Quote of the day : squabbles

I am writing a paper at the moment on some of my work with Steve Checkoway and Hovav Shacham on voting, which has involved a pretty broad literature search in social choice theory. I came across this quote about approval voting (AV) as an alternative to plurality voting (PV) in the paper Going from theory to practice: the mixed success of approval voting by Steven J. Brams and Peter C. Fishburn (Soc Choice Welfare 25:457–474 (2005)):

The confrontation between theory and practice offers some interesting lessons on “selling” new ideas. The rhetoric of AV supporters has been opposed not only by those supporting extant systems like plurality voting (PV)—including incumbents elected under PV—but also by those with competing ideas, particularly proponents of other voting systems like the Borda count and the Hare system of single transferable vote.

We conclude that academics probably are not the best sales people for two reasons: (1) they lack the skills and resources, including time, to market their ideas, even when they are practicable; and (2) they squabble among themselves. Because few if any ideas in the social sciences are certifiably “right” under all circumstances, squabbles may well be grounded in serious intellectual differences. Sometimes, however, they are not.

I don’t think it’s particular to the social sciences…

On another note, the IEEE adopted AV at some point but then abandoned it. According to a report on the (very partisan) range voting website, there are shady reasons.

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