A rumination on why I think “democracy” has to mean more than “majority rules” or “the favorite wins”—even when only a single candidate or proposal is being chosen.
The possibility of Condorcet “cycles” infecting the preference-rankings of groups is pretty well known by now—especially since Arrow’s impossibility theorem. The idea is that a group entirely composed of individuals whose preference-rankings are transitive may end up liking (as a group) A more than B, B more than C, and C more than A. This can happen because different sub-groups make up the three aggregate ratings. This (and other voting paradoxes even involving pairwise comparisons and Borda counts) have led some observers to denounce majoritarianism. Such critics consider it either an approach that can’t provide unambiguous winners when there are more than two choices, or worse, something that unambiguously provides the wrong answer.
Now, as I look at these matters, there are at least two essential characteristics of fair democratic choosings. First, they are egalitarian in this way: they must, to use the old Benthamite language, “count each vote as one and none as more than one.” That is, they cannot countenance weightings of most kinds, whether they are considered to follow from any rankings (cardinal or ordinal) of the voters or from any external assessments regarding the value of this or that vote or voter. Second, they are egalitarian in another way: the authority granted winners of elections must, in some rational manner, reflect ratios involving both the number of eligible voters and number of votes received. (I will not take up this latter requirement in this OP.)
While simple majoritarianism seems to share both of those desiderata, I take it that the latter (my own view) can’t rightly be characterized as a majoritarian position itself because it does not accept what is commonly known as “the majority criterion.” What is that? It simply requires that If there exists a majority that ranks a single candidate higher than all other candidates, that highest-rated candidate must win. As will be seen, there are good reasons for those with sound democratic principles not to join with majoritarians on this matter. In any case, the (let’s call it) “Egalitarian Proportional Democracy” I’m pushing for here shares with majoritarians the views that political actions and offices must be taken and distributed on the basis of the number of voters who want or don’t want something, rather than on how much they want them (as well as on the other matter that I’m not planning to discuss here). But surely that doesn’t tell us very much. Can at least the egalitarian portion of my description of Egalitarian Proportional Democracy be fleshed out? Let me try.
Suppose eight people are having a party and are trying to decide what soda to bring. [Based on an FMM comment, I add here the assumption that, for whatever reason, it would be a major hassle for there to be more than one choice of soda at the party.] And let there be four possible choices: Cola, Lemon-Lime, Orange and Root Beer. There’s no unanimity among the revelers, so, being the good (small-d) democrats they are, they think that the majority ought to have its way and plan a vote to decide the matter. Here is the result when they are asked to give their favorite (here designated with ‘X’):
A B C D E F G H
Cola X X X
L-L X X
Orange X X
As can be seen, while Cola receives a plurality of the vote, no flavor gets a majority. One member therefore suggests a run-off with the first and tied-for-second contenders only, leaving off RB all together since it did so poorly. Here are the results of this run-off election (with ‘A’ indicating an abstention):
A B C D E F G H
C X X X A
L-L X X A
O X X A
This vote didn’t help: there has been no movement at all because voter H absolutely loathes all the flavors except RB and refuses to pick any of the others as a passable choice for the party.
The revelers aren’t completely stuck though, because there are other voting possibilities. Let us suppose that, like me, this group has no truck whatever with the inter-personal assessments of preference intensities required for cardinal ordering, and that they are also skeptical of ordinal rankings to the extent that those assume similar “distances” between preferences. They think, that is, that there could be a huge divide between one person’s 1st and 2nd choices, and hardly any at all between another ranker’s 1st and 2nd picks.
