14 June 2015

Presidential pre-candidates

With Hillary Clinton’s launch of her candidacy yesterday in New York, the very long session of the US presidential primary elections has formally started. The primary elections in the US presidential regime are the substitute for the formation of post-electoral multiparty coalitions in parliamentary regimes. These are two of the mechanisms that can be used to address the basic problem of a democratic political process: how to aggregate the varied and often contradictory preferences and interests of the citizens into forming, at the end, a single government producing a set of enforceable public policies. 
     In typical European democracies, multiple parties obtain seats in parliament and once there, after the election, they enter into negotiations and agreements to form a majority in support of a prime minister. In the United States, multiple candidates fight to get sufficiently broad support before the election to select only two political candidates running for president. In the European model, the mess is after the election. Some under-informed Americans like to mock those systems that permit the emergence of fringe parties and need several months, sometimes, to settle on a viable candidate for prime minister. In the US system, the mess is before the election. The mock is increasingly addressed to the primary season, where fringe candidates run and need more than a year to settle on a couple of viable candidates.

Claire’s syndrome

With so open opportunities for anybody to present their bets, one can wonder about the motivations of certain people to run for public office. Hillary Clinton is becoming suspect of suffering from the Claire’s syndrome. In the disappointing Netflix series House of Cards, Claire, the First Lady, who gave up her life and work to her husband’s ambition and suffered more indignity than was strictly necessary to help him to get into the White House, in spite of having performed several important foreign missions suddenly feels unfulfilled and decides to start a career on her own. Perhaps she will also run for President in the next season, which may be broadcasted at the same time as the real presidential election.
30'' video

No meat

Hillary’s main challenger within the Democratic primary may be former governor of Maryland, Martin O’Malley, who has just been introduced by The Washington Post as a former follower and disciple of Gary Hart, an unfortunate pre-candidate of more than thirty years ago. Hart became famous from a TV debate in which one of his insubstantial tirades on the need to have "new ideas" was retorted by former vice-president and candidate Walter Mondale: "When I hear your new ideas, I'm reminded of that ad: ‘Where is the beef?’.” 
The ad in question was from a chain of hamburger restaurants which criticized another one. 
You can see the ad here:      And Hart and Mondale’s dialog here:
          CLICK - 30''                               CLICK - 20''

Let's hope some beef will be found.

Two dynasties

On the Republican camp –because actually it is more a camp than a party—the primary season promises to be as weird as it was four years ago. About 15 candidates have announced their intention to throw their hat into the ring. The number one so far, Jeb Bush, may raise the same wonder as Hillary Clinton does regarding his real motivation for seeking office. In this case he may suffer of un-fulfillment regarding not his partner’s but his father’s and his brother’s careers. But should any voter care about family frustrations regarding more fulfilled partners and relatives?

Some people sometimes mock the French system of recruitment of candidates for President and Prime Minister, which is largely based on the École nationale d'administration, the famous ENA. But at least that’s something more or less meritocratic since enrolling in the ENA requires passing a highly selective process of admission. In contrast, creating two dynasties, the Clintons and the Bushes, would be like going back to the pre-modern aristocratic era, when only a few big families fought for top power.


Trying to reduce the foreseeable mess, some TV channels have announced that they will limit the maximum number of participants in public debates to ten, perhaps creating two groups of pre-candidates. Here is as it’s seen by cartoonist Horsey:

Anyone for President

A traditional saying holds that the United States is a great democracy where anybody can be President. Actually this is not well proven. But what it’s clear is that anybody –literally anybody—can be pre-candidate.


Pedro Gete said...
me ha gustado mucho la intro.
?ha estudiado alguien si es mejor la mess antes o despues de la eleccion?
Georgetown U.

Rein Taagepera said...
Me too.
Eiher can be more or less of a mess, depending on details of setup and culture. 

U. California, Irvine

Salvador Giner said...
molt ben vist, per això les primàries a Europa, quan n'hi ha, són una altra cosa. 
Teu, Salvador
U. Barcelona

24 May 2015

John Nash program is alive!

