[EM] Single-winner Methods Empower Few?

Abd ul-Rahman Lomax abd at lomaxdesign.com
Thu May 2 15:06:21 PDT 2019

The Iron Law of Oligarchy is very strong, but key to democracy is 
*consent.* If the people consent to rule by a few, it is still 
oligarchy, but an oligarchy serving the people. I suppose Aristotle 
would call that aristocracy.

The minimum level of consent is majority. A higher level of consent will 
generally lead to a stronger society, but my experience with "consensus 
rules" is that they lead to domination by a minority whenever the status 
quo favors them. Hence what I propose is the establishment of strong 
tradition for respect for the rights of minorities, without going so far 
as to remove power from the majority to decide the limits of power.

In practical democratic rules for deliberative process, these rights are 
protected extensively, preventing a mere majority from steamrollering a 
significant percentage of members. For example, a motion for the 
Previous Question (called "cloture" in the U.S. Senate) requires a 2/3 
vote of those present under Robert's Rules. (The Senate reduced that to 
60%, and the "nuclear option" uses another democratic loophole: an 
absolute majority of eligible voters -- the members -- can amend the 
rules at any time. This is the power of a majority, and it is causing 
much division because of the increasing power of political parties.

Asset Voting could demolish the dependence on political parties, by 
creating a *fully representative* Electoral College which would then 
elect an Assembly, each seat being elected by unanimous agreement of 
electors holding a quota of votes. When we think of Asset under the 
present system, we think of ballots with a limited number of candidates 
on them, and ballot access is dominated by parties, but since Asset 
wastes no votes, it would no longer be necessary to vote strategically, 
sane strategy simply becomes "vote for whomever you trust most," and I 
add, generally, "and whom you can personally meet." There could be many 
thousands of those registering to be public voters.

Asset will be strongly opposed, it can be expected, by political 
parties, by media, and by everyone who benefits from the existing 
election system.

Hence I suggest Asset be first implemented in NGOs, because until people 
experience it, those forces will convince people that this is a 
dangerous reform that will destroy everything we love and create all we 

Score voting is a nice reform, though there is even better (i.e., runoff 
voting with score ballots; most voting system reform people have 
completely missed the requirement for a majority approval for election, 
which was basic democracy.) Approval is the simplest voting reform, 
simply Count All The Votes, don't discard multiple votes. But this will 
not fundamentally change the system. Asset would.

Not only will there exist a fully representative Assembly, with seats 
chosen, not "elected in a contest," but there will also exist an 
intermediate body, providing visible communication channels between the 
public and the seats, i.e,. the Electoral College, the body of electors, 
public voters, so the seats know who elected them (and the public knows 
who it voted for, so they will see the actual power resulting from their 
vote, even though the electors will not necessarily know who voted for 

On 4/29/2019 6:08 PM, Kristofer Munsterhjelm wrote:
> First of all, this did end up later than I wanted. Other things have
> been occupying my time, and though I've wanted to give a better account
> than I have below, I think it's been long enough.
> Second, the random selection I contrast to elections below more or less
> forces some kind of multiwinner system, because otherwise the variance
> would be unacceptable. You can't randomly select a president (well, you
> could, but it wouldn't be a good idea to leave that much to chance).
> (But on the flipside, that means the argument against elections isn't
> just applicable to single-winner, but to multi-winner/PR as well.)
> On 18/04/2019 13.06, William WAUGH wrote:
>> On Wed, Apr 17, 2019 at 7:42 AM Kristofer Munsterhjelm wrote:
>>      ...
>>      It's also possible to argue that all forms of election will result in
>>      some sort of rule by the few. I've ignored that here, because getting
>>      into a discussion of how few are too few would distract from the point
>>      above.
>> Which few would rule if the form were Score Voting?
> The short answer is: the politicians. If the system is good, the
> politicians will be those who are better at governing; if not so good,
> the politicians will be a group of people who are able to use their
> preexisting power to control the method and the voters more effectively
> than the method and the voters can control them.
> The point of an election method is to find the best of a number of
> alternatives. Inherent in the use of elections to begin with is that
> determining who is the best is a difficult task, i.e. that not all the
> contenders are well-suited. If all were well enough suited on average,
> you could just do what polling organizations do: choose a number of them
> at random (after compensating for chance).
> For the classical argument, it's probably easiest to refer to the
> ancient Greeks. When analyzing forms of government, Aristotle divided
> them into three types (rule by one, rule by a few, and rule by many),
> and furthermore into two categories based on whether the rulers only
> ruled for their own benefit, or for the benefit of people at large. He
> called self-serving rule by few oligarchy, and rule by few for the
> benefit of the people, aristocracy. He then argued that elections lead
> to some form of rule by few or a minority, i.e. to aristocracy or
> oligarchy (for, as I understand it, a reason similar to what I said above).
> One might argue that a rule of the skilled or extraordinarily able is a
> good form of rule by a minority. That may be so, but it is nevertheless
> a rule by a minority. Such an argument is, in effect, saying that
> there's no problem with a rule by few; the problem is when that rule
> becomes an oligarchy rather than an aristocracy. If one has no problem
> with aristocracy *as such*, then keeping the system from degrading into
> oligarchy is of course very important. Better election method contribute
> to this by making it much harder for the rulers to twist the criteria by
> which they're judged to something that favors themselves rather than the
> voters.
> But one could still have objections to all kinds of rule by a minority,
> however effective or selfless. From what I understand, the Athenians
> considered equality of power (that everybody have the same chance to be
> part of the governing mechanism) as an extension of equality under the
> law, and thus a right that citizens should have. If aristocracy is more
> effective than democracy, that doesn't matter. It's analogous to the
> thought that even if authoritarianism is more effective than
> (representative) democracy and gets the trains running on time,
> democracy is preferrable because people should govern themselves.
> Alternatively, one could argue that education and wisdom of crowds make
> sufficiently large random assemblies not that much worse than elected
> assemblies, to the point where one loses more to the risk of corruption
> (sliding into oligarchy) by going with elections than one loses by
> mediocrity (so to speak) by going with random selection. The more
> effective mechanisms like deliberative polls are, the stronger that
> argument is. And the more oligarchy-resistant electoral democracy is
> with good election methods, the weaker the argument.
> ----
> Election-Methods mailing list - see https://electorama.com/em for list info

More information about the Election-Methods mailing list