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Western-Style Voting 'A Loser' 614

Posted by Zonk
from the math-and-politics-two-great-tastes dept.
sethawoolley writes "In light of the upcoming elections in the US, author William Poundstone was interviewed about voting systems by Mother Jones. In it he advocates the benefits of Range Voting as a solution to Arrow's Impossibility Theorem. Approval, Borda, Instant Runoff, and Condorcet Voting, which are often solutions advocated by the Greens and Libertarians (in the US), are discussed, as well, in light of Warren Smith's recent empirical research using Bayesian Regret. My local party (of which I'm the Parliamentarian) uses Single Transferable voting, but we're considering using Range Voting in the future. One thing is for certain: any system is better than the West's out-dated plurality voting system."
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Western-Style Voting 'A Loser'

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  • Wrong term ... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by foobsr (693224) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @07:46AM (#21931114) Homepage Journal
    ... 'Western style voting', while 'proportional voting' seems to have a stronghold in Europe.

    Yet, though I agree that plurality as well as proportional systems from party lists need improvement or a change, I do not see how this is to fix major problems.

    My position is that until there is no improvement regarding political ethics you will end up with the same quality of political discussion/decision making that you have today. In short, you have to create a proper set of choices first.

    CC.
  • This is stupid. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hyfe (641811) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @07:58AM (#21931164)
    I think article-heading meant US-type voting, not western. Proportional and the different variants of plurality all have weaknesses, but none are as glaring as the US-type one. I would like to say one thing though, in most countries in Europe you vote for a party, not for a presidental candidate.. and a lot of the 'weirdness', like when Brown took over from Blaire stems from this fact. It's not a bug though, it's working as intended.

    Either way. Both India and the UK has winner-takes-all variants which are more or less working. In India several different parties can vote for the same candidate. For the most part, you still end up with two large blocks, but atleast you'll get *some* group-dynamics and bartering. In the UK they only use winner-takes-all on constituity-level, meaning you still can take local-phenomena into account. The Lib-Dems do get seats.

    My point is, there's probably a million really small fixes that could majorly change the whole incredibly silly voting/campaigning-dynamics you have over there. There's no need to scrap everything.. and frankly, I really believe trying to introduce a whole new, reasonably complex voting system is silly to the extreme, given how really ******* easy it would be patch up the one you have.

  • by Jacques Chester (151652) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @08:00AM (#21931166)

    One thing is for certain: any system is better than the West's out-dated plurality voting system.

    You do realise that the USA is not the only country in "the West", surely?

    Australia has had compulsory instant runoff voting (aka IRV, though we call it "preferential voting") for decades. It works pretty well. Systems like the Condorcet Method, Meek's Algorithm and Range Voting have some theoretical advantages, but they fail in one crucial respect: they are hard to count. Range Voting creates possibly hundreds of rounds of counting. The Condorcet Method creates exponential numbers of counts. The Meek algorithm is essentially only doable with a computer. In contrast, the maximum number of counts required in IRV is the number of candidates - 1. In most cases the election is settled in two rounds.

    What I've learnt over the years as an interested student of voting methods and as a politcal hack and Parliamentary candidate is that voting systems in theory and voting systems in practice are not the same. You need more than the best system in terms of Arrow's Theorem, you need something that can counted quickly and which can be trusted. This implies more about the rest of the electoral system.

    And so it is that I, like most Australians, read about the woes and tribulations that the USA goes through come election time, and I though I know it is rude to say this in public, I pity you.

    IRV is simple to count and simple to understand. Number the boxes in order of preference. That it is compulsory in Australia helps to moderate our politics by ensuring that the almost the whole population turns out to vote, not just ultra-motivated special interest groups (churchies, to pick a purely random example).

    We also go further to ensure the integrity of our vote. The Australian Electoral Commission is a statutory body, independent of government. It is appointed, not elected. Its employees are forbidden by law to be or have been members of any political party.

    Every ballot box is numbered. It is signed out by an AEC employee and at least two party- or candidate-appointed scrutineers. Every ballot box is sealed with numbered tags. These too are signed off. Every ballot is initialled by an AEC employee to ensure it is official. Every voter is signed off the Electoral Roll when they present at a booth to vote. The ballot is overseen by the independent AEC and is also watched by party or candidate scrutineers, whose mutual hostility and watchfulness ensures that rules are observed.

    The unsealing of ballot boxes is witnessed and signed off. Every box is counted going out and counted coming in. Every tag is counted going out and coming in.

    The count is watched by scrutineers, who may challenge how a vote is being counted. They may also challenge the formality or informality of a vote -- whether the vote is allowed to be counted.

    The count is conducted three times: once on election night to give a "two party indicative" count, which will usually show which party will form government. It is counted two more times, with scrutineers at every stage, before the formal declaration is made.

    Mistakes are made, but as a system it is largely immune to the shennanigans I am constantly reading about here on Slashdot and elsewhere.

    Incidentally, the Australian Electoral Commission also makes itself available for contract work. They mostly run ballots for unions and the like. They'd probably be available to run the Presidential election in November for a very reasonable rate.

  • by denoir (960304) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @08:09AM (#21931208)
    The fundamental problem of democracy is the idea that a majority approval validates an idea or a course of action. There is no reason to assume that - on the contrary, we have many examples of very wrong majority decisions.

    In practice a democratic decision will strengthen the interest of the average at the expense of the above average. The problem with this is that it isn't your average Joe that makes society work. On the contrary, the people that produce and that create jobs are a small exceptional group that often get the short end of the stick in a democratic system. True majority rule is in essence self-destructive as the average it pulls towards isn't capable of maintaining the society.

    Our solutions up to date has been double standards. On one hand we praise majority rule democracy as the greatest of ideals while we try to make it as inconsequential as possible. There are different ways to go about it but all end up in saying one thing and doing another. These tend to be practical solutions that have worked so far (meaning that they haven't destroyed civilization) and seem to be fairly revolution-proof. Given the inherent contradiction in them, they cannot by any standard be seen as optimal. When you have a system that defines 'right' in such a way that it is not possible to do right then you have a fundamentally flawed system.

    I'm not sure what would constitute a better system, but what we have right now certainly isn't it.

