Democracy Center - Review by Fredrik Barth

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Research and advice on methods of voting and election

... a highly original and important study of ways to arrive at collective decisions in situations of choice between multiple alternatives. It is thus a basic study of democratic governance and alternatives procedures for voting suited for different issues and different circumstances.

Whereas a majority decisions can resolve a choice between two simple alternatives, we are painfully aware of the difficulties that arise when choices are many, preferences are weighted or a stable plurality disenfranchises the minority. These are problems that have taxed collective decision makers from the conclaves choosing popes and emperors, through the efforts of the mathematician J-C de Borda to devise ideal procedures for selection to the French Academy, to the celebrated Game theoretical analyses of Kenneth Arrow; and Stefansson advances the whole field in this important study.
Stefansson explores the voting systems known as sequential choice and vote funds, and how they allow groups to arrive at collective decisions that are sensitive to the distribution of preferences and priorities whithin the group. His study runs the whole gamut from technical procedures, through theoretical modeling, to an analysis of practical trials that he has supervised in groups of various composition in Iceland. He shows how the procedures facilitate decision on different issues and under differing circumstances. Finally, he demonstrates how cooperative, democratic practices will emerge where such procedures are practiced.

The theoretical and practical implications of this exemplary study are presented with great clarity, and are empowering in facilitating our ability to implement democratic governance.

Professor Fredrik Barth, anthropologist, Oslo (on the original version, a research report in Norwegian, Demokrati med radvalg og fondsvalg, Universitetet i Oslo, 2003)