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[P]
Are Political Parties Inherently Undemocratic?

By Woundweavr in Op-Ed
Sun Feb 03, 2002 at 05:27:23 AM EST
Tags: Politics (all tags)
Politics

In George Washington's Final Farewell Address he warned against the dangers of adopting a system based on political parties. However, despite the urgings of the first President, the government of the United States is dominated by two major parties. Is this a twisting of democracy or an inevitable practicality?


When George Washington warned of the dangers of incorporating political parties into the government, they still remained relatively non-universal. However, Federalists led by Hamilton and the Democrats led by Jefferson had solidified within a few years.

In the modern United States government, the parties have become completely entrenched. Although unelected by the masses and not official mentioned in any of the documents that defined government, they hold all the power between them. Offices such as the majority whip and party leaders have powers on the floor of the House although they are not mentioned in the Constitution.

The Republican Party and the Democratic Party are effectively the only two power groups from which significant political candidate can emerge from. While there are some exceptions by and large US politicians are either a Democrat or Republican. This is built into your thinking. When you look at the list of Senators or Reps, it becomes obvious that it is built into their thinking as well.

And so we have two great houses, both alike in dignity. The original ideological differences have faded into nonexistence. The policies of each are relatively alike, at least to the extent that such a division is unnecessary. In the end they act simply as power structures. In order to reach the upper echelons of power in the US, one must demonstrate that one is willing to toe the party line at times. That is vote because of party allegiance rather than personal inclination. The candidates for any non-local position is determined by the parties. The parties control candidacy by nearly monopolizing the massive political contributions from businesses and individuals and through the assumption that any politician who is anyone belongs to one of the two parties.

By controlling who is voted for and what they vote for, the parties have a massive amount of power in the structure itself. The structure is self appointed and effectively takes some of the power from the people. Yet it also provides a convenient means for gathering advertising funds.

While ousting such parties would seem a practical impossibility, are they a positive or negative factor in the US democracy?

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Are Political Parties Inherently Undemocratic? | 60 comments (59 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
I fail to see... (1.42 / 7) (#1)
by ragabr on Sat Feb 02, 2002 at 09:53:12 PM EST

how the wishes of George Washington or what is written in the Constitution have anything to do with democracy.

Alas, I hate to say it, but your definition of "democracy" is too US-centric.

And to answer your question, parties are an ambivalent factor in the US democracy.

-------
And my tongue would be made of chocolate. Mmmmm. Chocolate.
-rusty
Then I'll explain (4.33 / 3) (#2)
by Woundweavr on Sat Feb 02, 2002 at 10:26:33 PM EST

George Washington set many precedents on the Presidency and the Constitution sets the rules of democracy in the US. Thats what it has to do with democracy.

Political parties do not just exist in the US. The reason GW was against them was he saw the damage it did to the UK system and they exist in most western governments. Whether they are a positive force or not remains relevant.

If you think they an 'ambivalent' factor (although I think it was a poor choice of words), then why? Just saying Yes, No or Maybe isn't interesting

[ Parent ]

It set the rules... (none / 0) (#17)
by ragabr on Sun Feb 03, 2002 at 01:50:08 PM EST

of democracy in the US.

It has nothing to do with democracy in general, just a certain subset of democracy you choose to target, which you didn't make clear in your title, introduction or even until your last sentence.

I was perfectly aware that political parties do not just exist in the US, and that they existed for a long time before the US which just supports my statement that what GW said has fuck-all to do with democracy as a concept.

Finally, if you look of the definition of ambivalent, it expressed my feelings precisely. I didn't go into it further because obviously there are very few things in the world that are solely positive or negative factors and the very asking of the question implied to me that you hadn't done near enough thinking into the topic to write and article about it.

-------
And my tongue would be made of chocolate. Mmmmm. Chocolate.
-rusty
[ Parent ]
Influece (none / 0) (#19)
by Woundweavr on Sun Feb 03, 2002 at 02:37:32 PM EST

And the rules of democracy in the US influenced all democracies that came after. More governments have been based on this document than any other form.

The fact that GW said it is not the point. It was just showing that the preconception of political parties as a necessity in large scale democracy has not always existed. You are also ignoring the influence that the US democracy and thus GW had on the concept of democracy in the world. Saying its irrelevant is just shortsighted.

[ Parent ]

Definitely not... (none / 0) (#22)
by ragabr on Sun Feb 03, 2002 at 03:21:52 PM EST

the practical applications of democracy throughout time have very little effect on the theoretical aspects of the same. To act like they do is to allow yourself to slide into the pit of quasi-semanticism. It's easy to argue when you can redefine terms at will.

It's not effective to say "democracy" and then later claim "I meant democracies put into practice after the revolutionary war."

I also don't think that the US democracy has had as much influence as you claim, in most democracies rights are seen as derivative, almost none use the three-fold system of checks and balances.

And there's no way, if you interpret the words I used by their commonly accepted meanings, to claim I said the US had no effect on subsequent democracies. It just has no bearing on what a democracy in of itself is.

-------
And my tongue would be made of chocolate. Mmmmm. Chocolate.
-rusty
[ Parent ]
Greek (none / 0) (#45)
by Woundweavr on Mon Feb 04, 2002 at 12:36:45 PM EST

Well if a word/concept cannot evolve in meaning over time then there is no country even close to a democracy in the world today. None of us live in independant city-states, but in wide areas of country by a central government who is given power by election. Some countries vote law by popular election but for the most part the democratic world is a republican democratic world. If GW had no influence on the concept of democracy, neither did Locke. Hell, the first democracy was also the first government in Sumeria so that would make the folks in Athens uncouth upstarts. Ideas evolve over time. 'Democracy' is not equivalent to gravity, unchanged by human opinion or acknoledgement. No matter what Rosseau or Plato called democracy, there exists a concept of democracy that was heavily influenced by the first country to devise a comprehensive Constitutionally based democracy(the magna carta created a Constitutional monarchy).

Secondly, the point is moot. There is no such thing as political parties in pure democracy and I wasn't talking about pure democracy in the first place. I was speaking of today in the real world. I was using examples of the world that exists in modern Western democratic society and whether a certain element of said society undermines the democratic ideal. Political parties in a theoretical state would be undemocratic anyway as it no longer is rule by the people but rule by the people and a second group.

[ Parent ]

Actually... (none / 0) (#53)
by ragabr on Tue Feb 05, 2002 at 01:35:16 AM EST

there are several subclasses of democracy, one of which is a republic which is what we are. The Greeks are just another example of a specific implementation.

Also, I didn't say that a word can't evolve over time, but it won't evolve just because one person wants it to. And no matter what the average joe on the street thinks, no useful argument will come out of something lacking any sembalence of academic rigour.

-------
And my tongue would be made of chocolate. Mmmmm. Chocolate.
-rusty
[ Parent ]
Universality vs Arbitrary (none / 0) (#57)
by Woundweavr on Tue Feb 05, 2002 at 02:33:12 PM EST

Democracy is not like gravity. The concept of democracy was invented and developed over time. It develops and evolves depending on how mankind views it. Individuals such as Locke, Washington, Plato, and Jefferson change how man sees the word and the concept and thus the concept does evolve just because one person wants it to. Academic rigour has little to do with it as they are merely different joes on the street with their own preconceptions. This wasn't a philosophy exercise. It wasn't a polisci exercise in some class room. The question was and is whether political parties a) are consistant with the democratic ideal and b) ever could be. It's that simple.

[ Parent ]
If You Want To Be Picky... (4.25 / 4) (#3)
by Canar on Sat Feb 02, 2002 at 10:38:13 PM EST

The Republic is inherently undemocratic, if you're going by a hard-line everyone votes on everything philosophy. The advantages of allowing elected reps to govern, while we go about our day-to-day lives, is what makes the Republic so useful.

Parties, Federalist #10, and Democracy (4.40 / 5) (#4)
by WombatControl on Sat Feb 02, 2002 at 11:03:44 PM EST

While George Washington argued against political parties, the reality was that even in his time there were two de facto political parties already in place. The Federalists, led primarily by Alexander Hamilton, and the Anti-Federalists, led by Thomas Jefferson. They argued, as do the Republicans and Democrats, over what exactly the role of the federal government should be. The Federalists wanted a strong federal government to provide for the common defense, while the Anti-Federalists wanted minimal government powers. In the end, the Federalist model essentially won out, although the Anti-Federalists such as Jefferson were instrumental in getting the Bill of Rights amended to the Constitution. While Washington decried political parties, they were already essentially in existence even during his tenure as President.

One of the most important documents in the development of the US government are the Federalist Papers, which outlined the need for a strong central government. In the Federalist #10, James Madison (writing under the nom de plume Publius) argues that "faction" is one of the major problems in a democratic system. Madison defined faction as this:

By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.

In essence, Madison was referring to something like a political party.

Madison argued that it was impossible for a democracy to remove the causes of faction without completely destroying the rights of free association which are critical to a democratic society. One cannot disallow interested people to leverage their power in groups. (This, I would argue, is what campaign finance attempts to do - eliminate money as a cause of faction rather than deal with the effects. However that is another argument for another day.)

So, it would seem that this same argument was advanced in the day of the Founding Fathers - that political parties do have a negative effect on the democratic. As Madison put it:

Complaints are everywhere heard from our most considerate and virtuous citizens, equally the friends of public and private faith, and of public and personal liberty, that our governments are too unstable, that the public good is disregarded in the conflicts of rival parties, and that measures are too often decided, not according to the rules of justice and the rights of the minor party, but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority.

Yet American political parties are not the factions that Madison so worried about. Madison believed that the solution to faction was a republican rather than a democratic government. (This isn't allusion to the two major political parties in the US... both parties are aligned under republican principals.) A republic diffuses faction, as there are so many factions that no one can have complete dominance for very long.

Parties are republican because they "refine and enlarge the public views by passing them through the medium of a chosen body of citizens". The reason why many see the Republican and Democratic Party as being much alike is because they, in some ways, have to be. The United States wasn't founded to be based on a system that made radical or revolutionary changes. It was designed to be an evolutionary republic in which the passions of the people would be tempered by multiple checks and balances.