  • Wikipedia agrees (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 06, 2008 @08:11AM (#21931214)
    Simple majorities are outdated. All it does is give you 49% of people pissed off at the other 51%. Achieving consensus is often impractical, but you can get a pretty good compromise by allowing for weighted votes, where each voter can specify the degree of his liking or not liking each candidate. That way, you end up with someone that perhaps the majority doesn't love, but everybody can accept. Ultimately that seems to be a much more sensible way of determining the leader of an entire nation. The fact that Wikipedia works as well as it does, despite being perceived as an anarchy, is due to the policy that people should agree mutually on what goes into an article, rather than simply reverting each other until one side "wins". For all of WP's faults, it so far has made a better example of a society than any globalized nation I can think of.
  • Re:Wrong term ... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jamesswift (1184223) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @08:22AM (#21931266) Homepage

    you have to create a proper set of choices first.
    I know what you mean but one could argue that proportional systems force a change that bring about that set of choices. I see it in a way as a fix for abuse of what has almost become a cartel by lowering barriers to entry. However, the price is extreme view must be accepted as part of process. You can't have your cake and it.
  • by snowbrigadier (1213676) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @08:23AM (#21931272)
    Thank god someone knows what they're talking about.
    I'm not an expert, but I've done enough reading on the subject to know that there is no "best" system; they don't necessarily have the same goals. FPTP (or plurality system) works if you believe in mandates for parties; PR works better if you believe that having more parties in the government is the best way for accurate representation. Is a large centralized party that has to appeal to many voters going to be closest to the median voter? Or is a bunch of legislators bargaining going to work out best? Should the voters get a direct say in policy making, or do they need mediators? What about regionalism?

    All this also depends on whether the voter is rational or not, whether they vote ideologically or strategically, and whether the voter has accurate information or not.

    I'll wait until a political scientist writes about this one -- most texts I've read by non-experts are extremely flawed. Like having politicians talk about the internet, really.
  • by ben there... (946946) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @08:31AM (#21931302) Journal

    In it he advocates the benefits of Range Voting [wikipedia.org] as a solution to Arrow's Impossibility Theorem.
    Ever been to a site that allows people to vote on articles on a scale of 1-10? It rapidly degenerates into everyone either voting 10 or 0, based upon whether they think the article is overrated or underrated. Basically, if you don't vote in a binary fashion like that, your vote doesn't count as much.

    Might as well just go with the simpler Approval voting, mentioned in the wikipedia article you linked:

    However, approval voting is range voting with only 2 levels (approved (1) and disapproved (0)) and forms of approval voting have been used for example, in Venice in the 13th century.
    It's simpler, and more effective in my experience.
  • Two party system? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sucker_muts (776572) <sucker_pvn.hotmail@com> on Sunday January 06, 2008 @08:39AM (#21931336) Homepage Journal
    I'm not trying to flamebait here, but I have big doubts with the two party systems in the USA and in England (or the UK?). It seems like those two parties are certain to have the almost absolute power from time to time, and smaller parties are never able to get enough votes to rule the country. (I also have big questions with corporate sponsoring of the parties in the USA, this makes the country being run by the corporations and not it's inhabitants, the way it should be.)

    I'm from Belgium, and here there are a lot of parties. The orange (catholics), the blue (they seem to be for the people not working for the state, people who like to keep as much money they earn), the red (the socialists, but do not think this is some kind of communism, the world is not black & white you know ;) ), the greens, and so on...

    When the elections are over, the winning party needs to form a government, and they do this by making a coalition with one or two other parties so they represent more than 50% of the voting people in the country. This way all major opinions should be represented in a government. A new party might not be a part of a new government, but they are able to use there representation power in the parlement, for example when new laws are discussed and voted for.

    I fear that the hunger for power will keep the system in England and the USA just the way it is, and also the corporate sponsoring. I guess those countries are screwed for eternity. Perhaps I'm missing some extreme good thing about their systems? I only see abuse of power, greed and the same thing happening over and over again. (Slightly offtopic: it's nice to know that Microsoft is loved a lot in exactly those countries.)

    PS1. I know it's a lot more complicated than this in our country, you've got flanders, brussels and wallony with their own governments and parties, but I'm just making a point here.

    PS2. Those who are up to date with belgian politics know this time is kind of worrysome, but this has nothing to do with the point I'm making. :-)

    And I can't resist saying this: Now the American patriots can mod me down into oblivion for my rant against their best country in the world! :P

  • Re:"Western"? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ash Vince (602485) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @08:42AM (#21931354) Journal

    Under the current system many people think that voting for e.g. the Green Party or an independent candidate is a waste of their vote.
    It is. The British system is much like the US system in that regard, it has been won by the same two parties for so long that it has become ingrained in the British psyche that these are the only two choices.

    It is also noteworthy that the system is rigged to benefit those two parties via the boundries of the electoral zones. In the last general election the Liberals won more votes than the Conservatives but won less seats. This was due to Maggie Thatcher redrawing various electoral boundaries via the Boundary Commission when she was in power. The British system is not designed to be democratic, it is designed to give the illusion of democracy while still allowing the same people to rule: The companies and rich people who donate money to political parties.
  • by frietbsd (943773) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @08:47AM (#21931378)
    The fact that third party candidate are called spoilers is a indicator that the system is not fair. The article states that any system where voters have even the slightest influence on the process should be called democratic. I disagree.

    Well, in that case, Iran is a democratic country (a list pre-approved by the clergy of candidates) Or former east germany. (garanteed 50% of the parliament for the communist party, other 50% up for vote)

    If a system favors 1 party, we usually call it a dictatorship. If it favors 2 parties, it is suddenly fair and thus the "western style democracy"? People living in Texas don't have much reason to go vote. The outcome is pretty much set to be republican. Why bother going to the polls then? Turnout is tradionally low in Texas. This makes the argument: "Gore won the popular vote" also less valid. If in all the guaranteed R states everybody would have gone to the polls, i wouldn't know if Gore would still have won the popular vote.

    Dividing up the country in seats to vote on favors the 2 party system. In California they are working on a law to split the electoral college like the Californian vote is split up, but if that is not done throughout the country that's not fair either. The electoral college is from a time where small states feared to be ignored. Now it's almost the reverse. Iowa and NH get way more attention than the bigger states. It is outdated. I hope C will have the guts and give their ec to the winner of the national popular vote. That would propel everybody in the US to get their butts to the booth. (And make presidential elections more fair).
  • by IgnoramusMaximus (692000) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @08:53AM (#21931404)

    The problem with this is that it isn't your average Joe that makes society work.

