Monday, May 03, 2010

Math In The Real World--In Elections

IN AN ideal world, elections should be two things: free and fair. Every adult, with a few sensible exceptions, should be able to vote for a candidate of their choice, and each single vote should be worth the same.

Ensuring a free vote is a matter for the law. Making elections fair is more a matter for mathematicians. They have been studying voting systems for hundreds of years, looking for sources of bias that distort the value of individual votes, and ways to avoid them. Along the way, they have turned up many paradoxes and surprises. What they have not done is come up with the answer. With good reason: it probably doesn't exist. link

Let's hear from Winston Churchill: “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.”


MikeAT said...

Or from Richard J. Daley, HIZONORDAMAER of Chicago 1955 to 1976:

Vote Early and Vote Often! :<)

Anonymous said...

"[fair] Probably doesn't exits," is too weak.

See here for a writeup on Kenneth Arrow's 'impossibility theorem'. Darren, you might appreciate the math. The result, however, is a bit disappointing ...

-Mark Roulo

maxutils said...

I had the Arrow theorem explained to me by an amazingly good economics professor once (Mark Dynarski) and it made sense at the time, and I even agree with it ... but looking at it now, I must say that using 'math' to describe it is something of a stretch.