Fortunately, two members of this group have been regularly assaulted by emails from voting reform organizations: one, from a group that pushes Approval Voting (“AV”), and another that favors Score Voting (“SC”). Those two discuss the matter with the other six party planners and the SC advocate is able to convince everyone that they can exclude all the questionable preference weights by using the following scale:
GOOD ENOUGH (WOULD DRINK IT IF AVAILABLE)………………….3 PTS
PASSABLE (NEVER HAD BUT WD TRY IT IN A PINCH)……………..2 PTS
NOT OK (NEVER HAD & WON’T TRY EVEN IF THIRSTY)…………..1 PTS
REALLY DISLIKE………………………………………………………….. 0 PTS
The AV supporter is on board with undertaking a new vote that would use this scale, but only if the assignments of 4, 3, or 2 points are counted as “Approvals”—meaning that the voter can “live with” the choice. This is agreed upon as well, and the third vote is taken. For ease of counting, I represent the approvals here with an “(A)”:
A B C D E F G H TOT. Apps
C 4(A) 4(A) 4(A) 2(A) 2(A) 1 0 0 17 5
L-L 2(A) 2(A) 2(A) 4(A) 4(A) 2(A) 2(A) 0 18 7
O 3(A) 2(A) 0 3(A) 3(A) 4(A) 4(A) 0 19 6
RB 3(A) 0 0 0 1 3(A) 2(A) 4(A) 13 4
As can be seen, while the Plurality victor was Cola, the SC winner is Orange and the AV winner is L-L!
Perhaps it will seem that this embarrassment of “winners” is the result of the weirdness of there being so many “never tried it” votes with respect to what seem like common carbonated drinks. But it is important to realize that an attitude of “I really don’t know much about her (or it).…” toward political a political candidate or proposal isn’t unusual at all. Look at the results above again, but this time, think of it as a political election for a representative, with each coming from a different Party. (Perhaps replace “Cola” with “Corporatist”; “L-L” with “Liberal”; “Orange” with “Outsider” and “RB” with “Republican”.) This may make it clearer that there can be a large number of decisions in which the assignment of one or two points (approval or disapproval) will largely be a function of the varying amounts of risk that voters are willing to take. Some people will be OK with this or that relatively unknown candidate or proposal; others will not be willing to take any chances.
Keeping all this in mind, which “winner” will the authentic egalitarian support in this election? The Corporatist, because he is the favorite of the largest number of voters? The Outsider, who got the highest score? Or the Liberal, who most voters found to be minimally acceptable? In my view it is the number of approving voters that the sensible democrat must take to matter most. Just as we ought not to be stuck at parties with nothing we can stand to drink, we ought not to be stuck with ruler/representative A when more people among us can stand candidate B. On this view, if it is to be used to determine what “the people” do or don’t want, majoritarian/egalitarian-style aggregation should be understood as the counting of approvals, where each person’s approval is given the same weight as everyone else’s, regardless of how enthusiastic or tepid it is. That tack definitely seems more conducive to stable regimes than one in which candidates that a ton of the populace don’t approve of get to take office.
That is my current take on the matter. I recognize that I have here avoided all of the complicated issues surrounding strategic voting and how that is likely to affect results (if you’re curious, see the Wikipedia article on “Approval Voting.”) Anyhow, I look forward to comments to get a better handle on this. Thanks.
No it would not, the taxes would go directly into the pie and make it much much bigger. The power to tax is the federal governments biggest power.
I would not have a problem if individual states or localities wanted to greatly increase inheritance taxes and I would support an effort to means test things like social security and Medicare……Better yet move them to the states and let each state decide what to do.
Just in general terms, an effective government requires some meaningful feedback from those who are governed. It’s fine to start out with principles, and from them derive rules and procedures. These are implemented on the ground as processes and practices, which eventually become precedents and traditions.
But at all times, starting from day one, the people being governed need confidence in the integrity of the system. After all, someone loses in every court decision, and we rely on the losers to accept the verdicts. Someone loses every election, but is willing to work with the winner if the election was fair.
Systems of government break down when people start thinking that those in power are not acting in good faith. Corruption kills government. This goes far beyond the routine bribery seen in most nations. Faith in the system is undermined by the obvious power of Big Money (the Citizens United decision was deadly), by locked-in gerrymandering, by elected representatives who put their re-election ahead of their oath of office. Combined, these evils have produced “leaders” who achieve power, and keep power, by dishonest means they have the power to institutionalize so the voters can no longer throw the bums out.
