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Unread 11 Jun 2007, 09:09   #1
Tietäjä
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The faulty electoral syste -rant

Inspired by the rant on obscure British election projects, and the discussion regarding the plausibility of the electoral system at large, I'm going for a long rant now. I guess. If this has been discussed already, then just skip it, but I hope to bring some new views irregardless.

First of all, in modern democracy, parliament, presidential, and so on elections are based on more or less direct vote. Each applicable voter (fulfilling the criteria of age and nationality or so in a given region) most of the time has one vote to cast, regardless of his personal wealth, background, or social status. The facts are the systems fundamentally have major differences. A Finnish electoral system, in what comes to parliament elections, pools total votes of a party in a region, ranks the runners of the party, and uses the rank to divide votes (ie. total party votes 300k, rank in party 3rd, effective votes 100k; even if you'd only have gotten 50k). This results in landslides for large parties and electoral alliances (Sauli Niinistö's 68k votes, a record, would have given lots of less popular people in his party some extra edge), and oddball situations where the person getting the most votes in a region doesn't qualify (the case of Tarja Cronberg in 2007 elections; receiving most votes in her region, she was outdone by an electoral alliance of a pair of left wing parties). Similar issues arise in presidential elections in the states, where there factual number of voters may also have nothing to do with the results. Finland used, up until 1990s, a presidential election system where the top voted would be put under scrutiny by a comittee and that comittee would elect the president - out of the candidates chosen by the people. These differences may seem large, but in most cases (perhaps with the exception of the comittee-chosen presidents, where there's an element of detailed recruitment choice), it makes little difference.

Issue #1: lack of information. Nowadays, in a nation of tens of millions of people, the candidates are distant and unknown to the people. The modern media manages to spread some information (the lately innovation of internet queries which allow you to compare your choices in a variety of questions to those of candidates), but people will still be far off from knowing the candidates exact enough to make a judgement based on all the information one should have. This issue can be confronted with decreasing the scale of the voting system, different regional systems as an example. (I'm aware most voting goes on on regional levels, but it's still talking about a scale of million(s of) voters). The people who have money, or who are backed up with large amounts of money (party support, private funding) generally have larger media visibility thus having better odds of being elected. As the system is supposed to work in a fashion where voters elect the person they feel is most suited to represent their opinions in the government, this leads to a flawed situation where sufficient information is only available of those people who have the money to advertise themselves. This has, in Finland for example, resulted in the parliament elections becoming a "dead celebrity graveyard" (when your career's over, you splash cash to get to the government). This closely relates to the adverse selection issue.

Issue #2: adverse selection. This arises from the lack of information and the incentive problems related to electoral systems. On one hand, there's the incentive for the candidates to cheat on the system. It's become almost an assumption nowadays, and candidates are pretty much expected to come with exaggerated promises prior to the elections. People would be surprised if they didn't. This excessive information may fool some people (the nurses in Finnish elections 2007 raced for a 500e per month wage raise - which was promised - now they're all over whining why it's not yet been included), which will result in an adverse selection in regards to the candidates knowing their agenda better than the voters. Adverse selection also happens on the form of "Donald Duck" votes - if there was a candidate under the name Donald Duck, he'd get elected to the Finnish government. Why? Frusturation and lack of trust towards the electoral system and the goverment causes people to cast protest votes. This is how Tony Halme got elected to the government at 2003, with a huge amount of votes. One could argue he's not very qualified to even represent an average citizen (Halme ended up with a sort of moral hazard - he didn't stay in the government long, having to retire after some incidents that involved alcohol, medicine, and firearms). Populism edges out here: you're being told what you want to hear, and once they've reached the government, they won't care - for a while. This kind of development has brought the parties close to each other in a point where it gets ridiculously difficult to make any major differences between them, as they'll all keep telling you the same under the elections.

Issue #3: Fundamentals. With the voting activity on steady decline (France is touted to have just reached it's all time low), there's a fair score of people who do not vote. To add to these, there are the insult votes. While it's also the point of the democratic system to express freedom of choice in elections, it could be argued that once we reach a point where a given amount of people simply don't vote the system has failed. Where this point of no return excists, is hard to define, but at least when we hit less than 50% (Euro Parliament elections anyone?), it's definately a waste of oxygen. Also, we could discuss the actual voting standards. There are people who will vote for the girl with the biggest juggs on the list, and so on. It's making a mockery of the system, but it perhaps proves the vanity of it, too.

Now we've reached to the point where we've elected our able and capable parliament. The parties will wrestle and trade for the minister seats, and a government is formed. On comes further problems.

