Monday, April 18, 2011

Alternative Vote referendum

To see why you should vote in favour of the move to Alternative Voting on the 5th of May, look no further than the contorted arguments of its opponents. Here is David Cameron on the topic:
Too often debates about AV are less like political arguments, and more like scientific discussions, where people get lost in a language of proportionality and preferences, probabilities and possibilities.

Of course, some of these things are important. But for me, politics shouldn't be some mind-bending exercise. It's about what you feel in your gut – about the values you hold dear and the beliefs you instinctively have. And I just feel it, in my gut, that AV is wrong.

To think that we (the academic community) once had him eating out of our hands, studying for a degree on Philosophy, Politics and Economics. And what a colossal failure of education that the above is DC's take on social choice theory. Not that Oxford PPE is very strong on social choice theory; I took a look the course information page; it's a nicely-designed web site, but I think you'd be lucky to graduate with a knowledge of Condorcet's theorem. And I would like to know if anything could possibly more central to PPE.

(Added 23.4.11: This article in the Guardian contains what is for me the first sighting of the Gibbard-Satterthwaite theorem in a national newspaper. This blog post by Tim Gowers proves that by voting yes, I am in good company!)


Troels said...

The NOtoAV website is a wonderful mixture of self-contradiction, misunderstanding or misrepresentation of AV.

Jonathan said...

I don't really see what your point is. Unless there is a Condorcet winner then there is no "obviously right" winner in any given election and the AV winner is not obviously less arbitrary than the FPTP winner.

There is also considerable confusion as to whether we wish to select the "right" MP for a given constituency, or the "right" parliament as a whole; unfortunately these two desires will be in tension much of the time.

Broadly speaking all the information from both sides of this debate is nonsense, largely reflecting the fact that nobody actually wants AV.

Paul Goldberg said...

My point? Not so much that AV is so great, as that our esteemed PM does a pretty rotten job of spelling out a coherent argument in favour of the current system. Had he made your observation about Condorcet winners, I would be a whole more sympathetic. (When the referendum was announced, I had the agreeable fantasy that in the run-up to it, pub conversations up and down the country would be full of voting theory. But now we seem to be losing out on the opportunity to popularise concepts like Condorcet winners.)

Just for balance, here is a more detailed discussion on the merits of DC's application of gut feelings.

Anonymous said...

Apparently David Cameron read this new article "The Neuroscience of the Gut" !!