By institutionalizing, I mean permanent one-party districts, and packing the courts with highly partisan ideologists whose knowledge of the law is incidental, and replacing a free press with Official Truth outlets, and appointing as department leaders people dedicated to destroying those departments.
Whether or not the nation can recover from, and someday repair, the serious damage being done, the loss of confidence that all parties are acting in good faith with “best for the nation” similar goals may be permanent.
So we are living through a free home demonstration that democracy is fragile, and that no amount of reverence and tradition and respect can survive a “leadership” lacking these things. Or as has been said before, all that’s necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing. We’re moving toward a system that protects the levers of power from even good people determined to do something. Times that try mens’ souls indeed.
Maybe we understand ballot-stuffing differently. I think it’s about making sure your side has more votes than the other guys by whatever means necessary rather than making sure your side has the most votes possible.
Parents are important. Mostly because they are the ones who first teach you how to game the system.
Here is yet another example of the battle between populated states and those that are less populated being played out on the national stage with the federal government choosing sides.
It’s just wrong…… and the solution is federalism
Nice post. Thanks.
I don’t understand what you’re getting at here. Do you think SALT should or should not be deductible from taxable Federal income? And what is the relation between what you are calling “Federalism” to that question? Thanks.
They can also lay a ton of money on you. Trump, e.g., was a millionaire by the age of 5, I understand. Some people don’t need to game anything.
Is this what you meant to write? I.e., I don’t understand that either.
There are 11 million millionaires in the US and only one of them is President. It sounds like there is a lot of gaming going on.
I suggest that we require presidents and congressman to end their lives with the same amount of money that they had when they came into office.
Obama now has a net worth 40 million but came into office with just 1.3.
If we confiscated all that new wealth and then directly distributed it to the 39.7 million Americans who are below the poverty line we could all most eliminate poverty and increase the number of American millionaires by 4 fold in one action.
Now multiply that by all federal government officials including Trump. I’t would not only decrease the benefits of system gaming it would dramatically change the way that government in Washington operates
It’s a win win.
Sometimes I really have no idea what the hell you are talking about.
What? Give each person a dollar?
Whether I personally think SALT should be deductible is beside the point.
I think that the federal government should not be deciding winners and losers among states. That they have this power is wrong in my opinion.
This time it was Trump and the Red states who won next Time it will be a Democrat and the Blue states who comes out on top.
My personal preference is to eliminate all deductions at the Federal level period and go with a much smaller flat tax or better yet collect federal taxes from the states themselves instead of individuals.
I was thinking more about leveraging all the new money from all federal politicians and investing it in microloans controlled locally so that poor but industrious folks could get their hands on working capitol a few thousand at a time.
I just reread my comment and I guess I was on a roll and got tripped up with the decimals and fours.
40 million in poverty
40 million dollars to distribute
times 535 voting members
Each microloan brings 4 other poor people along . etc etc
Anyway the math does not exactly hold up but you got the drift I hope.
They don’t and they’re not. The rule is the same for every state. That it effects residents of different states differently is neither here nor there.
Some of the characters from the period you like so much thought the way to prevent legislators from taking graft was to make sure there was no pay at all–so only independently wealthy people could be leglislators.
Anyhow, you really are on a roll today. I’m wondering whether you have a fever or something.
It is also nice if they leave you large amounts of money and connections to go along with it. Not bad thing to be born a male either.
Uh, no. Trump has been gaming the system all along. He blew his father’s money before he learned a key lesson: Never put your own money at risk! His MO has for decades been to borrow huge sums of other people’s money, pay himself enormous management fees while stiffing all his subcontractors. When they sue, he claims their work was substandard, then that they didn’t finish on time, then that they didn’t do the work agreed to. Each of these bogus claims must be investigated, at considerable cost. Eventually, the stiffed subcontractors either go broke or accept pennies on the dollar. This is gaming the tort system.
Eventually, mismanagement kills the business, Trump declares bankruptcy (at least 4 times), his investors all lose their money and Trump keeps his fees. This is gaming the bankruptcy system (and uses lots of real estate investment specific loopholes).