Issue #4: Incentive issues. When a government starts up, there's little concern as they're off to a four year period. There's little action in the parliament, they attend the meetings when they're interested, and this year a certain female representative was found spending two weeks at the Caribbean for a headstart at the government. Goes on. Perhaps it was best for us all that she didn't attend. The group discipline is the first issue in a government that relates to adverse selection. It's very common for a party to agree on voting agendas, which kind of beats the purpose of a person vote and underpins the characteristics of the voting as a party vote. Give that you've voted on a person for certain opinions of his, which he can't present because of fear of being punished in his party for breaching the group line. The political "game" is beating the purpose of the parliament as an institution consisting of people representing people. The "we vote for this if you support us here" makes it more a game of Nash equilibrium where everyone barters for whatever they're interested in. Any promises made prior to the elections are quickly forgotten, as there's plenty of time until the next elections.

Issue #5: Cyclical development. Governments bear massive responsibility in the economics of a nation. They're often the side that approves different budged selections, and government spending. Early on in the goverment, they're likely to tighten up or keep a stable level, but once the next elections approach, there's a large incentive for populism. This, again, beats the purpose. Now the government will start working as people want. They'll fulfill as many needs as plausible in order to gain popularity for the next vote to come. The agenda is "If we don't win the elections, it won't be our problem, but if we do win, it'll be a problem for later - irregardless, it's better to take the chances if it'd help us win". The reckless budget policies that doesn't aim into healthy economic growth but to boost the goverment's popularity is defective for the nation. It can and probably will contribute into sharper business cycles, which is a thing very little people like. This sort of choicemaking comes down to the argument of "people don't necessarily know what's best for them". On the irony side, this is the argument often used to back up government controlling and restricting things, but it may end up a double-edged sword in a fashion where the government will just do what's necessary to gain popularity, irregardless of the effects.

What we're really left with in a modern democracy, is a government composed of people who have the wealth or fame necessary to get the required media attention to qualify. These individuals will then sport for more fame which will result in adverse, damaging descisions being made. Of course, there are the heavyweight politicians who seem to "qualify", but who're really just masters of the game. Suffices, that the electionary system nowadays doesn't really represent the idea of democracy - people electing people to represent themselves - instead it represents a media-biased populistic image. It could be argued too, that there's no reason to actually allow people to vote as a large part of them don't really give a ****, and those who do probably get pumped up with misinformation and cheats, and end up doing the adverse choices irregardless. The only reason why the goverments still survive is that the state has outside-goverment experts to cane them enough not to make them drive the whole nation into a verge of self-implosion.

A bloody long and useless drivel, excuse my boredom.
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Unread 11 Jun 2007, 09:59   #2
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Re: The faulty electoral syste -rant

This problem is based on the assumption that one political party would run the country significantly differently (be it better or worse) to another, which in most cases isn't true.
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Unread 11 Jun 2007, 10:04   #3
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Re: The faulty electoral syste -rant

I sometimes post on a music forum where people tend to have somwhat diverse and obscure tastes in pop music. A few weeks ago there was a poll where everyone voted for their favourite 3 albums, and the results looked like this:

Code:
1) Radiohead - OK Computer
2) Neutral Milk Hotel - Aeroplane Over The Sea
3) Radiohead - Kid A
4) Arcade Fire - Funeral
5) The Beatles - Sgt Pepper
In other words, it ended up about as conventional as you can get, and the list (with a couple of exceptions) wouldnt really have looked out of place in a mainstream rock magazine. The point of this, of course, is that in a community of people with widely different opinions, every vote you carry out is going to end up with the most mundane/mainstream/inoffensive choices winning because thats the only things that everyone can sort of agree about.

No voting system is ever going to fix this. Obsessing over the intricacies of the voting system misses the point - regardless of how you set things up, the winners are going to always be the candidates which are in some sense the 'average' of everyones views. Noone has to actually passionately like the winner, they just have to dislike them less than the alternatives to the point where they become a good compromise. Its not even a case of education/ignorance really - uneducated chavs in the UK vote mainly for Labour or Conservative, as do university professors and lawyers. A poll of eclectic music listeners is likely to have the list of favourite albums converge towards the mainstream as the number of people you survey increases and personal taste gets averaged out. The status quo is self-perpetuating in this sense.

Rather than try to 'fix' the voting system, the only real way change happens is when the average of peoples opinion's drifts slightly in a particular direction. This generally has nothing to do with politicians who normally only react to changes rather than instigate them - people's views generally get shaped by the education system (and the underlying philosophy behind it) and mass-media, but even here the relations tend to be complex and mutually reenforcing (to what extent does media actively shape opinions, and to what extent is it just reacting to the cultural zeitgesit, and so on).

