[EM] voting reform effort in DENVER - PLEASE HELP

Abd ul-Rahman Lomax abd at lomaxdesign.com
Sun Jun 11 07:56:24 PDT 2006

I've removed the Approval Voting address from the To: header since 
I'm banned there. Jan can forward this if he thinks it relevant to that list.

At 08:24 AM 6/11/2006, raphfrk at netscape.net wrote:
>Right.  However, the real problem is that it is hard to change the
>system as the current winners are exactly the people who do best under
>the current (no matter which) system.

This is the "persistence of inequities effect" that I've described so 
many times. If a structural characteristic gives excess power to some 
faction (incumbents in this case), that faction will resist change, 
and since the characteristic gives them excess power.... This is not 
necessarily a matter of greed for power. People who are in positions 
of excess authority often believe that this is quite proper and 
necessary for the benefit of society. They might even be right, under 
some circumstances.

It was proposed that any electoral change take place when incumbents 
resign or are otherwise no longer running. However, were I an 
incumbent, I wouldn't touch that with a ten-foot pole. Why? Well, 
come the next election, if I had supported this, it *would* be raised 
that I protected my own position at the expense of democracy. After 
all, if it is a good idea for the future, why not now? No, I would 
argue against the reform. Unless I believed in it, in which case I'd 
support it from the beginning.

There is a better way. Focus on situations for reform where there is 
a majority failure, where third parties are actually spoiling 
elections, or would if they ran candidates. Under these conditions, a 
coalition of the third parties with the losing major party could have 
a majority and could be able to push through reform. It would be in 
their collective interest.

This requires organizing outside the parties, that is, there must be 
some metastructure which could coordinate the efforts of the 
individual parties, which might otherwise not be on particularly good 
speaking terms....

CVD is a small group of people with some money. They made their 
strategic decision to support IRV, and they are utterly uninterested 
in democratic process when it comes to making strategic or tactical 
decisions. This is, in fact, typical of far too many democratic 
reform organizations. Democracy is good for public elections, they 
will say, but behind this is often simple self-interest. They don't 
like the present outcomes of public elections. If they really 
believed in democracy, they would apply it to their own process. But 
they *don't* believe in democracy, unless it produces the results 
they desire. They fear that democracy is a messy and inefficient 
process, and that it is unworkable, essentially. They only tolerate it.

I think differently. I believe that the central problem of democracy 
is that efficient democratic structures exist, both in practice and 
even more in theory, but there is no general knowledge about this. 
We, including social scientists in general, are blinded by the status 
quo. The more sophisticated among us know that direct democracy works 
quite well in small groups, but then we assume that because it is 
known to break down in large groups, for well-known reasons, there is 
no satisfactory method of extending the benefits of direct democracy 
to large constituencies, so we must compromise on electoral 
representative democracy in spite of its severe limitations and the 
fact that it was long considered not to be democracy at all. 
"Democracy is the worst form of government except for all the 
others." This famous quotation from Winston Churchill assumes that 
democracy is electoral democracy, it is what Churchill knew. One 
living in a small town, say, under 1000 people, with Town Meeting 
government, would never say this.

We will have serious election reform when we reform the process by 
which we attempt to gain it. We will have true democracy when we have 
true democracy in the voluntary organizations we create and 
participate in. It starts with us. Instead, we organize 
undemocratically and attempt to get others to reform.

Sometimes we are successful, but somehow the reform doesn't 
accomplish the desired goals. It is not surprising. We are trying to 
scrub a dirty blanket with a piece of coal.

There are solutions to the problem of scale in democracy, and we do 
not need to change the laws to implement them. If we implement them, 
legal reforms, if they are still needed, will be almost trivial.


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