When nobody would lend him any more money, he started laundering Russian money, buried in tax returns thousands of pages long containing financial lies so brazen nobody at the IRS could get to the bottom of it, along with hundreds of cut-outs, shell companies, international money shuffling, and the like. This is gaming the tax system.
And as a result, Trump is the only rich person who made nobody else wealthy along with him. People like Gates, Bezos, Buffet have made multi-millionaires out of thousands of other people. Outside Trump’s immediate family, everyone else has gone broke and not one person got rich on his coattails. This is gaming the capitalist system.
News folks have been telling us that Trump has told over 8000 lies since he took office. Does anyone really think he started this after his election? This is how he has always operated.
You have it backwards, the smaller the pie the more effect money can have on the outcome. State legislators are cheap to influence, thousands not millions.
Another advantage is the mega rich can have long term plans, You set up of the mechanisms of influence. The goal is to be in power when re-districting comes up after the census, you can solidify a majority into a super majority with the right components.Then you set up electoral rules which favor your voters
One of the states which lead to Trump’s win was just that sort of state, Wisconsin
Lots of small pies can provide a lots of influence.
It certainly would dimish the power of used to be wealthy people.
Actually only the Republican side of the government and it is not about population , it is about which states which are controlled by Democrats.
Rhode Island , Vermont, Connecticut taxpayers are hurt more than those of Texas and Florida.
Hah. You don’t have to tell me Trump is a corrupt piece of shit. (Have you read none of my posts for the past three years?)
Of course he’s been on the grift since he was a kid. I’m just saying he didn’t have to live that way to be extremely rich. That’s not the case for the vast majority of U.S. children.
Right, and the issue has nothing whatever to do with Federalism.
Funny, sounds like most millionaires are not the President.
Seems like an advantage to the very rich, who start off with a lot.
We take the money from book deals? His wife took a cut in pay when she became First Lady, do we compensate for that loss? Made 3 million in salary. Take it back if they don’t spend it all?
Of course some Presidents are less forthcoming about finances.
I hope you don’t work with in a bank. By my reckoning you would increase the number of millionaires by 38 people before you run out of money.
Sounds like a likely scenario, suprised it hasn’t already been done.
It’s a win win.
Sure, you confiscate all the money of elected officials by the amount of their net worth increases. Most would donate to foundations as charitable donations.
Why don’t the states just create there own micro-loans by taxing their own citizens if the object is to avoid federal encroachment.
To say the least.
Neither of the first two apply here Canada. Free speech is protected by our constitution but the law and the judiciary have prohibited hate speech. However, hat speech has narrowly interpreted by the judiciary. Corporations as people also exists here is also only narrowly interpreted in eg bankruptcy law.
One big difference here: there is much lower voting and overall politicization of appointments in the judiciary, starting with local law enforcement through public prosecutors up to the supreme court.
FWIW, we do have a written constitution like the US, but with a weird “notwithstanding” clause that allows any province to opt out and pass any law! The history of that outcome was Trudeau Sr. the US purist, who hated that clause, accepting Chretien the UK compromiser in recognizing it was accept that or fail to get a repatriated constitution.
I can still remember my amazement upon learning that Canada had to ask the UK “Pretty please, can we have a constitution of our very own?” In 1982, no less.
Once we agreed on one, it was a done deal. The brits immediately signed (although native Canadians were unhappy with being left out of the process and did protest there, to no effect). So it was not as if we had to ask, except as a matter of polite formality, which is of course the Canadian way.
But, yes, since the US lost the war of 1812, Canada remained tied to the UK on paper, although that mainly affected foreign relations (which UK was prime on) between 1867 and WW1. After WW1, even that interaction disappeared in practice.
If anybody thought his fabulism was limited to religious stuff, they should read this thread.
I find it interesting that I cannot tell whether you have a “side” on this, because I hear the same complaint from both major parties.
What I find most disturbing is the lack of any support, in schools and in public fora, for debate, and for free expression of conflicting political opinions.
