In a comment on my article on Professional Voting, Robin Hanson questions how well the Election Council in a Professional Voting system would work
The obvious question is how well can ordinary voters monitor whether the Electoral Council members are choosing neutral fair test questions.
I have thought about how low levels of monitoring by ordinary voters (due to rational ignorance) would affect the effectiveness of the Electoral Council, and I have concluded that low monitoring levels would not affect Electoral Council effectiveness very much at all. To a large extent, voters do not need to monitor the Electoral Council members in order to give them incentives to do their job well because those incentives are inherent to the job.
Essentially, the only non-monetary rewards more readily available to Electoral Council members than to other people would be small level fame and the ability to pursue sociotropic goals (ideological or otherwise) for example, getting the minimum wage raised. Electoral Council members would have little opportunity to be corrupt or wield direct power, because the Electoral Council would not control very much public money nor control powerful government functions. Because Electoral Council positions have a comparative compensation advantage in providing the opportunity to persue sociotropic goals and because sociotropic motivation is quite strong for some people, sociotropic motivation would be especially strong among Electoral Council members because they would self select for being highly sociotropically motivated (I discuss this logic here). Therefore, we should expect Electoral Council members to act mostly to maximize the monetary rewards of being reelected as well as maximize how much they advance some set of sociotropic goals.
The only way to pursue sociotropic goals as an Electoral Council member, however, would be to influence the arguments and facts that voters learn by influencing the questions that appear on the political knowledge test that the Electoral Council would administer. For a Council member to advance their set of sociotropic goals as much as possible, they must ensure that the questions on the test cover the most convincing arguments and facts supporting their sociotropic goals, and to ensure that those questions measure how much individual knows about such arguments as accurately as possible. Luckly, this is exactly the job of the Electoral Council.
Working to include biased questions on the test would not further the influence of individual Electoral Council members because biased questions are very easy to work around. For example, including the question “Are you a Democrat?”, on the political knowledge test would not help Democrats, because non-Democrats can easily claim to be Democrats. Furthermore, even if such biased questions did help the factions which included them, other factions would strongly resist such questions because they would be percieved as unfair. Attempts to include questions biased in favor of specific demographics would be almost totally muted by the weighting of the final voting result by the demographic survey.
One potential problem would occur if the primary cause of disagreement between electoral council members is differences in values and not about what arguments and facts are most true. In this case, Electoral Council members, may devote significant energy towards preventing questions focusing on strong arguments supporting policies which they oppose from appearing on political knowledge test, instead of towards including questions focusing on strong arguments supporting policies which they support. This would obviously be a bad outcome.
This is an interesting potential problem because it means that we should actually prefer Electoral Council members to be be relatively biased towards believing arguments and facts that support what they support and against believing arguments and facts which do not support what they support. However, monitoring of Electoral Council members by ordinary voters (however little of it there is) and Electoral Council members valuation of honesty in general should reduce Electoral Council member’s efforts to keep legitimate arguments that opposing factions support from being covered by the political knowledge test. Additionally, this would not be a potential problem for Professional Voting as a corporate governance institution, because Electoral Council members would value profit almost exclusively and homogeneously, so disagreements would only exist about which arguments are persuasive.