John F. Nash (1028-2015) was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1994. Most probably he was the Nobel winner with the fewest pages published in his life!. In three articles, he basically introduced two concepts. The so-called Nash equilibrium is the outcome of a game in which no player can improve his results by unilaterally changing his strategy.
     Nash also introduced a normative concept, the “Nash solution,” for bargaining problems in which two or more actors try to reach an agreement on how to divide a good. The classical utilitarian criterion holds that the best social solution is the one that maximizes the sum of the actors’ utilities. This criterion inspires, for instance, the evaluation of the welfare of a country by its average per capita income or by the general level of citizens’ political satisfaction. In contrast, the Nash solution is the one that maximizes the product of the actors’ utilities.

All Going for the Blonde is a Nash equilibrium but not a Nash solution
An example of the Nash solution is given in the Oscar-winning movie A Beautiful Mind (based on the book of the same title by Sylvia Nasar) about the life of John Nash. A group of four students, including Nash, are spending some time in a bar in Princeton when five girls, including a stunning blonde, enter the room. Nash says, “If we all go for the blonde, we block each other and not a single one of us is gonna get her.” He suggests that “no one goes for the blonde,” and that the four boys instead pair up with the other girls –to the bemusement of his fellow students.
  A reasonable interpretation is the following. If only one person obtains the maximum prize, say with value 10, and the other three get nothing, the sum of the four actors’ utilities can be relatively high in comparison with an alternative outcome in which each of the four actors gets a lower value, say of only 2 (since 10 + 0 + 0 + 0 = 10 > 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 = 8). But the product of utilities in the first outcome is very bad (actually it is zero, since three actors get nothing and can be extremely frustrated), while the product of the latter is higher (2 * 2 * 2 * 2 = 16).
  Generally, in comparison with the classical utilitarian “Bentham sum” solution, the “Nash product” solution favors more egalitarian distributions. For example, under the sum criterion, a distribution of values among three actors such as 3, 2, 1, is as good as the distribution 2, 2, 2 (since both imply a sum of 6 units of social utility). But under the product criterion, the former distribution (whose product is 3 * 2 * 1 = 6) is worse than the latter one (whose product is 2 * 2 * 2 = 8).

(Excerpt from my book: Colomer, The Science of Politics. An Introduction. Oxford UP CLICK)

Also CLICK for 3' video


Rein Taagepera said...
Yes, this is a major example of the broader adding-multiplying dilemma. 
Physicists multiply, today's social scientists tend to add, even when it doesn't add up. 

Oh, that's a great point!
I always thought of Bentham-sum and Nash-product as normative values, but not on how they also imply the analytical difference that you usually emphasize.
So thanks for pointing out what it was in front of my nose.

10 May 2015

The Most Important Day 
of the Twentieth Century

Everything came from there...
Video: 2 minutes
(from Paris brûle-t-il?, Dir.: René Clément)

23 April 2015

as published in Financial Times

Defaulting states and cities 
are still part of the US
Martin Wolf is very much on target when he claims that Greece’s default may not entail Grexit (“Mythology that blocks progress in Greece”, April 22). This is what the example of the US shows.
      In the early years of the Union, the US Treasury mutualised huge debts contracted by the states during the wars for independence. But once the American Union was more consolidated, the federal government stopped giving financial aid to states or cities in bankruptcy; none of them has been rescued since 1840. Actually, thousands of local governments have defaulted, especially after the Civil War, during the Great Depression, and most recently in California, Illinois or Detroit, for example. But none of these states and cities has left the dollar area or the United States!
      So let Greece default because it’s clear, as Mr Wolf says, that the money would not be repaid and that it has always been the case that “stupid lenders lose money”. And let’s keep Greece with the euro and in the European Union.
Josep M Colomer
Professor of Political Economy,
Georgetown University,
Washington, DC, US


Dear Dr Colomer
Thank you for sharing your interesting post.
Allow me to raise a question: how do you envisage letting Greece default and the other countries not? If Greece was the only case, then your position would make sense. Like this, I am really puzzled to comprehend the bigger picture within the Eurozone.
Emil Kirjas
Liberal International

