[EM] Electing a proportional executive/cabinet

Raphael Ryan RaphFrk at netscape.net
Tue Mar 21 05:37:04 PST 2006

Gervase Lam <gervase.lam at group.force9.co.uk> wrote:

>> Date: Sat, 18 Mar 2006 10:52:34 -0500
>> From: raphfrk
>> Subject: [EM]  Electing a proportional executive/cabinet
>> so assuming the following:
>> - a cabinet is to be directly elected by a general vote of the 
>> population
>> - each seat on the cabinet is for a specific ministry with defined 
>> responsibilities
>> - all seats are not necessarily equal in power and this may change over 
>> time
>> My initial thought were that STV would be the best method.
>Of the three points, I think the third is the most difficult if not
>impossible to fulfil well.  How do you assign power to a ministerial
>post?  And it also changes over time as well!
>In reply to your post, Dan Bishop suggested budget as a way of assigning
>a power quota to each ministerial post.  However, there could be
>political dealings that go on in the background that somehow "fix" the
>budget figures in an extremely unnoticeable.   It may only be found out
>after the election.
>The only solution I can think of is to let the STV voting itself
>determine the power of the posts.  The first candidate elected gets the
>post he was voted in for.  By "definition", this would be the most
>important post filled.  The second candidate elected gets the post he
>was voted in for.  By "definition", this would be the second most
>important post filled.  And so on.

Another option would be to use the number of first choice votes for a ministry to decide the relative importance.  This can be gamed by voting for a candidate that has no chance.  This boost the quota for the ministry that you have as your first choice and indirectly reduces the quota for the ministry that you vote 2nd choice (which is your real first choice).

I think that my suggestion to use the number of votes for the 2nd highest candidate for the ministry prevents that problem.  Your vote stays with your first choice until the candidate is elected or until that candidate cannot be elected and is then transferred.  It could be combined with a cap of say Droop + 50% to prevent people excessively burning their vote.

Using Droop directly would mean that people would have to make sure to vote their top choices for the important ministry.  However, if this is only based on first choices, then election folds back to being like plurality.  Voters would need to have their first choice as a popular candidate.

>In any case, I don't know practically whether it is a good idea to
>assign power to posts or not.  One example is in the UK.  The 'finance'
>minister is essentially acting like the next Prime Minister elect.  

In fairness, that is not due to his ministeral position but because he is 2nd in charge of the party.  He is finance minister because of that, not second in charge because he is finance minister.

>Another example is the Education Minister in Northern Ireland.  If
>anything, this is not what his main role is nor is it the role that
>[most] people know him for.  He actually acts like the second in charge
>of one of the parties.

Well, he was only Education Minister for a short period of time.  People will remember him for what he normally does.  Over the long term, politicans in N. Ireland may start being remembered for what they do in their positions in the assembly, but first the assembly has to have been operated for a while.  However, I doubt many of the ministers in N. Ireland were appointed for ministeral skills anyway.

>What would be interesting is if you could do the following, which is
>doable with STV:
>1) Candidate A for finance minister
>2) Candidate B for finance minister
>3) Candidate B for defence minister
>4) Candidate C for defence minister
>5) candidate D for justice minister
>6) candidate D for finance minister

I was thinking that it would force people to stand for the ministry that they would be good at rather than "give me a ministry, I don't care which"

>This means you may have to set rules for how the finance minister can
>set the interest rate.  But then there many other things, not just
>interest rates.  What about taxation?  Could the finance minister could
>get around the existing rules by inventing another tax?  Since the tax
>is new, there would be no rules for it.

Tax collected would go into a pool.  There would need to be a mechanism to split it between all the cabinet members.  This should likely be determined by an independent body, like a PR elected legislature (each member gets to control his share of the money maybe, but only to decide which minster gets it, and perhaps which general project).

I am not sure what powers exactly would go to the finance minister.  Setting the entire tax code would give the ministry extreme power.

Perhaps, the tax code (what counts as income) would be set by the legislature, but the minister can set the percentages and bands.  Also, the finance minister would run the department that handles tax collection itself.

The finance minister could also be responsible for things like handling government borrowing.  For the government to spend more than it taxes would require finance minister permission.  However, I think that the finance minister should not decide where taxes go, that should be decided some other way.

This would allow people to vote for tax restraint and then also for one service over another.  Also, a finance minister's entire platform would be based on budget considerations.  If taxes go up and borrowing doubles, a finance minister who promised reductions would have a hard time getting re-elected.

Another thought occured to me.  I wonder if it would be a good idea to give ministers the equivalent to a presidental veto, but only over their area of remit.  For example, the finance minister could veto a bill changing the tax code.  It might be a little less clear for other ministers what their remit is though.

>All of this more or less summarises why power isn't really quantitative
>or least very difficult to do.  As mentioned above, I think the only way
>to "measure" the power of each cabinet post is to let the ballots do it.
>Even then, will the voters get it right?

Well, that is the theory that democracy is based on.  Voters may not always get it right, but they are less likely to get it extremely wrong.  I agree that the voters themselves must be let decide what cabinet position is more important.

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