Last edited by Nodrog; 11 Jun 2007 at 10:13.
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Unread 11 Jun 2007, 10:07   #4
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Re: The faulty electoral syste -rant

Off topic, I'm going to negrep anyone to hell who takes nod's post and turns this topic into a discussion about music/bands (yeah you heard me - NEGREPPED! stick that in your pipe and smoke it!). I hope everyone else will follow suit!
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Unread 11 Jun 2007, 10:12   #5
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Re: The faulty electoral syste -rant

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nodrog
No voting system is ever going to fix this. Obsessing over the intricacies of the voting system misses the point - regardless of how you set things up, the winners are going to always be the candidates which are in some sense the 'average' of everyones views.
Yes, but electing a government that is in charge of national politics, budgets, and so on has a crucial effect on the wellfare of the state. This is why "average" shouldn't cope. The problem isn't that the candidates that are "average" get elected, it's that what really wins you elections is money and publicity, not expertise or opinions, and what a lot of the time counts in the government is publicity and popularity, not what's really good for the nation. There is plenty of statistical evidence in form of government spending increasing towards the end of the term and decreasing at early term. While this might be sustainable, it's still an issue that has to do with the incentive system generated by the democratic model we use, and it's really an useless pain in the arse.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Nodrog
Rather than try to 'fix' the voting system, the only real way change happens is when the average of peoples opinion's drifts slightly in a particular direction. This generally has nothing to do with politicians who normally only react to changes rather than instigate them - people's views generally get shaped by the education system (and the underlying philosophy behind it) and mass-media.
Or remove the voting system at large. The necessity of electoral democracy in what comes to selecting governments is debateable. The role of mass-media is crucial, and as said yes, politician's react to opinions. If you ask anyone though, everyone will want more wage, and prior to elections, politicians often play for popularity. Again, the example given above. Unnecessary financial unstability results from the "game".
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Unread 11 Jun 2007, 10:21   #6
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Re: The faulty electoral syste -rant

Quote:
Or remove the voting system at large. The necessity of electoral democracy in what comes to selecting governments is debateable. The role of mass-media is crucial, and as said yes, politician's react to opinions. If you ask anyone though, everyone will want more wage, and prior to elections, politicians often play for popularity. Again, the example given above. Unnecessary financial unstability results from the "game".
Well I'm not particularly big on the idea of democracy and would only really support it in an extremely limited form (where officials are elected by mass vote but have very little power to effect large-scale change and play a primarilly adminstrative role more than a legislative one), but it depends what kind of system youre talking about. There are almost as many problems with having unelected officials as there are from having elected ones, but if you had a strong codified constitution and an educated populace then you could probably get by with some kind of heriditary aristocracy for a few hundred years until apathy ripped it apart.

That most people vote based almost entirely on egocentric and short-sighted criteria is true (the recent smoking ban arguments probably being one of the more blatent examples of this), but this is probably caused by a lack of education due to the fact that politicial philosophy and the general ability to think in terms of abstract principles arent really taught in schools. You cant really seperate the problems with the modern voting system from the fact that most people are educated to be stupid - people largely vote for things that benefit them in the short term because they dont really have the context necessary to evaluate their actions on a broader scale or from a historical point of view.

As I said though, the problems are complex and mutually reenforcing - you cant really isolate one factor and call it the cause. You have an electoral system which is built around superficiality and ignorance, a mass media which promotes superficiality and ignorance, and an education system which teaches people to be superficial and ignorant. With that sort of combination its not really surprising that the outcome of mass voting is somewhat less than ideal.

Last edited by Nodrog; 11 Jun 2007 at 10:36.
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Unread 11 Jun 2007, 12:15   #7
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Re: The faulty electoral syste -rant

