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Topic: "Proportional" reprentation (Read 294 times)

  • OakdaleFTL
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"Proportional" reprentation
Recently -in the Good News thread- a conversation ensued. (It happens, sometimes... :) )
Shall we here discuss the issues involved?

The idea of proportional representation requires, at least, a metaphor that is problematical: Is the mixture of urine and water best described as "urine diluted with water" or "water adulterated with urine"? :)
Psychologists have "examined" the disgust factor... (It's fascinating reading!) But no hard-and-fast conclusions have emerged.

Of course, this metaphor requires the belief that there are better and worse political philosophies... And better and worse government, based upon something... If you don't believe that, you might as well stop reading now; and refrain from commenting: Your tribe will either win or lose, and that's all you care about anyway!

It's that "something" mentioned above that I'd like to talk about.

Any takers? :)
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The election of smaller parties gives rise to the principal objection to PR systems, that they almost always result in coalition governments.

Supporters of PR see coalitions as an advantage, forcing compromise between parties to form a coalition at the centre of the political spectrum, and so leading to continuity and stability. Opponents counter that with many policies compromise is not possible (for example funding a new stealth bomber, or leaving the EU). Neither can many policies be easily positioned on the left-right spectrum (for example, the environment). So policies are horse-traded during coalition formation, with the consequence that voters have no way of knowing which policies will be pursued by the government they elect; voters have less influence on governments. Also, coalitions do not necessarily form at the centre, and small parties can have excessive influence, supplying a coalition with a majority only on condition that a policy or policies favoured by few voters is adopted. Most importantly, the ability of voters to vote a party in disfavour out of power is curtailed.

All these disadvantages, the PR opponents contend, are avoided by two-party plurality systems. Coalitions are rare; the two dominant parties necessarily compete at the centre for votes, so that governments are more reliably moderate; the strong opposition necessary for proper scrutiny of government is assured; and governments remain sensitive to public sentiment because they can be, and are, regularly voted out of power. However, the US experience shows that this is not necessarily so, and that a two-party system can result in a "drift to extremes", hollowing out the centre, or, at least, in one party drifting to an extreme.

Nevertheless, on average, compared to countries using plurality systems, governments elected with PR accord more closely with the median voter and the citizens are more content with democracy.
(source)
  • Last Edit: 2017-04-13, 04:40:52 by OakdaleFTL
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"Humor is emotional chaos remembered in tranquility." - James Thurber
No one listens to me as much as I do and even I have my limits...
"Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts!" - Richard Feynman

  • Frenzie
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Re: "Proportional" reprentation
Reply #1
The idea that Asian Americans would vote as Asian Americans as opposed to whatever their political ideas might be is patently ridiculous provided society doesn't treat them as Asian Americans, but to deny groups of people a voice is similar to denying them freedom of speech. For that I can simply quote John Stuart Mill:

But the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.

It is necessary to consider separately these two hypotheses, each of which has a distinct branch of the argument corresponding to it. We can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavouring to stifle is a false opinion; and if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil still.

Representation in the houses of representatives is effectively a formalized discussion of the sort Mill describes about the way in which we should govern a country.

Of course I should let this opinion go if the evidence were against it, but it's clear from your own sources that proportional representation categorically outperforms first past the post.

PS
It's a system for children.  :)
What's good for children and women tends to be rather good for adults and men as well.

  • ersi
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Re: "Proportional" reprentation
Reply #2
The idea of proportional representation requires, at least, a metaphor that is problematical: Is the mixture of urine and water best described as "urine diluted with water" or "water adulterated with urine"? :)

[...]

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The election of smaller parties gives rise to the principal objection to PR systems, that they almost always result in coalition governments.
Remember the other option: Two-party system. Is the choice between water and urine (you meant that Repubs are urine, right?) a true choice or would it also be nice to have an option of pineapple juice, rye bread, etc.?