    That of course is a demonstrable falsity, promulgated by our would-be "betters" since times immemorial. It wasn't the peons that made empires and kingdoms "work", it were the "nobility", right? Starting with examples such as an idiot named Cheops who made thousands of men align stones on top of each other so that his "glorious" and "totally above average" ass can ascend to Heaven as a bigger yet king. No one remembers those "averages" who actually built the thing, never you mind those who fed the empire and its oh-so-superior parasites.

    And so human societies were always constructed on the basis of this fundamental idiocy, that "special" people, who are "naturally" (or who in some very rare cases ascend the social strata) born to rule the rest of us mucky-mucks whose destiny is to make sure golden crappers of our "betters" run properly and that the exotic lobster is delivered on time. Anything else would be "class warfare" and frowned upon ... by the said betters and their sycophants.

    On the contrary, the people that produce and that create jobs are a small exceptional group that often get the short end of the stick in a democratic system.

    Total bullshit. The core of any economy are tradesmen (such as the majority of Slashdot readership), very small and small businesses, many millions of which operate in every country. Their owners are no more "special" then their employees and usually work hands-on in their chosen trade, as opposed to "managing" things or "investing" as is the case in larger operations. In most sane countries these owners also earn no more then double (after expenses and taxes) of what their employees make. In places such as Japan, even the CEOs of very large corporations make only about 10 times (on average) more then their workers. In neo-feudal nations, such as USA, that ratio is exceeding 500 and is on the way up.

    The rarefied club of "exceptional betters", without whom we would surely not know how to tie our shoe-laces, is actually shrinking (as a percentage of total number of humans on Earth) and now less then 2% of humanity owns more then 50% of its private property (not income - assets!). Those numbers are worsening every year. If the trend continues, less then 0.5% will own 90% of Earth's assets in just few decades.

    The would-be corporate royalty and the multi-mega-billionaires add nothing to the society as their activities are confined to "owning" land, machinery and people, people who in turn employ others who in turn do something actually useful. A process which would have gone on just as lively if the mega-billionaires were removed from the picture. Far more efficiently actually as a large number of small businesses competing in a marketplace is far more society-friendly then a few mega-bazillionaire corporate oligopolistic fiefdoms.

    I'm not sure what would constitute a better system, but what we have right now certainly isn't it.

    Whatever it is, neo-feudalism (this time with hereditary "business" royalty) isn't it.

  • by ShakaUVM (157947) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @09:02AM (#21931440) Homepage Journal
    >>The fact that Wikipedia works as well as it does

    LOL

    If we implemented the wikipedia system, our president would be chosen by who could yell the loudest for the longest period of time, and then Jimbo would come in and put his brother in the Oval Office.

    Wikipedia is a very dysfunctional community. I'm rather amused you'd consider that an effective system of governance.
  • Re:Is it just me? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mangu (126918) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @09:18AM (#21931528)

    Does that whole summary reek of smug? Or is that troll that I smell?

    The number of links in the summary should give you a tip. Plenty of theories, most of them without real proof.


    No voting system will be perfect while we keep voting for people instead of issues. Instead of inventing ever more complicated systems for choosing representatives, why not develop a system where every person is allowed to give an opinion on the law articles themselves?

  • by localman (111171) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @09:32AM (#21931590) Homepage
    Kentucky Capitol election example -- Memphis Voters

    That would be Tennessee's capitol you're talking about. Sorry, as an ex-KY resident, I had to say that :) And while I'm being a nit-picker...

    there cannot be any perfect system,

    True, but that doesn't mean that different systems aren't better than the other. I worry that because none are perfect some people might assume the argument is pointless. It's not: the voting system matters. I mean, there's no perfect presidential candidate either, but that doesn't mean we should leave Bush in office :)

    two-candidate elections also can't be gamed like preference voting can.

    Or, I might say they're pre-gamed. That is, you've somehow already limited the field to two candidates somehow. That process, whatever it is, can be gamed and is part of any two candidate system.

    in California, a state with no chance of a Republican carrying the state

    And as a current California resident, I must point out that our current govinator is Republican :)

    Sorry -- not trying to be a picky pain in the ass. I found your post interesting, but it's 5AM, I can't sleep, and those little things stood out to me.

    Cheers.
  • I would be wary (Score:5, Insightful)

    by duffbeer703 (177751) * on Sunday January 06, 2008 @09:56AM (#21931716)
    Of any system declared dead by fringe groups like the Greens (in the US) and Libertarians. The problem with proportional voting and accommodating small parties with narrow agendas is that you're going to be politicizing legitimizing the message and empowering people on the fringe with extremist views. Don't disrupt a 200+ year old system because you don't like George Bush.

    In the US, this means that anti-abortion parties, libertarians, socialists will begin to wield real political power. And although they won't win alot of seats, their power will be magnified because they will become swing votes. In New York from the 1840's until the mid-20th century, Tammany Hall was a corrupt political machine based out of New York City that dominated state politics. They did so because the Republicans had about 40-48% of the legislative seats, the mainstream democrats had 40-48% of the legislative seats, and the Tammany Hall democrats kept around 10%. When people vote, the swing people matter.

    Personally, I feel that over time, the good ideas advocated by fringe parties get absorbed into the mainstream party platform. I think that's healthier for democracy than having Senators waving pictures of dead fetuses on the Senate floor.
  • Re:Is it just me? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by smallfries (601545) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @10:20AM (#21931882) Homepage
    A) Law is a technical subject. People who specialise in it are professionals - in terms of the education that they require and the amount of time that they devote to their careers. So either we would require a society entirely composed of lawyers (who wouldn't be very good at growing food or other non-essential activities), or we would have a society full of half-assed un-educated law amateurs wielding power.

    Note: I'm not suggesting that our current system doesn't involve a room full of half-assed legal amateurs being in charge, but at least they haven't contaminated the whole country.

    B) Voting for issues is hard because there isn't a good way to model exclusion. The classic example is: Who wants to vote for better education? Everyone. Better hospitals? Everyone. Lower taxes? Ahh, we have a problem.

    One problem is that the law is intrinsically complex - it's a model of allowable human behaviour. People qualified to work with it are specialists, and society needs a mix of specialties in order to survive and be productive. One interesting idea is machine-readable law - it doesn't make it any less complex but it does make it easier to interpret. If my (dodgy) memory holds then the idea is mentioned in Accelerando as the basis for a post-Singularity society. I think some (very basic) initial work was published by Simon Peyton Jones on the subject (although manybe that was trade, rather than law).
  • Re:"UK" (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ed (79221) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @10:22AM (#21931894) Homepage
    That use of the term "UK" really means "England"

    Scotland and Wales cope with a multi party system (Labour, Lib Dems, SNP/Plaid, Tories and, until it imploded the SSP in Scotland) ulster is also more complex.