In order for a political party to win in the United States, they must attract a good portion of those voters who are in the center of the ideological spectrum. If they attempt to swing too far to the right (as Goldwater did in the 60's) or too far to the left (as Al Gore arguably did in 2000) then they stand little chance of getting into office. The system rewards those parties that are best able to form broad coalitions.

The reason why there isn't a viable third party in the US is largely due to three reasons: the first is that the two party system is largely entrenched in the American political consciousness. The second is that most third parties are based on single issues which don't allow them to build effective long-term platforms. The third is that the two political parties have become so adept at adapting themselves to broad coalitions of voters that there's not much left for a third party to build on.

Madison's views are exactly right. Faction isn't a real problem in America, despite the cries of a few. No one special interest has real control. As Madison noted, "Liberty is to faction what air is to fire." In other words, if you have a free society, you will have special interests. The fact that so many interests are trying to gain control of the political parties need not be viewed as problematic for government - rather a sign that the system is working just as Madison said it would over 200 years ago.



Our "political consciousness" is not to (4.25 / 4) (#39)
by Adam Tarr on Mon Feb 04, 2002 at 01:21:30 AM EST

... and nor are your other reasons. But before I get to that, one side point:

If they attempt to swing too far to the right (as Goldwater did in the 60's) or too far to the left (as Al Gore arguably did in 2000) then they stand little chance of getting into office.

While you're right on Goldwater, you're quite wrong on Gore. He did not lose the election due to swinging too far left. He lost because of two things: Rob Nader robbing him of sure Democrat voters, and the erratic effects of the electoral college playing games with a tight election. It's hard to swing too far from the center and still capture the most votes.

The classic modern example of a candidate who lost by swinging too far left is McGovern in 1972. I think Mondale in 1984 is also a fair example.

The system rewards those parties that are best able to form broad coalitions.

Agreed, and this is how Madison would have wanted it, no doubt. This is not the problem with our democracy. The problem is that our voting systems only give us two choices on who we want to be our leaders.

Now, on to what I really wanted to respond to, which is your proposed reasons why we have a two party system.

The reason why there isn't a viable third party in the US is largely due to three reasons: the first is that the two party system is largely entrenched in the American political consciousness.

The American people have shown a willingness to break out of this paradigm, even when the prospects appear bleak. 20% of the electorate supported Perot in 1992, and almost 2% supported Nader in 2000, even though those voters should have known full well that voting for these candidates was helping elect the candidate they liked least of the other two.

The problem is not that American voters are stuck in a two-party mindset. It is that American voters know that voting for a third party is shooting themselves in the foot. We need to change the voting procedure to take this problem away.

The second is that most third parties are based on single issues which don't allow them to build effective long-term platforms.

Is this true of the Libertarian Party? How about the Green Party? Even the Reform party has had a full platform, even if it has changed some from election to election. This assertion is not really borne out by reality.

What is true is that the third parties have been marginalized in the media and in the public consciousness, and have had trouble getting a full message out. The sad fact, though, is it makes sense to ignore these parties until they have a chance to impact the election in a positive way (i.e. a way that helps their cause).

The third is that the two political parties have become so adept at adapting themselves to broad coalitions of voters that there's not much left for a third party to build on.

The fact that the last three elections have had voters voting for third party candidates in large numbers, despice obvious incentives to vote for the "lesser of two evils", shows that the potential exists for other parties to find their constituency. If we change the voting system to allow the fuller expression of the voters' preferences, these third parties will grow all the more.

Once again I refer everyone to The Election Methods Web Site for details.

-Adam

[ Parent ]
And why are we stuck with two parties? (4.80 / 10) (#5)
by roystgnr on Sat Feb 02, 2002 at 11:34:24 PM EST

Ignorant rules exist which assume that American politicians will be a member of one of our two parties, and crooked rules exist which provide public support for popular (read: Democrat or Republican) candidates while making it harder for other candidates to get on the ballots. Washington didn't see that one coming.

This is a problem, certainly, but it is one which even our current shriveled third parties have overcome in the past.

The major problem is one which Washington could have been able to see coming, if he had been as good a mathematician as a general: Plurality voting just doesn't work.

You're right that the most conservative Democrats and most liberal Republicans are hard to distinguish, but that's a necessity of campaign strategy: each party wants to win, and can only do so by capturing the political center of voters. And as long as they do that, as long as elections between Democrats and Republicans are closely contested, third party candidates act to harm the political expression of their own views.

There isn't a much better example of this happening than Nader. A lot of Nader voters wouldn't have voted without him as an option, but a lot more would have turned Florida and New Hampshire over to Gore (and made New Mexico and Wisconsin uncontestable). Gore would have beaten either Bush or Nader in a one on one election, and the plurality result does not reflect that. The plurality system punishes honest votes for third party candidates. The slogans say that you're not "throwing your vote away" when you vote Libertarian or Green, but the game theory says you are missing a chance to change an election in your favor.

Even when it does not change the results of the current election, the plurality vote acts to hurt the chances of third parties in future elections. Nobody wants to throw their support behind a candidate they know can't win, nobody wants to "throw their vote away" in a lose election, and the polling and voting results reflect this. Third parties who receive 2% or 3% of a poll (rather than the 20% or 30% of the first place vote they might get under a system which does not punish honesty) become further marginalized, kicked out of debates, and denied community support for that reason.

And what happens when a third party does become a success? It just replaces one of the existing parties, and we return to the same two-group equilibrium with new names. Seen any Whigs lately?

If you haven't seen it already, take a look at ElectionMethods.org to see the math behind why plurality (and the "instant runoff" method some other countries try) voting fails to reflect voter preferences.

I do think that "what will happen when third parties aren't shut out?" bears some consideration before making even an obviously positive change to voting procedures. The two party system does have a nice system of feedback in it: as a party becomes more popular, it's platform becomes more extreme in an attempt to capitalize on that popularity, and as one becomes less popular it becomes more inclusive to try and correct the problem, so the government maintains a roughly 50-50 split around the median of public thought. The problem with this feedback is that it can only work on one axis of political thought, so when you have multiple axes combined this doesn't work. For example, you can't vote for "hands off the economy" Republicans without getting a hefty military budget in the bargain, and you can't effectively vote for any party which isn't being suckered into things like century long copyright extensions and unconstitutional drug prohibition.

I was planning an article on this (5.00 / 7) (#6)
by roystgnr on Sat Feb 02, 2002 at 11:55:33 PM EST

But since this one may make front page, I'll ask my questions here:

Why are third parties even bothering to campaign on anything aside from election reform? Do they not understand the fundamental problem? Do they hope that they will be lucky enough to replace one of the existing parties entirely? Does election game theory just seem boring compared to questions about the environment, freedom, or whatever their pet issues are?

What can we do about it? Election procedure changing seems like one of those issues that the major parties would be quite agreeable with each other about stonewalling (since it would be detrimental to the entrenched power of both), and it would be hard to implement without changes to federal and state Constitutions, so nothing short of overwhelming support would be sufficient. Is it even plausible that we might improve American elections in this way?

[ Parent ]

i dunno (5.00 / 2) (#7)
by rhyax on Sun Feb 03, 2002 at 12:52:25 AM EST

your topic is different enough i think to make it's own story, i'd vote for it.

[ Parent ]
Can't be a one-trick pony (4.00 / 1) (#27)
by skunk on Sun Feb 03, 2002 at 04:15:05 PM EST

Why are third parties even bothering to campaign on anything aside from election reform?

Because if and when a third-party candidate gets into office, s/he is going to have power to act on issues other than election reform, and people will (rightfully) care about this.

You can't have a candidate that, when asked, "What are you going to do about the education budget problem?" answers with, "Nothing---my platform is strictly limited to election reform."



--SS
[ Parent ]
I don't disagree, but... (4.00 / 1) (#29)
by robla on Sun Feb 03, 2002 at 05:05:04 PM EST

You're certainly right...any viable candidate would need to have a platform beyond electoral reform. However, I also agree with the original poster. All third parties are pretty much hosed without electoral reform.

Given this catch-22, what is the strategy that third parties should be pursuing?
----
Check out Electorama! a healthy dose of electoral reform talk and bright, shiny things.
[ Parent ]

Good answer (4.00 / 1) (#34)
by roystgnr on Sun Feb 03, 2002 at 10:13:08 PM EST

However, I hope you'll forgive me for remaining disappointed... you see, it's the second question I was really hoping someone could figure out. ;-)

[ Parent ]
Asking the foxes to fix the locks on the henhouse (4.83 / 6) (#11)
by pyramid termite on Sun Feb 03, 2002 at 07:32:33 AM EST

The major problem is one which Washington could have been able to see coming, if he had been as good a mathematician as a general: Plurality voting just doesn't work.

Perhaps, but when you count all the people who don't vote, all of our presidents and a good many other office holders have been voted in by a plurarity.

You're right that the most conservative Democrats and most liberal Republicans are hard to distinguish, but that's a necessity of campaign strategy: each party wants to win, and can only do so by capturing the political center of voters. And as long as they do that, as long as elections between Democrats and Republicans are closely contested, third party candidates act to harm the political expression of their own views.

But this misses the major problem with the two parties and their canditates - it's not necessarily the positions they take on the issues , it's that they are effectively selling access to themselves to lobbyists by taking campaign contributions, many of which are from corporate sources. If one believes that a representative should actually represent the people who voted for him rather than the people who gave him campaign contributions, then one has little choice but to vote for 3rd party candidates, as both parties represent business as usual. As a person who believes that the current parties represent continuance of government by a clumsy, ineffective and corrupt system, it is more important to me that people who represent this problem be voted against than any stand on any issue they might take.

The slogans say that you're not "throwing your vote away" when you vote Libertarian or Green, but the game theory says you are missing a chance to change an election in your favor.

Only if you believe the stakes of the "game" (certain homogenized, centerist views on a few issues) are more important than the issue of whether the game should be changed so other issues are at stake. I do not see any Republican or Democrat continuing in office as a "result in my favor". It is more important to me that I vote for people who aren't slurping at the trough of the military/industrial/commercial complex.

