Not a surprise, but interesting none the less.

In an ideal world, elections should be two things: free and fair. Every adult, with a few sensible exceptions, should be able to vote for a candidate of their choice, and each single vote should be worth the same.

Ensuring a free vote is a matter for the law. Making elections fair is more a matter for mathematicians. They have been studying voting systems for hundreds of years, looking for sources of bias that distort the value of individual votes, and ways to avoid them. Along the way, they have turned up many paradoxes and surprises. What they have not done is come up with the answer. With good reason: it probably doesn’t exist.

The many democratic electoral systems in use around the world attempt to strike a balance between mathematical fairness and political considerations such as accountability and the need for strong, stable government. Take first-past-the-post or “plurality” voting, which used for national elections in the US, Canada, India – and the UK, which goes to the polls next week. Its principle is simple: each electoral division elects one representative, the candidate who gained the most votes.

This system scores well on stability and accountability, but in terms of mathematical fairness it is a dud.

  1. bobbo, libertarianism fails when it becomes Dogma says:

    Arpie==its very dangerous to put unnoted sarcasm on a blog. Just too hard to tell that from most of what the LIEberTARDIANS post with chest pounding. I don’t think you could say anything too stupid that BBoy wouldn’t give an amen to.

    T-1: best thing you have ever posted: “There’s nothing like being in a position where you can make a difference and yet are bound by the very things you would like to change.” /// Depressing but true. Well Done.

  2. Benjamin says:

    bobbo said, “#27–bac==you make a common liberal error==thinking that the Fed/State gov money is somehow “theirs” or a “pool” and doesn’t come from the taxed people/wage slaves.”

    Wow, we agree here. Taxes come from our money. The money we have left over after paying taxes is not a gift from the government. The government making direct payments to people and businesses (ie income redistribution and corporate welfare) is a largess people vote for themselves.

    bobbo also said, “A better formulation of the largess of the BushCo Criminal Conspiracy for the Rich is: a tax cut with no reduction in services provided, or by the continued non-enforcement of criminal capitalist business activities, tax cut with decreased regulation.”

    I agree that there should have been a reduction of services provided. Also a reduction of pork would have been needed too. Bush was not a small government President unless you compare him only to Obama.

    As for deregulation, Clinton is the one who signed the repeal of Glass Steagal. (I read the wikipedia entry for Glass Steagal and agree it should not have been repealed.

  3. bobbo, libertarianism fails when it becomes Dogma says:

    BTW–can anyone state why Democracy is “unfair” and what the hey that has to do with “mathematics?” I don’t see the logic of the argument at all. I don’t even see the “real” idea behind the argument that would only need a word change to make it make sense.


    “Government determined by democractic voting majorities is not always what is best for the long term functioning of that government.” We can all agree with but thats not what the article says as best as I can determin. Or maybe that is what it is saying???

    The Greeks wrestled with this informing us that a Benevolent Dictator was the best form of government except that in too often turned into tyranny. Always a tussle.

  4. ECA says:

    I have to ask about democracy.
    In what nation are there only 2 parties?
    Only 1.

  5. bobbo, libertarianism fails when it becomes Dogma says:

    ECA–good question. If you want to ignore all the “no power” other parties the USA does have then I would answer that Russia and other totalitarian regimes mascarading behind a party system often float out a second party for the illusion of a choice from the one party/one man rule.

    What makes America “exceptional” is we have a two party system covering up the rule by the monied few. Corporatism if you will. Not quite a theftocracy but I think that will be in full view in a few more years. Such is our downward spiral with our totally corrupt congress at the reins.

  6. ray says:

    Maybe picking a president should be based on who scores the highest in various aptitude tests, then those who scored the highest, let people vote their president as usual.

  7. Benjamin says:

    #25 Who cleaned the bathrooms and Galt’s Gulch? I assumed they are cleaned by the person who collects the high admission fees to use said bathrooms. They are all pay toilets, you see.

    Now as per Anthem, you got assigned your job after schooling. Equality 7-2521 wanted to be a scientist, but the elders ruled “they” should be a street sweeper. “We assume that others are assigned to be bathroom cleaners.”

    #23 “My partial reading of most of her books showed her heroes were all criminals.”

    So you believe going on strike is criminal as well as saying the word “I”? Equality 7-2521 was criminal for saying the word “I” and wanting to be a scientist when he was assigned the job of street sweeper. Do you think it is wrong to better yourself instead of staying in a menial job? I suppose you think that Hank Reardon, Dagny Taggart, and Fransisco were criminals for going on strike.

  8. CH says:

    The solution is simple.

    Draft people into politics, just like the military, based on a defined criterion such as education level and IQ.

  9. Benjamin says:

    #38 CH, Who does the drafting? Most likely a panel of tyrants.

  10. bobbo, libertarianism fails when it becomes Dogma says:

    Benji–I was “mostly” thinking of the architect guy that blew up his designed building when the owner of it changed the “as built.”

    Do you know the plot/theme of Fountain Head enough to parse me wrong?

    Perhaps Atlas Shrugged is a better version of her “rational selfishness” but I used that book as a doorstop.

  11. bac says:

    #- Bobbo — I will try to clarify a point then it will be dropped.

    The quote that Benjamin stated in a post used the phrase ‘public treasury’. I took this to mean that the money the government took in through taxes is the public treasury. Public refering to the people of the country. No where did I assume that tax revenue was the government’s money. The public treasury is the people’s money that is then distributed by the government to various things.

  12. bobbo, libertarianism fails when it becomes Dogma says:

    bac–I think money held by the government in its treasury “IS” the governments money. It may also have other characteristics like being held in trust or whatever flowers you want to sprinkle around.