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nodrog
but it depends what kind of system youre talking about. There are almost as many problems with having unelected officials as there are from having elected ones, but if you had a strong codified constitution and an educated populace then you could probably get by with some kind of heriditary aristocracy for a few hundred years until apathy ripped it apart.
Yeah. I'd probably favour some form of bureaucrat government. It'd require a lot of mending and nudging on the legal side, but it'd probably be interesting going through the incentive system regarding such. Max Weber has some interesting texts concerning government bureaucracy. I'm not convinced though that heriditary would be the plausible purpose - perhaps some form of a board elected by a given unit of experts. The issue there might arise would be the incentive to concentrate power, but apart from that it would sound plausible.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nodrog
That most people vote based almost entirely on egocentric and short-sighted criteria is true (the recent smoking ban arguments probably being one of the more blatent examples of this), but this is probably caused by a lack of education
The lack of education is a problem that won't cure itself. Also, in addition to it, the lack of interest is a huge issue. A few hundred years ago people were willing to die for democracy (cliché), nowadays almost half of them won't even vote on elections. I believe it's more of the latter. Only if people are interested in working on it, they'll be interested in thinking about it in depth and on long term. The current wellfare societies are probably too good for democracy (ie. complacency).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nodrog
As I said though, the problems are complex and mutually reenforcing - you cant really isolate one factor and call it the cause. You have an electoral system which is built around superficiality and ignorance, a mass media which promotes superficiality and ignorance, and an education system which teaches people to be superficial and ignorant.
Even with all the superficiality and ignorance, there's still a large number of people who are able to critically think and work in with the system. This would imply that the issue isn't necessarily only the mass media, and education, but also the lack of interest and general complacency, as well as the issue regarding the elections as a huge institution and a single voter as a tiny entity. Median voting theory would imply that actually all power is focused on one single voter at a time, but that's probably way far off from practise. With figures of voting activity on the decline, and levels of education on increase, there seems to be a negative correlation. Although, as mentioned in the original, many other factors affect the voting, and are also a persistent and increasing problem of national democracy. Part of the inefficiencies may be blamed on lack of education (and the fault mass-media may have would also imply lack of education and media critisism), but the interest in voting probably can't.
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Unread 11 Jun 2007, 17:44   #8
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Re: The faulty electoral syste -rant

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tietäjä
but also the lack of interest and general complacency, as well as the issue regarding the elections as a huge institution and a single voter as a tiny entity. Median voting theory would imply that actually all power is focused on one single voter at a time, but that's probably way far off from practise. With figures of voting activity on the decline, and levels of education on increase, there seems to be a negative correlation. Although, as mentioned in the original, many other factors affect the voting, and are also a persistent and increasing problem of national democracy. Part of the inefficiencies may be blamed on lack of education (and the fault mass-media may have would also imply lack of education and media critisism), but the interest in voting probably can't.
I agree. There does not seem to be a correlation between education levels and the interest in voting. My idea is that the media and the way how politics, politicians and opinions of parties are portraid in the media have a much larger influence on people's interrest in politics and voting behaviour.
The media serves you an over-simplified view of politicians/parties and their views. Added to that politicians play this game along and during interviews take the popular middle-ground rather than saying what I, the voter, want or believe.
And then there is the bulletted lists of party views and the online voting guides that again simplify the politics.

You could ofcourse claim that you could go out and investigate more in-depth what the different parties' views are, but then again, I am not going to dig for this kind of information for the reason Tietäjä mentions: "the issue regarding the elections as a huge institution and a single voter as a tiny entity"
amongst another reasons, for one: I'm too lazy, like 99.9% of the rest of the voting population

Then after the elections you hear parties making compromises on points that were spearheading their campaign. Or another good one, party members disagreeing on certain views and slinging around mud in the public media. That really adds to their credibility.

I didn't vote the last three times or so because I felt I didn't have any clue what most politicians were talking about. And those few things that I did know what it was about, they had the same views. And I felt the other x-million voters out there could do the job of selecting whatever politician was last on TV better than I could.

Next time, if he's still alive (and not gets murdered like Fortuyn), I'm going to vote Wilders. Not because I necessarilly agree with his views, or because he has such popular/unpopular views, but because so far he has been the most consistent (and credible in my opinion) politician that I have seen in the media.

So that's it... politics for me is a mass media event in which I get to pick the guy that I like most for the month running up to election time. And no system is going to change that.
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Unread 11 Jun 2007, 17:49   #9
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Re: The faulty electoral syste -rant

Quote:
Originally Posted by Structural Integrity
So that's it... politics for me is a mass media event in which I get to pick the guy that I like most for the month running up to election time. And no system is going to change that.
Which again (your behavior; I'm not throwing stones, but it's just another person not participating in the politics in the way "democracy" would require), as a good example, underpins the vanity of the democratic system in the 2000s "wellfare" states.
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Unread 11 Jun 2007, 19:32   #10
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Re: The faulty electoral syste -rant

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Originally Posted by Tietäjä
Which again (your behavior; I'm not throwing stones, but it's just another person not participating in the politics in the way "democracy" would require), as a good example, underpins the vanity of the democratic system in the 2000s "wellfare" states.
And I fully agree. I know I am no good for politics and that I better stay out of it.
In the past, on this forum I expressed my preference for a benevolent and progressive dictatorship or something along those lines. In my opinion any system that tries to take to opinion of the general masses into account to steer a nation in a certain direction is flawed. Because the masses will always be biased, ignorant or misinformed to form an objective and mature opinion about a matter.
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Unread 11 Jun 2007, 19:52   #11
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Re: The faulty electoral syste -rant

I think the last time I expressed my preferences about a benevolent dictatorship they called me a "****ing nazi" and a "bloody pissbucket". I think that was 2004.
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Unread 11 Jun 2007, 23:25   #12
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Re: The faulty electoral syste -rant

