[EM] Re: PR not representing median voter, and a system using best of PR and single seat.

Clinton Mead cryptor at zipworld.com.au
Wed Jul 23 06:33:02 PDT 2003

>Message: 4
>Date: Wed, 23 Jul 2003 04:08:30 +0200 (CEST)
>From: =?iso-8859-1?q?Kevin=20Venzke?= <stepjak at yahoo.fr>
>To: election-methods at electorama.com
>Subject: [EM] lobbyists not legislators; PR and the median
>On a different subject, I'm wary of PR generally, because I'm not confident that
>the median voter is likely to be represented...  Do "median parties" really exist?  
>I want the electoral (and constitutional) method to guarantee that the median voter 
>has a veto.  (If it were possible, I would like to give a veto to every voter in
>a certain central chunk.)
>Kevin Venzke
>stepjak at yahoo.fr
The solution is quite simple. One house elected by single seat method 
(preferably Condorcet to represent middle ground) and one house elected 
by proportional represention. This is close to what we have in 
Australia, in the upper house, 12 seats per state, 6 re-elected each 
election using optional party list STV (electors can choose whether to 
tick the party box or number preferences themselves, about 99% tick the 
party list box). The lower house are single seat electorates with equal 
population, elected via IRV. Its not Condorcet, but its better than 
plurality (loses monotonicity, but gains clone-proofness, and removes 
the lesser of two evil problem in voters minds).

A condorcet single seat lower house guarentees representation for the 
middle ground. It would produce a strong and stable government around 
the centre of political thinking (to the exclusion of non-centre 
representation). Because of this, the lower house would be the driving 
force of policy. The upper house, proportionally represented, would act 
as a house of review. The government is unlikely to have a majority in 
the upper house (particularly if the centre doesn't do as well in 
proportional representation elections as you implied). Yes, extremists 
will be in the upper house, but in my opinion, extremists aren't a 
problem, as they only gain as many seats as the proportion of extreme 
people in your society. And if you've got a large proportion of extreme 
people in society, there's bigger issues to worry about. The upper house 
will provide a diversity of opinion, not only in the political sence, 
but also in the cultural sence, as parties a more likely to run a mixed 
range of candidates to attract maximum votes. It won't be stable, but it 
doesn't need to be, the lower house is the stable house. The worse that 
can happen if the upper house goes nuts is that nothing will happen, and 
similar if the government wants too much power, as the upper house will 
block. Both of these situations are not good, but nothing happening is a 
lot better than bad things happening.

The situation described above is similar to the situation in Australia, 
except because the lower house is elected via IRV instead of Condorcet, 
hence it is slightly off-centre (as its advantagous to be off centre in 
IRV, to avoid the early elimation due to being "squashed in the middle 
with not enough first preferences" effect).

One point I should make that I don't believe that has been brought into 
this debate is that PR methods do not elect independents. In my recent 
state election, with 100 lower house single seats elected using IRV, and 
20 upper house seats elected using STV, 7 independents won lower house 
seats, no independents won upper house seats. I think independents are 
great for the political process, as they are usually high community 
spirited people who care for the people they represent. Only big parties 
have the resources to malipulate public opinion on a mass scale. 
Independents generally only have to resources to do some door knocking 
in their area. However, if an independent connects with a large minority 
of 40,000 or so voters he represents in each electorate in my state, he 
can beat the major parties. This is next to impossible in a proportional 
representation election, even if the quota is similar to a majority in a 
single seat election, simply because independents have so much more 
competition, and my states results support that fact. Note that also, 
the government gained around 60% of the seats in the lower house, hence 
the necessity of a proportionally represented upper house as a check on 
government power. Note that minor parties gained no seats in the lower 
house, but enough seats to hold the balance of power in the upper house.

In summary, mixed systems, particularly with separate houses provide.

Geographical representation (lower house) AND ideological representation 
(upper house).
Potential for independents to gain seats (lower house).
Potential for minor parties to gain seats (upper house).
Protection from extremist forces (due to centralist lower house).
Protection from power hungry government (due to diverse non-government 
controled upper house)
A strong stable centralist government (lower house).
An effective house of review, due to diverse opinion (upper house).

I don't see what could be advantageous about single house systems over 
dual ones? Possibly the lack of potential for blocking government 
legistation, and if your the Chinese government, that may be a 
disadvantage. Modern democracies however have safeguards because they 
realise its better to get nothing done than potentially destroy the 
freedom and fabric of society. More seats aren't particularly nessecary, 
the upper house could get by with quite a few magnetudes less that the 
lower house. And even though its preferable, you don't really need 
another room, the upper and lower house could share as long as they 
agree not to make a mess. Despite all this, I see people arguing whether 
single seat or PR is better. Its a typical "lesser of two evils 
argument", because both options are bad, and not many seems to waste 
their plurality argument on the better "use a duel system with separate 
houses". But if people started, it might just get up.

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