[EM] Idiots and tyrants?

Tom Round T.Round at mailbox.gu.edu.au
Wed Jul 28 15:53:17 PDT 1999

Despite my disagreement with Julian Wiseman over the substantive issue
here, I don't think it will help achieve constructive dialogue if we start
using loaded terms like "idiots" or "tyrants" for people we disagree with.

One important reason I support PR is precisely because I believe that every
political party or organised group that is sizeable enough (size being a
function of the number of seats available, both in the legislature as a
whole and also in electoral districts that are not unmanageably large,
either on the map or on the ballot-paper) is entitled to be heard directly
in society's forums. Even if I dislike their policies or their views.

If they do cross the line into burning crosses or migrant hostels, this is
better dealt with via the criminal law than the electoral law. Relying on
distorting electoral rules to keep out "extremists" does little good if
those extremists have high support either nationally (the Nazis claimed
they would have won every seat in Germany if plurality had been used in
1933) or regionally (the Ku Klux Klan managed to elect a number of
Governors, Senators and other representatives in the US South in the 1920s
... Should I add Rev Paisley?).

This tolerance should extend even to those "tyrants" [sic] who believe in
electing a single-party (or single-pre-formed-coalition) majority govt as a
matter of course. They are perfectly entitled to campaign for this at
election time (as, for example, Fianna Fail has done in Ireland for most of
this century). In fact, if they succeed in persuading sufficient voters of
the merits of single-party (etc) govt, a PR system will give them what they
want. Thus voters in Ireland, Tasmania, Germany, Austria and -- the example
par excellence -- Malta have never been prevented by their PR systems from
giving a single party an absolute majority of seats. 

Whereas under a non-PR system, if the voters did decide they simply did not
want a single party organisation controlling an absolute majority of MPs --
even if they considered well-reasoned arguments to the contrary, such as
Julian's, but decided to disagree -- the system would insist on giving them
a single-party govt anyway, unless the plurality party's vote share fell to
some absurdly low level (lower than 40%, as the UK experience has shown).
Thus PR systems are much fairer to politicians with pro-winner-take-all
views than are winner-take-all systems to candidates with pro-PR views.

PS(1): I have been working on a longer counter-reply to Julian's earlier
message in response to my response to his posting on PR squared. I will
send that in another few days, as I need to check some statistics first,
but have been busy at work this week.

PS(2): Does anyone know where I can see a copy of the article from the
Economist that Julian mentioned? Incidentally, my impression was that the
Economist has been pro-PR, or at least has favoured other parts of the
"Charter '88" agenda (written constitution, bill of rights, etc) so perhaps
I was reading in support for PR as well ...

At 10:24 AM 7/28/99 +0100, you wrote:
>Or neither, just someone who has observed SMP work well in practice in that
>part of the real world called the United Kingdom. Perhaps others are better
>(as I've written elsewhere, my preferred system is described at
>http://www.jdawiseman.com/papers/electsys.html), but SMP is neither idiotic
>nor tyrannical. 
>Minority representation is a mixed blessing. A system that penalises small
>parties does give Communists and Fascists an incentive to take their pick
>from the more mainstream parties. In a Europe that has just started the
>largest economic experiment since Bolshevism (consider the word carefully),
>I very much favour electoral systems that penalise the extremists. SMP does
>so clumsily (see URL), but compared to pure PR, is a great result for the
>blacks and Jews who don't want the anti-immigrant parties holding the
>balance of power. A system that elects a single-party government is much
>preferable, and that isn't classic PR or its obvious variants. 
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From:	DEMOREP1 at aol.com [SMTP:DEMOREP1 at aol.com]
>> Sent:	Wednesday, July 28, 1999 8:09 AM
>> To:	election-methods-list at eskimo.com
>> Subject:	Re:  RE: [EM] U.K. Voting Systems, 3rd edition
>> Any supporter of pure single member districts is a math idiot and/or a
>> tyrant.
>> Simple 3 district example--
>> District     Party A votes    Party B votes    Total
>> 1                 49                      51                    100
>> 2                 49                      51                    100
>> 3                100                      0                     100   
>> Totals       298                    102                    300
>> Party B has 2 of the 3 seats with a mighty 102/300 or 34 percent of the
>> votes.
>> In a larger legislative body, the plurality system (the infamous first
>> past 
>> the post system) results in around 25-30 percent indirect minority rule (a
>> plurality in a bare majority of the districts with only 2 parties per 
>> district and equal voters in each district) (which becomes less than such
>> 25 
>> percent in multi-party elections (as in the U.K. or Canada).
>> Democracy (for the enlightenment of the Monty Python type retards/ idiots
>> on 
>> this list) means indirect majority rule (or direct majority rule depending
>> on 
>> the election system).
>> Thus, the use of SMD is an exercise in tyranny (i.e in electing an
>> elective 
>> oligarchy) in every election.
>> The Democracy remedy- proportional representation (to get BOTH indirect 
>> majority rule and minority representation).

Tom Round
BA (Hons), LL.B (Qld)
Research Officer, Key Centre for Ethics, Law, Justice and Governance
(incorporating the National Institute for Law, Ethics and Public Affairs), 
Griffith University, Queensland [Australia] 4111
Ph:	07 3875 3817
Fax:	07 3875 6634
E-mail: 	T.Round at mailbox.gu.edu.au
Web:	http://www.gu.edu.au/school/ccj/

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