I keep meaning to read Dante's blog post and reply. I'm not sure where to start on your rant. Apart from electoral reform, I'd say transparency is the second most important reform. But that is only useful with an educated citizenry. Nodrog spoke of the death of taught abstract thinking. I'd agree that's a very important skill. But other than that I'm a little uncomfortable with reeducation or political indoctrination. Not to say that doesn't happen today, but two wrongs etc.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nodrog
Obsessing over the intricacies of the voting system misses the point - regardless of how you set things up, the winners are going to always be the candidates which are in some sense the 'average' of everyones views.
Your phrase "in some sense" is the key here. And there lies the difference between what some people call fair and some people unjust. However, if you don't care that much about democracy then electoral reform indeed misses the point...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nodrog
Its not even a case of education/ignorance really - uneducated chavs in the UK vote mainly for Labour or Conservative, as do university professors and lawyers.
And by some bizarre coincidence we have a first past the post electoral system.
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Unread 12 Jun 2007, 05:58   #13
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Re: The faulty electoral syste -rant

Transparency, but that also comes down to the problem with lack of interest in the democratic scheme. If you can't be arsed to vote, the odds are you won't be arsed even if politics was a little more at hands and more transparent - nationwide politics will still feel distant. Where's this Dante's blog?
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Unread 12 Jun 2007, 06:14   #14
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Re: The faulty electoral syste -rant

Clearly, if you're looking at electoral reform because you're concerned about lack of voter turnout (bringing into question the viability of a vote) and/or the strange results of First past the Post or similar election systems, why not just do it the australian way?

1) Compulsory "voting" (with secret ballots, its impossible to enforce that you have actually voted in the correct fashion, nevertheless it works for all intents and purposes)
2) "Preferential" and/or Proportional voting: Preferential (or instant runoff) for houses where having a strong two party system is important (eg, the lower house), as preferential systems re-inforce a winner and a second place type result. First past the post does this as well, however more power is still had by more minor parties as they are able to indirectly direct part of their preferences towards one (major) party or the other (through how-to-vote cards). Proportional voting tends to result in houses that have the balance of power in neither the government's or the main opposition's hands, and thus it results in either messy coalition governments and/or wrangling over minor party's political positions which can be seen to be undemocratic.

Nevertheless, it solves much of your practical problems. still, it seems everyone is more interested in a philosophical debate about democracy anyway, so i'll leave you all to it.
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Unread 12 Jun 2007, 07:02   #15
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Re: The faulty electoral syste -rant

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ultimate Newbie
Clearly, if you're looking at electoral reform because you're concerned about lack of voter turnout (bringing into question the viability of a vote) and/or the strange results of First past the Post or similar election systems, why not just do it the australian way?
Because compulsory voting is a complete sham which treats the symptoms rather than the underlying cause, and any country with such a system is fundamentally broken.
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Unread 12 Jun 2007, 07:32   #16
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Re: The faulty electoral syste -rant

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ultimate Newbie
Nevertheless, it solves much of your practical problems. still, it seems everyone is more interested in a philosophical debate about democracy anyway, so i'll leave you all to it.
To add to Nodrog's point, it still leaves us with the educational issue which comes down to the short-sightedness and general ignorance. In fact, you'd probably end up with people casting more moron votes than before, which would merely be counterproductive. It wouldn't to anything regarding the incentive mechanisms in place in a system which relies on a limited time serving term and a re-vote. You'd still have politicians gaming for popularity at the expense of the nation's best interests. I guess the only actual "cure" to this issue would be to have a voter base that is educated enough to make accurate, informed judgements of the political scheme, but the mentioned superficiality and ignorance of the mass-media makes it difficult, too. All in all, building up a credible and efficient democracy under the circumstances a 21st century "wellfare state" bestows just seems like a vain effort, and the state should focus effort into discussing and developing an alternative.
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Unread 12 Jun 2007, 08:02   #17
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Re: The faulty electoral syste -rant

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tietäjä
Transparency, but that also comes down to the problem with lack of interest in the democratic scheme. If you can't be arsed to vote, the odds are you won't be arsed even if politics was a little more at hands and more transparent
Saying that people who don't vote aren't interested in democracy is like saying people who don't eat at McDonalds aren't interested in fine cuisine.