Javier Corrales
Amherst University

Guillem Lopez Casasnovas
Pompeu Fabra University

brilliant, as usual
Angel Gil-Ordóñez

I read your letter to the FT on US states defaults and thought that you might be interested in my new OUP book, an analytical history of European debt. It was given a very supportive review by Andy Moravcsik (Harvard) in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs. The book is titled: 'States, Dent and Power: 'Saints' and 'Sinners' in European History and Integration''
My best wishes,
Kenneth Dyson
School of Law and Politics
Cardiff University, UK

Also from 
The Grumpy Economist-John Cochrane's blog
The litGdefault needs not Grexit - CLICK

22 April 2015

International(?) Book Day:
   Who Translates Whom
The International Day of the Book (or World Book Day) is a yearly event on 23 April, sponsored by the UNESCO, to honor Miguel de Cervantes, William Shakespeare and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, all of whom died on this date in 1616 (400 next year).
     But how international are the books?
     More than 1.6 million books are published annually in approximately 200 languages in the world. English is the strongly dominant language, as more than one-third of total books in the world are published in this language.
     About 83,000 books are translated. Near two-thirds of translations are made from English. This is also almost the only language with a high surplus in language exchanges, as the number of translations from English into other languages is almost ten times higher than the number of translations from other languages into English.
     So if your first language is English, you are just lucky. Otherwise, if you want to publish in English, better write and publish first in English; the odds to be translated from any other language into English are very slim (I learned this forever from personal experience more than twenty years ago: see my books here). Then, after publishing in English you may have a sizable likelihood to be translated into other languages, as many books are translated from English into French, German, Spanish, as well as into Chinese and Russian.
     You can see the balances between language exports and imports, that is, between translations from and into each language, in Ashley Beale’s table below.

                        PUBLISHED    Original  Target     Balance    Exp+Imp/Books

English             557,927            62,295       7,090     55,205         12.44
Chinese            178,284                 644     10,090     - 9,446           6.02
Spanish            131,965              2,736     10,111     - 7,375           9.74
Russian            123,336              2,021     11,267     - 9,246         10.77
German            113,477              9,316     10,733     - 1,417         17.67
French                88,558              9,057     14,980     - 5,923         27.14
Japanese             78,555              2,919       6,771     - 3,852         12.33
Italian                 59,743              3,434       1,694       1,740           8.58
Turkish               34,863                169             33          136           0.58
Swedish              34,320              1,608       2,783     - 1,175         12.79
Dutch                 34,067                 864       6,695     - 5,831          22.19
Polish                 31,500                 552       5,264     - 4,712          18.46
Portuguese          29,895                 576         815        - 239            4.65
Arabic                24,870                 525          770        - 245            5.21
Romanian           14,984                 161       1,406     - 1,245         10.46
Finnish               13,656                 473       2,439     - 1,966          21.32
Danish                12,352              1,229       3,065     - 1,836         34.76
Czech                 10,244                 696       4,505     - 3,809         50.77
Hungarian             9,193                 239      3,614     - 3,375         41.91
Catalan                 7,758                 603          903        - 300          19.41
Hebrew                6,866                 398          660        - 262          15.41
Greek                   6,826                 380       2,677     - 2,297          44.78
Total              1,606,495                                    

Ashley Beale, “From State Media to Worldwide Networks”,
in Communication: From Its Origins to Internet, 2012: CLICK.
The Table is the author’s elaboration with data from UNESCO (CLICK)
for more than 90 percent of all books published in a single year.



高懿行,Anthony  said...

Thanks for sharing! Very interesting article.

From Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Beijing, China

Salvador Giner said...

només 10 cops més?/only ten times more?