    We also have a bastardised Proportional system in the Scottish Parliament)
  • by IgnoramusMaximus (692000) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @10:24AM (#21931908)

    The "geniuses" come up with bright new ideas every now and then, which eventually get adopted, raising the productivity of both the "peons" and the "managers".

    Not forgetting of course that every "genius" that ever existed based his achievements on the work of countless others who went before him and that all his/her contributions never amounted to more then a few percentile points of the knowlege he was given by those predecessors. A matter of perspetive which is usually lost in human propensity for "hero" worship and other unwarranted personality cults.

    The Soviets tried that experiment in the early years after the revolution on a smaller scale, letting soldiers elect their officers, and workers run their factories. The result was economic disaster.

    That is of course another mis-conception. The Soviet economy started as a total disatser inhereited from the Tzarist feudal nightmare, further impoverished by the WWI. Under those circumstances one cannot easily attribute these effects to such experimentation as you would like. In the latter years the "managers" and other "betters" did precisely what you suggest: took charge from the goofy "unqualified" peons, "for their own good". The results we all know.

    You do need trained managers for things to go smoothly, and they will inevitably form the "elite" simply by virtue of being different.

    Not so. A "manager" is just another worker, his expertise is simply in a different area. That however does not make him "elite" in any objective way, other then his and his peers desire to re-create soeme degree of feudal stratification. The "elite" forms simply because it wants to be "elite". Its members see themselves as "superior" and require hordes of "inferiors" to validate their self-worth.

    Politicians are really just a different breed of managers, meant to handle the large-scale tasks (well, they are meant to be, at least; mind you, I'm not considering the present-day USA a good model!).

    That maybe so, but large-scale tasks do not automatically warrant "superiority" to those who manage them. That is a self-serving lie spread by those who wish to be "superior" to the rest of us.

    Also, even if you take all the small business owners, they are still the minority. The vast majority are still working class and white-collar office workers.

    Those are the "tradesmen" I mentioned. Remove them and the whole economy dies. Managers and investors would starve to death within days. Reverse is not true, remove the investors, managers and moneyed classes and the economy would suffer loss of efficiency but it would not cease to function permanently. That, if anything, is proof positive of the relative "merit" of these social strata.

    While this is true, the interesting side note is that in any of the "class struggle" revolutions we had so far, it's the small businesses that are targeted first in the anti-capitalist witch-hunts. Probably precisely because they "usually work hands-on in their chosen trade", and are thus easiest to reach for the mob.

    I am not advocating revolutions, nor trying to somehow glorify past ones. I am merely pointing out that the patently false idea that we are all somehow completely indebted to tiny "meritorious" "elites" and thus in obligation to worship them and shower them with wealth and power is a rather old and worn out one. Its ugly and self-serving nature did not improve with the passage of centuries.

  • by wojie (629440) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @10:26AM (#21931924)
    I'm not sure that the US and UK systems need any fixing. Yes, politics is an odd spectator sport, but the citizens of the U.S., numbering over a quarter million, enjoy a spectacular amount of freedom, wealth, creativity, and economic dynamism -- look around you and observe how much of what you use on a day to day basis was brought cheaply to the masses by Americans (or by creative and ambitious people who flock to its shores) -- cars, computers, the internet, domestic refrigeration, etc.,... Obviously we all benefit tremendously from this behemoth of a country that so many of us like to consider a "failure" for its people. It's strange but Americans, by and large, don't seem to care about these "failures" as much as outsiders do.

    America is ruled by the Madisonian system of government, which rests on the premise that no government elected by the people shall exercise any significant degree of rule over the freedoms of its citizens. Notwithstanding any violations dug up by the millions of reporters teeming within the walls of politics, it really doesn't matter who's in "power" there, so long as the foundation of the system -- freedom -- is inviolable. Yes government is corrupt, but it's corrupt everywhere. What Americans seem to get, though, is that the best way to combat corruption is to limit government power, not "optimise" its selection process. Pluralities with too much power are exactly as dangerous as majorities and dictators. It doesn't matter how they got there, so long as their only purpose is to stay in.

  • Re:"Western"? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 06, 2008 @10:29AM (#21931950)
    The so called two party "rigging" is party responsible for the tremendous stability of the governments of the US and the UK. For example, I can never remember which number is the current German Reich or French Republic. It is not a coincidence that the US and the UK are among the longest lived continuous governments on the planet. In my view, minority parties almost by definition represent partisan special interests (what used to be called factions) and allowing them undue power is quite dangerous.

    A common criticism of the American two party system is that both parties are essentially identical. This is true because each party MUST have the approval or at least acceptance of nearly half the public. That is why the parties can easily swap positions, for example on free trade versus protectionism, foreign intervention versus isolationism, local versus national school control, etc.
  • Wrong premise (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Henry V .009 (518000) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @11:02AM (#21932170) Journal
    The article seems to imply that the best voting system is the one that is most democratic. Is that really proven? Will Western-style voting systems really bring about worse governments than other systems? There are almost certainly places where a benevolent dictator would be (or is) better than a popular government.

    There isn't really much difference between the life of the average person in Britain, Canada, and the U.S., despite each nation's hugely different history. It seems likely that culture and genes have as much if not more to do with how good your government is than the particular system you use.
  • Re:"Western"? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 06, 2008 @11:06AM (#21932192)
    Italy is probably about to take the same road, as the majority party has very few members more than the opposition in Senate. Someone has to take decisions, no election should end with no one able to take them.
  • Re:Is it just me? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by clang_jangle (975789) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @11:23AM (#21932306) Journal
    What you propose would be a "direct" or "true" democracy . The very worst of all possible systems, IMO. It's pretty obvious that under a direct democracy anyone whose opinion is at variance with the majority loses rights, status, opportunity, etc. The tyranny of Joe Average and all his church learrnin' would be no improvement for our troubled nation.
  • Re:Umm... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vidarh (309115) <vidar@hokstad.com> on Sunday January 06, 2008 @11:28AM (#21932320) Homepage Journal
    The system you have describe is a system that massively favor the current mainstream, even if the fringes on both sides, or even the majority, actively hate the candidates that win.

