The merits of Proportional Representation (PR) are known from studying their use in many countries. But ensemble rules are new; the merits given here are based on the studies of PR and other rules.
Some people fail to see the benefits of ensemble councils and balanced policies. Some proponents of PR have said “I don't see any value in a central chairperson.” And some who favor elections by Condorcet's rule say they don't see any value in broad representation. But such rules lead to narrow and one-sided policies.
“Centrist policy” denotes a narrow point of view that excludes other opinions and needs. "One-sided policy" also means ignoring rival ideas. “Compromise policy”; implies hostile resistance to opponents on every point and mechanical averaging of values into mediocre or irrational combinations. “Balanced policy” suggests blending the best ideas from each side.
Balanced majorities avoid policy reversals and thus save money and maintain credibility. They avoid policy changes that are random or excessive and thus reduce the game-of-chance and hysteria in politics. They show the rule of reason not of whim, thus inspire confidence in legitimate leadership. They do not let fringe reps steer policies, a common fact in one-sided majorities.
Popular belief that government exists for the general good not just for the strongest factions is hurt by one-sided policies. But balanced policies favor all moderates thus increase satisfaction and reduce political conflict. They have broad appeal and thus help the organization attract members.
Stability is not rigidity: Well-balanced majorities and stable policies might seem to increase the risk of continuing a policy even when it stops working. But accurate elections and policy decisions match changes in the electorate, changing as fast and as smoothly as voters and their reps want -- not under reacting then over reacting as old methods do when the majority shifts from one side to the other.
Some theorists have argued recently that the political balance should be poised on a knife edge, set to change quickly because policies must evolve by trial and error. In their view, a central compromise is often one of the worst policies because it fails to resolve an issue's urgent decisions.
But while policy flip flops give new programs a chance to be tried, such brief, haphazard changes are not valid experiments. A balanced council should let each side test its program on the issue or constituency where it has its strongest support. Policies can evolve smoothly, although we rarely notice as it happens.
Avoiding Policy ReversalsFlip flops are the opposite of balanced policies.
Story: Resource regulations often flip-flop. The developers (or loggers) only have to win once; then the project is built (or the forest removed) and the results last for decades.
Flip flops give an advantage to those who quickly destroy (by resource pillaging or death squads) not those who slowly nurture (by raising trees or children).
In a related pattern a town enacts tough zoning laws -- only to see the county allow developers a free hand. The town's and county's regulations reverse every 8 or 10 years. This benefits quick-buck operators but not a majority of residents.
Calming Political HysteriaSome issues polarize communities. Even in these cases, Condorcet's rule can find the policy supported by a majority.
Story: Abortion is a complex ethical issue, but most proposed laws follow a one-dimensional line with various statutory restrictions added from left to right, liberal to conservative. Candidate A says it should be legal, free, and encouraged for unwed teens. E says it should not be encouraged. J says it should require teen counseling and parental notification. P says it should require private funding and a 2 day wait for all women. U says it should not be allowed except in cases of rape, incest, or grave risk to the woman's life. Z says it should never be legal.
It is likely that one of the middle positions is a Condorcet winner, with a narrow yet clear majority over its closest rival. That should not end the ethical debate; activists may still try to persuade others. But it should end the debate over which policy has majority support. Our current electoral and legislative rules fail to reveal the majority position. Instead we see hysteria and threats of policy reversals in every election.
By bringing together opposing sides under a moderate chairperson, ensemble councils may achieve true consensus on some divisive issues or at least parts of them. A non-elected ensemble provides this example:
“In the emotionally devastating abortion debate, Search for Common Ground brought together pro-life and pro-choice advocates, and instead of debating exactly when life begins, they explored where there might be common ground. Both sides found they wanted to prevent unwanted pregnancies and promote conscious conception. Both sides wanted to make adoption more easily available, reduce infant mortality rates, and promote women's and children's rights and male responsibility.”
A key step for implementing such understandings occurs when the delegates return to their respective groups to explain the agreement. Radical constituents often denounce a rep for any cooperation with the “enemy”. Persuading radicals to bend may be a rep's hardest responsibility.
An indivisible policy cannot be enacted through fair shares. But if it can be broken into sub-issues, we may find some that all interest groups agree on, and we may find that each group cares most about a few sub-issues and least about others -- pointing the way to a compromise developed through discussions and vote trading or ranking a variety of “policy bundles”.
|Electoral Systems||Legislative Systems|
Condorcet + STV
Notes & quotes