[EM] (Kevin Venzke) and Richard Fobes.

Kristofer Munsterhjelm km_elmet at lavabit.com
Thu Feb 23 10:55:22 PST 2012

On 02/20/2012 04:03 AM, Richard Fobes wrote:
> On 2/19/2012 1:04 AM, Kristofer Munsterhjelm wrote:
>> On 02/19/2012 06:04 AM, Richard Fobes wrote:
>>> ...
>>> 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."
>>> ...
>> 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.
>  > ... <more below>
> I agree with your point that monopolies are weakened by competition.
> And I agree that a third party could weaken the two main parties.

If you agree with all of that, then why do you propose rules that would 
make it harder for third parties to grow? Single-member districts based 
on majority rule give representation to the majority, not to the 
minorities from which a third party might grow. Even a "real" majority 
method (like Condorcet) would have this property -- because it handles 
multiple candidates better, more may run, but it would still exclude 
some of the positions.

On the other hand, multiwinner rules (and systems similar in spirit if 
not in mechanism, like MMP, Fair Majority, and PAL) try to achieve 
proportionality not just of the majority view, and so can give third 
parties the ability to enter without having to start at the exact proper 
position to attract a majority right off.

It's unfortunate that the U.S. third parties don't understand the 
opportunity that they could get if they adopt advanced methods. Yet that 
should strengthen the case for a proportional system, so that when a 
party that does things right comes along, it is not hindered by the 
system itself. Ideally, political judgement should come from the voters 
alone. That kind of perfection is not attainable in practice, but some 
methods are better at getting out of the way of what the voters want.

> I'm not discounting the power of third parties.
> Rather, I'm picturing how things will be later, after the transitions
> have occurred. How will things be done after the dust settles, when
> things have (relatively in terms of the issues we are now dealing with)
> stabilized?

I see that, and I understand that national rules favoring major parties 
could make true multipartyism seem unappealing to the voters. If the 
system or Congressional rules badly break when there are more than two 
parties, then when one gets more than two, the new viable third parties 
could get the blame.

On the other hand, we pretty much know the big two won't alter the rules 
to be more supportive of the third parties. They've got nothing to gain 
and everything to lose. So if national rules really are a problem, it'd 
seem one could get around it by adopting a strategy similar to that of 
the old PR leagues: that is, to try on a local level. If the reform 
manages to survive there, and people start asking for the same things to 
happen on a closer to national level, then I think it'd be a lot more 
likely that the rules would change than that the blame would be assigned 
to the new entrants. The people would (after all) know that a situation 
of multiple parties did work locally.

That strategy is not perfect, either. Just as what happened with PR, the 
vested interests may hit back while the reform is in its early stage. 
But if the chance that they'd succeed is less than the chance that the 
reform would be destroyed by rule incompatibility when going 
national-first, one shouldn't go national-first. I don't know US 
politics enough to say what is the best strategy, or rather, what 
opposition would hit the reform hardest.

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