Coalition of multiple parties may work or not work. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't. Proportional representation provides less political stability, but it reflects the country's population better, and that's a good thing. How good exactly it is depends on more factors, such as if the party is allowed to collect all the votes centrally, treat its gained seats as a single sum and distribute it between the party members at the discretion of the party leadership (this is a widespread phenomenon in multi-party countries) or are votes more attached to the person whom people actually voted for. It also depends on the size and nature of the threshold (in most cases it would be probably the best to have no threshold; let the size of the parliament be the only threshold).

My general impression is that politicians in multi-party countries are more capable and willing of genuine cooperation. Filibustering occurs only when party leaders have a long-standing personal enmity or when a party that is viewed as fundamentally suspicious (like "nationalist extremists" in many European countries right now) gains seats in the parliament.

Anyway, what's the use of discussing it with you, Oakdale? You never have your own opinion. You only have the party line. You make every such topic something to bash "liberals" with as if all things in the world were primarily and essentially related to U.S. internal politics.

  • Frenzie
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Re: "Proportional" reprentation
Reply #3
such as if the party is allowed to collect all the votes centrally, treat its gained seats as a single sum and distribute it between the party members at the discretion of the party leadership (this is a widespread phenomenon in multi-party countries)
If I recall correctly, the Netherlands, Israel and South Africa have the most proportional systems in the world.[1] For the record, I haven't voted for a "list puller" in the past several elections, but for a candidate of my choice.

My general impression is that politicians in multi-party countries are more capable and willing of genuine cooperation. Filibustering occurs only when party leaders have a long-standing personal enmity or when a party that is viewed as fundamentally suspicious (like "nationalist extremists" in many European countries right now) gains seats in the parliament.
For the past few years the PvdA had a ridiculous policy of systematically opposing every proposal by Wilders, even if they agreed with it. @OakdaleFTL's quote claims they cannot be voted out of power because reasons, but they've been decimated to a measly 9 seats, down from 38. One can hardly take serious an argument that they haven't been punished just because they managed to maintain a few seats in the house.
Belgium's a bit odd because of the Flemish/Walloon divide.

  • ersi
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Re: "Proportional" reprentation
Reply #4
For the record, I haven't voted for a "list puller" in the past several elections, but for a candidate of my choice.
I meant the next stage after "list pulling": The number of seats obtained by the party are treated as a single sum and the seats are filled by the central decision of the party leader(s) regardless of how many votes the individual members got. Not necessarily the most-voted party member may gain the seat, but best-liked by the party leader(s). This is a cause of general disgust with the political system in Estonia.

  • Frenzie
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Re: "Proportional" reprentation
Reply #5
I meant the next stage after "list pulling": The number of seats obtained by the party are treated as a single sum and the seats are filled by the central decision of the party leader(s) regardless of how many votes the individual members got.
That sounds pretty ridiculous. The Dutch parliament website has a list of candidates who were voted in by preferential votes: http://www.parlement.com/id/vh8lnhrouwzc/voorkeurstemmen (my own vote contributed to one candidate on that list).

  • ersi
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Re: "Proportional" reprentation
Reply #6
It *is* ridiculous. And reprehensible. That's why everybody hates it. We vote, but if we vote for a party member, the party gets the vote, not the member.

Then there is a constitutional opportunity to vote for "single candidates" (meaning: no party affiliation whatsoever). Such candidates exist occasionally, but they never have any real chance. None such ever gained a seat in the parliament. Anyway, somewhat alleviating to have this theoretical option too.

  • OakdaleFTL
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Re: "Proportional" reprentation
Reply #7
I appreciate and applaud your thoughtful posts, guys. (I'd not expected such...) Please do continue.
(Pay no attention to ersi's shot in the dark: I'm used to it. That's what he does -- like RJ always coming back to blaming the Joos for everything. He'll give you Venn Diagrams to explain why he's right!)
I'll step aside for a while... I'm interested to hear your opinions! (Yes, you too, ersi!)

I long ago bemoaned President Clinton jettisoning Lani Guinier's nomination for the number two post in the Justice Department for civil rights (...including voting rights). She was a respected academic who'd dared to write -in peer-reviewed law journals- about alternative (...other than our first-to-the-post) systems of voting.
Shame on the Republicans who found her unacceptable for such reasons. And shame on the Clinton administration for caving to such obviously silly criticism: She was qualified, and we should have had the conversation she broached and expanded then. It's still important...

