[EM] Re: Median Voter Theorem and the 50-50 Nation

Dr.Ernie Prabhakar drernie at radicalcentrism.org
Thu Aug 5 10:45:08 PDT 2004

Hi Rob,

Thanks for your comments.  Overall, I think our views are pretty 
parallel -- certainly we're working for the same thing.  I think I just 
disagree with your interpretation of the situation on a couple of 
relatively minor points:

> Yeah, I agree.  But maybe I would shade it a little differently: 
> plurality
> strongly causes parties to form, and (less strongly) tends to cause 
> two of
> those parties to dominate.

> Is that basically the same thing?

Actually, I'm saying the inverse.  My impression is that Duverger's Law 
and the like imply:
	*  plurality primarily causes two strong parties to emerge
	* secondarily, exacerbates tension between parties

As long as we have single-winner elections, and the need for majority 
coalitions to approve bills in the legislature, I think we'll have and 
need parties.

>> c) No matter what, parties will continue to exist, and current parties
>> will tend to be defined by their existing ideologies.  To create a new
>> centrist party (or fully takeover an existing one) requires a new
>> centrist ideology.
> Well, parties may continue to exist, but their #1 reason for existing 
> (giving
> candidates a strategic advantage by avoiding vote splitting) will 
> disappear if
> we had a better system. Other reasons for parties, such as 
> concentrating
> their efforts and money on a single candidate (etc) will still be 
> there, sure,
> but the parties won't have nearly the power.

Sure, I agree that one reason for their existence will diminish, but 
I'm not so convinced that's the primary reason we have parties. Does 
anyone know of examples or theorems which bear on that?

> They would also have no choice but to rally around a much more 
> centrist candidate (if they actually wanted their candidate elected), 
> which would in turn pull the party ideology toward
> the center.

Perhaps this is why we look at it differently.  You see election reform 
inevitably pushing parties towards the center.  My perspective is that 
party ideologues would fight to the death to prevent that, leading 
ultimately to split parties --- or, worse, realize it in advance and 
torpedo efforts at reform.  And my fear is that the 
ideologically-driven factions would be better organized and thus more 
effective than an amorphous centrist majority.

Sure, over time the tide of history favors rational solutions over 
denial, but sufficiently ideological denial can slow progress for 

>> Currently, most political dialogue (at least in the U.S.) is defined
>> relative to conservatism and liberalism.
> And why is that?  In the US, the terms have evolved in the last couple
> centuries to align closely with the two main parties, and have 
> practically
> become code words for "republican leaning" or "democrat leaning".
> Conservative vs. liberal will always be a meaningful concept (
> http://www.lasersol.com/progress/lib_con.html ), but it shouldn't be 
> thought
> of as the only two "sides" with regards to political issues and 
> candidates.

Actually, I think of that as a symptom more than a cause.   I guess I 
subscribe, at least in part, to the "culture war" hypothesis that 
political polarization is driven, at a deep emotional level, by 
conflicting world views about right and wrong.   I fully agree that 
this division is both exacerbated and enabled by plurality, but I think 
it also needs to be attacked at the roots.

> Well I definitely like the concept of radical centrism.  I just think 
> there is
> one and only path to it, and that is replacing plurality voting with 
> something
> better.

Fair enough. I'm a big believer in election reform, but I stop short of 
considering it either 100% necessary or 100% sufficient.  But, its 
close enough that I think it worthwhile, and admire those who put their 
whole effort behind it.

- Ernie P.

Ernest N. Prabhakar, Ph.D. <DrErnie at RadicalCentrism.org>
RadicalCentrism.org is a tiny little think tank near Sacramento, 
California, dedicated to developing and promoting the ideals of 
Reality, Character, Community and Humility as expressed in our Radical 
Centrist Manifesto: Ground Rules of Civil Society 

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