    As an example, if you're a socialist in the US, you'll almost certainly vote Democrat. You might not support the Democrats, or want them to win. In fact you might hate them bitterly. However, if a socialist candidate stand for election anywhere where they'd have a chance of winning a serious number of votes, those votes would serve the Republican Party, not our socialist voter who would presumably prefer the Democratic Party over a Republican any day.

    The same is the case for right wing voters, or even centrist voters. In fact, such a system disenfranchises everyone that doesn't support one of the two largest parties but that considers one of them the lesser of two evils.

    One property of such a system is that it slows down change, even when that change is wanted by the voters. In the UK, a poll in the early 90's shocked a lot of the establishment when the majority polled said they'd like the Liberal Democrats to win, while at the same time, only abou 20% said they'd vote for them. The reason was that at the time a vote for the Liberal Democrats was seen as a wasted vote in many circuits, because they were seen as a centre alternative and voting for them would mean whichever party of Labour or the Conservatives you didn't like would have a higher chance of winning. People were voting for the lesser of two evils because they thought their preferred choice had no chance.

    The lesson from systems with proportional voting is that it causes a far wider spectrum of opinions to be represented in parliaments as well as in governments (frequent coalitions for example), and while such governments may seem less decisive, that is because they more closely represent the opinions of the people instead of at best a narrow majority, but also because the number of votes considered by voters to be wasted is far lower.

    It's not unusual for parliamentary systems to have 10-15, or more, parties in parliament. Many European parliaments have parties ranging from communists to right wing nationalists in parliament, with most shades in between. They're composed that way because the parliaments actually reflect the range of opinions present in the population rather than a bland set of lesser evils.

    Even with that level of flexibility, I can honestly say that nobody has been representing _my_ opinions in parliament in my native Norway for as long as I've lived, and even in a system like that I'd have to resort to voting for a party I don't directly support for my vote to matter. But at least my choice would be far closer to what I'd want than what it could ever be in a system like the US one, or any system based on simple majorities or single person circuits. I'd not have to vote for someone I actually considered to be useless bastards in order to prevent some even more useless bastards from winning.

    There is no such thing as a neutral voting system - they all are designed to bias the result in the way that the designer happens to think is most fair. Sometimes they might seriously be looking for a fair solution, and other times they have an agenda. But all voting systems meets different criteria for how to satisfy some group of people. That group may or may not coincide with the population as a whole, and that group may or may not agree with the criteria.

    That said, a simple majority is one of the worst alternatives I can think of unless there truly only are two alternatives.

  • by GoChickenFat (743372) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @11:42AM (#21932410)
    Come on people...the national "vote" in the US that gets reported around the world as a democratic vote is not entirely that. The States elect the President. If you want to parse the US national voting system then you have to understand that the plurality vote only occurs when the electorate casts the vote and not when the citizens of the US cast their vote. The citizen vote is only used to influence the citizen's state electorate. The electorate can then choose to vote with the will of the people in their state or not. Each state is assigned a number of electorates based on the population of that state. The states choose how and who are allowed to vote in the national and local elections. If the electorate (State representative) system is to be changed in the US then 2/3 of the US states would have to agree to an amendment to the US Constitution (not likely in my lifetime). Remember, the US is made up of 50 individual States...think Europe if all of Europe were to decide to have an over arching federal government with its own president.

    The best way for people to change government in the US is to pay more attention to local elections. All politics are local. Stop allowing terrible candidates at the local level and you will slowly remove the knuckleheads at the national level.

  • Re:I would be wary (Score:3, Insightful)

    by vidarh (309115) <vidar@hokstad.com> on Sunday January 06, 2008 @11:44AM (#21932424) Homepage Journal
    The "fringe parties" would only gain power in a voting system like this if people support them. Your example of Tammany Hall is flawed, because swing votes rarely become a problem in systems where there are many parties. They become a problem in systems like the US when a small number of seats end up with a third party. In a system with fully proportional voting, if a party panders too much to a small party exploiting a swing position, you will tend to see splits and the swing party will soon find itself having lost power as the balances shift with more parties.

    And it only becomes more visible in the US when there's a third party involved - it's always THERE: The most moderate in both parties always have disproportionate influence on issues that roughly divide people among the party lines.

    Look at the difference between the US and almost ANY European country, even including countries like the UK and France that use single person circuit systems but that either have a reasonably powerful third party (UK) or where the parties have managed to mitigate the effects of the single person circuits (France, through election alliances). In the US, the fringes aren't represented at all, because no candidates supporting anything outside of the mainstream have any hope of getting elected, ever. In most European countries, the parliaments are actually reasonably representative of public opinion.

    What we've seen is that single party majorities in parliament become more and more rare, since it's simply unlikely that so many people will agree with each other on so many issues.

    The fringe parties in the US are fringe parties because of the flawed electoral system, not because their ideas are too far out to have a lot of public support.

  • by ml10422 (448562) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @11:54AM (#21932512)
    Our voting system isn't at the heart of the problem. The fundamental problem is a vast imbalance. An American citizen's power of his government is miniscule, while the government's power over him or her extends to every little aspect of his or her life.

    Changing the voting system will give you only an insignificant increase in power. The best thing we can do is work on the other side of the equation: insisting our rights be respected, on government power being constrained.
  • by GoChickenFat (743372) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @12:04PM (#21932576)
    From the article

    MJ: What if we had adopted range voting in 2000 or 2004?
    WP: It's pretty clear Gore would have won Florida and New Hampshire, so Gore would have been the president. Bush's victory over Kerry in most of the states was less than the Nader effect, so you still would have had a Bush victory.

    As I was reading the article and I read the comment about the 1912 election and I thought to myself, "why not use the more recent spoiler election of 1992?." Well I got my answer later in the article with the whole crux being the still crying idiots who think Bush stole the 2000 election from Gore. Well maybe the memory has slipped a little for the libs here in the US but there wouldn't be a Bill Clinton/ Al Gore without the spoiler election of 1992. Let me refresh a little. Bill Clinton only pulled about 42 percent of the US popular vote. The rest went to George Bush 1 and a third party candidate named Ross Perot (yes, that's right, there are more than two parties here in the US). Ross Perot clearly pulled more votes from Bush 1 than Clinton and way more votes than Ralph Nader will ever get. Without Ross Perot, Bush clearly would have had a second term.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 06, 2008 @12:07PM (#21932612)
    Some people receive this money in order to LIVE on a daily basis and have an ordinary life. The money is not a free ride or aid given so the people receiving it could "have it easier" than an non-benefit-receiving working class individual such as yourself, obviously.