Did you see the headline in the last couple of days that claims the Pentagon can't account for 2.5 trillion of its spending? My mind boggles. This kind of thing has been going on for many years and it doesn't seem to matter what party is in office. The pork, the waste, the stupidity, and the unwillingness to get at the bottom of the problem and actually solve it continues. Neither Al Gore or George Bush were going to change this. And even if they'd wanted to, the opposition would be saying, "It's pork in their districts, but it's necessary government services in ours." They would continue to tack on myriad amendments to important bills that would have absolutely nothing to do with the main issue at hand, thus obscuring, even from themselves at times, everything they're really voting for - plausable deniability through obscurity. They would continue to grandstand over the favorite public controversies to their constituents while quietly agreeing with their collegues that neither side wants a real fight over it.

Yes, our Founding Fathers certainly intended for there to be a good amount of inertia in our government, but not as a way of life.

The two party system does have a nice system of feedback in it: as a party becomes more popular, it's platform becomes more extreme in an attempt to capitalize on that popularity, and as one becomes less popular it becomes more inclusive to try and correct the problem, so the government maintains a roughly 50-50 split around the median of public thought. The problem with this feedback is that it can only work on one axis of political thought, so when you have multiple axes combined this doesn't work.

True, and even more significantly, the two parties can sweep divisive controversies under the rug while arguing publicly over easier issues. They can choose to trample on the rights of an unpopular few while entertaining the many with circuses such as Monicagate. They can act repsonsive to minor issues that a few people are vocal about while major issues are ignored. And anthough I don't think this is a conspiracy as much as it is sheer carelessness of thought, they can divide up the political issues between themselves in such a way that a person who believes that "government should not interfere with business and personal life" or "corporations and government have too much power", is left bewildered as to which candidate or party would best represent his view.

And that's what our party system represents - carelessness of thought and conviction, valuing the process more than the results, possibly valuing the process to the point where they would keep it even if it meant having no results at all.

Adding a 3rd or 4th party to this mess would not immediately help the government in the decision making process, in fact, it might hinder it further. But what it would do is force the two main parties to see that they are becoming too distant from the people, that many are sick and tired of the way our government's being run, and they are failing to stand for a consistent agenda.

I will continue to vote for 3rd parties.
On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
[ Parent ]
New voting systems give 3rd parties an impact (4.75 / 4) (#38)
by Adam Tarr on Mon Feb 04, 2002 at 12:51:38 AM EST

...when you count all the people who don't vote, all of our presidents and a good many other office holders have been voted in by a plurarity.

When the previous poster said "plurality" he was not referring to plurality as the largest group, even if it is less than a majority. He was referring to plurality as the name of the U.S. voting system, also known as "first past the post." This voting system, where everyone gets one vote and the candidate with the most votes wins, perpetuates a two-party system by its very nature. A change in voting systems (to Approval voting or, even better, to Condorcet voting) will solve this problem and give third parties a chance to gain poularity and win seats.

...the major problem with the two parties and their canditates - it's not necessarily the positions they take on the issues , it's that they are effectively selling access to themselves to lobbyists by taking campaign contributions, many of which are from corporate sources. If one believes that a representative should actually represent the people who voted for him rather than the people who gave him campaign contributions, then one has little choice but to vote for 3rd party candidates...

When there are two parties that perpetually hold the power, and little chance for either to get dislodged, an interest group can more reliably contribute to (bribe, if you like) the winning candidate. Giving access to third parties will help break this up. Unfortunately, this won't happen with plurality voting. I refer you to The Election Methods Web Site for the full story on how better voting methods will break the two-party duopoly and give the people the elected officials they want and deserve.

Only if you believe the stakes of the "game" (certain homogenized, centerist views on a few issues) are more important than the issue of whether the game should be changed so other issues are at stake.

The "stakes of the game" are not the issues, but rather the candidates themselves. In a plurality system, when you cast your vote for a candidate who has no chance to win, you essentially take yourself out of the real race, between the two main candidates. By not voting for the "lesser of two evils" that you prefer, you actually help elect the one you like even less!

If you have absolutely no preference between the Republican and Democratic candidates, then this has cost you nothing. But if you have any preference, even a small one, then the optimal move is to vote for the "lesser of two evils" that you prefer. But of course, this means not voting for your actual favorite candidate. This is the classic problem of plurality voting.

Better voting systems remove this problem. In Approval voting, you could vote for your third party favorite, and still cast a vote for your favorite "Republicrat." Condorcet voting allows an even more accurate expression of your preferences: you vote first choice, then sencond choice, and so on as far as you want.

Adding a 3rd or 4th party to this mess would not immediately help the government in the decision making process, in fact, it might hinder it further. But what it would do is force the two main parties to see that they are becoming too distant from the people...

It is highly doubtful that the third parties will have even that much impact. There is a good reason that so many third parties have risen up and then fallen down into irrelevancy during our nation's history. It is because the system is stacked against them.

Do you realize that, if a presidential candidate fails to get a majority of the electoral college, the vote goes to the House of Representatives? This has never happened since the President and Vice President began running on the same ticket 200 years ago. That gives you an idea of how insignificant third party candidates have been over the course of our nation's history.

I will continue to vote for 3rd parties.

This is certainly your prerogative. But it would serve you well if you joined the campaign for election reform, as this could make those third party votes result in the election of candidates which you like more, as oppose to merely being a relatively ineffectual protest. -Adam

[ Parent ]
Process optimization -> better laws, less pork? (none / 0) (#58)
by phossie on Tue Feb 05, 2002 at 06:44:03 PM EST

And even if they'd wanted to, the opposition would be saying, "It's pork in their districts, but it's necessary government services in ours." They would continue to tack on myriad amendments to important bills that would have absolutely nothing to do with the main issue at hand, thus obscuring, even from themselves at times, everything they're really voting for - plausable deniability through obscurity. They would continue to grandstand over the favorite public controversies to their constituents while quietly agreeing with their collegues that neither side wants a real fight over it.

While the election system in the US could certainly be improved, the issue of pork barrel legislation, or riders, is probably more important. It's how 90% of the bad - and 90% of the good, locally oriented - legislation is handled. (Made up numbers that seem reasonable.)

The obvious solution is to force explicit vote on each issue. How should this be done? There are far too many issues for Congress to handle each individually.

The solution must therefore involve overhauling the system, both in terms of the rules and in terms of the support structures for Congress. There are probably thousands of ways that our proxies could be fed more and better information, have that information filtered and correlated, and have the result combined with constituent data, both national and local.

It would also seem wise to find some way to scope the reach of each bit of legislation, so that only involved representatives (both House & Senate) would have voting power on that issue. This would take incredible amounts of research on an ongoing basis, and the results of that research would become extremely important, but it is certainly arguable that this is necessary, and should not be discarded before serious consideration. Senators from Montana should not be shooting down legislation that affects only people in the Southeast. There will need to be a thresholding function, but considering the entire data set - whew! - should give some indication of what that should be.

One immediate benefit of a system that could perform these functions, both manual and automated, would be that this information could be supplied to the constituency as well. If you had the time, and of course you wouldn't, you could go through all the issues that your Congresscritter (or anyone else's) dealt with, observe the data supplied, and observe the resulting action. This is open government.

There is far too much going on in Congress for it to deal with the problem effectively. The current system was not designed for the massive amount of information flow and power exchange that it handles. This should be corrected.

I think that if Congress can start considering its decisions in a rational, informed way, then the issues it considers will become more important than the mere function of showing up, checking the party line, making sure it won't offend constituents or contributors too much, and voting mindlessly... in order to stay in power long enough to (in the best case) get something meaningful accomplished once or twice.



[ Parent ]
What a mess it is ... (none / 0) (#59)
by pyramid termite on Tue Feb 05, 2002 at 08:43:24 PM EST

The obvious solution is to force explicit vote on each issue. How should this be done?

In Michigan, it's done because it's required to be by the State Constitution - a bill can have one purpose.

Senators from Montana should not be shooting down legislation that affects only people in the Southeast. There will need to be a thresholding function, but considering the entire data set - whew! - should give some indication of what that should be.

The problem with that is if public moneys are being used, then it does affect the people in Montana, too. Of course, Congress has pretty much decided to deal with this by giving each member a certain amount of "favors" that can be earned by toeing the party line or not fighting against it too hard - in other words, a certain amount of pork is allowed everyone and is automatically passed without question, as long as people "play ball". In an informal, back room sense, we've already got the system you're talking about - and it's very expensive.

There certainly does need to be some kind of threshold. One of the reasons for the incredible amount of legislation coming out of Washington is Congress is micromanaging things that would be better taken care of by state and local governments. We could simply cut out local expenditures from the federal government and let localities raise their own funds and determine their own needs, but some areas are too poor to do this effectively. On the other hand, just giving each district X amount of money to be spent and letting them decide how to spend it would invite corruption, (although the results might not be much different than our present system).

Basically, what we have here are a bunch of little decisions, any one of which don't mean much - but you add them all together and they become quite expensive and wasteful. It's expensive and wasteful for Congress to be even considering a lot of the things it does - even if it's a simple "are there any objections?" and adding it to the bill, it still costs time and money.

Again, I just think state and local governments need to be making more of these decisions.
On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
[ Parent ]
re: nader (5.00 / 1) (#18)
by Rainy on Sun Feb 03, 2002 at 02:30:49 PM EST

That's a very simplistic view. Give Nader supporters a bit more credit. It's not *only* about who wins the vote - it's also about sending a message to the democratic party. The message was that for 5% (or what was it..), Gore's position was unacceptable. Next time democratic candidate will know that if he wants those 5%, he'll have to make amends. Same thing goes for the other side.
--
Rainy "Collect all zero" Day
[ Parent ]
And how would he get that 5%? (4.00 / 2) (#24)
by roystgnr on Sun Feb 03, 2002 at 03:50:42 PM EST

By moving to the left, and losing 10% of his more conservative voters to Bush?

