[EM] Conceiving a Democratic Electoral Process

Fred Gohlke fredgohlke at verizon.net
Sat Jul 7 13:18:12 PDT 2012

Good Afternoon, Juho

re: "To me this (not allowing parties to control the nomination
      of candidates for public office) is not an absolute
      requirement but one approach worth a try."

Can you describe a circumstance in which letting the leaders of a subset 
of the electorate control of the nomination of candidates for public 
office will be in the public interest?  In a representative democracy, 
is it not the right of the people to select those who will represent them?

re: "Not a defence of current systems, just a warning that new
      systems can not be trusted either."

Of course not: "The price of liberty is eternal vigilance".

re: In connection with goal (3), 'The electoral method must give
     the people a way to address and resolve contemporary issues,'
     you asked, "Is the intention to say that people should be
     able to react (and influence) when they see some changes in
     the society or when the politicians start some new initiatives?"

The peoples' concerns change over time, depending on a multitude of 
circumstances.  To achieve satisfaction, these changing interests must 
be given voice, contemplated and reflected in the results of each 
election.  Advocates of particular interests must be able to proclaim 
their ideas and encourage discussion of their concepts.  Some will be 
accepted, in whole or in part, as they are shown to be in the common 
interest of the community.  The electoral method must allow and 
encourage special interests to attract supporters to their cause and 
elevate their most effective advocates during each electoral cycle to 
ensure that all public concerns are thoroughly aired and investigated.

re: With regard to the assertion: ... 'if the people can
     determine that people of fame and power can be trusted
     with public office, we need not fear them', you said,
     "People are able to evaluate their nearby and nearly
     similar fellow citizens reasonably well, but I'm less
     optimistic with how they evaluate different,
     psychologically powerful and well known figures."

That is a valid concern.  We must always be alert for Prince 
Charming-type individuals that can't be trusted with your lunch pail. 
If we are to validate candidates for public office, they must be 
examined, face-to-face, by people with a vital interest in ascertaining 
their character, and the examiners must have enough time to investigate 
their subject thoroughly.  Should we add that as another goal?

re: With regard to goal (4) which says, 'The electoral method
     must allow every member of the electorate to become a
     candidate and participate in the electoral process to the
     full extent of each individual's desire and ability', you
     said, "Yes except that we may have some limitations to keep
     the number of candidates reasonable.  We may also try to keep
     the quality of the candidates good by setting some conditions
     that are not too difficult for good candidates to pass."

In a democracy, it is very difficult (and may be improper) for one 
person to set conditions and limitations for others.  However, as you 
say, the quality of candidates is a critical issue.  Instead of trying 
to prejudge the matter, wouldn't we be better served to let the 
candidate's peers decide their suitability?  In the process of deciding 
which of our peers are our best advocates, we would be automatically 
narrowing the field.  If, then, our choices had to compete for selection 
with the choices of others, it would not be long before we had a very 
manageable field of candidates.

re: With regard to goal (5) which says, 'The electoral method
     must ensure that all candidates for public office are
     carefully examined to determine their integrity and
     suitability to serve as advocates for the people', you said,
     "This is quite difficult but of course we should do our best
     to support this target.  In local elections people know the
     canidates better. In "non-local" elections media and other
     public sources have an important role."

The ability to examine candidates is a matter of accessibility and time. 
  To form a valid opinion about a candidate's integrity and suitability 
for public office, one must be able to meet the person face-to-face, 
discuss contemporary issues in detail, and have enough time to discern 
the multitude of verbal and non-verbal cues each of us emit during 

re: With regard to goal (6) which says, 'The electoral method
     must be repeated frequently (preferably annually)', you
     raised several points:

     a. "There are some benefits also in not having elections
         every day. If voters could change their represetatives
         any day, the representatives might follow the opinion
         surveys too much."

The only reference to frequency was the recommendation that elections be 
held annually.  Terms of office are already set in most constituencies, 
so the elections will be to replace office-holders whose terms are expiring.

     b. "I mean that in a _representative_ democracy one may
         expect the representatives to make also unpopular
         decisions (like raising the taxes when there is a need),
         and explain those decisions and build a complete package
         of their activities during their term for their
         supporters only before the election, so that the voters
         can see if the whole package was good or not."

The reason for determining each candidate's integrity and suitability is 
to establish, in advance, to the maximum extent possible, that the 
candidate can and will make unpopular decisions in the public interest 
when circumstances dictate.

     c. "(One approach would be to build some hysteresis [Great
         Word.  I had to look it up.  Even though, as a former
         pilot, I'm familiar with compass lag, I never knew that's
         what it's called!] to the system. If voters feel for few
         months that some representative should be changed to
         another one, then that change will take place.)

An excellent point.  We must include that as a 7th goal for the
electoral method we're devising:

7) The electoral method must include a means for the electorate
    to recall an elected official.

re: "There are many kind of people on this list (good) and they
      have very different ways to participate in the discussion


     "... people on this list have different agendas, and reasons
      for being here, and of course different viewpoints. Probably
      there will be no "list consensus" on what the goals should
      be. But the feedback hopefully makes your list of goals more
      accurate, more balanced, and better in addressing all the
      viewpoints and comments that potential readers might have."

I agree, and fervently hope they will contribute to our work.


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