[EM] Wilderness Wanderings
fredgohlke at verizon.net
Wed Sep 1 13:05:53 PDT 2010
Dave Ketchum wrote, "We know that Plurality has problems - and go to
great effort to find something better." So far, that 'great effort' has
been futile. I suggest it has been futile because it is examining the
wrong question. In my view, the question should be, "How can we make
our electoral processes more democratic?"
If democracy is government by the people, 'by the people' must mean 'by
the will of the people'. Plurality makes no attempt to seek the will of
the people. On the contrary, it merely lets the people 'vote' on issues
formulated by, and candidates chosen by, political elites. Whatever the
theory may be, the reality is that, in the United States, our government
is not 'by the people', it is by those who control the political
infrastructure. That is not democracy. It is, as was so accurately
described by Robert Michels almost 100 years ago, oligarchy.
As Daniel Ortiz points out in The Paradox of Mass Democracy, under
the present system, the more we expand the vote, the less any one
individual's vote matters. This paradox flows from the practice of
treating the people as an amorphous mass whose only political right is
to approve or disapprove choices made by the oligarchy that controls the
nation's political parties. We must replace that structure with an
electoral method the allows the people to participate in the electoral
process in a meaningful way.
The problems of plurality are not solved by taking more of the poison
that's killing us. Adding more parties and trying to assure them a
proportional share of the government does nothing to eliminate the
influence of money on our political system, the corrosive effect of
campaigning on the character of our politicians, or the reality that
political parties are always controlled by a very small minority of the
According to National Voter Turnout in Federal Elections, in 2004,
the most recent presidential election year for which all data is
available, 79% of the voting age population (VAP) was registered to vote
and 55.3% of the VAP actually turned out to vote.
Using the recent numbers provided by Pew Research Center Publications
to get a very rough estimate of what this means in terms of democracy in
the United States, 35% of registered voters in 2004 were Democrats, 33%
were Republicans and 32% were Independents.
Thus, in the 2004 election, 55.3% of the voting age public actually
voted, and the likely distribution of those voters was about 15.3% (79%
* 55.3% * 35%) registered Democrats and 14.4% (79% * 55.3% * 33%)
Since the Republicans 'won' the 2004 election, we can see that when the
winners took office, 100% of the people were ruled by the party of 14.4%
of the voters. Furthermore, since the actual political decisions of any
party are made by a small portion of the party members (Michels'
oligarchs), the result of partisan elections in the United States is
This situation is not improved by adding more parties, it is worsened.
That was best described by Stafford Beer in a work Kristofer
Munsterhjelm pointed out to me in December of 2008 (and for which I am
Whatever one may think Beer's proposal for computer usage in politics,
his description of the functioning of partisanship is clear and concise.
It shows that the only way to achieve a stable democratic government
is to ensure that all the people are able to participate in their
government in a meaningful way.
After about 200 years experience with partisan systems (in the U. S.),
we should have learned that parties gain and maintain power by the most
fundamental rule of domination - Divide and Conquer. There are viable
Marcus Pivato has described an excellent method of allowing public
participation in the drafting and enactment of legislation.
Michael Allen, a contributor to this list, is working on an extensive
project to improve democracy. He shares ideas with other minds in
Canada, the U. S. and Europe and is always receptive to thoughtful
contributions that advance the project. His work is worthy of careful study.
My own thoughts for a different approach have been described in this
list and are available on Participedia. Participedia is a site that
contains a wealth of ideas and projects devoted to public participation
The tool of adversary democracy --- voting for one party or another ---
perpetuates conflict, encourages mass manipulation and serves the vested
interests that control the parties. As we can see by the state of
national and international politics, and as the world economy confirms,
it is long past the time for obscure mathematical constructs that are
beyond public understanding and perpetuate the status quo. It is time
to investigate, analyze and test alternatives to partisan politics that
will yield government by the people.
End Notes (all internet links need the standard http prefix)
 Robert Michels, Political Parties,
 Daniel Ortiz, Rethinking The Vote, The Paradox of Mass Democracy
 Pyramidal Democracy, Marcus Pivato,
More information about the Election-Methods