Wednesday, June 22, 2016

History of electoral reform from Joseph Heath

I've been kind of assuming that this electoral reform discussion in Parliament would expose its own follies sufficiently that the whole thing would mostly just go away.   In that vein, Toronto philosopher Joseph Heath has a useful essay reminding us that "every party wins, every party gets ponies," is not a goal worth pursuing .
In an electoral contest with more than three options, not only will there be no majority preference, but there will also be no way to winnow down the choices to produce a stable majority winner. If you pitch all three against one another, obviously there is no guarantee that any one will get more than 50 percent. If you break it down into a set of pair-wise competitions, however, you can get shifting majorities, such that any option can beat any other, depending on how they are paired off.
Since the legislative process is based on the majority principle, every democratic system will need to do something more than just add up votes, in order to constitute the majority that will make legislative decisions.
This is why the mediating institutions of democracy are so important, and why we will never live in any sort of deep, decentralized democracy, or a techno-utopian “e-democracy,” where the people get to decide directly all major policy questions. Because majority will is often non-existent or indeterminate, we need to do something artificial, in order to create ruling majorities.
There is no overriding reason why party support has to correlate mathematically to how many seats a party holds in the House. We don't elect parties.
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