Perhaps I wasn't following Nader's campaign closely enough; was there some list of promises Gore could have made that would have caused Nader to drop out of the race and publically back him?

If not, then the only message a far-left third party vote sends to Democrats is that they need to tone down your most liberal policies to attract more moderate voters if they want to get elected at all. The Green vote says: "here is a section of the public whose vote you will never get without losing more of your current supporters, so you might as well ignore them altogether." That's the neat paradox that plurality voting gives: having two parties to split a liberal vote reflects a larger level of public support for some of those ideas, yet results in a smaller level of government representation. And this was enough to change an election result with a third party candidate who only got 4 percent of the vote. For political parties like the Greens who strongly prefer one of the two major parties more than the other, the more influential they become the more likely they are to hurt their own cause. Imagine a 30/30/40 Green/Democrat/Republican split; in such a scenario an overwhelming 60% of the public would most likely prefer to elect either of the Republican's opponents, yet the unsplit conservative votes would constitute a plurality with a wide margin of victory.

pyramid termite did make a good point: if you do not have a strong preference for the Democratic candidate over the Republican one or vice versa, you aren't losing a thing by casting a third party vote and you are doing good. However, I suspect most people are polarized enough by military spending, social spending, abortion, or some of the other issues the parties use to differentiate themselves that this isn't a common case.

[ Parent ]

It's even worst that that (3.25 / 4) (#44)
by Adam Tarr on Mon Feb 04, 2002 at 12:02:36 PM EST

As long as Nader is out there, Gore basically CAN'T get those 3% of the voters, at least the ones that are willing to throw their vote away. Moving 5% to the left and losing votes in the center won't change anything.

Think of it this way. Imagine there are 100 voters in the United States. Each one of them stands at a spot along a line representing the political spectrum, with 1 being most conservatice and 100 being most liberal. The candidates come and put their flags down on the line, and each voter votes for the closest flag. That's your political spectrum, in a nutshell. It's worth noting that the voters will concentrate themselves in the center of the distribution.

Now, say that Bush's flag is at position 35, Gore's is at position 63, and Nader's is at position 94. This means Bush gets voters up through 48, Gore gets voters from 49-78, and Nader SHOULD get voters from 79-100.

Now, I think it's safe to say that more than 2-3% of the electorate is above the "79" point on my arbitrary scale. The reason Nader only got that small fraction is that most of the should-vote-for-Nader crowd decided to vote for the "lesser of two evils" in Gore. This is the nature of the plurality system.

So my point is, Gore has ZERO realistic hope of getting those two or three percent by changing his stance. His only chance of getting them is to step up the "don't throw your vote away; help me defeat Bush!" campaign, which has nothing to do with the issues and everything to do with the electoral method. In order to actually claim those voters from Nader, Gore would have to move from his spot in the 60s on the political scale, all the way out to the 90s. This would result in a LANDSLIDE Republican victory, as Bush would capture probably over 70% of the vote against Nader and a Nader clone. Remember that the vast majority of the electorate (probably over 60%) is clustered in the middle 20 or 25% of the political spectrum. You move out to the 90s, and you lose ALL of them.

-Adam

[ Parent ]
Uhm (5.00 / 1) (#46)
by Rainy on Mon Feb 04, 2002 at 01:47:15 PM EST

You really read something in my post that wasn't there. I did not say that gaining those 5% would not cost Democrats anything. The thing is, I didn't explicitly say that because it seemed far too obvious to mention. My point is that IF Democrats want *part* of these 5% (it's unrealisitic to imagine they could get all of them), then he has to make amends. If there was no cost associated with that, they'd do it, they aren't retarded. They figured that they'd rather lose those 5% than lose 10? or 15%? if they adopted some points from green platform. But for them to make this sort of decision (i.e. how much should we lean left or right to have a good chance of winning), somebody has to vote in the previous elections. If today greens all vote for democrats, 4 years from now democrats will feel that there's no need to make concessions in that direction - cause they already got 'em votes! One of the main mistakes with this sort of reasoning I was replying to is that they see elections as separate unrelated events whereas in fact there is a *continuity* of feedback between population and political parties.
--
Rainy "Collect all zero" Day
[ Parent ]
Check out http://www.fairvote.org (4.50 / 2) (#8)
by shelikestobite on Sun Feb 03, 2002 at 01:53:20 AM EST

This is another organization promoting a true multi-party democracy in the US.

a doit a deus (none / 0) (#10)
by underscore on Sun Feb 03, 2002 at 07:04:49 AM EST

If memory serves me correctly it was Jefferson who penned the words (I went and looked it up :-)) "We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable..." Franklin would substitute the words: "self evident" for "sacred and undeniable". Franklin wrote from the tenents of rationalism, most especially from the Euclidean tradition. This fundamental difference in the wording of the American constitution speaks to the current condition of the American political scene in that it has failed to uphold the rational humanism of Franklin and has fallen back onto the imperialistic tenents of the colonial era and the British concept of being at the right hand of God. To this end America has failed to separate church from state and has fostered the sad, pork barrel, backroom politics of patriarchical despotism. America now wages a religious war and we are *forced* yet once again to witness the ride of the night mare hag that is history ever egging on the 4 horsemen.
a geek possessed of animal cunning
is a most fearsome adversary

Liberal Democracy is Beautiful (3.50 / 4) (#12)
by Jacques Chester on Sun Feb 03, 2002 at 07:52:14 AM EST

But it is not perfect.

Let us propose an individual called Alice, and another called Bob. Alice and Bob get along fairly well on a personal basis. Both pay $50 into a common account.

When Bob withdraws $60 from this account, he has gained an advantage over Alice, he is richer. If that $60 dollars is necessary to eat for a week, Alice will soon be hungry. At the next payment into the account, Alice will be keener to take out the $60 first.

Long story short. Economists will tell you that there are unlimited wants, and only limited means to meet them. Government aggregates means, creating stupendous means. On an individual level, government seems infinite in means. Thus it is in our individual interest - be we Alice or Bob - to maximise Government's payment to us. But in doing so, somebody somewhere pays for it, and tries therefore to make up the money somewhere else.

There is simply no way Government can be all things to all people.

Democracy hides that fact, however, by annually pooling resources and periodically diversifying control.

Ah, stuff it. Look, there's some great literature out there about voting systems, about democracy, about the necessary imperfection of Government. And when you are bored with it, P.J. O'Rourke's "Parliament of Whores" is good for a giggle.

--
In a world where an Idea can get you killed, Thinking is the most dangerous act of all.

Game Theoretic Basis (4.50 / 4) (#13)
by Baldrson on Sun Feb 03, 2002 at 10:50:47 AM EST

The only voting system that allows more than two parties to be politically viable is approval voting. That is a voting system where the voter is allowed to approve of as many candidates as they like and the candidate with the most approvals wins. All other voting systems are subject to what is known as "strategic voting" wherein one casts one's vote not on the basis of what one's own preferences are, but on the basis of how one perceives the majority to be voting. Unfortunately, it is a game theoretic result that strategic voting degenerates into a two party system.

-------- Empty the Cities --------


That's actually very interesting. (none / 0) (#15)
by Pseudoephedrine on Sun Feb 03, 2002 at 11:48:17 AM EST

I'm actually quite interested in this. What about parliamentary democracies? Most seem to have a proliferation of political parties. In fact, America is the only two party democracy I can think of (I'm sure there must be a few I'm missing somewhere).


"We who have passed through their hands feel suffocated when we think of that legion, which is stripped bare of human ideals" -Alexander Solzhenitsyn
[ Parent ]
"Two Party System" (5.00 / 3) (#26)
by Baldrson on Sun Feb 03, 2002 at 04:03:40 PM EST

Some systems are more "two party" than others -- but all systems of voting where there is a selection of one from N options will tend toward the formation of two dominant coalitions if "strategic voting" isn't excluded. The proportional representation system (which you mean by "parliamentary democracies") simply defers this to a later stage of politics.

The approval voting system isn't "fair" either, but it lessens the need for dominant political parties even more than proportional representation.

Years ago I set forth an idea for a sort of republican approval voting organization that is spoken of here and here. These days, having had my fill of politics I now see Spooner-esque reinsurance networks grounded in ethnocorporations (extended family businesses in which nepotism is declared in the by-laws) as the only evolutionarily stable global structure.

-------- Empty the Cities --------


[ Parent ]

Not exactly true (4.00 / 2) (#25)
by robla on Sun Feb 03, 2002 at 03:55:54 PM EST

Approval voting is one of the alternate means of voting that works, but it's not the only one. It's certainly one of the better ones, since it makes a pretty reasonable tradeoff between complexity and fairness. However, one would also need to consider proportional representation, Condorcet's method, Instant Runoff Voting, and Borda voting, among many many others.

A pretty comprehensive directory of voting methods is available here: Netscape Open Directory "Voting Systems" category.
----
Check out Electorama! a healthy dose of electoral reform talk and bright, shiny things.
[ Parent ]

This is a good system (none / 0) (#36)
by seeS on Sun Feb 03, 2002 at 11:52:22 PM EST

Approval Voting is a good system. Nothing is perfect of course but this system stops "leaks" forming with preferential systems or moot votes in strongly leaning electorates.

It also gives a truer picture of how a candidate is viewed. A good example in Australia is what called a "three cornered contest" where both parties from a coalition nominate a candidate. Usually they don't do this and have rough geographic boundaries. In the places where they both are, their vote often gets split, meaning the third party can win. The proportional system does help a bit here.

This system allows you to make statements like "A only", "anyone but A" and "either A or B". It doesn't let you say things like "A, but my second choice is B". Proportional does do this which is a very nice feature of it.

Still, I'd have the Australian voting system on a bad day than the United States one on a good day. It does throw some strange results every now and then but nothing like what happens in the US.
--
Where's a policeman when you need one to blame the World Wide Web?
[ Parent ]
A truer picture? (1.00 / 1) (#49)
by roystgnr on Mon Feb 04, 2002 at 04:40:37 PM EST

I would argue this point. It will seem like a truer picture, which will cause it to be misleading. I suspect that, under approval voting, people are likely to give votes to any candidate who espouses their political views, whether that candidate has the leadership qualities required in a President or not, as long as they don't think said candidate will win. In my own case, I suspect it would be quite common to find a Libertarian Party candidate whose approval rating I would want to be as high as (safely) possible to promote those ideas in the public eye, but who I would never want to actually hold office.