I generally don't vote yet I'm very interested in democracy and politics more generally. Most people I've met who don't vote say they don't really see the point. And as we've discussed in this thread, there are a range of arguments supporting this viewpoint so it's hardly unreasonable.
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Unread 12 Jun 2007, 08:06   #18
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Re: The faulty electoral syste -rant

I've never voted either for what its worth.
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Unread 12 Jun 2007, 08:34   #19
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Re: The faulty electoral syste -rant

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dante Hicks
I generally don't vote yet I'm very interested in democracy and politics more generally. Most people I've met who don't vote say they don't really see the point. And as we've discussed in this thread, there are a range of arguments supporting this viewpoint so it's hardly unreasonable.
Correct. Yet, increasing the transparency of the political system isn't going to help with the likes of you any more than it's going to help with the uninterested - there is the group of uninterested (at least in Finland, according to surveys - again, I haven't followed the UK scheme so it is possible that every UK citizen that fills the requirements for voting is very interested in politics), as there is the group of people for whom fine cuisine is pretty inrelevant.

I personally always vote when there's an election, but I've only once voted for a person, I usually leave a blank. Voting does seem, pretty much, vain nowadays, given that, it's funny the system still survives. Given if we agree that the median voter model is in modern democracy an illusion, and we can probably also agree that the whole democratic voting process that elects people in to the government is more or less an illusion (although given, strong right wing governments do seem to correlate with faster socio-economic polarization in the society, for what it's worth), what are the reasons that approve it's excistency?

The illusion of choice brings (some) people comfort?
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Unread 12 Jun 2007, 11:06   #20
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Re: The faulty electoral syste -rant

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nodrog
Because compulsory voting is a complete sham which treats the symptoms rather than the underlying cause, and any country with such a system is fundamentally broken.
Dont be so sure. Australia is not fundamentally broken, frankly i would go so far as to say that britain (without it) is in a worse shape politically than Australia is, due to their three party political system trying to squeeze into a two party electoral system, and the associated under/over representation that results in.

Further, if you know that it is compulsory to vote, you are more likely to become engaged in the political machinations going on, because ultimately you are going to vote for sure*, and thus you might as well make it an informed vote.

*approx 95% of the eligible population vote, the 5% are made up of either those opposed to compulsion and will choose to take the $50 fine, or those who are unable to vote through illness etc.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tietäjä
In fact, you'd probably end up with people casting more moron votes than before, which would merely be counterproductive.
Yes, because there are proportionally more voters actually voting, there is going to be more "informal" and donkey votes. Apparently, an additional 5% of all votes are informal, but whether this is intentional (blank, scribbled or slanderous messages written on the ballot) or not (simply incorrectly filled out, eg missing a number or only writing a 1 with no second et al preference etc) is not specified. Donkey votes may or may not represent the voter's actual decision making, and whilst i would hazard that there would be more instances (proportionally) of donkey voting in australia than elsewhere (it doesnt seem to make sense to take the time to voluntarily vote only to waste your time donkey voting, though it does apparently happen), the result is that a much larger proportion of people in australia vote (~90%).

As such, because people are going to vote, they might as well make it worthwhile to educate themselves on the issues and vote accordingly. Thus, it could be said that because voting is compulsory, there is a reason for people to participate in the political system to a greater extent than in countries where voting is voluntary. Further, it reduces the likelihood of standover and other tactics designed to prevent people from voluntarily voting as ultimately they do have to vote - something that has been a concern in some african countries of late.

Thus, i believe that yours and other's views are "wrong" (such as it is) on this issue.
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Unread 12 Jun 2007, 11:09   #21
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Re: The faulty electoral syste -rant

Maybe the government could like vote for us as well or something just to save time?
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Unread 12 Jun 2007, 11:12   #22
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Re: The faulty electoral syste -rant

Quote:
Originally Posted by Toccata & Fugue
Generally its fair to say that the closer an election is the home the more relevant it is. In the medium term if more power was decentralised then that would improve the point of elections (local elections in this instance) than any meddling with the system, since your vote would not only be worth more proportionally but there would be less layers of bureaucracy between you and the executive. I think trying to find some happy consensus between 40 million voters is always going to be doomed to failure.
I'm not sure about that. Australia has as federal system, with Commonwealth, State and Local governments (compulsory voting for Commonwealth and State, voluntary for local in most instances). I find myself most interested in the commonwealth issues, whilst i couldnt even name my local member or their party (heh, or even my state member). Local issues always seem extrodinarily petty, though elections at the smallest level are perhaps more personality rather than party driven, which i think is a good thing (at least, better than a party focus anyway).

Thus, unless you are willing to give the power, authority and money associated with divisions like foreign affairs, defence, health, education, treasury, policing et al to local governments (i shudder at the thought), then you arent going to attract my attention, nor the most able of politicians (if there is such a thing) to such a local level. Even then, imagine what a mess the whole education and health systems would be (which benefit from economics of scale), and all the problems associated with the fractured state of the nation in such a system.