If one takes his proposals at face value.
There are solutions to gerrymandering that involve uncontroversial mathematics and logic.
Have all the interested parties submit proposals for districts having equal populations, and the one having the shortest cumulative perimeter wins. There are some variations on how best to do this, but they would all be within a percent or two of each other.
Unlike voting, geography is static, and can’t make false promises to woo the math.
Yes–or as Timothy points out, one could lose the districts entirely. We’ve got the states, anyhow. There’s no reason anymore to assume that like-minded people always live together. And if the lines are drawn by computer as you suggest, there won’t be the old-fashioned sort of voting locales anyhow.
People who can’t segregate themselves can’t have common interests?
Or more to the point, why have states? Or nations? Why elect representatives, when you could just elect the one true benevolent leader?
I continue to think this discussion is not about how to have a stable, tyranny free system, as it is about how to guarantee the election of the “right” people.
My clue is that there seems to be an underlying assumption that leaders cannot effectively be constrained, so it becomes imperative that only good people get elected.
No idea what you’re asking here.
Or saying here.
You seem to be agreeing that it would be a good idea to abandon local representation. Or perhaps you are suggesting that representation is pointless if districts do not have homogeneous interests.
What part of this misrepresents your position?
I’m strongly in favor of deliberative democracy which I regard as the kind of institutionalized mechanism necessary for realizing civic republicanism.
I wonder how one could incorporate a deliberative round into this model. Does deliberation happen entirely prior to voting? Or could there be a round of deliberation after voting? What if people changed their minds based on how others voted? (See under: Brexit, Trump).
Would the leaders of a deliberative democracy have limits on what they could do, and if so, how are the limits enforced?
My feeling about deliberative democracy is that it’s Important that the rules the representatives operate under should be required to be conducive to constructive deliberation. I don’t think they should be up to the members themselves. And I don’t think they should allow for supermajority requirements. The legislature should not be allowed to operate undemocratically.
I don’t thing the electorate can be expected to deliberate much. Too big.
That representation by geographical district serves no sensible purpose IF no common interests are shared by members of those districts is true by definition, I think.
Deliberative democracy, you say? Welcome to Irish politics!
Rather let us have philosopher kings? Am I seeing a hint of condescension towards the proles?
The different constituencies between rural and urban (and suburban) make geographical districts sensible. We have ample demographic studies showing the very different political priorities and preferences along geographic lines, as well as along religious and educational lines — which are themselves geographic to some extent.
I suppose the ideal is for the majority to be able to implement policies, but for limits and constraints beyond which the majority cannot go. Unfortunately, procedures to enforce these limits must be enforced by someone, and it’s usually the majority! The deconstruction of limits tends to be a ratchet — once a limit is violated beyond the ability of the minority to prevent, it tends to stay violated, and become a new norm.
There are clear trade-offs here between, for example, single-member districts and regional at-large voting, between election and appointment of judges, between endless re-election and term limits. Right now, norms are being violated almost daily, permitted by those in a position to stop it except doing so would risk re-election. So term limits seem worthwhile, even at the cost of a permanent lack of relevant expertise. The re-election imperative overrides any amount of common sense, good judgment, or knowledge of history.
Brexit has caused me to revise my attitude towards ‘the proles’ … that’s simplistic and elitist, and completely against what I’d like my principles to be, but when I see the endless regurgitation of falsehoods spoon-fed by the tabloids, I despair.
The UK claims to solve that with a civil service. Politicians have the big ideas and the career civil servants are entrusted to implement the policies. The US system seems to lack that idea of impartial public service. (Not that my impressions of how the US functions carry much weight, never having set foot there.)
Maybe we don’t have too long to wait until Robert Mueller’s report is completed and made public. Names I’m looking to see mentioned: wikileaks, Julian Assange, Cambridge Analytica, Nigel Farrage, Robert Mercer, numerous Russians. The amount of misinformation presented to the proles is a scandal that UK govt seem to prefer not to address. Maybe Mueller will stir things up.