This requires people to carefully watch polls to make sure they aren't "accidentally" electing someone whom they don't really want, the same way Perot supporters had to watch polls in 1992 to make sure they weren't "throwing their vote away".

It's a little more complicated, but Condorcet voting seems like a nicer way of getting a true picture, by letting you compare any pair of candidates as if they had run in a one-on-one race. Approval voting doesn't let that happen; too much data is lost when you force voters to put all candidates into two groups, rather than just ranking the ones they know by preference.

[ Parent ]

A simple example (none / 0) (#54)
by Sanityman on Tue Feb 05, 2002 at 06:16:44 AM EST

This sounds trivial, but I think it illustrates the point nicely:

We didn't have a Christmas party at work this year. The reason was that two venues were proposed: a sit-down venue, and a stand-around drinking venue. The matter was put to a simple majority vote, and the stand-around venue won. However, this was unacceptable to the sit-down voters, who all pulled out, leaving the whole thing inquorate. The stand-up voters later said that they would have gone along with the sit-down venue, but by then it was too late. The question was not what the majority would prefer, but what was the most acceptable choice to the largest number of people.

However, it appears people don't think like this. Next year, they'll probably do the same thing, possibly with the same result...

Sanityman



Disclaimer: Whatever organisation you had in mind, I'm not representing it.
If you don't see the fnords, they can't eat you.
[ Parent ]
Yes (4.00 / 1) (#14)
by Pseudoephedrine on Sun Feb 03, 2002 at 11:37:19 AM EST

Parties and factionalism are an inherent flaw in a democracy. This is why we (the world) should not live in democracies, but republics. "A government of laws, not of men" and all that.

If you hold out power, people will reach for it, however they can. If that means banding together, subverting the democratic process and becoming a pack of corrupt pork-barrellers, well hey, c'est la vie.

It's even worse in parliamentary democracies, to be honest, because there the party that gets the most votes becomes the government and takes control of the bureaucracy. For example, up here in Canada. We have Mr.Jean Chretien and the liberals, who have been in power since 1993, have been openly corrupt and nepotistic, and run an 'ethics' office that delivers sealed confidential reports directly to the group it is designed to report on. Every month is a new scandal of some sort for the Federal liberals, to the point where most of us don't care any more. The PMO (the primer ministers' office - the Canadian version of the guys on West Wing) is now the most powerful bureaucracy in the land, able to give _direct_orders_ to police to pepper spray peaceful protestors and violate their right of assembly at an international meeting (back in 1998, before violent protesting experienced its second wind).

And of course, because the Liberals have the majority in the house of commons, and there is _strict_ party discipline, almost every vote is merely a case of glancing over to Jean, seeing him nod his head or not, and then moving on to the next one (to use a bit of hyperbole, obviously).

Parliamentary democracies by their nature blur the division of powers required for a republican government. The executive is also the head of the legal branch (our senate is appointed by the current PM for life) and controls the judiciary (he appoints supreme court judges). In effect, Jean Chretien is the world's least disliked dictator.

The American system of government is a bit better simply because the division of powers is a bit stricter (though the president still appoints the supreme court), but the political parties still wield a fair amount of power.

I don't think the answer is to ban political parties - ignoring a person's freedom of speech and freedom of assembly are dangerous precedents to set, especially in a political arena. I think the answer (as always ;) ) is to limit the power of the legislative branch, which is where parties can do the most damage, and increase the power of the judiciary, where parties have the least influence currently.


"We who have passed through their hands feel suffocated when we think of that legion, which is stripped bare of human ideals" -Alexander Solzhenitsyn
Democracy and centralism. (5.00 / 3) (#16)
by influensa on Sun Feb 03, 2002 at 11:55:35 AM EST

Democracy is something that I've been thinking about for a while. Most of the time, I tell people that I don't really believe in it, but that's only when I really don't feel like talking to them.

It's interesting to note however, that in Jean Jacques Rousseau's The Social Contract, three basic models of government are described. I'm paraphrasing here, because it was over a year ago that I read the book. Anyways, Rousseau argues that there's monarchism or despotism, where all of the power is concentrated to one person. Then there is aristocracy, in which society is governed by an elite class. This is the important part, because that members of that elite class can either inherit their status, or be elected to it. This elected aristocracy is exactly what we have now.

The third type of social organization that Rousseau describes is democracy, which he outlines as a community where all the members have a say in the going's on. However, Rousseau believed that although this was certainly the most fair, it would be inpractical anywhere but small towns.

I remember when I was reading The Social Contract that I couldn't help notice the irony that what we now know of as democracy, Rousseau would have described as aristocracy. Democracy as he described it, sounded more like libertarian municipalism (which is Murray Bookchin's clever name for anarchism). Of course, I read it over a year ago, and even then I'm simplifying things greatly. However, let me get to my point.

I think that the major problem with modern western "democracy", and just about any form of social organization, is that of centralization of power. Perhaps it's time to reconsider why only one man (or sometimes woman) at a time per nation, for 4 to 5 years, needs so much concentrated power. I'm referring of course to our Presidents and Prime Ministers. But deeper than that, why are so many of the important decisions in my life, decided by a very small minority of people who live so far away?

Should not the decisions affecting a community be made by the members of that very community? To me, that only seems fair. The problem of centralization is very universal in modern times. Oil prices are not set by a majority of voters in Middle Eastern countries. Decisions about the economy are left to an elite few. The operations of individual companies themselves are centralized into an heirarchy. What would be the point of unions if corporations were all run as cooperatives, and all the employees had a say in how things ran?

What I'd like to see, is greater decentralization. I'd like to see communities deciding whether hospital beds are going to close, not a distant capital or a faceless bureaucrat. I'd like to be a part of a community whose members speak to each other, work with each other and take care of each other. No need to pay taxes to some higher power. No servitude to foreign policy in the form of conscription and war. And don't think I'm not putting my money where my mouth is, I work at this goal everyday, and if you want to know how, email me.

Of course, I'm likely to get some typical responses to this, demanding how a nation can defend itself if there is no centralized power. Please don't think that I'm going to have all the answers to all the questions. Anybody who says they do are fooling you, especially if they're asking you to compromise you humanity with an unjust system, instead of a more organic community. There are decentralized models of resistance to foreign threats, just like many of the resistance movements (whether resisting outsiders or their own elites) have been grassroots, so too could our defence of our communities. But that's all hypothetical anyways.

Replace the system by helping to grow a grassroots community.

Though I'm not a fan of Rousseau's... (4.50 / 2) (#20)
by Pseudoephedrine on Sun Feb 03, 2002 at 02:44:48 PM EST

I agree with your general idea, albeit in a slightly altered form.

Let's not forget that the majority of _actual_ defense of citizens _is_ done on a city-by-city basis. Every city has a police force, and those police forces defend us against criminals, who are far more of a threat to us than foreign nations.

As to the military, the vast majority of the US Army could be done away with, replaced by the National Guard and a few special forces units. The only purpose of a large standing army is to fight a war against a foreign power. If we aren't intending to fight a war against a foreign power any time soon, why on earth are we paying billions, if not trillions, of dollars a year to fund it?

In terms of how a more 'organic' and citizen-oriented society could come about, I have five proposals.

1)Get rid of the Federal Legislative branch. All the federal laws that need to be made have been made. We already have a law against murder - are you now telling me that America needs laws against trafficking in cabbages (25,000 and counting) badly enough to pay that much money?

2)Make the judiciary powerful and independent of the rest of government. Judges should be elected to the supreme court by other judges, not appointed by the president. Judges of lower courts themselves should be elected by their constituents, as they already are in many counties and states.

3)Enforce the 9th and 10th amendments _strictly_. My opinion towards every federal program is 'If it's such a fine thing, why wouldn't people do it on their own?'. If people of a state or community don't want to do something, don't make them do it. The Federal government's job is to enforce the enforce the Constitution. Even if we don't get rid of the federal legislative branch, judges should be far more willing to side with the 9th and 10th than with some federal bureacrat's notion of what's good for _everyone_else_. Let the people of a state decide if they want social security, privatised social security, or neither.

4)Get rid of federal direct taxing and spending and other covert ways of interfering in individual state's business. This ties in with the above proposal as well. Rather than letting the Fed Gov tax people and then pay the States back, having been filtered through layers of government, let states deal with their own fiscal matters. Have some percentage, say, one-twentieth or less, of a state's total earnings in taxes, state-run business, and other revenue streams go to the Fed Gov, and let the rest of it stay where it was generated.

5)Allow the right to withdraw from the Union for individual citizens who own land. Or, failing that, allow any citizen's group of a certain size and with a certain amount of adjacent privately owned land to become a state. If someone no longer wants to be part of a nation-state, let them drop out without having to become a social outcast. If I own 800 acres of land, and I can find a few thousand like-minded people who also own lands, all of which border one another, why should we be denied state-hood and the right to self-determination? There's nothing in the Constitution which bars this (otherwise, a lot of the western states are in deep trouble ;) ) but I have never heard of a successful example of people being allowed to form a new state.

On a final note, I'm going to take issue with your notion of the similarity of democratic concentration of power, and the corporate hierarchy. The difference between them is quite simply, that the minority in a democracy is forced to abide by the majority's ruling, while in a corporation, one can simply quite and leave one's job if one wishes. One is not forced to abide by a corporation's internal mandates as one is forced to obey the laws of a democratic or republican state. If corporations were allowed to shoot their employees for disobeying the corporation then they would be no better and require no less restraint than the government, but they cannot.


"We who have passed through their hands feel suffocated when we think of that legion, which is stripped bare of human ideals" -Alexander Solzhenitsyn
[ Parent ]
Some more minor disagreements (4.00 / 2) (#28)
by influensa on Sun Feb 03, 2002 at 04:51:11 PM EST

I don't know if our beliefs are as close as you might have thought they were. In general, I'd probably advocate eliminating police forces all together, as well as the National Guard and the Federal Legislature (actually, I guess we're both working on the House of Commons). I'll reply to a couple of your main points.