    To say that people who do receive aid, "don't have the right to vote" is insane. You're basically saying if someone has a critical issue in their life, in which they REQUIRE aid in order to live an ordinary life, then they have no say in who runs the government? It's as if you're saying these people aren't "good enough" to vote because they don't maintain a steady non-supported income. This includes all individuals with disabilities, single mothers, some elderly, and military personnel.

    Your logic is some of the reason that soldiers coming back with life altering disabilities are getting NO help whatsoever. Quit being selfish, the aid isn't always abused by individuals.
  • by Spazmania (174582) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @12:13PM (#21932656) Homepage
    Range voting reduces the ability of minority parties to influence the political system.

    Right now, major candidates have a strong incentive to prevent serious spoilers by subsuming those spoilers' key ideas into their own campaigns. The Republican candidate will preach small government because if he doesn't the libertarian candidate will pull away enough voters for the democrat to beat him.

    In a range system, why bother? Folks who oppose his rival will rank him high anyway to assure that his rival loses. If the third party candidate can't spoil your race, why bother paying any attention to his supporters' desires at all?

    Truth is, our government stays pretty centrist (even in times of crisis like 9/11) and the reason it does is that whenever a candidate strays too far, a spoiler comes in and wipes him out. With range voting, nothing prevents large unstable swings in governance.
  • by donscarletti (569232) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @12:24PM (#21932722)

    I am glad I do not live in Australia, based on this law alone.

    What an egregious violation of human freedom.

    In Australia we have compulsary sufferage because we feel that having representation for those who don't feel like voting is more important than letting them spend another half hour on the lounge watching football every three years. If you want your entire electorate to be over 60 because they have nothing better to do, then enjoy what you have.

    Australia lacks some of the freedoms of the US mainly because they allow one to hurt oneself, we have compulsary wearing of seatbelts etc. because people don't always do what's best for them. We have strict gun control because having a large bore semi-auto isn't as useful as knowing that muggers and bank theives don't have them. We pay other people's healthcare bills for the security of knowing that others will pay ours. We can't have certain pets but in exchange we have a country free of certain pests. We have censored computer games (no sexual violence) which I don't personally agree with, but that's mainly because of an unchangeable government act (introducing an R rating requires the unanamous agreement of 7 attorney generals). Australia is far from perfect in many ways of course, but the desire to maximise an individual's freedom in the longterm by keeping one safe and healthy for long enough for one to use this freedom isn't a bad idea, if not perfectly executed all the time.

  • by The_Wilschon (782534) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @12:43PM (#21932868) Homepage
    Sounds like a pretty terrible place to live, IMO. Laws which protect only one person from themselves (singular them, clearly) are a gross misuse of government powers. The government should only be enacting laws which protect others from the stupidity of that one person. As a grown adult, I don't want to go back to the nursery and have some higher power watch over my every move to make sure I don't trip and fall or choke on my own thumb. In other words, what you have there in Australia is derisively referred to as a "nanny government".
  • by denoir (960304) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @01:10PM (#21933122)

    That of course is a demonstrable falsity, promulgated by our would-be "betters" since times immemorial. It wasn't the peons that made empires and kingdoms "work", it were the "nobility", right? Starting with examples such as an idiot named Cheops who made thousands of men align stones on top of each other so that his "glorious" and "totally above average" ass can ascend to Heaven as a bigger yet king. No one remembers those "averages" who actually built the thing, never you mind those who fed the empire and its oh-so-superior parasites. And so human societies were always constructed on the basis of this fundamental idiocy, that "special" people, who are "naturally" (or who in some very rare cases ascend the social strata) born to rule the rest of us mucky-mucks whose destiny is to make sure golden crappers of our "betters" run properly and that the exotic lobster is delivered on time. Anything else would be "class warfare" and frowned upon ... by the said betters and their sycophants.

    Wow, it takes some skill to misread a post like that. Did you miss the part where I identified the exceptional ones as the producers and the ones that create jobs? No, royalty do not qualify in the exceptional category. Neither do those that have inherited money and have not done at least as much as their forbearers that actually made that money. That is not the elite I'm talking about. No, they are parasites exploiting and in many cases destroying the achievement that isn't theirs.

    Total bullshit. The core of any economy are tradesmen (such as the majority of Slashdot readership), very small and small businesses, many millions of which operate in every country. Their owners are no more "special" then their employees and usually work hands-on in their chosen trade, as opposed to "managing" things or "investing" as is the case in larger operations. In most sane countries these owners also earn no more then double (after expenses and taxes) of what their employees make. In places such as Japan, even the CEOs of very large corporations make only about 10 times (on average) more then their workers. In neo-feudal nations, such as USA, that ratio is exceeding 500 and is on the way up.

    Now you are getting there. Yes the tradesmen are the core of any working economy - trading value for value. Then there is also the question of ability. Being a trader makes you honest, but it doesn't mean that you fall in the exceptional category. All the progress of civilization is tied to technological progress so there is our clue. The people I call exceptional are able to invent and to produce.

    They are the people of mind that through centuries have endured and silently counteracted the destructiveness of the tyrants, the mystics and the mindless mob. Not only that, but they have fed them and ensured their survival. Man's mind is the root of all our progress. If you don't believe me, try to obtain your food by means of just physical force or try to grow wheat without the effort of the mind of the people that learned process for the first time. So when I'm saying "the exceptional" or "the strong" it is not the strength of weapons or of muscles - it is the strength of mind. The man that invented the combustion engine did not do so at the expense of the ones that didn't. He got paid for it but the value of that invention was many orders of magnitude higher. We all benefit from the work of his mind. It is people like that our existence depends on and they are also the first ones to get screwed in a system ruled by the ideal of mediocrity.

