What is the center?
Story: A professor, who's work I admire, wrote:
“An excellent [web] page which I will at once add to mine. I disagree with you on the merits of the centre. Sometimes the centre is a messy compromise that is the worst of all worlds. e.g. the UK in Europe. Either the UK goes it alone or tries to make a Federal Europe. Instead we are trying to keep Europe in an unworkable transitional state.”
The old system results in unworkable compromises because it was not designed for balance; it was made for one-sided rule.
Was the current policy designed by central politicians? No, the parties are highly partisan with powerful leaders. An MP who negotiates independently with the opposition is insubordinate or treacherous. The PM can drop that MP to the bottom of the party list or to an unfriendly hustings. U.S. leaders may cut off a rebel's campaign from her party's money supply.
Parties maintain negotiating (battle) positions. The resulting policy is a grudging compromise, which both sides consider temporary. Some MPs hoped it would fail even as they voted for it. There is no central party trying to design a federation, with efficient cooperation and yet some independence.
Perhaps the central voters cautiously want some federation -- after a (French) trial period. Those who disagree must persuade centrists that immediate independence or union is best.
Strategic voting may be the hardest obstacle to workable solutions. Lets say I feel going it alone is best, federation 2nd best, and a long transition 3rd. If I actually mark federation 2nd, I might help it win and an independent England will be lost for my lifetime. So I give 2nd to transition, in hopes of keeping alive some chance for full independence, even if it does not yet win.
Some voters favoring federation mirror my strategy. With these strategic seconds and some sincere firsts, the unworkable transitional state can win by Condorcet's rule. A stalemate continues until enough voters decide it is hurting everyone.
Ensemble rules may reduce grudging compromises by electing a chairperson who has an electoral incentive to balance each policy.
Frequently Asked Questions
Would ensemble rules distort the accuracy of proportional representation?
Some would, but what is the main goal of a democratic legislature? It is not to satisfy a mathematical abstraction about proportionality. It is to enact broadly popular, central policies that make most people happier than the status quo. Ensemble councils make that more likely.
The potential good of a PR election is cut short if it is followed by one-sided majorities for making laws and appropriations.
Isn't the "swing-voting rep" of a PR council usually quite central?
No, almost every PR council has a ruling majority of the left or the right which excludes the second-largest party from decisions. There is no active swing vote. Central parties are rare in PR parliaments. Germany's Free Democratic Party may be the only powerful one. The tiny centrist parties in newly-emerging democracies are powerless and probably will not last.
Omitting the Condorcet rep(s) would not change much would it?
1) PR rarely elects any central reps. 2) It is essential that the central reps be open minded and eager to please as many voters as practical. Those reps should not advocate, as PR reps must, for a narrow interest group which elected them.
Do STV districts lead reps to fund regional "pork"?
The best answer is the bipartisan argument to reinstate PR for elections to the Illinois State House. Under single-winner districts, the Democrats win all the Chicago seats and the Republicans win almost all the rural seats. Whichever party wins a majority ignores the needs of voters on other party's turf. Back when reps were elected from 3-seat districts, each party had a rep from almost every district, so they had to listen to the needs of all districts.
On the other hand, even under PR a conservative may safely neglect the needs of interest groups that are strongly liberal. Most of those voters are beyond persuasion because the conservative can't give them as much as a liberal can promise -- so why give anything?
PR can reduce regionalism, but it does not eliminate pork.
An electoral system must be understood by the citizens to ensure they accept the election results. This favors simple systems over more complicated ones.
Most voters accept the plurality rule because they think they understand it. But most do not understand its effects: how it is polarizing, erratic and unfair; how it pushes a voter to worry about whether or not he should cast a tactical vote rather than simply cast his sincere vote.
Some reformers want all voters to know voting theory and logic. But that isn't the point — any more than teaching biochemistry is the point of an aspirin commercial. We need to focus on changes in results, not mechanisms.
Some moderates and centrists mistakenly think electoral reform with PR would just increase the representation and power of fringe groups. That cannot be said of electoral reform with ensemble rules, so this reform may be more popular.
Do we want “checks and balances”?
An ensemble council's excellent balance and moderation create less need for “checks” or blocks on its legislation. This can add to or replace some slower “checks and balances.” But we still need the constitutional court to protect human rights by blocking our council and corporations from going beyond their legally-limited powers.
Reps with overlapping terms of office also tend to moderate a policy swing. They limit the power of brief fads in popular opinion by electing only one-third of the council in each election cycle. On the other hand, this makes it harder to “throw all the bums out” all at once. Voters never treat that as a serious option anyway. Sabbatical term limits are more likely to renew a limited fraction of the council every cycle, with most incumbents winning reelection to keep their seats for a couple of cycles.
May I “throw all the bums out”?
Should any one voter have the power to “throw all the bums out” of a legislature? No. His vote is just one of many votes; his power is just a fraction of the whole electorate. If he wants more voting power, then he doesn't want democratic equality.
A party's voters should be able to throw out any bums they find in their own party, but not a rival party's bum choices. (They can try to convict rival players for breaking laws. But that process is goes through the courts, not through the voting booths.)
|Electoral Systems||Legislative Systems|
Condorcet + STV
Notes & quotes