Thursday, January 19, 2006

We Should Vote Like We Pick Pizza Toppings

While reading about voting systems, I wondered if we could use casual election systems to aid us in establishing a new way of voting in our political system (our current way encourages a two party system which doesn't offer as much deadlock as most libertarians would like).

For those of you that don't know, there are dozens (perhaps hundreds) of different institutional rules for voting, each yielding a different result. One of these is approval voting. Given a list of options, votes vote for which ever they approve of. They can vote for all or none or three or one. This simple method may seem strange to us who are used to one-person, one-vote but in reality, it's a method we use all the time.

Consider three friends picking pizza toppings. If two want pineapple but three want sausage, then they get sausage. Even if one really wants pineapple and is only slightly in favor of sausage, they get sausage because the third person hates pineapple. (Though they might get pineapple if the other two don't like this hypothetical third person very much.) The same sort of informal voting pops up when people choose movies, televison shows, video games, restaurants and so on. It is only when there is a tie does level of preference become an issue.

While I institutionally prefer instant runoff voting (because it includes approval and level of preference), convincing the general public of approval voting is much easier given we do it so often as it is.

Sadly, the pizza topping analogy is quickly becoming obselete as Pizza Hut and its competitors offer up solutions to choosing toppings, such as mini pizzas or Domino's bulk pizza deals. The slogan may have to be reworked.

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