16 April 2015

A Faustian Bargain in the EU
The tragicomedy of threats and negotiations between Greece and Brussels shows the big paradox of the European Union. On the one hand, the EU is blamed for not doing much for the victims of the crisis. On the other hand, it is derided for enacting excessive bans, restrictions and regulations. Actually the two blames are two sides of the same coin. Europe is overregulated precisely because the EU suffers from insufficient own resources (the EU’s annual budget amounts to about 1% of the Gross European Product, while the average member state spends about 48 % of its GDP). In the absence of a solid Europe-wide fiscal system, the EU substitutes overregulation of states’ fiscal policy for its own financial resources. The states retain the bulk of the money, but it is largely used to implement legislation directly or indirectly originated in Brussels.
       If the states wanted the EU to do more for the European citizens, they should accept transferring significant fiscal resources to the Union. With stronger finances, Brussels would be able to develop Europe-wide policies and it would need less interference over the policy areas reserved to the states. The EU’s fiscal strength would be the price for the states to reduce EU’s overregulation and to regain some of their lost autonomy. The states could develop their own policies on the issues on which they would choose to be different, up to the point to be responsible for their own finances: they should have the liberty to default and not expect to be rescued by the EU at the expense of the tax-payers of other member-states. In other words, let’s render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to the states the things that are theirs. If, conversely, the European states want to keep the bulk of public spending, they shouldn’t blame the EU for interferences and regulations, as, in absence of Brussels fiscal strength, these are the only ways by which the Union can try to provide European public goods and to do something for the European citizens.

Longer version in Spanish in the daily El Pais  CLICK


Rein Taagepera said...
You have nailed down a most important connection.
Yes – let’s render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to the states the things that are theirs.
And hope we can distinguish which is which.
How did the present (im)balance come about?
There is a vague analogy with theFaustian bargain in labor negotiations: 
Employers refuse wage increase, which would hit them  immediately; but offer higher pension as a substitute, which is more distant.
University of California, Irvine

Salvador Giner said...
Josep Mª, Molt bé la Faustian Bargain, 'L'estira i arronça fàustic'!
University of Barcelona

Jorge Dezcallar said...
Magnífico, te he leído hoy en El País
Ojalá Europa pudiera hacerlo!

Ambassador of Spain

04 April 2015

How the Global Institutions Rule the World
by Josep M. Colomer

Does world government actually exist? Are the current global institutions efficient in making decisions? Can they be compatible with basic democratic principles? This book holds that, indeed, world government does exist. How Global Institutions Rule the World demonstrates how the world is actually ruled by a few dozen global bureaus, organizations, funds, banks, courts and self-appointed directorates. They use different representation, voting, and organizational formulas, yet the variety of arrangements of the global institutions is not an indicator of weak capacity of decision-making or of policy enforcement. Instead, it reflects the extensive scope of their activities and the complexity of the global agenda of issues. With the appropriate institutional design, global government needs to be made compatible with a notion of accountable democratic rule.

In this thoughtful and thought-provoking book, Josep Colomer demonstrates that effective institutions of global governance exist. A single world government is neither possible nor desirable. But it is also unnecessary. Instead, a number of effective institutions already carry out essential functions of world governance. Moreover, in spite of worries about "democratic deficits", those institutions are able to meet the essential requirements of an effective democracy: representation, competence, consensus, and accountability.
- Martin Wolf, Chief Economist, Financial Times, UK

BUY THE BOOK: Palgrave-Macmillan CLICK

Presentation at Georgetown University.
From left: Prof. George Shambaugh, The author, Prof. E. Mujal-Leon

Also in Spanish:
El gobierno mundial de los expertos. Editorial Anagrama: CLICK

El Pais: "La politica nacional esta sobredimensionada"  CLICK
El Cultural/El Mundo: "La soberania nacional no existe ni volvera a existir"   CLICK


El Pais (Madrid

La Vanguardia (Barcelona):

