Gaming the Vote: Book summary and reviews of Gaming the Vote by William Poundstone

Gaming the Vote

Why Elections Aren't Fair (and What We Can Do About It)

by William Poundstone

Gaming the Vote by William Poundstone X
Gaming the Vote by William Poundstone
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Book Summary

At least five U.S. presidential elections have been won by the second most popular candidate. The reason was a “spoiler”—a minor candidate who takes enough votes away from the most popular candidate to tip the election to someone else. The spoiler effect is more than a glitch. It is a consequence of one of the most surprising intellectual discoveries of the twentieth century: the “impossibility theorem” of Nobel laureate economist Kenneth Arrow. The impossibility theorem asserts that voting is fundamentally unfair—a finding that has not been lost on today’s political consultants. Armed with polls, focus groups, and smear campaigns, political strategists are exploiting the mathematical faults of the simple majority vote. In recent election cycles, this has led to such unlikely tactics as Republicans funding ballot drives for Green spoilers and Democrats paying for right-wing candidates’ radio ads. Gaming the Vote shows that there is a solution to the spoiler problem that will satisfy both right and left. A system called range voting, already widely used on the Internet, is the fairest voting method of all, according to computer studies. Despite these findings, range voting remains controversial, and Gaming the Vote assesses the obstacles confronting any attempt to change the American electoral system.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"His lively, accessible mix of high theory and low politics merits a thumbs-up." - Publishers Weekly.

"Convincing, entertaining and authoritative overview of voting systems and their pitfalls." - Kirkus Reviews.

"Poundstone always writes with the premise that thinking can be entertaining. His latest book, Gaming the Vote, clearly reasoned, well-researched, and often amusing, deals with the crucially important question: How best does a government ‘by the people’ decide what to do? He does not find a definitive answer, but he shows why it is so difficult and prepares the citizen to face the question responsibly." - Rush Holt, U.S. House of Representatives (NJ-12).

"Gaming the Vote is a must-read for anyone interested in the process and outcomes of voting. Poundstone gives a clear and remarkably accurate account of the rich theoretical literature. At the same time, his examples of voting anomalies in real elections are both lively and revealing." - Kenneth J. Arrow, professor of economics (emeritus) at Stanford University and winner of the 1972 Nobel Prize in Economic Science

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Author Information

William Poundstone

William Poundstone is an American author, columnist, and skeptic. He is the author of at least ten books including Fortune's Formula: The Untold Story of the Scientific Betting System That Beat the Casinos.

Follow William at http://home.williampoundstone.net/

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