    You say that the small business owners are not different from their employees. In many cases they are as they had the ambition and the ability to implement their idea. If you look back through history you'll see that technological development is seldom a collective effort. Almost all major technological inventions have been done by individuals or at most a handful of people. In case they have a sense for business t

  • by Ichoran (106539) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @02:22PM (#21933676)
    Laws that protect one person from themselves are useful if the rest of society invests resources in education or takes care of hurt people. In that case, hurting oneself does, in practice, impose a cost on society; you can't hurt yourself "for free".
  • by A nonymous Coward (7548) * on Sunday January 06, 2008 @02:43PM (#21933840)
    The main reason to oppose voting on laws rather than lawmakers is because the sheer number of votes required would quickly turn 99% of the voters into non-voters. That might be an argument in its favor because requiring a minimum turnout would quickly reduce the number of laws enacted, but you also have the problem of generating the laws to vote on -- since we are doing away with lawmakers, we'd have to have a scaled up version of California's initiative process, where you gather signatures on a petition. That would result in probably hundreds of petitions circulating at any given moment, most poorly worded and some at odds with each other.

    It's a recipe for disaster.
  • by doktor-hladnjak (650513) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @02:51PM (#21933900)
    In NC both houses of the legislature and the governor's mansion are held by Democrats, but Bush still won the state 56/43 in 2004. State politics != federal politics.
  • Re:Is it just me? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 06, 2008 @03:02PM (#21934012)

    Good job making assumptions about someone you don't know.
    from your OP...

    Does that whole summary reek of smug? Or is that troll that I smell? Ahh I got it, a troll driving a Prius that explains the troll stink and the smug.
    Do you know the article's submitter? Frankly, it seems that you just can't take what you so freely dish out. What's really sad is that you've watched/heard so much of the right wing nut job rants that you seem to believe it's 'funny'. However, what is funny is how hurt you are by comments which call you out for the indoctrinated fool which you would seem to be.
  • by sethawoolley (1005201) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @03:21PM (#21934174) Homepage

    The paper referred in the article is next to worthless, too. It goes to great lengths to say that "range voting is the best, because it represents the voters' wishes the best".

    Except, they assume that people will agree to throw away their vote just because they're don't agree with one side entirely. Range voting is nothing but approval voting with a possibility of casting only a fraction of a vote. This is what the paper refers to as "strategic range voting".

    The whole reasoning is busted, because it assumes people will agree to waste most of their vote just to make someone else more happy. WTF? Rational people vote the way which gives the best chance of getting results _they_ want.

    The paper also compares range voting to systems which are pretty bad but have been used historically, disregarding serious contenders like Condorcet.
    fractional voting doesn't screw anybody's vote up. It just allows you to better express your preferences, which, despite what you say, gets the results that they want.

    Let's say there are three people running, A, B, and C.

    You don't mind B(6) and C(10), but you hate A(0).

    They don't mind A(10) and B(6), but they hate C(0).

    B wins with A(10),B(12),C(10) as the final tally.

    That election couldn't have been done with binary voting, and everybody wins.

    If it were binary, B would have won as well, but in a more complicated case, let's say B got rated 4 by both parties. In range voting, the contest would be between A and C. B wasn't good enough for either of them to even be considered. Yes, in this extremely small case, one loses out more, but at least, neither would be forced to vote for the lesser of two evils. The lesser of two evils has to at least be good enough to get past a certain point in the range, which is a pretty effective improvement over regular approval voting not least horrible plurality voting.

    The point of the paper is that the assertion that everybody wins is accurately modeled by this calculation, and they use Bayesian regret in support. If you disagree with it, then point out why, but your reasoning here doesn't make any sense.
  • by catbutt (469582) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @03:27PM (#21934216)
    Bayesian regret is a term they invented to disguise that they toss away the concept of "fairness" and replace it with "maximum short term happiness with results only".

    Which is broken, in so many ways. If is like saying that it is better to pay the janitor the same as the chief engineer, because that will create more happiness than paying the engineer more. Of course it doesn't take into account the long term, downstream consequences.
  • by sethawoolley (1005201) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @03:44PM (#21934362) Homepage

    Bayesian regret is a term they invented to disguise that they toss away the concept of "fairness" and replace it with "maximum short term happiness with results only".
    Since all of Arrow's criteria are also immediate criteria derivable from the results only, a real comparison is "Arrow's ideas of fairness" of results and "maximum average happiness" of results. Maximum average happiness is a conception of fairness to the authors of the paper, just as Arrow contributed four different criteria he thought all should be met. Not everybody agrees with Arrow's theorem, and Bayesian regret does measure something more directly than Arrow's often arbitrary criteria. It's a valid argument to make that Bayesian regret is thus better than Arrow's concept of fairness. Whether or not that's true or not is a personal judgement, but at least it's a point that's legitimate.

    Which is broken, in so many ways. If is like saying that it is better to pay the janitor the same as the chief engineer, because that will create more happiness than paying the engineer more. Of course it doesn't take into account the long term, downstream consequences.
    If you want to take into account long-term, downstream consequences, please find a way to read into the future of the results. Arrow's not figured out a way to do it, and neither has anybody else.
  • I call BS (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SerpentMage (13390) <ChristianHGross@ ... .ca minus distro> on Sunday January 06, 2008 @03:53PM (#21934434)
    I live in Switzerland and it has a direct democracy system, and I do not think it is the worst system. The reality is that you actually get a middle of the road system.

    You fear that there would be a tyranny of Joe Average with his church learning, when I really doubt that would happen. The problem right now in the American system is that it is not proportional representation. Look at the senators, 2 from each state. Compare California, and Iowa... A bit of a difference. Yes there is the house of representatives, but with gerry-menadering things have become quite warped.

    Look at the New England states. They have quite a bit of direct democracy. Has it hurt them? Or what about California? Annnorld... for a republican looks pretty democratic... I think the real reason why America would not want that is because the entire midwest would loose huge amounts of influence. It would be concentrated in California, New York, and Florida. And what are those states? You guessed it mostly democractic, or at least democratic tendencies.

    What I have experienced in a direct democracy like Switzerland is that people don't vote always with the same party. They vote for the issues. So you will have people who vote on the right for many things, but on other things vote for the left. You compromise.
  • Re:Is it just me? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cduffy (652) <charles+slashdot@dyfis.net> on Sunday January 06, 2008 @03:54PM (#21934448)

    The number of links in the summary should give you a tip. Plenty of theories, most of them without real proof.
    Whadaya mean? It's mathematically provable that all available voting systems have at least one counterintuitive or undesired outcome -- but simple plurality has far more undesirable outcomes than most. This was covered in depth in the honors math class I took in my first year of college; unfortunately, I don't recall the details immediately. That said, given a set of characteristics which an ideal voting system should have, it is entirely possible to formally prove (not theorize about, prove) which voting systems are able to satisfy which subset of those characteristics.

