Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Elitist Voting

Actually to be fair, maybe it is not just elitist but it is interesting nonetheless. I just return from a faculty meeting in which every proposal except one passed unanimously. The problem was that around where I was sitting, many people seemed to be opposed. So how can this be?

The best interpretation I have is this: When a matter is close, the yes votes go first and are a bit emphatic. This puts the no voters in something like a prisoner's dilemma. They may be able to defeat the motion but only if they all vote no. At least they can force a count.

If one or two vote no, however, theirs could be the only no votes and they have "outed" themselves. This is embarrassing and may have social implications. The risks for yes voters are not the same. First they cannot be accused as going against the grain and their vote is one that agrees at least with as many people constituting the committee making the proposal.

So the question is how many things pass when actually a majority of people oppose it. Perhaps one way to find out is to take the no vote first. But this may just reverse the problem.

What does this have to do with the elites? As I said, I am not sure but it has a great deal to do with gutlessness and thinking about one's place rather than what is best for the institution and that is clearly an elite trait. Just another example of shirking.


Anonymous said...

It seems like an anonymous voting system would solve this problem.

Jeffrey Harrison said...

Yes, I think so but unless a secret ballot is automatic, someone who asks for it is outed because the assumption is that one who asks will go against the grain.

Anonymous said...

No system defeats this problem... Anarchy instead? That hardly seems favorable.

Anonymous said...

Although this won't solve the dilemma you describe, my understanding is that over at the UF Law Review, whenever a vote is taken, voters must put their heads down and silently raise their hands in favor of a proposal. Perhaps this would be a form of necessary humility for all those elitist professors you so aptly describe.