Exame (Rio de Janeiro):
Telam (Buenos Aires) CLICK

11 March 2015

I didn’t Mean It Regarding Inequality

Thomas Piketty, the author of last year’s best-seller book Capital in the Twenty-first Century, now says that he said what he meant not to. Everybody read the analysis in his book as evidence of increasing wealth inequality in advanced societies. But in a highly surprising and interesting short paper, still unpublished, Piketty begs now that for “he did it” please read “he did not do it”.
He starts reminding the reader that he held in his book that “the size of the gap between r and g, where r is the rate of return on capital and g the economy’s growth rate, is one of the important forces that can account for the historical magnitude and variations in wealth inequality.” But he warns: “that said, the way in which I perceive the relationship between r > g and inequality is often not well captured in the discussion that has surrounded my book. For example, I do not view r > g as the only or even the primary tool for considering changes in income and wealth in the twentieth century, or for forecasting the path of inequality in the twenty-first century. Institutional changes and political shocks— which to a large extent can be viewed as endogenous to the inequality and development process itself—played a major role in the past, and it will probably be the same in the future.
He goes further on: “Let me first say very clearly that r > g is certainly not a problem in itself. Indeed, the inequality r > g holds true in the steady-state equilibrium of the most common economic models,… the inequality r > g always holds true, and does not entail any implication about wealth inequality.”
Rather than on returns of capital, inequality should now be largely explained by “demographic shocks: some families have many children and have to split inheritances in many pieces, some have few; some parents die late, some die soon, and so on. There are also shocks to rates of return: some families make good investments, others go bankrupt. There are shocks to labor market outcomes: some earn high wages, others do not. There are differences in taste parameters that affect the level of saving: some families consume more… of their capital income, and might even consume the full capital value; others might reinvest more… and have a strong taste for leaving bequests and perpetuating large fortunes”.
All in all, the best-seller economist acknowledges that nowadays “wealth inequality is currently much less extreme than a century ago”. In the predictable future, “wealth inequality will converge toward a finite level. The shocks will ensure that there is always some degree of downward and upward wealth mobility, so that wealth inequality remains bounded in the long run.”
On a more technical note, which is related to previous comments in this Blog, Piketty admits now that “one can indeed show that if shocks take a multiplicative form, then the inequality of wealth converges toward a distribution that has a Pareto shape for top wealth holders (which is approximately the form that we observe in real world distributions, and which corresponds to relatively fat upper tails and large concentration of wealth at the very top)”.  SEE my discussion with Piketty about regularities in distribution of income, including the one observed by Pareto, in this Blog: CLICK
His inconclusive and self-subversive conclusion: “Ultimately, which forces prevail is relatively uncertain. In particular, this depends on the institutions and policies that will be adopted.”
See the full paper:
"About Capital in the Twenty-First Century, by Thomas Piketty"
Forthcoming in American Economic Review: CLICK

02 March 2015

The European radical left
is not so 
The first weeks of government in Greece of Syriza, the “radical left coalition”, shows that in the current European Union it’s extremely difficult to blatantly oppose the Brussels and Frankfurt consensus. New radical left parties have tried to be launched in Southern Europe in political contexts defined by the social-democracy’s adoption of mainstream economic policy and the communists’ lack of credibility as an alternative. However, the political space outside and between these two political traditions is very narrow.
The crucial reference for comparison is Germany. The German Social-democratic Party (SPD) was pioneer in dropping Marxism, hostility to capitalism and nationalizations and in accepting membership to NATO, as early as in 1959. A few years later, the SPD, led by Willy Brandt and Helmut Schmidt, entered the first of what would be several grand coalition governments with the Christian-democrats. Communism was not a feasible option in West Germany, as it was identified with the Soviet occupation of East Germany. The emergence of a new left alternative took one more generation. Initially, the Greens adopted rather radical leftist positions in economic and foreign policy. But the Greens were unequivocally anti-Communists, up to the point of merging with the Eastern anti-Communist opposition in a permanent join candidacy after the reunification of the country. Over time, the Greens strongly reinforced their pro-European Union stance and became a regular party able to enter government in coalition with the Social-democrats.