While it's true, I don't agree with most of the ideas she wrote about (...I don't recall if she ever said what she herself thought the best system to be...), I think it unreasonable to reject an otherwise qualified candidate simply because they have a history of discussing "unpopular" ideas...

Let me put it differently: Clinton wimped out, as a politician. We're all agreed, Bill Clinton was the politician's politician?! :) (You'll all have plenty of time to make your Trump jokes... For now, relax and try to stay on topic. You might teach me something...
Lord knows, I've still a lot to learn!)
进行 ...
"Humor is emotional chaos remembered in tranquility." - James Thurber
No one listens to me as much as I do and even I have my limits...
"Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts!" - Richard Feynman

  • Belfrager
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Re: "Proportional" reprentation
Reply #8
Political parties don't represent the Nation. It's indifferent if the non representation it's proporcional or not.
A matter of attitude.

  • rjhowie
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Re: "Proportional" reprentation
Reply #9
Although I am so struck on proportional representation and does now occur here in regional parliaments but not national. There was a referendum on that and people stuck to the national first past the post. However there will be places in our world where it has been a failure.
"Quit you like men:be strong"

  • jax
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Re: "Proportional" reprentation
Reply #10
There is a technical, mathematical, idea of a fair election, that can go beyond the traditional political election. For instance there are computer programs in which decision are take by "voting". This is worth pursuing in part because it leaves behind the mindset of what would benefit my favourite faction, to one of understanding the mechanisms of elections and what constitutes a good system, and there is a lot of useful theoretical knowledge to come out of it.

It even has its own intellectually pleasing theorem to go with it, Arrow's impossibility theorem (after the recently dead and massively influential Kenneth Arrow), as described by Wikipedia:

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In social choice theoryArrow's impossibility theorem, the general possibility theorem or Arrow's paradox is an impossibility theorem stating that when voters have three or more distinct alternatives (options), no ranked order voting system can convert the ranked preferences of individuals into a community-wide (complete and transitive) ranking while also meeting a pre-specified set of criteria: unrestricted domainnon-dictatorshipPareto efficiency, and independence of irrelevant alternatives. The theorem is often cited in discussions of voting theory as it is further interpreted by the Gibbard-Satterthwaite theorem.

The theory aside, voting systems can be compared. They are different, they will have different outcome, and they can greatly impact the nature of democracy in a country or an organisation. In particular they are more or less likely to be fair, based on the election criteria (and independent of being right, i.e. having my candidate winning). The British system, which the US has inherited, underperforms. 

To all this we can add politics and pragmatism. People and politicians will prefer systems that will give themselves more power, and will resist changes that could affect that. And there is a lot more than the election system that can affect fairness, like money, incumbent political power, or name. Was the last Russian election free and fair? In many countries much of the electorate vote for individuals unknown to them, and might prefer a candidate whose name they know (e.g. a sports star) to a candidate they don't know, even though the latter might be closer to the voter's likely preference if he or she had been better informed. 

  • ersi
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Re: "Proportional" reprentation
Reply #11
The theory aside, voting systems can be compared. They are different, they will have different outcome, and they can greatly impact the nature of democracy in a country or an organisation. In particular they are more or less likely to be fair, based on the election criteria (and independent of being right, i.e. having my candidate winning). The British system, which the US has inherited, underperforms.
It's not too hard to show that the proportional system can be tweaked so that it becomes unfair. But has anyone shown that the first-past-the-post system can be made fair somehow, even theoretically?

  • Frenzie
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Re: "Proportional" reprentation
Reply #12
But has anyone shown that the first-past-the-post system can be made fair somehow, even theoretically?
I think that an ideal winner takes all is likely still worse than a mediocre proportional system:

https://youtube.com/watch?v=A-4dIImaodQ

(Edited to fix embedded video.)
  • Last Edit: 2017-04-13, 18:57:39 by Frenzie

  • Barulheira
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Losers
Reply #13
Talk about tyranny of the majority.
 :sst: They are losers.

