[EM] Sociological issues of elections

Fred Gohlke fredgohlke at verizon.net
Tue Sep 3 19:21:31 PDT 2013

 >> Kristofer Munsterhjelm wrote:
 >> I once considered a hybrid system that *would* use
 >> elections, but in a quite different way: first you'd
 >> select a significant number of people at random, and
 >> then these would elect from among their number. It does
 >> away with continuity both for ill (problem with consistency
 >> of plans) and good (no monolithic party machines).

 > Vidar Wahlberg responded:
 > This reminds me a bit about how comments on slashdot.org
 > are rated by the readers. Perhaps you're familiar with
 > this system?  They claim it works fairly well for their
 > needs, but will it work for electing a government? Even
 > if you select a subset of the population,  those are
 > susceptible to fearmongering, glorifying and generally
 > create a distorted image of the various candidates/parties
 > to influence the voter in a certain direction.

 >> Kristofer Munsterhjelm responded:
 >> That's not quite what I meant. By "among their number"
 >> I meant that the people who were selected would elect a
 >> subset of their own. So you might pick, say, 500 for the
 >> initial level. Among these, the different people give
 >> reasons for why they should govern. Then the 500 elect
 >> 150 of their own to become the actual legislature.

 >> I thought of that kind of system as a way of countering
 >> the most common objection against a randomly picked assembly:
 >> that the average person would rule, and he would be average
 >> in both the good and bad sense.  So the electoral stage is
 >> supposed to remove the lower quality members of the random
 >> group. Since the initial group is picked at random, there's
 >> no direct way for a party to gain access to government: the
 >> chance that any given randomly picked person would be
 >> a party member is extremely low.

 >> One could argue that the flipside of this kind of system
 >> is that it destroys the kind of continuity of planning that
 >> the parties provide.  But in a sense, that continuity is
 >> also always subject to being changed by the changes in
 >> support.

This concept is much better than what we have at present.  I'd like to 
comment on a few of the issues:

* It might be well to select a larger number initially and include an 
opt-out provision so those with no interest in politics can remove 
themselves from the process.

* The objection to the "average person" fails to recognize that there is 
no such thing.  What we refer to as 'the people' is a multitude of 
individuals: some good, some bad; some skilled, some unskilled; some 
with integrity, some deceitful; some brilliant, some dull; some 
sociable, some unfriendly; some excellent advocates of the public 
interest, some not.  The vast majority of these people are honest and 
principled (society could not function otherwise), so we know there is 
no shortage of individuals with the talent and integrity we want in 
those who represent us in our government.  This hybrid method is one 
means of sifting through the many types of individuals who make up the 
electorate and letting them elevate the best among them to serve as the 
people's representatives.  This 'hybrid system' with the 'electoral 
stage' may not be perfect, but it has strong elements.

* In a representative democracy, representatives are not required to 
have any special knowledge or training.  They are selected because they 
are believed to have the intellect and disposition to assimilate the 
information necessary to make sound decisions in the best interests of 
the people.

* One of the weaknesses of this hybrid approach is that it eliminates 
the influence of parties.  The existence of parties is not inimical to 
democracy.  Parties give breadth, depth and volume to our voice.  In and 
of themselves, parties are not only inevitable, they are healthy.  We 
need parties so we can change the status quo, so we can evolve.  The 
danger is not in parties, the danger is in letting parties control 
government.  In any case, as stated above, it is probably impossible to 
integrate parties with the random selection of candidates.

* Continuity depends on the terms in office of the elected officials. 
In the U. S., one-third of the Senate seats are re-elected biennially, 
so continuity would not be a problem there.  However, all seats in the 
House of Representatives are for two-year terms, so continuity is not 
guaranteed.  I'm not sure how terms or office are arranged in other 

* The concern that "the general population would not like having their 
choice taken away from them" is worthy of thought.  The main problem is 
that it makes a marvelous talking point for those who wish to prevent 
adoption of the 'hybrid system'.  In my personal, unsupported opinion, I 
don't think the majority of people would object to the concept - but 
they could be incited to do so.

Vidar, you mentioned that you were reading up on alternatives to the 
present system.  I wrote a paper several years ago on the system 
Kristofer mentioned.  It is on a site devoted to public participation in 
government.  If you'd like to see it, it's at:


Fred Gohlke

More information about the Election-Methods mailing list