Let's not forget that the majority of _actual_ defense of citizens _is_ done on a city-by-city basis. Every city has a police force, and those police forces defend us against criminals, who are far more of a threat to us than foreign nations.

I don't know how much protecting police actually do. Sure, the general illusion that most of us share is that police enforce a general order, and prevent and act as agents in the punishment of crime. But here's some things to consider about police and crime.

-if criminals thought they were going to get caught, they wouldn't commit the crime in the first place

-in our society, it is not a crime to have immense unused property while others have not even enough property to erect shelter from the cold. However, it is a crime for the poor to unite against the property owning elites and claim greater distribution of wealth. thanks to cops, that order is enforced.

3)Enforce the 9th and 10th amendments _strictly_. My opinion towards every federal program is 'If it's such a fine thing, why wouldn't people do it on their own?'. If people of a state or community don't want to do something, don't make them do it. The Federal government's job is to enforce the enforce the Constitution. Even if we don't get rid of the federal legislative branch, judges should be far more willing to side with the 9th and 10th than with some federal bureacrat's notion of what's good for _everyone_else_. Let the people of a state decide if they want social security, privatised social security, or neither.

I agree with this notion in general too, but would take it further. If the people of Northern Ontario say, don't want clear cutting in their bio-region, why should they have to lobby their provincial government in Toronto? State/Province level is better than federal, but I'm talking about even greater decentralization when I get all lofty and idealistic.

5)Allow the right to withdraw from the Union for individual citizens who own land. Or, failing that, allow any citizen's group of a certain size and with a certain amount of adjacent privately owned land to become a state. If someone no longer wants to be part of a nation-state, let them drop out without having to become a social outcast. If I own 800 acres of land, and I can find a few thousand like-minded people who also own lands, all of which border one another, why should we be denied state-hood and the right to self-determination? There's nothing in the Constitution which bars this (otherwise, a lot of the western states are in deep trouble ;) ) but I have never heard of a successful example of people being allowed to form a new state.

The State would never let anyone secede on them. That idea would be way to dangerous if it got our, and the elites that run the State would lose all their power. Forget about what it says in the damn constitution, or any other law for that matter. Even if you have the inalienable legal right to secede, the State will violate that law and probably kill or jail you.

But why even bother with their silly semantics. You are a community in itself, regardless of your status in the international community if you can successfully eliminate your dependance on the government and corporate power. In a sense, if you can develop "autonomous communities", then you'd be achieving the same goal, without even needing to recognize the power of the state. Won't be easy, and the state won't start ignoring you right away either. But hopefully you won't have to defend yourself, because all the other autonomous communities would simply overwhelm the police's ability to oppress. VIVA LA REVOLUTION! WHEW! OK, I'm all right now...

Oh yeah, and what you said about being able to leave a corporation behind is basically true. But remember that our entire society is dominated by corporations. It's a corporate world. Most of the goods and services that we all depend upon come from top-down, heirarchial corporations. Even if you don't work for one, in our current lifestyles we're all dependant on corporations to some degree.

Jeremy McNaughton

Autonomous Resistance Movement: We are everywhere!

[ Parent ]

Classical anarchism and anarcho-capitalism (4.00 / 1) (#32)
by Pseudoephedrine on Sun Feb 03, 2002 at 07:41:53 PM EST

I don't know how much protecting police actually do. Sure, the general illusion that most of us share is that police enforce a general order, and prevent and act as agents in the punishment of crime.

I agree that in _our_current_society_, police are pretty bad. On the other hand, I think that all societies need some ability to protect themselves and punish criminals (or rather, people who harm others through coercion) - it need not take the form of police, necessarily. Arming the citizenry or hiring professional security guards could easily cover for it. Rather, I was using it as part of the argument that a large army isn't needed to protect ourselves because the fact of the matter is that the vast majority of us are never threatened by a foreign power, while criminals _are_ a problem.

-in our society, it is not a crime to have immense unused property while others have not even enough property to erect shelter from the cold. However, it is a crime for the poor to unite against the property owning elites and claim greater distribution of wealth. thanks to cops, that order is enforced.

I'm afraid I have to disagree here. 'claim greater distribution of wealth' is usually a euphemism for 'shoot other people and take their stuff'. It doesn't matter who you're shooting - either the act is inherently bad or you can't blame the cops because they happen to shoot a different group than the one you like. Personally, I fall in the first camp - any act of violence that is not retaliatory is unethical.

If an individual can get a lot of property while another fails, the second individual _does_not_ have the right to steal from the first. Besides, without the Fed Gov stealing money in the first place, most people's material standard of living would increase. Hell, if you're a fellow Canuck, we'd have twice the income we actually do if we weren't paying it to the government.

Beyond that, I genuinely don't think that taking from others is the answer to any problem of poverty. 'Those who seek to equalise only ever level' in the words of Edmund Burke. If the homeless aren't being adequately supported and it bothers you (as it does many people), I don't think the answer is to beat up other people (even when those other people are called 'capitalists') but rather to solve the problem _on_ a local level. Go out and organise the homeless into a (relatively) self-sufficient collective, or incorporate them into your own. My problem with classical anarchism has always been the 'we need to shoot the rich' school of thought, not the 'organise the poor and oppressed into collectives or organisations to improve their quality of life through mutual sharing'.

f the people of Northern Ontario say, don't want clear cutting in their bio-region, why should they have to lobby their provincial government in Toronto? State/Province level is better than federal, but I'm talking about even greater decentralization when I get all lofty and idealistic.

Well, that's my 'right to secession' there. If you don't like what your government is doing, we ought to have the right to go out and form a new one that governs _our_ land and does what we want. The State would never let anyone secede on them. That idea would be way to dangerous if it got our, and the elites that run the State would lose all their power. Forget about what it says in the damn constitution, or any other law for that matter. Even if you have the inalienable legal right to secede, the State will violate that law and probably kill or jail you.

I agree, it's called the American Civil War (which was really about states' rights, not slavery). Nonetheless, I'd like it to be the case.

You and I may not agree, in fact, I'm pretty sure that we don't, since you strike me as a classical anarchist while I'm an anarcho-capitalist/libertarian. Nonetheless, I'd ideally like a world where all the people who want to organise into collectives, unions, whatever, can go out and do so, while those of us who want unrestricted capitalist trade with one another can do so - and neither one of us, nor the state, intereferes with the other. Capitalism does _not_ by its nature need to crush opposition to its point of view - that's government and the state. Freedom only demands that we do something when we are attacked, such as by communist or classical anarchists. Otherwise, there is no good reason for it to bother anyone who doesn't want to trade. Classical and Capitalist anarchists _can_ live together in peace.


"We who have passed through their hands feel suffocated when we think of that legion, which is stripped bare of human ideals" -Alexander Solzhenitsyn
[ Parent ]

Gotta love gross oversimplifications (5.00 / 1) (#47)
by Mr Fred Smoothie on Mon Feb 04, 2002 at 02:45:36 PM EST

If an individual can get a lot of property while another fails, the second individual _does_not_ have the right to steal from the first.
So, if you and I are both local grocers, and you have slightly more capital than I, and decide to temporarily harm your family (by selling all of your goods at a loss) by lowering your prices to the point where I can't afford to operate a business at all -- thereby harming my family in the longer term, I don't have the right to steal from you to keep my family alive?

While from a legal standpoint, and the standpoint of the theoretical model you're espousing you're right, at a visceral human level you're wrong. At the visceral human level, you *ruined* me and I have the right to take the resources I perceive to be mine back from you, killing you in the process if neccessary. The reason this has an intuitive appeal (well, weather or not it's appealing, it has a kind of "visceral logic") is that it's the way we're wired. We are biologically compelled to seek sustenance for ourselves and our families and likewise biologically compelled to use violence against anyone that we percieve to be threatening our ability to do this.

Honestly, the reason so many theoretical social concepts fail miserably is they really seem to fail to take into account our basic nature.

Although I'm not a huge fan of the exact incarnation of the US system, the general mix of market capitalism and representative democracy with a dash of socialism seems like the only really practical combination which reinforces the best of our inclinations while more or less effectively mitigating against our worst.

[ Parent ]

Visceral versus rational (5.00 / 1) (#48)
by Pseudoephedrine on Mon Feb 04, 2002 at 03:37:41 PM EST

At the visceral human level
and
they really seem to fail to take into account our basic nature.

And you fail to take into account our rational and humane nature. Most people that I have met genuinely do not want to kill one another, even when they feel that they have been wronged. And let's not forget that your argument goes both ways. If people are biologically programmed to look out for themselves and their families in your view, why do you support something which goes against their biological nature, assigning it as you do such a paramount role?

I don't have the right to steal from you to keep my family alive?

No, you don't. Nor would I have it were the situations reversed. I'm not taking away your _right_ to keep your family alive. You're still able to do that - just not in the manner you're currently doing so. I'm removing your ability to compete in one area to help myself.

I don't know about you, but I like to think that I am more than simple biological wiring - I am a rational human being capable of acting with free will in a sensible and humane way. And I like to think that most people I have met are very similar in that respect. We don't need to shoot one another over limited resources or because we feel that we've been 'wronged' by another person.


"We who have passed through their hands feel suffocated when we think of that legion, which is stripped bare of human ideals" -Alexander Solzhenitsyn
[ Parent ]

Visceral vs Rational - human cond. in a nutshell (5.00 / 1) (#56)
by Mr Fred Smoothie on Tue Feb 05, 2002 at 10:39:12 AM EST

I don't know about you, but I like to think that I am more than simple biological wiring - I am a rational human being capable of acting with free will in a sensible and humane way.
You are a rational and humane human being, but that is because of your biological wiring. You're wired for reason. However, you're also wired for violence and irrational, emotional reaction to your environment. However unfortunate you may feel this dichotomy is, it is real and insurmountable. It's our basic nature.
And I like to think that most people I have met are very similar in that respect. We don't need to shoot one another over limited resources or because we feel that we've been 'wronged' by another person.
And it's quite likely that most of the people you have met are like you. Well educated, living in a Western-style democracy with enough resources for (almost) everyone but not necesarily equal access to them; in a better-than-average chance to increase your position in society because of your education and accidents of the time and place of your birth. Am I wrong? But not everyone is like you -- at least in these respects -- even in your own country, I'm guessing.

