Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Electoral Reform

My view of the game of representative democracy is pretty grim, I'll admit.  So what do I recommend to improve it?

People often talk about electoral reform.  The problem, given my analysis of how to win at representative democracy, is that the strategies are mostly about getting people to vote and not to vote.  We could bring in whatever system we wanted - even the greatest system of all, random ballot - and it wouldn't change many of the underlying facts of vote manipulation.  If 50% of the population thinks voting is pointless and 30% are your fanatics, the election system could be anything and you'd still win.  If police are four times as likely on election day to pull over drivers of an ethnicity that usually votes for you, and twice as likely as normal to turn those routine traffic stops into overnight jail visits then that subtracts from your vote no matter how it is tallied.

But I am a proponent of election reform.  Why is that?  It goes back to a key point that I made in my analysis of democracy, and that is that the people playing it are largely idiots.  Seriously, they are horribly, horribly stupid and almost completely disconnected from reality.  Okay, maybe many of them are pretty smart, but they sure aren't smart enough to win an election since no one is.  They also aren't Machiavellian enough to manipulate votes too severely unless they can actually convince themselves that they deserve to win.  I'm sure politics has well more than it's fair share of psychopaths, but it would be hard to believe it was more than five or ten times the average, wouldn't it?

So if most politicians don't know how to win elections and don't know that they don't know how to win elections, then a new voting system is going to accomplish a lot.  As I said, results-oriented thinking creates an evolutionary process.  Changing the system is basically an asteroid coming for the political species.  The larger and more entrenched they are the more dependent they are on the environment that allowed them to become so large.  A huge shift in environment would make a lot of space for actual policy debate because people wouldn't know what else to do, and the people who would think they know what else to do would be even worse off.

So I think not just that we should change our electoral system, but that we should change it again after a few decades, and then again.  Let's keep it fresh so no one has time to evolve a focused strategy.  This may not seem important, after all, political parties are just Red-Queening for our votes, right?  But remember that they are not akin to a predator and prey vying for life, they are akin to different alpha predators vying for a larger share of the same prey, and the prey is us.

I'm not saying that all election systems are equal, countries that use the First-Past-the-Post election system have the lowest voter turn-out in the world because on some level people know their vote doesn't count.  Nearly anything would be better.  But nothing is perfect - except random ballot, which is perfect - and we have to forget about perfect and start thinking, instead, about something that is just new.

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