    I’ve reread the thread. Kinda hard to really pin point what larger point any of us is making? ((I hate it when that happens.))

    Largess? Government “giving” money or tax breaks? I agree. Lets drop it.

    So, why is Democracy always mathematically unfair?

  13. Benjamin says:

    #40, Never read the Fountainhead. I just read Anthem, Atlas Shrugged, and the Virtue of Selfishness.

    The behavior of Goldman Sachs was not selfishness; it was looting. She did not like the idea of looters.

  14. Sea Lawyer says:

    My preference for a voting system that would produce more generally acceptable election outcomes would be to use a Borda Count.

  15. Benjamin says:

    #45 What if we just voted for people who sat on a board to choose our leader by voting. We could call the board the Electoral College or something.

  16. bobbo, libertarianism fails when it becomes Dogma says:

    #45–SL==very clever. You reference the Borda Count developed by a French Mathematician. Tangential to my question, but still clever.

    Benjamin–I agree the activities of Goldman Sachs was criminal not selfish. But what are we to make of Ayn Rand adherents who are against reforming the system that allows selfish as well as criminal? Would any proposal you make address the criminal yet exempt the selfish?

    Why can’t you and other Objectivists broaden the context and see that such selfishness can hardly avoid criminality?

  17. Benjamin says:

    #47 bobbo said, “Why can’t you and other Objectivists broaden the context and see that such selfishness can hardly avoid criminality?”

    There are different kinds of selfishness. In the Bible, hoarding wealth (the parable of the rich farmer, and the parable of the rich man ) is called selfishness. Using wealth (parable of the talents) and charity is emphasized.

    In Objectivism selfishness is a virtue. It means to build wealth that is yours to control. It also means living for yourself and not living for another. Charity is done because you want the benefits (good feelings).

    Criminal selfishness is cheating people. That means voting yourself a high salary despite poor performance or purposefully buying and selling debt that you know is bad. Lying on financial statements is criminal and it cheats people.

    I think you are mainly focused on Rand’s mistaken believing that people are automatically ethical. You need to be fair dealing to be virtuously selfish.

    Dagny was angry with her brother for getting regulations enacted that put her competitor out of business because it was cheating and she didn’t have the capacity to take over her competitor’s business.

  18. bobbo, libertarianism fails when it becomes Dogma says:

    Benjamin–good fair review. Good that those distinctions are made by the Master–but words/teachings are always misconstrewed==or as nicked: too often turned into dogma. And when someon calls themselves “a follower of xyz” they are almost always following dogma, not the complexity of the original teachings.

    I don’t mean to speak in allusion to the teaching of Jesus and would have to think about that some more.

    ===time passes====His teachings were “simple” but somewhat difficult to implement being in conflict with one another and basic healthy human nature, but simple enough. The dogma I see with religion is actually very similar to any other kind of dogma. That happens when a sentence or two, an single idea is taken, as standing on its own when that sentence, that idea, is but a part of the whole. Hard to be dogmatic/start a religion if you speak at/act at booklength and not bumpersticker length.

    We emote in dogmatic terms, think in paragraph, live in books.

  19. Benjamin says:

    #49 Sounds like we agree somewhat. Even Jesus had to deal with people who were “following dogma, not the complexity of the original teachings.”

    Ayn Rand was admittedly a crazy woman, but I agree with some of her teachings. Obviously as a Christian, I find some of her beliefs (no pun intended) objectionable.

    #49 “Hard to be dogmatic/start a religion if you speak at/act at booklength and not bumpersticker length.”

    I agree, but that is why Christians have a book.

  20. cloewe says:

    I would be all for landowners and their spouses being the only ones with power to vote, especially in regards to property taxes. People who are unable to contribute to the tax rolls, vote yes to every increase and millage that comes down the pike.
    In the end, I just pass the cost increase to my tenants, who frown every time a tax comes up.

    I still don’t get the idea that people believe its the government’s money. As bobbo said; “I think money held by the government in its treasury “IS” the governments money.” The money belongs to its citizens, not the government.

  21. Benjamin says:

    #51, I pay property taxes indirectly through my landlord. I am intelligent enough to know my rent will go up in response to any tax increase. Your ideas on who should get to vote are old fashion. I also know that corporate taxes increase the costs of goods and services. The consumer, not the corporation pays those taxes.

  22. cloewe says:

    #52, idea may be old fashioned but that does not mean its wrong. I doubt most of my renters understand that every time a new millage or tax (no such thing as a renewal)comes up, their rent will increase. The ability to think on issues of taxation, would require a foundation in economics.This foundation is impossible since the government controls public education.
    To be honest the increase I do will exceed what the tax requires. I am not doing extra paperwork without compensation.

  23. Hmeyers says:

    #34 ECA for the win

    “I have to ask about democracy.
    In what nation are there only 2 parties?”

    If anti-trust laws applied to political parties, the Republican and Democratic parties would be forced to break up into multiple parties.

    This 2-party oligopoly isn’t doing the country much good when each party is funded by international corporations seeking to loot the nation and have laws written on their behalf.

    Plus it used to be it was uncommon for wealthy people to become president and now virtually all the candidates for the highest office are wealthy.

  24. Sea Lawyer says:

    #54, antitrust laws have also been made to not apply to labor unions, which are the epitome of collusion that not only actively seeks to restrict competition from non-union labor, but also use force and other forms of intimidation to enforce discipline within.

    The government selectively choses to impose itself on people’s lives? Say it ain’t so…


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