[EM] Conceiving a Democratic Electoral Process

Fred Gohlke fredgohlke at verizon.net
Sun Jul 8 10:04:50 PDT 2012

Good Morning, Kristofer

re: "Whether this [the assertion that elections impart upon a
      system an element of aristocracy] is a good or bad thing
      depends upon whether you think aristocracy can work.  In
      this sense, 'aristocracy' means rule by the best, i.e. by a
      minority that is selected because they're in some way better
      than the rest at achieving the common good."

Whether or not 'rule by the best' can work depends in large part on how 
well the electoral method integrates the reality that the common good is 
dynamic.  Those who are 'the best' at one time and under one set of 
circumstances may not be 'the best' at another time and under different 

re: "The pathological form of aristocracy is oligarchy, where
      there's still a minority, but it's not chosen because it's
      better.  If aristocracy degenerates too far or too quickly
      into oligarchy, that would negate the gains you'd expect to
      see from picking someone who's 'better' rather than just by
      chance alone."

Precisely.  That is the underpinning of the notion that elections must 
be frequent and must allow the participation of the entire electorate. 
Frequent to forestall the development of an oligarchy; full 
participation to ensure that all views of the current time and 
circumstances are voiced and considered.

re: "... the collection of rules that make up the electoral
      system has a significant influence on both the nature of
      politics in that country as well as on the quality of the

Which is the reason we seek the best conception for a democratic 
electoral method.

re: "Thus, it's not too hard for me to think there might be sets
      of rules that would make parties minor parts of politics.
      Those would not work by simply outlawing parties,
      totalitarian style.  Instead, the rules would arrange the
      dynamics so that there's little benefit to organizing in

The rules (or goals) must accommodate the fact that parties, interest 
groups, factions and enclaves are a vital part of society.  They are the 
seeds from which new or different ideas germinate and lead civilization 
forward.  Outlawing parties would be an outrage against humanity.

The threat we must fear is not the existence of parties, it is letting 
parties control government.  We will be best served by devising rules 
(or setting goals) that welcome partisans while ensuring they maintain a 
persuasive rather than a controlling role in the election process.

re: "For instance, a system based entirely on random selection
      would probably not have very powerful parties, as the
      parties would have no way of getting 'their' candidates into
      the assembly. Of course, such a system would not have the
      aristocratic aspect either."

The closing sentence is what makes sortition a poor option (in my view). 
  It strives to achieve mediocrity rather than meritocracy.

re: "Hybrid systems could still make parties less relevant: I've
      mentioned a 'sortition followed by election within the
      group' idea before, where a significant sample is picked
      from the population and they elect representatives from
      their number.  Again, parties could not be sure any of
      'their' candidates would be selected at random in the first
      round. While that method tries to keep some of the selection
      for best, it disrupts the continuity that parties need and
      the effect of 'marketing' ahead of time."

I regret that I missed this discussion.  The idea strikes me as one of 
considerable merit.  At first blush, the major drawback seems to be that 
it denies us the benefit of partisan thought and action mentioned above.


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