  • Belfrager
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Re: "Proportional" reprentation
Reply #14
The "democracy" of the bourgeois.
Corrupt everything with no limits, what's important is that money flows.

A very very interesting thread to un-desclosure the "middle classes".
History will have no mercy on such rats.
A matter of attitude.

  • OakdaleFTL
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Re: "Proportional" reprentation
Reply #15
...and then there's the topic (probably taboo!) of whether "fairness" in voting systems leads to good government and good governance... Surely, there are studies! :)
进行 ...
"Humor is emotional chaos remembered in tranquility." - James Thurber
No one listens to me as much as I do and even I have my limits...
"Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts!" - Richard Feynman

  • Frenzie
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Re: "Proportional" reprentation
Reply #16
That's largely circular. If by good governance you mean matters such as better quality of life, increased feeling that you are actually represented by the democratic process, better care of the environment, more privacy, less government waste, lesser income inequality, punishments aimed at decreasing recidivism rather than being punitive, and less military brouhaha, then proportional representation is demonstrably better in the real world than all other alternatives we've tried so far.

However, if your definition of good government is focused more on efficiency of process than on the long-term outcome for the populace, for example, then a well-run despotic regime will always be more efficient. It could therefore even be superior on many of the aforementioned points in the short term (i.e., one despot's lifetime).

Edit: btw, http://aceproject.org/ace-en/topics/es/es10 contains a good summary of some electoral systems in use.

  • Belfrager
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Re: "Proportional" reprentation
Reply #17
How can people speak about "proportional representation" about "democratic processes" when oftenly, the biggest representation, abstention, is not even considered at all for determining results?

The day abstention wins an election, with all it's consequences, then there will be finally a democratic process. That day things will start to change.

A matter of attitude.

  • krake
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Re: "Proportional" reprentation
Reply #18
How can people speak about "proportional representation" about "democratic processes" when oftenly, the biggest representation, abstention, is not even considered at all for determining results?
I'd mention referendums (for the very rare cases they get allowed)  which are ignored when the outcome doesn't fit the agenda.

  • Frenzie
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Re: "Proportional" reprentation
Reply #19
How can people speak about "proportional representation" about "democratic processes" when oftenly, the biggest representation, abstention, is not even considered at all for determining results?
That's precisely the point. In a well-functioning democracy you simply don't see the kind of voter disenfranchisement you're talking about (which would seem to include Portugal about 80%). The United States consistently performs at the lower bounds of an actually functional democracy with about 50% voter turnout for the House of Representatives.

I'd mention referendums (for the very rare cases they get allowed)  which are ignored when the outcome doesn't fit the agenda.
Referendums are mostly stupid because your average citizen knows next to nothing about policy and politics. Direct democracy (that which @OakdaleFTL so aggravatingly likes to call democracy) is therefore not a very good idea. Politicians aren't experts on most subjects either, which is why there are all kinds of (semi-)governmental organizations in place to advise them on the right course of action.

tl;dr Representative democracy sucks, but it's the best we've got.

  • krake
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Re: "Proportional" reprentation
Reply #20
Politicians aren't experts on most subjects either, which is why there are all kinds of (semi-)governmental organizations in place to advise them on the right course of action.
It's worse.
There all kinds of (semi-)governmental private institutions with their own interests in place to advise on what they consider the best course of action for them.

---
BTW, what does "reprentation" mean?

  • Frenzie
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Re: "Proportional" reprentation
Reply #21
I think that's wildly unfair toward, say, the CBS.

BTW, what does "reprentation" mean?
They don't teach civics in Germany? :P

  • krake
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Re: "Proportional" reprentation
Reply #22


 :ko:

  • Frenzie
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Re: "Proportional" reprentation
Reply #23
Ah, I thought you wanted my opinion on the matter when spelled correctly. :P

  • Belfrager
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Re: "Proportional" reprentation
Reply #24
While Northern ignorants discuss their pseudo-language, the facts remains the same - The Europe of Citizens is so much ahead of the Europe of political parties.

The rest of the world is an anecdote.
A matter of attitude.