I'm glad that politics is more national aspected.
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Unread 12 Jun 2007, 11:33   #23
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Re: The faulty electoral syste -rant

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ultimate Newbie
Thus, unless you are willing to give the power, authority and money associated with divisions like foreign affairs, defence, health, education, treasury, policing et al to local governments (i shudder at the thought)
Policing, education and health are already administered at a local level in most countries. It depends what you mean by power I guess, I wouldn't necessarily want one local authority having a drastically different set of laws to another, but that's unlikely anyway in the UK, and could be made less problematic by some kind of constitutional agreement. I'm not sure what you mean treasury - obviously financial control exists throughout different levels of government. Some monetary decisions exist outside of central government anyway (e.g. interest rates in the UK).

I would abolish much of the miltiary and scale back on any foriegn policy.

So there's not a great deal I would see as the exclusive domain of the central government.
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Unread 12 Jun 2007, 12:30   #24
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Re: The faulty electoral syste -rant

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tietäjä
Transparency, but that also comes down to the problem with lack of interest in the democratic scheme. If you can't be arsed to vote, the odds are you won't be arsed even if politics was a little more at hands and more transparent - nationwide politics will still feel distant. Where's this Dante's blog?
It's in his sig.

I agree transparency won't abate political apathy. But it's still important because voters gain a greater understanding of what their government is doing, normally through an intermediary such as a newspaper/internet site, which in turn can improve government (corruption etc).

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Unread 12 Jun 2007, 13:08   #25
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Re: The faulty electoral syste -rant

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ultimate Newbie
(it doesnt seem to make sense to take the time to voluntarily vote only to waste your time donkey voting, though it does apparently happen)
I am such a voter, though generally to appease the guilt I'd feel for not even turning up.

Plus it's only once every couple years.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hebdomad
But it's still important because voters gain a greater understanding of what their government is doing, normally through an intermediary such as a newspaper/internet site, which in turn can improve government (corruption etc).
The only people who are set to gain a better understanding are those that are already interested in the process, and therefore probably know what's going on (to an extent that they're content with) anyway. C-SPAN is an excellent channel if you give a crap about the machinations of American politics, though if you're not interested in it merely the presence of the information won't be enough to persuade you to go an examine it.

It's not like there's a great deal of opacity about UK politics, most of it's there and available if you really want it. It's just mostly very dull, and complicated, and would require more time than the average person could reasonably devote to it to stay on top of things in their entirety. There's only so much of such a large organisation of people that someone on the outside can be expected to keep in step with and understand to the point where they can make reasonable judgements about what's going on. That's not to say that people shouldn't try, but simply increasing the transparency of the process (and inundating everyone outside of it with information they will probably never use) is almost certainly not going to make a difference.
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Unread 12 Jun 2007, 13:27   #26
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Re: The faulty electoral syste -rant

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Originally Posted by Dante Hicks
Policing, education and health are already administered at a local level in most countries.
In australia, police is a state matter except the Australian Federal Police which administers the commonwealth territories and breaches of federal law etc. Education and Health are nominally State (middle) issues as well, however they rely quite strongly on commonwealth (highest) funding to work, to the extent that education and health are both state and federal issues and thus interesting.

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I'm not sure what you mean treasury - obviously financial control exists throughout different levels of government. Some monetary decisions exist outside of central government anyway (e.g. interest rates in the UK).
I mean the huge apparatus that has arisen in order to accomodate the huge numbers of taxes, their complexity and quantity etc that would have to be copied to a smaller scale but in every single local council around the country - its another big 'economy of scale' thing. Plus, ofc, treasury provides a very large advisory role for all other departments and ministries regarding pretty much everything they do - that expertise cant really be fractured to every little level of government either.

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I would abolish much of the miltiary and scale back on any foriegn policy.
personally, i wouldnt. Isolationism's attractiveness looks good on paper, and to some degree it works in the real world, however i dont think that its all that cracked up to be. Global trade (and associated institutions like creating standards) makes foreign policy issues more important: because your goods are sent to places and you receive (sometimes critical) goods from other countries, its in your national interest to become involved in those countries in order to make sure they can provide that continuity of trade - at a minimum - even if you ignore the other (military/diplomacy) issues.

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So there's not a great deal I would see as the exclusive domain of the central government.
Australia's constitution (s52 iirc) specifically identifies areas of exclusive commonwealth (central) control, and s51 identifies areas of co-operative commonwealth/state control. So in that sense, there are areas of exclusive central control .
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Unread 12 Jun 2007, 13:56   #27
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Re: The faulty electoral syste -rant

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Originally Posted by pablissimo
I am such a voter, though generally to appease the guilt I'd feel for not even turning up.

Plus it's only once every couple years.



The only people who are set to gain a better understanding are those that are already interested in the process, and therefore probably know what's going on (to an extent that they're content with) anyway. C-SPAN is an excellent channel if you give a crap about the machinations of American politics, though if you're not interested in it merely the presence of the information won't be enough to persuade you to go an examine it.

