Voting Rules for

Different uses for voting need different types of voting.

Introducing fair-share funding for projects

Fair Share Notes

Fair-share funding, chapter contents

What is a Public Good?

"As a private individual, I want a car that goes 130 miles per hour.  As a citizen, I want a speed limit for lower pollution and safer streets." Ben Barber, Rutgers University

Pollution and danger are public bads or "negative externalities", consequences of Ben's car for which he does not pay the full cost.  The public pays the driver's externalized costs through their taxes and impaired health.  Therefore, what the public wants as individual car buyers may be different from what the same public wants as voters.

The value a person places on public goods depends on his sensitivity to the pleasures of tangibles such as clean air or safe streets and intangibles such as co-operative, friendly neighbors.  It also depends on his private resources, such as a private car to serve in place of a clean public transit.

“The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do at all, or cannot so well do, for themselves, in their separate and individual capacities. In all that the people can individually do as well for themselves, government ought not to interfere. The desirable things, which the individuals of a people cannot do, or cannot well do, for themselves, fall into two classes: those which have relation to wrongs, and those which have not. Each of these branches off into an infinite variety of subdivisions.

“The first - that in relation to wrongs - embraces all crimes, misdemeanors, and non-performance of contracts. The other embraces all which, in its nature, and without wrong, requires combined action, as public roads and highways, public schools, charities, pauperism, orphanage, estates of the deceased, and the machinery of government itself.

Abraham Lincoln; The Nature and Objects of Government, with Special Reference to Slavery. Fragmentary Notes. About July 1, 1854.

Can Public Goods Endure?

Libertarians claim democracy can exist only until a majority of voters discover they can vote themselves largess out of the public treasury; that democracy evolves into welfarism. That is an argument from theory, not facts.

Dictatorships (including business monopolies) are far more likely to become kleptocracies, where a few people abuse institutional power to enrich themselves, while oppressing many others. In fact, a broader distribution of power (via PR) tends to cause a broader distribution of money in a large middle class.

Fair-share rules reduce the opportunities for kleptocracy because one group cannot steal another's share of the public treasury.

Fair Shares Balance and Limit Group Power.

Fair-share funding works most easily with discretionary funds spent on projects.  Many winning proposals get contributions from less than half the voters, showing that we are all, at times, members of minorities.  The power of the majority is limited.

Being a boss often lets a smart person act stupidly: the boss can cut short an argument and win it just by threatening or ignoring an adversary.  Being in the majority often leads a group to act stupidly for much the same reason: they can win without good reasons and thoughtful persuasion.  Fair-share spending removes some of the cause of majority stupidity: they can no longer seize more than their share; they have to act smart or hurt themselves.

There is no division into winners and losers, everyone gets something.  And everyone gets their due.  Naturally there will still be some bad decisions due to misinformed or muddled thinking.  And the consequences will fall mostly on those who are not thinking ahead.

Strategic Voting

The most obvious way to defeat fair-share voting on projects is to break the discretionary fund into small blocks: $1T for military projects, $1B for health projects, $1M for school projects.  To avoid such forgone bias, the voters can make that basic division; each voter might spend as much on school projects as he or she put into that category.

Reduce Conflict -- draft

Winner-take-all rules of war or politics create strong incentives for ethnic cleansing or fertility battles as groups struggle to defend or capture the all-important majority status. Fair-share Spending reduces that. Instead, it gives every large minority some fiscal power through a peaceful political process.

Interest groups competing for power often are defined and separated by their languages, religions, colors or cultures. A group might compete by decreasing the voters in the other group through “ethnic cleansing”, or by raising its own population through a “fertility battle”.

In the 1930s, Mussolini called on Italians to have more babies. Critics accused him of raising “cannon fodder.” We can see these patterns today in some cultural conflicts. Winner-take-all rules promote such tactics for victory in very long conflicts.

This suggests the voting age should be very high to add the costs of child rearing for a long time before the rewards of public power. Unfortunately, the groups which invest little in each child will be least affected by these costs. A voting rule, by itself, cannot change that.

Use Suitable Tools

When choosing a policy we can say "Yes." to only one version.  When budgeting departments we often say to each group, "Yes; but you will get less than you requested." When funding projects we must say "Yes!" to several and "No." to others, often letting each voter affect each budget.  Each kind of legislation needs a different kind of voting tool.  Next  Ballot for fair-share spending

español Chinese

Search Accurate Democracy