QUOTE [this is from an online report, written by his hosts, describing a lecture "How Should We Elect Presidents?" Maskin gave at Georgetown University's Gaston Hall on 17 January 2008; the text of the lecture is (essentially) available here]:
In a series of comparisons, Maskin illustrated the strengths and weaknesses of various voting systems, including rank order voting and true majority rule, when measured by five standard principles: consensus – if everyone agrees candidate A is better than B, B will not be elected; anonymity – all voters should count equally, regardless of who you are or what state you live in; neutrality – electoral rules should also treat all candidates equally; transitivity – a system should be independent of irrelevant or fringe candidates; and decisiveness – the idea that there should always be a winner.
Let's check out how range voting performs on Maskin's 5 principles.
"No voting system satisfies all five principles" eh? Wrong. Or to quote Maskin on page 6 of his text: "We might enquire whether there is a voting procedure that actually satisfies these principles. The answer unfortunately is 'no'. That answer was provided by economist Kenneth Arrow..." This quote is simply flat-out false: range voting is such a procedure and Arrow's theorem does not apply to, and never was claimed to apply to, "all voting procedures" – including it does not apply to range voting. Here Maskin is simply repeating a common misunderstanding of what Arrow's theorem actually said. The resolution of this misunderstanding had already been published by Harsanyi in the 1950s almost immediately after Arrow's work, but Maskin missed that and did not cite or mention Harsanyi in either his lecture text or his 2007 paper. (Incidentally, Harsanyi also won an economics Nobel, in 1994.)
Just because you win a Nobel prize in economics, unfortunately does not mean you are either infallible or omniscient. Nor does it necessarily mean you know much about voting. You (the reader) have now verified that Maskin made a mistake.
Actually in my (and Nobel's) opinion, even having a "Nobel prize in Economics" is a mistake. (The "Nobel" prize in economics was created by the Swedish Bank, was first awarded in 1969, about 75 years after Nobel died. It was not approved in any way by Nobel, and its real title therefore is "Nobel Memorial Prize" not "Nobel prize" in economics.) I feel economics is not an advanced-enough field to deserve such a prize; the aura of infallibility and omniscience created by the awarding of these prizes has in several cases been a bad thing, and many Economics Nobels have been awarded for feats which I as a mathematician do not consider very impressive. Also, some Economics Nobelists have made some ludicrously false and damaging statements.
Indeed, the fact that Range Voting accomplishes what Arrow had deemed "impossible" had already been observed by, and published by (also Economics Nobel Laureate) John Harsanyi in the 1950s, but no mention of either range voting or Harsanyi was made by Maskin during his lecture half a century later or in his 2007 paper.
Further, as regards the final sentence in the Maskin-report-quote, about how his undefined "majority rule" system supposedly comes the closest to satisfying Arrow's impossible conditions – here Maskin was apparently unaware (never cited, never mentioned) that a theorem indicating that range voting comes the closest to satisfying a set of Arrow-like conditions, already had been published in 1999 (years before Maskin's voting work he was lecturing about), by Dhillon & Mertens.
And finally, as for Maskin's notion Condorcet winners ought to be elected – Maskin was unfortunately unaware that with strategic voters range voting can actually elect Condorcet winners more often than "official" Condorcet methods of the sort he is pushing! (This has been experimentally verified.)
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