When is a Majority not a Majority? Brexit and Korean Restaurants


Note: Credit to an article on infacts. for inspiration.

When is a democratic vote not a democratic vote? When there’s 3 or more options but only 2 on the ballot paper.

10 work colleagues, who don’t know each other particularly well, find themselves in the pub round the corner from the office and after a few drinks decide to go for a group meal.  The 1st, Abby, says “Well I’ll say up front, I’m easy, I’ll go with the flow”. Euan sitting in one corner with 3 others says “How about Korean?  We’ve all been to the local one and it’s great”.

Unfortunately the other 5 (Libby,  Joe, Jane, Harry & Brian) say “no, not Korean.  Definitely not Korean”.  “OK, fair enough what do you suggest?” ask the Korean food fans. “We’re not sure, but we know we all like the same kind of food and we definitely don’t like Korean”.

“OK, but you have to choose” say Euan and the Korean 4 “You have to pick a restaurant”.   “We have chosen” say the other 5, “We’ve said we don’t want Korean”.  Well, the Korean 4 don’t want to make a fuss, none of them know each other except through work after all.  They agree to let the majority decide and so the 5 have a chat amongst themselves.

Suddenly Joe and Jane pipe up “We’ve heard of a great place, the ‘Your way’ Cafe – there’s no menu, you can have whatever you want in any style you want”.  Euan asks “The what cafe?  Are you sure that’s a real place?”.  “Yes” say the 2, “Libby, or possibly Harry, one of them anyway told us about it”.  Euan turns to Libby and Harry who are suddenly looking a bit embarrassed.  “No, not me, it must have been you Harry” says Libby, to which Harry responds “Nope, not me, I never mentioned it.  Are you sure it wasn’t you Libby?”.

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Harry, Libby and a close friend looking shifty

But before any more questions can be asked Libby says “Actually, I really fancy Chinese”.   “Wait a second I thought you said you all like the same food?” exclaims Euan just as the final 2 in the group, Harry & Brian, say “Actually, we just want to carry on drinking, we’ve had a few drinks now and we don’t want to eat at all.”.

So now the Korean 4 are getting a bit annoyed. “Look, hang on, we only backed down on the Korean because you all said you wanted the same thing. This is a flawed vote.”.  “Of course it isn’t” say the 5, “None of us like Korean so we get to choose”.  “But you all said you liked the same kind of food, that’s why you got to choose.  3 completely different options, one of which isn’t even food related, are not ‘the same kind of thing’!”.  However the 5 now all say to the other 4 “oh come on stop whining, we voted and you lost, get over it”.

The Korean 4 are a bit nonplussed, they don’t mind being in the minority, but they do mind not getting to choose the restaurant when they appear to be in the majority.  Meanwhile Joe and Jane are having trouble finding the “Your Way” Cafe on Trip Advisor.  “Try ‘Your Style Cafe’ “says Jane, glancing at Harry & Libby who in turn find something interesting to look at on the bar floor.

The Korean 4 look at each other in confusion, how did this get so complex? Then Libby sidles over and says to the 4 “Look,  Korean is quite similar to Chinese, why don’t you say you want Chinese as well and then we’ll have a majority of 5.  The 4 are a bit shocked – “Excuse me?  You said you didn’t like Korean, you’re the only one who wants Chinese, and now you want us to change our vote so we do what you want?  Why don’t you change your vote and go with the majority?  Do you really hate Korean so much?”.  “Well”, says Libby, “Truth is, I don’t mind Korean, but I just really fancy Chinese so I said I hated it”.

So now the Korean 4 have a chat about their options.  They’re starving, they know that Libby the Chinese fan wants to eat, they’re pretty sure the “Your Way/Style” people are hungry as well (though it’s not 100% clear).  They suspect that even easy going Abby wants some food.  Its only Harry and Brian who are definitely not hungry.

So what should they do, they ask themselves.  They realise in hindsight they should have been more firm and pinned the other 5 down on what they definitely wanted, rather than what they definitely didn’t want, because 4 would then be a majority given all the options now on the table. It’s a bit late now though and anyway the other 5 don’t seem to recognise that the original vote was flawed.  They can’t go with the “Your Way/Style/Kidding” 2 as that restaurant doesn’t appear to actually exist.  They could all say they’ll settle for Chinese, but that doesn’t seem right either as only 1 in 10 definitely wants that.

It’s a pickle.  Whilst they are pondering their options Libby pipes up and says “Come on everyone, lets go for a Chinese, its a good compromise for….”

“I’M NOT EATING ANY EFFING FOREIGN CRAP, we’re carrying on with the drinking” says Brian from the corner, talking over Libby and everyone else.

Everyone is a bit surprised.  Brian hasn’t said much all evening but there’s about 8 empty glasses in front of him. “Do you know him well?” whispers one of the group. “No, not really, I think he’s from HR” says another “He’s a bit of a drinker apparently, can get a bit aggressive I’m told.  There’s rumors of a few fights and such like”.

Suddenly the atmosphere has changed.  Everyone just thought they were going for a meal but now it seems the evening has taken a different turn.  “OK, hang on now” says Euan, “I know we can’t agree on a meal but most of us are definitely hungry, we want to eat something”.

“No, Brian’s right” says Harry, whose lost interest on whatever was on the floor and seems more confident now that Brian has spoken. “Let’s just go for a drink, everyone likes a drink, we don’t want the evening spoiled with a silly argument do we?  I can see Brian really wants a few more shots, lets just do that shall we?”

The 10 start to leave the bar.  The “Your Way/Style” 2 are a bit annoyed now and start a minor argument with Libby and Harry “Look, one of you two definitely mentioned this Cafe”, but the 2 just shake their heads and say that Joe and Jane must have misheard them or something.

And so as they all head off to the next bar for 2 for 1 Jägerbombs, the Korean 4 are left wondering how a majority can still lose a democratic vote, how 20% of the group got to decide the plans for the evening and why everyone is going along with a plan that will probably end in tears.

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