[EM] The Plant report

Richard Lung voting at ukscientists.com
Thu Jan 12 13:41:29 PST 2023

The Plant report

The thesis of the Plant report, a 1990s Labour in-house report, is that 
there are two fundamentally different types of representation, which 
they call majoritarian and proportional. The report merely asserts an 
assumption, here. The intermediate Plant report holds elections to be a 
matter of judgment. The Labour Party can do no better than assert 
electoral authority. This, it should not have, because contestants 
cannot be their own referees.

It goes on to say that majoritarian rule is more suited to executive 
assemblies, powerful enough for decisive government, without challenge. 
The Labour leadership means, here, the House of Commons. In other words, 
“elective dictatorship” is not to be challenged, for the top people, 
themselves. Less powerful assemblies, as forthe regions, may have less 
need to push legislation thru. They can afford to be more or less 
proportionally elected debating chambers. However, knowledge proceeds by 
debate, not by dictate. Contrary to advances in the sciences, the 
political class betray a prejudice that progress does not proceed by 
agreement but by submission to authority. (Perhaps the calculation was 
that Scottish nationalism would be less likely to win independence, 
under a proportional system. This has not proved the case. SNP leader, 
Nicola Sturgeon currently presses for a second independence referendum.)

The Plant report thesis is based on a false dichotomy. John Stuart Mill 
refuted the tyranny of the majority, for the equal or proportional rule 
of all the people, as democracy. In fact, a majority so-called is only a 
single majority, whereas proportion constitutes equal majorities, being 
few or many multiple majorities. The difference between majority and 
proportion is essentially the difference between the first term and the 
successive terms, in the Droop quota series. So, there is a rational 
continuity, between majority and proportion. The Plant report assertion 
otherwise is just that, assertion, an authoritarian prejudice.

John Stuart Mill, our greatest democrat, entered Parliament against the 
odds, to advocate the legal equality of women, including the suffrage. 
Also he promoted the radical democracy of “Mr Hare’s system,” from which 
politicians have been running away, ever since. But in which the Plant 
committee was pleased to find indication of a Mill frightened of 
democracy – despite his avowal of democracy. He was already aware that 
the representation of minorities enhanced, rather than the topsy-turvy 
time-honored argument that it diminished, over-all representation. The 
Plant report so-called “mass democracy” is the stripping of 
representation, in a winner takes all system, of as little as 35% of the 
votes, electing first past the post. And that simple plurality count 
stampedes huddles or herds into competing partisans. Party politicians 
hold elections like cowboy herdings. Any genuine democrat, from 
Ostrogorski and Graham Wallas on Human Nature In Politics, would be 
legitimately afraid of that trampling fraud.

The intermediate Plant report claims it is glad that it did not support 
the Single Transferable Vote (the Hare system extremely diminished) 
after reviewing the Riker evidence against it.

Dr David Hill pointed out that the Plant report rejected STV on grounds 
of non-monotonicity, yet recommended a more non-monotonic Supplementary 
Vote. (An American reviewer found this observation to be unanswerable.)

Riker does not criticise the transfer of surplus votes (which is the 
essence of formal STV). Instead, Riker provides an example, with no 
surplus votes. A candidate can be given more votes, from a rival. If 
that makes the rival the trailing candidate, he is eliminated, and his 
next preferences may help elect another rival. This is paradoxical and 
Riker goes on to assert that the system is “chaotic.” (Chaos theory was 
in fashion.) But the evidence, of over a centurys use, is that STV is a 
stable system, in which the sum of individual voter preferences are well 
reflected in the outcome of the count. The chaos claim is unfounded 

A “last past the post” STV method of excluding candidates is indeed 
“non-monotonic” to use the jargon. There is a theoretical possibility 
that the lacking of rationality, in the STV exclusion count, produces 
untoward effects.

My invention of “Binomial STV” however is monotonic, unlike traditional 
STV versions. This was confirmed by (at least at the time) a not too 
sympathetic expert, Kristofer Munsterhjelm. The reason he gave, was that 
Binomial STV counts abstensions. The reason, I gave, is that Binomial 
STV is not only a rational election count but also a rational exclusion 


Richard Lung.

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