The situation has been different in Southern Europe. There were still nationalizations of private companies for ideological motives in France at the beginning of the presidency of Socialist Francois Mitterrand, who formed a coalition government with the Communists in 1981. It took barely a year, however, for the French Socialist party to abandon such a pathway. Very soon thereafter, the Socialists initiated the first of several “cohabitations” with the Conservatives. In his second term, Mitterrand appointed Prime Minister Michel Rocard –who was derided as an advocate of “the American left”— to chair a coalition cabinet with the Centrists. The attempts to set up a radical left alternative, which were strongly influenced by the legacy of Marxism and Communism, did not succeed in forming a viable governmental option. History repeats itself. After less than two years in government, the current Socialist president Francois Hollande appointed a new prime minister, Manuel Valls –a Rocard’s disciple--, who is adopting mainstream economic policies as designed by the European Union. No clear alternative is emerging outside.
In Italy, the Socialists led by Bettino Craxi chaired a coalition government with the Christian-democrats in the 1980s. The main leftist party, the Communists, also abandoned Marxism and evolved into vague progressive positions until it merged with former Socialists and Christian-democrats in the new Democratic Party. As President of the Republic, former Communist Giorgio Napolitano appointed two cabinets of independent experts until a broad coalition of center-left and center-right parties was formed. The length and gradualism of the process of change and dissolution of the previous Communist and Socialist parties made the formation of a consistent radical left alternative extremely difficult.
The Spanish Socialist party (PSOE) learned the lesson very soon. After losing the first two democratic elections in Spain in the late 1970s, the PSOE’s leader Felipe Gonzalez forced the party to abandon its allegiance to Marxism and to adopt pro-market economic policy commitments. The party won the following election in 1982, when the French leftist experiment had already been revised and, in this light, it didn’t even try to implement nationalizations or similar decisions. Soon thereafter the PSOE explicitly embraced NATO membership. For many years, the left radical alternative was held by the barely disguised Communist candidacy called United Left, which never became a real government option. Only after a new, recent period of Socialist governments in which the instructions from the EU became actual policy, a new left radical alternative has appeared. Under the name We Can (Podemos), it looks like a breath of fresh air, although its members are again re-disguised Communists. They are likely to be less successful in the coming general election than certain survey polls venture.
The recent and current attempts at building political alternatives to the left of the social-democrats greatly derive from changes at European level. But facing the standard postulates of market-economy and transatlantic foreign policy requires today the adoption of anti-European Union and nationalist positions, which implies even more insurmountable challenges than in the 1980s. In this context, the experience of Syriza in government in Greece might lead to either a big turnaround of its campaign slogans –something like what the German Greens, the French, the Spanish and the Italian Socialists and the Italian Communists did in their times-- or to a quick governmental and electoral failure, as has happened to all far left alternatives that have been tried. In a year or two the dies of the new radical left in Southern Europe will be cast again. 
In Spanish in the daily El Pais: CLICK


Hector Schamis said...
Super! On a related issue, I wonder if you saw this yesterday.  
[El Pais: CLICK]
Abrazo.  h.  

Carles Castro said...
Una radiografia perfecta.

Fernando Casal Bertoa said...
Estimado Josep,
Muy buen articulo. Lo lei en El Pais. 
Excelente blog. Tu gráfico sobre el nuevo sistema de partidos griego me encanto. 
Incluso estoy viendo algunas de las pelis sobre política que recomiendas.
Por cierto, has visto mi web (whogoverns.eu)? Es aquella de la que os hable en Los Angeles. También tiene un blog sobre formación de gobiernos.
Un abrazo,
University of Nottingham, UK

Francesc de Carreras said...
Magnífic l'article!! completament d'acord!! 
Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona

Lluis Amiguet said...

23 February 2015

            Weird Oscar: 
  It's the Voting System!

It was a weird and highly controversial Oscar to the best picture this year: Birdman, a technical exercise telling a surrealistic story without emotion, beat Boyhood, which is unique and exactly the opposite.
The explanation, once again, is in the voting system!

For many decades the Oscars were voted by simple plurality rule, which was just a lottery and deprived Chaplin’s or Hitchcock’s pictures, for instance, from winning the Oscar. After a number of blatant disappointments with the winners, the Academy of Motion Pictures changed the voting rules for the Best Picture award a few years ago. Up to ten movies could be nominated in order to increase variety. Then, the members of the Academy vote among the nominees by “plurality or preferential system”, as it is kind of confusedly called in the Oscar rules.

The consequence is that movies that are not the first preference of many people have taken advantage. I've found this very good explanation of this year's result, written anonymously by somebody else in Vox.com, which I copy with minor editing. The numbers of votes are imaginary (because the Academy kept them secret), but highly plausible.