As far as needing to shoot each other, you're right -- we don't need to. Why do you think it's so common that we still do so? Why do you suppose we have never had a period of human history without violent conflict somewhere in the world (and never will)?

I am not suggesting forgoing rationality. But as we're not purely rational creatures, we have to take that into account in the social systems that we construct. We have to tailor them to our strengths (rationality) as well as our weaknesses (tendency toward violence and irrationality in certain circumstances).

[ Parent ]

Cookie cutter crims? Hardly. (4.00 / 1) (#35)
by Jacques Chester on Sun Feb 03, 2002 at 10:20:04 PM EST

if criminals thought they were going to get caught, they wouldn't commit the crime in the first place
Alas, you have applied the deterrence test to yourself, rather than the subjects. You might be deterred by the possibility of punishment. But the criminal may not.

Firstly, crims in prison are typically stupid (less intelligent, in a statistically significant way, than the average joe bloggs). It's quite plausible they just didn't realise how they might get caught.

Secondly, a large percentage of crims are technically antisocial. That doesn't mean "lacking in social skills", it means "unable to conform to rules or social norms". When an antisocial person commits a crime, they might be aware of the consequences, they might not. They might expect to be caught, they might not. But importantly, they just don't give a damn either way. They cannot factor in expected consequences of their actions, and are unable to have sympathy with victims.

Such people are not not deterred by either harsher penalties or higher risk of capture.

Enjoy the rest of your debate.

--
In a world where an Idea can get you killed, Thinking is the most dangerous act of all.
[ Parent ]

Wow. What is it with techies and anarchy types? (3.00 / 1) (#50)
by NDPTAL85 on Mon Feb 04, 2002 at 07:00:27 PM EST

"As to the military, the vast majority of the US Army could be done away with, replaced by the National Guard and a few special forces units. The only purpose of a large standing army is to fight a war against a foreign power. If we aren't intending to fight a war against a foreign power any time soon, why on earth are we paying billions, if not trillions, of dollars a year to fund it?" Its called DETERRENCE and DEFENSE. Jesus. You think we can just do away with our military because we aren't currently under attack? And you think individual police forces are going to represent a credible defense force against foreign nations? This isn't Switzerland you know. What so many anarchists or libertarians lack is a mature view on global issues. One of the reasons why the US is so powerful is because so few dare mess with us, the rest of the reasons why we are so powerful are because of our economic might and technological capabilities. But in order to retain and protect those assets you MUST have a sizeable military. It really should be obvious by now. "5)Allow the right to withdraw from the Union for individual citizens who own land. Or, failing that, allow any citizen's group of a certain size and with a certain amount of adjacent privately owned land to become a state. If someone no longer wants to be part of a nation-state, let them drop out without having to become a social outcast. If I own 800 acres of land, and I can find a few thousand like-minded people who also own lands, all of which border one another, why should we be denied state-hood and the right to self-determination? There's nothing in the Constitution which bars this (otherwise, a lot of the western states are in deep trouble ;) ) but I have never heard of a successful example of people being allowed to form a new state." Ok, Anarchy = bad, mkay? You're basically talking about allowing the deconstruction of the United States as we know it. If you REALLY want anarchy this badly why don't you just move to a country that is currently suffering political upheaval or instability like the Congo or Rwanda or something. Those nations can cause you to lose your life very quickly without you having to try to change the way things are done here in the US (which isn't gonna happen) and would save you a lot of time and effort.

[ Parent ]
Empire and Oppression (5.00 / 1) (#52)
by Pseudoephedrine on Mon Feb 04, 2002 at 07:48:23 PM EST

Much as you accuse my viewpoint of being juvenile, I find that it is in fact the reverse.

"Unmeddling with the affairs of other nations, we presume not to prescribe or censure their course, happy could we be permitted to pursue our own in peace, and to employ all our means in improving the condition of our citizens." --Thomas Jefferson

The reason that foreign nations and groups wish ill upon America is because America intervenes in their affairs. The Muslim world hates America because we supported the Shah of Iran and Israel. The African nations hate America for propping up dictators during the cold war, as do the Latin Americans. This is not trying to justify things like September 11th, merely to explain them - jealousy and hatred does not come from nowhere, but from the American government's manipulations and military deployments.

It is none of America's business what foreign nations are doing, except insofar as they are planning ill towards it.

The USArmy is an outmoded and inefficient beast, incapable of fighting the kind of wars that are fought in the modern day. Did a single USArmy regular outside of the Rangers touch ground in Afghanistan in a direct combat role? Not that I've heard. For that matter, when was the last time America relied primarily upon regular forces? Vietnam? The Gulf War was all special forces, Air Force and Navy.

The American military machine is unjustifiable in a nation dedicated to freedom. A citizen militia of the National Guard variety is perfectly acceptable for the necessities of civil defense - this is why the National Guard is always called out in emergencies long before the military is.

The National Guard has planes, tanks, infantry, all the things the US Army does. However, it differs fundamentally from the USArmy in the fact that the citizens called forth to serve in the National Guard are defending their immediate homes in their state, rather than being transferred from place to place (oftentimes out of the country, to Saudi Arabia or Germany) haphazardly.

The only real purpose of posessing a large land army is if America intends to conquer another country. Since it does not, a large land army is useless for the kinds of wars America wants to fight. And, to return to my earlier point, if America is not out there trying to maintain an extensive empire, it doesn't need such a large military machine.

As to your other point, it seems to boil down to 'if you don't like it, leave'. This is ridiculous at best. Why didn't the Founding Fathers just 'leave' the thirteen colonies if they didn't like the British? In fact, why do we even have democracy at all? If you don't like what our faceless bureaucracy has ordered for today, just leave!

Government exists to serve the people. If the people are systematically not being served by the government, they should have the right to form a new one. This is in fact, the Declaration of Independence's main point. If modern american citizens are being systematically oppressed by the government, they should have the right to opt out of it and form a new one.


"We who have passed through their hands feel suffocated when we think of that legion, which is stripped bare of human ideals" -Alexander Solzhenitsyn
[ Parent ]
I'll take some of that anarchy! (4.00 / 2) (#30)
by Sl0w h4nD on Sun Feb 03, 2002 at 05:58:18 PM EST

What's interesting is that these political ideologies don't stand up very well. I mean, pseudoephedrine can agree with a few of Rousseau's principles while generally promoting an ideology that's completely different from Rousseau's.

The US Founding Fathers tried to mix & match their preferred aspects of European political philosophy. So the US supposedly combines aspects of both Rousseau and John Locke. Well, I never see Rousseau's democracy in the US, not even the PTA--the richest kids were always picked for awards or leadership roles.

influensa's examples don't hold up either. Oil prices aren't set by OPEC, they're set by the world oil market. That's why the US can never become self-sufficient in oil supplies. Opening up Alaska nature preserves would lower prices a little bit worldwide, but US consumers wouldn't benefit much in the long-run. The UK produces far more oil than its citizens need, but they pay prices just as high as anywhere else.

As for corporations & unions, what influensa proposes exists. United Airlines is largely owned by its employees, who are also mostly union members. Well, UAL is horribly in debt, and should probably declare bankruptcy. But the employees won't let this happen, since all of the stock they accepted in place of pay raises & other benefits would become worthless.

What I find odd at /. & K5 is that all of us technologists cannot picture any other political landscape than those already championed by a political faction. Of course, most of us are simply trained to work with the current languages & platforms, so this makes sense.

Still, I'd hope that the principles of algorithm design or even OOP would offer insight into the political process. Most analogies, though, are things like 'kids on a playground'--stupid fallacious state-of-nature crap. Then again, I think we may have a model-view-controller system, and that really doesn't seem to work.

[ Parent ]
I prefer "grassroots" and "autonomo (none / 0) (#31)
by influensa on Sun Feb 03, 2002 at 06:19:41 PM EST

Anarchy is such a dirty word. Too much of a fashion statement, just a bunch of assholes in black hoodies. Anarchy has become a commodity just like the "exploited picture" of Che.

Anyways, I'm very sorry Slow Hand, that my examples didn't hold up. I didn't realize that I had said that OPEC sets oil prices. I don't even recall claiming to know who does. All I did is say that it wasn't the citizens of the Middle East. I was trying to point out that generally people have no say in environmentally exploitive resource extraction.

Also, with regards to corporations and unions, and United Airlines being in debt, I think once again Slow Hand has missed the point entirely. I was talking about decentralization. Centralism plagues employee shareholder model corporations just as much as any other. The shareholders don't actually run the corporation on a day to day basis, the executive does. We're familiar with that in civic life. We don't run the country on a day to day basis, the executive does.

Algorithm design and OOP probably do offer insights into human social organization. Fractals, music and just about any other pattern probably does. I think what's important for everybody to remember when they're talking politics, is that a universal plan for society, no matter how well-constructed or philosophically sound it may be, probably won't fit for everybody. What might work better, would be if communities just played it by ear and developed local solutions to local problems.

All of the paragraphs in this post have begun with the letter "A". That was an accident.

Jeremy McNaughton

A.R.M.

[ Parent ]

My apologies for misconstruing your points. 8^[ (none / 0) (#33)
by Sl0w h4nD on Sun Feb 03, 2002 at 08:20:17 PM EST

I just thought your points weren't based on real life. And that's where the conundrum is for me.

Your theses actually explained the structure of the real-world problems I was talking about, but there is still no solution. For instance, you're absolutely right, United Airlines is plagued by centralization. The CEO acknowledged this. But the employees aren't willing to use the power they have to change this by allowing for bankruptcy.

I agree with your philosophical pursuit, but I hope it goes beyond "Think globally, act locally."

