

Again, what precisely is fatalistic about PoeticJustice, unless you believe people can never learn or change their minds? Many fables regarding poetic justice end with the deceptive antagonist (who gets his comeuppance during the tale) deciding to live a different life. Is this simply fiction? --anon.

There is no irony in voting. We vote deliberately to make a good decision. If we were wrong, that is unfortunate, but there is no justice in that. We do not defraud ourselves. Our votes are our own. We cannot lie to ourselves secretly. Only historians and outsiders make the judgment of fault, of entire societies, but that glosses over the implication that really it was a few people in a society that duped a few other people. Individuals are atomic; it's important to remember that when laying blame. Individuals do not feel they voted immorally. -- SunirShah

I strongly disagree that we cannot lie to ourselves secretly. Did Ebenezer Scrooge have an accurate picture of himself? Did Richard Nixon? I absolutely do not believe that people are always rational actors (and even if they were, they operate under limited information.) The mechanisms of denial are extremely broad, far beyond the scope of this page. Perhaps it's best just to leave it as is for now and refactor. - anon.


Voting as design

In general, it's been proven hard to acquire a vote by telling the voter he or she is stupid for voting for their own candidate. Voters won't vote for representatives that condescend to them, for obvious reasons. Moreover, voters don't vote for outsiders, but rather people who represent them, thus taking a stance of PoeticJustice will only serve to alienate you from the very group you seek to influence and therefore it is counter-productive.

For the purposes of this forum, we're trying to make decisions about how to structure our social environments. Choosing a structure that affords bad decisions is malfeasance, and rationalizing it by pushing blame wholly onto the participants is pointless. Even if they did make mistakes, the goal is to limit those kinds of mistakes. Perhaps better education is required, but it may also be that the system itself is wrong. -- SunirShah

Right! However, these are both two excellent reasons why voting is not evil. Or, perhaps more precisely, IteratedVoting? is not evil. Education through experience or other means improves the results of voting, where it may not improve other processes. And because TheAudience of the voting population is in control of their fate, TheAuthors of voting proposals have to (appear to?) respect the intelligence of TheAudience. The short summary is that voting gives you what you want. You just have to be careful what you wish for. --anon.

I'm not sure voting gives you what you want. Claiming that undermines your statement that iterated voting is better, since that only would be better if the first vote was imperfect and needed correcting with a second, which needed correcting with the third. Rather, voting is imperfect. I claim voting is evil because people think voting is the be all and end all of democracy. Almost always a vote is unnecessary and usually counterproductive. Votes are not heard louder when reduced to a number, but instead squelched. The person who chooses the voting system then has the most power. I'll admit voting is necessary to run states, particularly since the population of voters is large enough to smooth out noise, but I refuse to admit that voting makes any sense at the level we practice here on MeatballWiki or projects that look to MeatballWiki for inspiration. Rather, I think there is usually enough time and enough resources to design solutions rather than force solutions. -- SunirShah

The claim about iterated voting only undermines the statement that voting gives you what you want if you believe that nobody ever changes or refines what they want, or gets new information about a better way to get what they want. That nobody ever says "hey, wait a minute, this is not working out the way I wanted it to". Practical experience does not bear out this belief. - anon.


I really dislike this kind of discussion about VotingIsGood and VotingIsEvil - as if this were a question of GoodAndEvil. Or a question that is looking for the answer "yes" or "no". There are millions of possible needs for decisions and there are hundreds or thousands of ways to get a decision by voting. So sometimes voting will more effective and sometimes less effective as other ways of decision making. Half of the problem is that if we talk about voting here, this is perceived as the wish to promote voting here for the Meatball community (Do you honestly think the readers of MeatballWiki are that dense? Political philosophy classes which discuss voting are never democracies and nobody pretends they are.) - which is not the case. Voting in online communities is uncommon, democracy in online communities is uncommon. But this is nothing special, because even if we feel to live in democracies, voting in normal communities is uncommon and democracy in normal communities is uncommon as well. Do we vote when big projects are built? Do we vote about which immigrants are allowed to settle in our states? Have we voted about what children have to learn at school? -- What does that mean? Perhaps that we are at the very beginning of democracy? -- I think the importance of online communities with respect to voting and democracy is that they make excellent breeding systems to test and develop new ways of cooperation and democracy. Maybe of a million online communities only 10000 will grow a society and need democracy. But the development within these 10000 communities will be at least 10 times faster than in real world communities. This will accellerate democratic devlopment by a factor of 1000. I think this means that democratic development will become driven by online community developments within the next 10-20 years. The outcome will be well tested and it will be better than what we have. So there is no point in saying VotingIsEvil. And there is no need to apply voting here. But it will be impossible to avoid discussing voting here, if this place is about developments in communities. -- By the way the perception of ArrowsTheorem as important is IMHO real nonsense. If only perfect systems should be applied, then we all as imperfect humans shouldn't be here, and no software - lacking perfect programming languages - should have ever been written. -- HelmutLeitner

I'd love to really talk about voting, in a serious way. I wrote Wiki:VotingPatterns a long time ago partly for that reason. However, most people I've found when talking about voting often do so in exasperation as some way to shortcut some decision in their favour. This page is a reaction against that, as is ArrowsTheorem (or at least why it is used here). I am also adamantly opposed to voting on Meatball for a reason: it's a motivation to learn the rich variety of ways to DevolvePower aside from voting, which I have a hunch is not the most effective. I really don't want to take shortcuts here. It's painful, but it's enlightening. -- SunirShah

I have no objection what-so-ever to separating the issues of Voting from those of meatball. In fact, I really have never thought of them as being 'joined' in any way.

In my view; Voting, Elections, Rights, membership, Trust, Representation, etc. can be seen as facets of decision-making, which is an extremely broad Subject that encompasses a great many Topics and Perspectives. In VotingSystemsCollaboration?, Helmut suggested that we initially strive for as general a system as possible. I agreed, not because a completely general system may ever result, but because a full understanding of the many issues and their relationships will, in itself, be helpful.

P.S. - The preceding comment "... some decision in their favor" is one that I would also like to develop further, but I suspect that adding it to this page may not be correct since it could further confuse what is here. Since I am also not sure anyone else cares, I'll await some further indications of interest.

-- HansWobbe

"Half of the problem is that if we talk about voting here, this is perceived as the wish to promote voting here for the Meatball community..." (Do you honestly think the readers of MeatballWiki are that dense? Political philosophy classes which discuss voting are never democracies and nobody pretends they are or expects they will be.) - anon.


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