[EM] APR (6): Steve’s 6th dialogue with Juho (Steve)

Juho Late juho4880 at yahoo.co.uk
Wed Dec 10 08:56:04 PST 2014

> S:  This means, you want geographical areas to be represented “irrespective” of how the citizens vote living in a given area, and each district should send a number of representatives to the assembly roughly in proportion to the number of citizens who live there. This is what you mean by “geographic proportionality”.  Each rep would have only one vote in the assembly.  If some of these citizens would prefer their vote instead to help elect representatives for other districts or for any non-geographically defined “association”, your preferred system would ignore this.  Please correct me if I am mistaken.

Yes, typically voting systems give each region representatives in proportion to its number of citizens (= georaphical/regional proportionality). A geographically proportional system could use either same weight or varying weight representatives. A citizen that wants to elect representatives from some other district than his own should (typically) register in some other district in order to increase the number of representatives there and to be able to influence on which candidtes will be elected there (this may or may not require moving there officially).

> J:  Existing systems typically use some form of geographic proportionality when they want to guarantee some level of representation of the "remote areas". I believe that without any such mechanisms APR would lead to weaker representation of those areas than typical current systems. The fact that APR makes it possible to elect representatives from remote areas does not mean that it would do so.
> S:  “Weaker” because some resident citizens would prefer to vote for candidate for other districts or association?

Yes. It would be typical that people of remote areas would vote for (usually better known and on average more visible) candidates of central cities more often than citizens of central cities would vote for candidates of remote areas. This typically leads to weak representation of remote areas.

> J:  It has some interesting properties that can be the best solution in some cases. As I already said, I think there are many needs and many solutions. I don't believe that one system would be somehow superior. Or maybe, if we name some single ideal [please see “criteria” discussion below] environment with some ideal needs, there could be one system that would be my absolute favourite. But I mentioned also some potential problems of the proposed system. So it is impossible to me to say that the presented definition would be somehow "the best". There is a big gap between saying that some of its components are interesting, good and worth testing in real life experiments, and saying that it is "the best electoral system".
> S: Yes, but that is why I asked you to focus on one concrete system for your recommendations, e.g. your own county’s.

I could say exactly the same thing about that system. It is not ideal either. And different systems are good for different needs, so it is not even possible to judge the preference of a pair of systems by comparin them component by component. I think it is easier to analyze one system at a time, and compare it to the given targets (possibly separately to the targets of the person who asks, and to one's own targets). Comparison to other systems is possible too, but just to add some useful viewpoints or to find possible candidate systems.

> S:  According to what criteria, if any, to you want to judge any electoral system as “high” or “ideal”?  Are you willing to discuss the more detailed reasons I have previously given for making the above claims and to explain exactly how they “overstate” the case when compared and contrasted to your preferred system according to such criteria?

I'm happy to discuss any (interesting) claims. The overstatements are something like jumping right away to saying "the best" (and asking for a confirmation to that) of a complex system that clearly has both positive and negative points from the points of view of most readers.

> J:  The alternative approach is not to have any primary but to have similar rules that restrict the participation of "associations" in the actual election. One typical restricting rule is to require certain number of supporter names to be collected before allowing some association to take part in the election.
> S:  In this event, what exactly would permission to “participate” in the “actual election” involve, different from the roles envisioned by APR?

The key difference in my description above was that there would be no primary. The right of a grouping to participate would be decided by other means.

> J:  I'm used to an open list based proportional multiparty system that is also geographically proportional (that is far from ideal, and I'm far from being "completely happy" with it). From APR I could use the idea of ranked votes. That could be used in traditional list based systems e.g. to make party internal proportionality and geographical proportionality more exact. I could use also the idea of representatives with different weights. I would however keep the weight differences between representatives smaller (partly because of the tradition)…….
> S:  I accept that the current APR limit of 10% is somewhat arbitrary but do you have a reason for wanting it to be small?  What percent? Why is “tradition” important to you here?

Tradition is important because it is an important political factor because it is important to many others. I thus recognize the fact that small changes are easier than radical changes.

If I would use a high limit like 10%, I would probably tweak the system also in some other ways, somehow balancing the system, for example by giving the top representatives more assistants or more speaking time. My preference would be to start from lower figures in the first (experimental real life) systems. Maybe I could prove the benefits of the new system better that way.

> J: ….. Having different weights would be an interesting alternative, not necessarily an improvement. I'd like to strengthen geographic proportionality, not decrease it like in APR. I'd skip the primary since I think I can get those enhancements that I want also without it.
> S:  Which “enhancements” do you value and how are you going to get them without APR?

Better political and geographical proprtionality can be achieved in many ways, with or without APR. For example by allowing also small groupings to win seats (seats allocated at national instead of regional level, and no cutoffs in some countries), and to improve political propotionality within the parties using ranked votes (in STV style).
> S:  Why do you want to “strengthen geographic proportionality”?

Geographic proportionality may be quite exact at district level, but if those districts are large (as typical in multiparty countries), geographic proportionality within those large districts may be poor. Geographic proportionality is typically considered good because it supports local representatives that are close to the voters and represent the values of those voters better that representatives that have no connection to that area.

> S: Given my previous explains of exactly how an APR citizen’s general election vote is completely “secret”

I understood that it is possible to hide one's preferences but that generally that is not the case ( some opinions will be revealed). I believe the systems also gives those voters that reveal their preferences somewhat easier or more efficient ways to influence the outcome.