    One of those characteristics, incidentally, is that a candidate should never lose an election to another candidate whom a larger number of voters support. If the US had a voting system which respected that characteristic, maybe we wouldn't be in the hole we're in right now.
  • by catbutt (469582) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @04:06PM (#21934514)

    Since all of Arrow's criteria are also immediate criteria derivable from the results only...
    But they go way beyond just summing up the utilities and saying "the one with the maximum is the best". That is my complaint about the whole Baysian regret thing.

    I'll give you one thing, you acknowledge it is opinion that Baysian regret is the end all and be all. Most of the range voting people do not, they insist it, and if you disagree, you are wrong. They will go so far as to say that if you say that you don't want range voting, you are a liar. Seriously, they say this. Crazy.

    If you want to take into account long-term, downstream consequences, please find a way to read into the future of the results.
    Well, take a look at Duverger's law. A plurality system will result in two party domination. That is a predictable downstream consequence of a voting method.

    My point, and the reason for my example, is that in related fields (economics and game theory), there is a ton of applicable theory. The main one being that the more a system puts people in conflict between what is best for society, and what is best for one's self, the worse that system acheives long term "utility" i.e. happiness for all. That's why they pay the engineer more...to provide incentive to go to school and work real hard to learn a skilled profession. Long term it makes sense, even if the short term result is "less utility".

    Range voting people (and I assure you, I know their arguments inside and out from the election methods mailing list) seem to ignore this basic concept. They hate condorcet systems, while ignoring the fact that any Nash equilibrium of Range voting is effectively condorcet.
  • Re:The "West" (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cdrguru (88047) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @05:55PM (#21935472) Homepage
    You are laboring under a delusion, one that is shared by many in the US.

    The point of the system in use in the US is to ensure that as little as possible is actually accomplished. The problem identified by the "founding fathers" is that if you allow a government to accomplish things then things get done. Most of what a government can do is of no real utility to the people living there. It therefore makes sense to limit what the government can actually accomplish.

    In the US this limitation is enforced by having two differently composed bodies (the House of Representatives and the Senate) being required to agree in order to implement anything. Everything has to be compromised on, limited and restricted to be acceptable to a supermajority in both houses. Having different election cycles for the two houses also ensures that someone is always running for office. This also limits the amount of "real work" that can be accomplished, but it is difficult to credit the foresight of the founding fathers with this.

    Imagine if things changed in the US and there was a greal deal more cooperation between the two houses. The natural tendency for these elected people is to "do" things that they can show their constituents how much they have accomplished. Everything they "do" is going to cost tax dollars or otherwise make living and doing business in the US more expensive. The only real limit on this, barring other limitations, is how much you can take from the people before they revolt. As shown in Europe, you can take a lot more from people than is currently done in the US. Lots and lots more.

    It is in everyone's interest in the US to have a limited form of government which is constantly battling with itself unable to do much than the basic requirements of keeping the government operating. Think what things would be like if the government could pass a new Patriot act every session. Or a new group of Congresscritters decide to revise the government-run health care system because they thought they could do a better job than the people that reworked in two years before.

    Be very thankful that the system in the US is far, far from true democracy and is extremely unresponsive and accomplishes little.
  • by Darby (84953) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @06:31PM (#21935810)
    I put my LIFE on the line, you bigoted piece of trash.

    Yes, you put your life on the line in the interests of GE, Lockheed Martin, Exxon and other large corporations like that.
    You sure as shit aren't defending me or my country.

    I don't get a god-damned welfare check from the government, I get a fair wage for an honest day's labor.

    No, you get a welfare check. Your labor isn't honest because the people directing your labor are not honest.

    So as long as you're doing nothing to benefit me and I'm being robbed to pay your bills, you're on welfare, Sparky.
    Suck it up and get a worthwhile job and quit whining about how people who actually provide valuable services are sick of paying you to be a hitman for corporate interests.

  • by dmatos (232892) on Monday January 07, 2008 @10:39AM (#21941816)
    Hrm. A 50% reduction in gun deaths. That seems pretty awesome to me. In 2004, 29,569 [nytimes.com] people were killed in the US by guns. Don't you think it would be nice to save 15,000 lives? I sure do.
  • Re:I call BS (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Shakrai (717556) * on Monday January 07, 2008 @10:49AM (#21941886) Journal

    The problem right now in the American system is that it is not proportional representation. Look at the senators, 2 from each state.

    That is not the problem. That's the system working as designed. It's the United States of America. Our states are more then just a line on a map -- they are sovereign entities in their own right and the Senate exists to prevent large populous states from walking all over small or sparsely populated ones.

    They have quite a bit of direct democracy. Has it hurt them? Or what about California

    The United States is not Switzerland. We aren't a Democracy. We are a Republic. A collection of individual states that still retain all rights not expressly ceded to the Federal Government via the US Constitution. The states are free to implement whatever direct democracy initiatives they want at the state or local level. On the Federal level the nation is a Republic. Direct Democracy on the Federal level is not what the founding fathers had in mind, would be fraught with problems and is not something that I would support.

    I think the real reason why America would not want that is because the entire midwest would loose huge amounts of influence. It would be concentrated in California, New York, and Florida. And what are those states? You guessed it mostly democractic, or at least democratic tendencies.

    Again, that's the system working as designed. The same system that provides checks and balances to protect the rural interests also protects the urban ones. As much as I hate the current administration and the Republican Party in general I'm glad that we have the system in place that we do. Contract it to the United Kingdom (similar to the United States in many ways) where one party has had a choke hold on the political process for the last decade or so and short of Royal Assent there are no checks-and-balances on it's power. The majority party in the House of Commons can pretty much do whatever the hell it wants.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 07, 2008 @11:14AM (#21942114)
    With careful selection of examples one can "prove" anything. The stability issues in both France and Germany has nothing to do with lack of two party system. Bringing in Germany is also stretching it a bit far. They had one republic, the Weimar republic, which failed due to lack of checks and balances and a very special economic situation. Had the economic situation not been what it was it might very well have survived.

    Quite to the contrary the American political system is proven quite unstable. America is stable not because of its system but despite of it. In surveys it has been shown that parliamentary systems are always far more stable governments than presidential ones. Long democratic traditions and absences of considerable economic and military threat has protected the government.

    I think you can pick almost any other European country and it will have an equally good record of stability with a multi party system: Switzerland, Holland, Nordic countries etc.

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