From Vox CLICK
(slightly edited by this Blog)
In Best Picture, with its 5 to 10 choices, Academy members are asked to rank as many nominees as they want to. [See above the ballot with ranks for “first choice”, “second choice”, and so on]. The accountants at PricewaterhouseCoopers who count the ballots then use the instant-runoff method [single-transferable vote, in electoral studies vocabulary]. One film must eventually receive 50 percent of the [first-place] vote plus one. That means that if all 6,124 Academy members vote, the winner of Best Picture will receive at least 3,063 [first-placevotes.
If no film has 3,063 [first-placevotes or more, then the film with the fewest votes is removed from the running. The second-place choices on those ballots are instead counted as first-place votes. And then the lowest film is dropped, and this goes on until one film receives 3,063 votes.
Let's take a look at how this would work (and assume that all Academy members voted, for simplicity's sake):

Round 1: Boyhood, 2,000 [first-placevotes; Birdman, 1,600 votes; The Imitation Game, 1,000 votes; The Theory of Everything, 600 votes; The Grand Budapest Hotel, 300 votes; Whiplash, 300 votes; American Sniper, 200; Selma, 124.
Selma is in last place here, so it drops out. Let's imagine every single one of its 124 voters had Grand Budapest in second.
Round 2: Boyhood, 2,000 votes; Birdman, 1,600 votes; The Imitation Game, 1,000 votes; The Theory of Everything, 600 votes; The Grand Budapest Hotel, 424 votes; Whiplash, 300 votes; American Sniper, 200.
Now, American Sniper drops out. Let's imagine its votes are evenly divided between Imitation Game and Theory of Everything (the two films most likely to benefit from garnering lower-place votes on ballots).
Round 3: Boyhood, 2,000 votes; Birdman, 1,600 votes; The Imitation Game, 1,100 votes; The Theory of Everything, 700 votes; The Grand Budapest Hotel, 424 votes; Whiplash, 300 votes.
Out goes Whiplash. We'll toss all 300 of its votes to Imitation Game.
Round 4: Boyhood, 2,000 votes; Birdman, 1,600 votes; The Imitation Game, 1,400 votes; The Theory of Everything, 700 votes; The Grand Budapest Hotel, 424 votes.
[Eventually many votes from voters who preferred discarded movies would be transferred to Birdman, which would overtake Boyhood in the counting and win, even if Birdman had a lower number of first-place votes than Boyhood].
The important thing is that this lengthy, drawn-out process tends to reward films that are in second or third place on many people's ballots, not divisive films that are maybe in first on some and dead last on others'.
And the voting rules also could point to why movies about movies — like Birdman [and The Artist and Argo in previous years]seem to gain unique benefit from the new system. After all, Hollywood tends to look kindly upon itself, and whatever shame may have existed in the past about choosing a movie about movies as your one and only vote is quite likely eased by getting to rank that movie second or third.


Rob Richie said...

Birdman won with plurality voting rules for Best Director and with RCV for Best Picture. How can you say its success is due to "bland" result from the voting system? And the voting system is not "weird" -- it's of course preferential voting (IRV, RCV), and used widely.

Compare that the truly boring nominations for the Emmys and the fact that the Grammys needs  a special committee to fix  what comes out of Grammy voters.

I suppose non-bland results would be an analogous result to a candidate winning who would never win in a 1-on-1 race. But do you really want that to happen in a movie field that could have as many as 10 choices? Is it "weird" to want Best Picture to be  a more reflective outcome?

We have a blog at OscarVotes123.com. 

Rob Richie 
Executive Director, 
Takoma Park, MD

Response from Blog:

At the end, it's about movies: one may prefer more experimental, innovative movies (such as Boyhood) to more "reflective" ones, including movies about movies. 
Voting rules are not equally valid for everything: for politics, consensus, yes indeed; but for arts...?

Hannu Nurmi said..

Dear Josep,
Weird, indeed, but common as Richie points out. Gideon Doron called it 'perverse' already in 1970's. To no avail, it seems.

Hannu Nurmi
University of Turku, Finland

Javier Ruperez said...

Y la irresistible tendencia de premiar historias sobre ellos.
Asi les va: la gente se queda en casa viendo House of Cards.
Y si van al cine lo que les atrae es American Sniper.
E la nave va!
Washington, DC