In countries that support full voter privacy, any steps in that direction would probably be quite unacceptable. Countries where party preferences are public today are of course much more flexible with this. I'm used to a system where the system intentionally makes it impossible to the voters even to prove (to outsiders) how they voted. This is related to the risks of vote buying, coercion (= violent husband telling his wife "how the family will vote"), risk of revealing one's hidden opinions, risk of group pressure against minorities etc.

> S:  Do you not see that APR’s Primary would make it easier for new additional parties “associations” also to field candidates and that this would allow them and their electors to benefit more, both qualitatively and from the exact proportionality offered by APR?

I think this can be achieved also without a primary. APR may have some nice ideas on how this process could work, but it is possible to achieve similar kind of results also with much simpler arrangements.

> > > S: Do you also see APR as essential to the maximization of such ?responsiveness??
> > 
> J:  Not essential to the maximization. Other methods can achieve similar results.
> S:  Please explain these “other methods”.

Responsiveness is a very wide topic and a question that addresses all the aspects of a demcratic system. I can't give a generic answer to this. Many methods have many positive properties.

> S:  What is it in your “environment” or system that makes “wasting some votes … acceptable … and … maybe best”?

All systems have some problems, rounding errors and there may be tradeoffs when trying to meet many different requirements at the same time. It is very much ok to trade between all different requirements so that the overall quality of the system (taking also into account practical limitations like the political environment) will be maximized.

> However, you imply that APR would ignore “society and its needs” and “the practical work and working methods of the representative body”.  If this is your view, please explain.

I don't think that APR would ignore society and its needs. I'm not convinced that it would meet the needs of all societies. It could thus be good for some needs (although it could maybe be improved too).

Working methods could certainly be improved also in APR, since I guess it is still pretty much a draft method.

> S:  Why do you say “probably” given the explanations of how APR’s associations should help to reduce the power of the rich, celebrity, and the mass media?

I think it is very probable that a system with no geographic proportionality (APR) would not give perfect geographic proportionality.

> S:  Of course, you are correct that not all citizens may in practice be sufficiently rational to take full advantage of the fact that APR does “enable” them to remove any bias "to the degree that they desire".  However, those who are rational in this sense would help to achieve this benefit, not in some other “opinion survey [about]… equal geographical representation” but both through APR’s open Primary and its secret general election rankings:  each citizen is equally enabled to help determine the exact degree to which each geographically defined “association” (district) will be represented in the assembly.  If all citizens take full advantage of this option, each “district’s” reps will together have a “weighted vote” in the assembly equal to all the votes they have received from all the citizens in the country.  Perhaps this clarifies the misunderstanding brought to light by the next 2 paragraphs.  Please ask me to explain this more fully if necessary.

In my terminology, I think you are saying that APR's political proportionality could approximate the results of geographic proportionality (fully or to some extent) if the voters so wish. That is different from implementing geographic proportionality (that guarantees each region its proportional share of the seats).

> J:  If "taste" means only choice between orange and pink ballot paper, then I guess it will not have very big weight in any society. But often "taste" means e.g. choice between a two-party system and a multiparty system. Then it should have big weight. Evidence and rational thought are hard to measure in a political environment since all politicians think that they represent those values in the best possible way.
> S:  Do you mean it “does” or “should” have a big weight?

If we are to decide what the future political system will be like, then all factots that influence the outcome heavily should have big weight in the discussions. Such factors can be both hard technical choices and questions of preference/taste at the same time.

> Yes, many people, including “politicians think that they represent those values”.  What about you? Do you not think that reason and evidence can be objective? e .g. in “science” or in “philosophy”?

Scientific method can be used in a very rational way. Same with any logical and sensible discussions. Political and social discussions often do not pay much attention to respecting such rigid practices.

> While “evidence” sometimes includes “measurement”, not all evidence does.  In any case, I see all arguments and evidence as capable of being examined and assessed by any person using “reason”, which I want to define as follows:
> Reasoning is the conscious thought process that searches for true answers to any significant questions about any element of reality (sensory, social or self-conscious), i.e. about what reality was, is, will be, or ought to be.  A person does this with the help of other people whenever possible by,
> 1) comparing all of the different answers proposed. She compares them with respect to,
> 2) their abilities to describe and explain the sensory, social or spiritual experience being asked about,
> 3) their avoidance of logical self-contradictions, and
> 4) the way they do or do not fit in well with all of the answers to the many other questions with which she is currently satisfied, i.e. comparing them with regard to the current extent to which each answer seems to be an integral part of the seemingly true and most comprehensive theory of all reality.
> The answer that best satisfies these four interrelated points would be seen by those using reason to be the most rational answer for the time being.  The previous sentence appropriately indicates that a rationalist recognizes that any answer or conclusion that she comes to, may have to be changed in the light of new evidence or arguments, i.e. reason recognizes that any conclusion may later prove to be false (or not yet complete) and thus that each answer or conclusion must be assumed to be tentative (conditional or provisional).  Such an answer would also be objective provided only that it did not depend on some experience that is currently capable only of being private to the thinker concerned.”
> S:  What do you think?

The scientific method and Wikipedia are good examples of areas where people have been able to expand such rational practices also to discussions of a group. Political discussions may include some individuals with rational thinking and argumentation, but as a whole political debates are something else. The best strategy in political discussions (if one's target is to win the debate in question) usually is not that of rational argumentation.


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