[EM] (Kevin Venzke) and Richard Fobes.

Kristofer Munsterhjelm km_elmet at lavabit.com
Sun Feb 19 01:04:41 PST 2012

On 02/19/2012 06:04 AM, Richard Fobes wrote:
> David Wetzell, your reply reveals that we view the U.S. political system
> very differently.
> Here is a link to a "map" of the U.S. political system as I see it:
> http://www.votefair.org/pencil_metaphor.html
> "If the Republican party and the Democratic party are at opposite ends
> of a pencil, most of the voters are way above the pencil. Both parties
> are pulled down away from the voters by the money coming from the
> biggest campaign contributors."
> Please see the illustration on that page for details. (Of course it is
> simplified.)
> The main point is that the gap between the voters and the politicians is
> bigger than the smaller gap between the two main political parties.

I like third parties, so let me use a business metaphor. Say you have a 
monopoly. This monopoly has market-making power, so it can set prices as 
it wants and produce worse goods than it actually would.

If a monopoly has absolute power, i.e. no competition, it sets its 
prices so that MR = MC, to maximize its profit. Let's call that the 
equivalent of a party that's completely under non-democratic influence, 
such as the one party in a one-party state. That would correspond to, in 
your picture, the party being all the way at the bottom by "special 

If you now add another company to make a duopoly, then the old monopoly 
loses some of its market power. Its products will be priced a bit closer 
to the ideal (perfect competition) case of P = MC because each duopolist 
has to concede some power to the other. (For the sake of the argument, 
we assume collusion, if any, is less than required to turn the duopoly 
into a de-facto monopoly; also, we assume we're far from the area where 
monopolistic competition stops the push towards P=MC.)

Adding yet new businesses will push the price further towards the P = MC 
point (the "good" one) where the companies have to provide what the 
people want. In the political realm, adding new parties will push all 
parties closer to the top of your pencil graph.

To be more simple about it: in the economic realm, permitting 
competition means that the companies can't afford to not care about 
their customers any more. Why should this not also be the case of the 
political realm? If there were two parties, the special interests could 
buy them both off, but if there were ten, the special interests would 
have to buy all of *those* off, or one of the parties would say "if I 
move my platform away from what the people want, towards what you want, 
then the voters will leave me for one of the other nine".

The analogy isn't perfect because voting happens more rarely than 
purchases and because political party positions are, by their nature, 
differentiated. However, it does make sense. If you have only two 
parties, then to make politics fair, you have to do a lot of work 
keeping the two parties honest -- but if you have more than two parties, 
you know that there's a limit to how dishonest the two parties can get, 
no matter who captures control of those two parties.

And that seems - to me at least - to be a more solid guarantee than 
"two-party rule could work". Reforming the political parties improves 
the best case scenario, while changing the system improves the worst 
case scenario (short of the system itself being dismantled).

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