It's not like there's a great deal of opacity about UK politics, most of it's there and available if you really want it. It's just mostly very dull, and complicated, and would require more time than the average person could reasonably devote to it to stay on top of things in their entirety. There's only so much of such a large organisation of people that someone on the outside can be expected to keep in step with and understand to the point where they can make reasonable judgements about what's going on. That's not to say that people shouldn't try, but simply increasing the transparency of the process (and inundating everyone outside of it with information they will probably never use) is almost certainly not going to make a difference.
I spoke of intermediaries, not of Joe Bloggs devoting all his time to reading Hansard. I find it weird that you think exposing government to the electorate to a greater extent wouldn't matter, but alas.
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Unread 12 Jun 2007, 18:47   #28
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Re: The faulty electoral syste -rant

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Originally Posted by Ultimate Newbie
In australia, police is a state matter except the Australian Federal Police which administers the commonwealth territories and breaches of federal law etc. Education and Health are nominally State (middle) issues as well, however they rely quite strongly on commonwealth (highest) funding to work, to the extent that education and health are both state and federal issues and thus interesting.
Fair enough, but in other countries there is not such centralisation. Then again, other countries have more than the 20m or so people living in them so I suppose it's different. Either way, reducing centralisation offers multiple benefits - styles of policy can reflect (to an extent) the population of a given area and (again, to a limited degree) allows people to live in areas which best suit their desired lifestyle. The UK is a small country with a very centralised state but where one chooses to live (e.g. suburbs vs the shires vs the city centre) allows one to live differently which is arguably reflected in voting patterns, etc.

Additionally, local government allows social policy experimentation - different regions can approach problems in different ways - with best practice shared when the results develop. The problem with shitty ideas that central government adopt is we're all kind of stuck with them.

As for what's "interesting", that's subjective. Local government (and other agencies) salaries seem to have adjusted a bit recently at the higher levels and now it's not uncommon for local authority (e.g. London Borough) chief execs to earn more than MPs and the Chief Executive of the company I work for (which is a non-governmental housing provider) earns more than the PM (at least on paper). I suspect that might induce people into local government over time. It's not unheard of people to leave jobs with national agencies to become chief execs of councils.

This is not to say that local government is suddenly more powerful than central government and it's fairly obvious who is "in charge", but perhaps the profile of the former is developing slightly.

After all, a good deal of how your neighbourhood looks, how often it is cleaned, how much housing is built, what is granted planning permission, how environmental decisions are handled, whether you feel safe - these are heavily influenced by actions at the sub-national level. Sure, those actions are dependent on taxes collected centrally, but then again central government policies are dependent on the performance of markets beyond their control. Similarly, a lot of powers that used to lie (or appear to lie) with national governments now lie with international or supranational bodies.
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Unread 12 Jun 2007, 19:03   #29
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Re: The faulty electoral syste -rant

Quote:
Originally Posted by pablissimo
It's not like there's a great deal of opacity about UK politics, most of it's there and available if you really want it. It's just mostly very dull, and complicated, and would require more time than the average person could reasonably devote to it to stay on top of things in their entirety.
The fundamentals are certainly all there, and if you're just looking for an overview then you can certainly get an ABC of Consitutional Government without too much trouble (if you don't mind a bit of study). But when it comes to specifics, certain things are still far from clear.

To take a rather dull recent example; look at the Home Information Packs recently delayed by Ms Kelly. I have been involved in trying to prepare my organisation for the imapct of these for a little over a year now (it affects housing associations in 2008ish) and information is hard to come by. Sure, the legal framework in terms of the EU directive has been there for years, but the specifcs (i.e. whether it'll be a pain in the arse and hugely costly or not) has been permanently hazy. I attended a meeting a few months ago with various interested parties including people who were directly involved with ODPM/DCLG consultation meetings and no-one was sure of anything. People who had met with senior civil servants who are overseeing the matter had said that basic issues they had raised were met with "Good point, we hadn't thought of that", and similar. No-one (including government officials) could even estimate when more might be known. A few months down the line and it's still all bit of a shambles - even after the relevant statutory instrument has been published we're still not sure of how it will work (and thus how much impact it's likely to have).

So yeah, if you want to know what the Law Lords do, or how a bill becomes a law then there's plenty of stuff out there. But if you're interested in why a specific decision was made (or when it will be made) then you might find things harder going (unless it was a legal ruling or decision made as result of parliamentary vote or similar). To use a much more serious example - why did we go to Iraq for example? Are we likely to ever properly understand the full chain of events/communication between the Americans, the military, the intelligence services and our government?
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