[ Parent ]
The Initiative (4.50 / 2) (#37)
by BloodmoonACK on Mon Feb 04, 2002 at 12:11:24 AM EST

I live in Oregon. We have something called the initiative. I know this is common in the states, but for those of you out of the country it works like this (forgive me if you know what it means already, I'm just covering all my bases ;): People are allowed to come up with a law that they would like to see enforced in the state. They then go out and get x number of signatures. I don't remember how many, I think it's something like 5,000? Not sure. Anyway, the initiative is then put on the ballot. Everyone in the state then votes on all these initiatives.

For one reason or another, Oregon has one of the highest numbers of initiatives on the ballot year after year. Every year a book is put out to describe the initiatives, as well as offering viewpoints (from whoever wants to give it) for the pro/cons of the initiative. Last year, we had to have two books to describe all the initiatives. I have talked to many people about this. It has lead to people becoming apathetic to the whole thing, because no one wants to take the time to learn ALL the initiatives. People then either don't vote or vote "no" on all of them because they're afraid of what might be on them (we've had some scary/weird ones). Some good measures have been shot down for this reason.

I'm afraid this is what would happen in a direct democracy. People have other things to do in their life. They can't spend all their time learning about laws and other policy measures that they have to vote on. The majority of the nation would either end up ignoring their voting responsabilities or voting with incomplete information. Would you really want an ignorant public voting on everything? I would love an informed public with a direct democracy. Unfortunately, this would *not* happen.

"It's like declaring a 'war on crime' and then claiming every (accused) thief is an 'enemy combatant'." - Hizonner
[ Parent ]

Where "money in politics" would actually (4.00 / 1) (#40)
by robla on Mon Feb 04, 2002 at 01:31:15 AM EST

I believe you are right, and that the problem is broader than you describe. People are asked to vote on things they might not care about (initiative proposals written by hacks, local administrators, judges, etc) and not asked to vote for things that they do care about (postmaster general, attorney general, etc.)

So, in order to allow people to steer things on issues that they care about, and that they have useful input on, we'd need to ask them about everything. However, that would lead to exactly the effect you speak of (overwhelmed voters who become apathetic because of too many choices).

What to do? I'd propose that we open things up as I describe (plus open up those elections with voting systems that give third parties a chance), and also get more money into politics by allowing politicians to take as much money as anyone would give them, as well as letting voters pay to have representatives sort things out for them (just as one might pay an accountant).

I realize this is a pretty radical idea, but I think that if politicians have any chance to compete with megacorporations for voters' attention, they need more money.

A long time ago, I wrote an essay which touches on this subject.
----
Check out Electorama! a healthy dose of electoral reform talk and bright, shiny things.
[ Parent ]

I literally was just thinking about this. (5.00 / 2) (#42)
by DavidTC on Mon Feb 04, 2002 at 10:09:40 AM EST

Except in regard to ballot access laws. The problem is that they keep hardcoding the number of signatures needed. What they need to do is hardcode the number of the measures on the ballot. Fifteen sounds likes a reasonable number, maybe higher if Oregon is used to more. Then you simply give the top fifteen access to the ballot.

And maybe do something like roll-over measures from the last election, where if you have 20 good and 40 stupid ones this election, but only 5 good and 60 stupid next election, you'd let the last elections ballots compete in this 'ballot' election, so you'd get the 5 good ones, that lots of people liked, yet didn't make it on the ballot last election, in the next one.

There are a bunch of ways to do this, and I'm sure there are some issues I haven't thought of, but really, why on earth are we hardcoding limits in? The point is to limit how much information we have to cope with, where we don't waste our time with pointless measures. The point isn't to disregard the pointless measures in and of themselves.

Those fifteen spots should be built into the ballot. If no one runs important measures there, then, yes, we'd 'waste' out time looking at some crackpot trying to make it illegal to not go to church on Sunday, who got three signatures, but ignoring such silliness is part of living in a democracy.

-David T. C.
Yes, my email address is real.
[ Parent ]

how politcial parties destroy the right to vote (4.33 / 3) (#21)
by turmeric on Sun Feb 03, 2002 at 03:02:26 PM EST

in Oklahoma for example, there are extremely restrictive 'ballot access laws'. They effectively make it impossible for any 'third party' to get on the ballot. In the last presidential election you only had 3 choices. There is no 'write in ballot' no nothing. I think the reform party managed to get on the ballot, but the green party did not despite the fact it had tens of thousands of signatures on petition to get on the ballot. Who put these restrictive 'ballot access laws' in place? You guessed it, the Democractic and Republican parties of Oklahoma. This sort of corruption reminds me much more of what we heard about the Soviet Empire, where there would be 'free elections' but only one party (the communist party) would show up on the ballot. The supposedly 'democratic' american system is becoming just as bad. For what do you say is the difference between this and the old Soviet system when the parties in power make it illegal for anyone else to even run in the election? What do you call it when we have two or three parties to choose from, and they only had one party? As far as I can tell, it means we have one more party than they did, which is not much of an improvement in light of the fact that "democracy and freedom" are drummed into our heads all through American school where we learn that it means that you can vote for whoever the hell you want to, only to grow up and realize 'you better only want to vote for one of these two parties or else you cant vote'.

pretty damn good idea of what is going on for... (none / 0) (#55)
by cryon on Tue Feb 05, 2002 at 09:27:08 AM EST

...an early 20s college grad. You are a lot further along than I was at your age. I was hoping that the Election 2000 fiasco, and the Immigration/WTC fiasco would awaken the populace, but it does not appear to have done so. However, this thread is heartening to me. At least some people realize that we cannot do anything, short of finding hundreds of people to elect on the national level to amend the constitution ( it needs a major overhaul; and on of the things it needs is the ability for citizenry to be able to amend the constition at the ballot box; we also need frequent recall/confidence elections of elected officials).
HTGS75OBEY21IRTYG54564ACCEPT64AUTHORITY41V KKJWQKHD23CONSUME78GJHGYTMNQYRTY74SLEEP38H TYTR32CONFORM12GNIYIPWG64VOTER4APATHY42JLQ TYFGB64MONEY3IS4YOUR7GOD62MGTSB21CONFORM34 SDF53MARRY6AND2REPRODUCE534TYWHJZKJ34OBEY6

[ Parent ]
Duverger's Law (4.66 / 3) (#23)
by robla on Sun Feb 03, 2002 at 03:24:53 PM EST

The two party system is a natural result of the plurality-based voting system used in most elections (including the choice of electors in most states). This was first formally hypothesized by French lawyer and sociologist Maurice Duverger in what has become known as "Duverger's Law", which states that simple plurality-based systems favor the formation of two parties. See the Wikipedia entry on Duverger's law for more information.

Others have stated what can be done (I'm personally biased toward Condorcet's method). I suggest those that are really interested in this topic join the Election Methods List, which discusses alternate methods.


----
Check out Electorama! a healthy dose of electoral reform talk and bright, shiny things.

No room in the middle (2.66 / 3) (#41)
by fajoli on Mon Feb 04, 2002 at 08:44:00 AM EST

I would offer that the two party system better represents the views of the american public than a multi-party system. At a minimum, in a two-pary system at least a majority of those voting (on a state level) have chosen the party that best suits them. Whenever one sees a third party does take root, the existing two parties shift their priorities to eliminate the power of the third party. The two parties effectively eat the cake of the third party. What is important in all this is that there remains a way for that third opinion to be heard. This gives the two dominant parties pause. They are often forced to reconsider their priorities to gain these additional votes. Or they can choose to ignore these voters. This often leads to a split party like George Bush, Sr. saw in '92. Basically, the existing system forces the two parties to adapt or die. As long as the two parties are able to adapt to the views of the voting public, they will continue to represent that voting public. Some may feel disenfranchised by this process, but in my opinion they are rightly disenfranchised for not making enough of a case to interest the voting public. One shouldn't be able to win elections because they are "right", but only by proving to others that they are "right". The existing process quickly separates the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. Creating laws that make it easier for the chaff to get into elected office will not necessarily improve the country.

Some ideas to improve democracy (5.00 / 2) (#43)
by hjw on Mon Feb 04, 2002 at 10:20:56 AM EST


Firstly, I think a public forum detailing all elected representatives campaign pledges. Details of what the representatives actually voted could be correlated and the public could see who stands by their promises.

If your government uses closed balloting, then it might still be possible to correlate vote counts with party level promises to see who is talking the talk.

Secondly, it should be possible for the public to trigger debate on any issue. The level of request for the debate could be worked out by individual democracies, but it's not too much to ask that elected representatives spend some time each week debating issues that the public puts before it. The government could deal with active requests for debates, but could also canvas to institutions such as schools, universities, the military etc for topics.

I think it's importat in this form of discussion to outlaw party whips, make the votes open and publish the results openly.

For example, in the US today the public should have the right to trigger debate in government concerning the Enron scandals.

Similiarly in the UK concerning the House of Lords, and in other European countries concerning EU enlargement.








One Missed Point (5.00 / 1) (#51)
by notcarlos on Mon Feb 04, 2002 at 07:09:58 PM EST

Folks, the United States is /not/ a democracy, neither Jeffersonian nor Greek. The United States is a Republic: It features a representative legislative body over a direct one. In short, you give up the ability to govern yourself to someone else for some reason, ostensibly because either a) they're better at it or b) you don't want to. Having given up this right, don't be surprised if the people to whom you have given power then turn around and enact legislation to entrench themselves in those positions.


He will destroy you like an academic ninja.
-- Rating on Rate My Professors.com
Multi party democracy in action (4.00 / 1) (#60)
by LucidDreamer on Wed Feb 06, 2002 at 09:55:56 AM EST

In India, there exists a genuine multi party system. Although there are 2 huge parties, there are a number of reasonably big parties as well. Ideologies sharply differ b/w them, and they often represent compeletely different interests. However, this system has caused considerable difficulty as a hung parliament has become a regular feature. [it is a parliamentary democracy - UK style] In fact, there is some talk of changing this scenario into a biparty system in the interest of govt stability

Are Political Parties Inherently Undemocratic? | 60 comments (59 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
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