Representative democracy without elections

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arbiteroftruth
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Representative democracy without elections

Postby arbiteroftruth » Sat Jan 11, 2014 8:00 pm UTC

I have an idea for what is essentially a hybrid between a traditional representative system and delegative democracy. Here's how it works.

Voters commit their vote to someone sitting on the legislature. Their vote is then locked in to that representative for some period of time, say 2 years for example. After the 2 years have passed, their vote is once again transferable at the will of the voter, but by default is still assigned to the same representative for some length of time, say 90 days. If the voter has not explicitly re-cast their vote for someone within those 90 days, then their vote is no longer assigned to anyone until the voter re-casts it. Once the vote is re-cast, it is locked in place for another 2 years and the cycle continues.

Within the legislature, every representative has exactly as much voting power as the number of votes that have been assigned to them. If there are 50 million voters, then the legislature consists of 50 million votes delegated to be used by the representatives. So a given representative may have several million votes in the legislature.

To keep the number of representatives reasonable, when the number of votes for any representative falls below some minimum percentage of the total, say half a percent, that representative is removed from office. He has no voting power within the legislature, but does have the one-time authority to re-delegate his remaining votes to another sitting representative, so that his remaining supporters do not become disenfranchised. In addition, those voters are immediately released from their 2-year commitment and can re-cast their vote at any time, although their vote does not 'expire' any more quickly. So if you voted for candidate A a year ago, and now candidate A has been removed from office and has re-delegated your vote to candidate B, your vote still does not expire for another year and 90 days, but you are immediately allowed to re-cast your vote.

New representatives enter the legislature by petition. When voters assign their votes, they may also attach their vote to the petition of someone who is not in the legislature. If the petitioner gains the minimum amount of support, then the petitioner becomes a representative and the voters on his petition are immediately transferred to him with a new 2 year commitment. In this way, a voter can cast his vote for the sitting representative who most closely matches his views, but through a petition may have his vote transferred to a more preferred candidate if that candidate ever gains enough support. So "third parties" can gradually grow their support until they gain a seat without those voters becoming disenfranchised in the meantime.

That's it.

The system has several advantages. There is no need to draw districts at all, so there is no potential for gerrymandering. It is a perfectly proportional system, because votes are directly delegated to representatives based on their number of supporters. As mentioned above, it allows small parties to grow their numbers gradually. Only a small proportion of votes are transferable at any given time, so there is no potential for mob mentality to rapidly destabilize the legislature. But at the same time, votes are always moving around without any specific cycle of campaigns and elections, so representatives must retain their supporters through their ongoing performance rather than by mounting a big campaign and then being secure for the next several years. And as opposed to a strict delegative democracy, there is a reasonable limit to the number of people directly voting on legislation, because of the requirement that representatives have some minimum percentage of the total voting power.

Thoughts?

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Re: Representative democracy without elections

Postby EvilDuckie » Sun Jan 12, 2014 7:59 am UTC

Not entirely sure based on your story, but is every representative acting on his/her own behalf, or do they band together to form parties in order to achieve a majority? Because if it's the second one, you've got a system that's not too dissimilar to a parliamentary democracy, such as the one we have here in The Netherlands.
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Re: Representative democracy without elections

Postby PeteP » Sun Jan 12, 2014 1:46 pm UTC

Possible problems: confidental votes. This system requires keeping records of who voted for whom and the people processing new votes, since the votes expire naturally that is the only group which needs access, but still a bit harder to ensure confidentiality.
Also I consider it as not unlikely that the votes will concentrate on a low number of highly visible people. Whether that is a problem or not is a matter of opinion, but I find concentrating power a bit worrying. (Especially since a decent part of it will probably be distributed based on charisma, not that it's different now.)

I like the petition system. Personally I would prefer if I could give my vote to someone for specific topics, but that isn't really possible since topics tend to overlap.

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Re: Representative democracy without elections

Postby Tyndmyr » Sun Jan 12, 2014 3:39 pm UTC

Can a voter sign multiple petitions, and how are the results deconflicted?

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Re: Representative democracy without elections

Postby arbiteroftruth » Sun Jan 12, 2014 4:38 pm UTC

@EvilDuckie: The representatives may choose to associate as parties, but that's up to them. As far as rules explicitly built into the system, parties would be irrelevant. As far as whether representatives would inevitably associate to get things done, that's primarily a question of how the legislative voting itself would be done, which is a separate issue (although I do have some ideas about that).

@PeteP: Confidentiality would be an issue, but without specific election days, putting pressure on voters would be a full time job and more difficult to do. But I think confidentiality could be achieved anyway. Suppose each voter, upon their initial registration, has their identifying information encrypted, and the decryption key is stored only on a card given to the voter. The voter casts his ballot under the encrypted identity, and that is what is attached to the ballot. But quite separately, the voter's real identity is stored as having voted without any particular ballot associated with him, with the same standard expiration rules. As long as votes are processed in blocks, even the time-stamp won't be a way of deducing the real identity attached to a ballot.

Fast forward 2 years, when the voter wants to re-cast his vote. Using his voter card, his encrypted identity is found, decrypted, and checked against his real identity. As long as the specific election worker doing this doesn't have access to the ballot associated with that identity, confidentiality is still preserved. Upon verifying the voter's identity, the voter is assigned a new encrypted identity and his card is appropriately reprogrammed. His original ballot is destroyed because it has now been decrypted and is obsolete, and the voter casts a new ballot with a new encrypted identity, and the cycle repeats.

If a voter loses his voter card, then he can still get a new one and vote. His non-encrypted identity is stored as a voter with the correct dates for when his vote expires, so his eligibility to vote can be checked to make sure he isn't trying to get multiple cards and vote multiple times. The voter then only has to wait until his vote fully expires, rather than voting within the 90 day period when a vote is valid but transferable(otherwise he could still have 2 votes in play for up to 90 days, since his original ballot can't be found and destroyed without the voter card, but will expire on its own). This also means that if his favored candidate A is removed from office and the votes are transferred to another candidate B, a voter who has lost his card will not be able to immediately transfer his vote as the other A supporters can. But for the most part, losing the card does not remove the ability to vote normally.

Power might end up concentrated in only a few hands, but only if that's what the people genuinely support. There wouldn't be any mechanisms of the system specifically encouraging such behavior, such as the spoiler effect creating a two-party system in FPTP. To the extent that people would not concentrate power very well, that's just a fundamental stumbling block for the entire concept of democracy.

@Tyndmyr: The simplest system would be that any given ballot may only be attached to at most one sitting representative and one petitioner. If you're okay with more complexity for the voters, you could have a scoring ballot, in which each ballot assigns scores to multiple sitting representatives and multiple petitioners, and a petitioner gains a seat if he has at least a minimum number of supporters who score him higher than their current representative. Multiple conflicting petitions would then be decided based on which one results in the highest overall satisfaction of voters, as measured by their scores.

Personally, I think that's an unnecessary amount of complexity when we're talking about candidates who have barely the minimum threshold of support. But it could be done if that's what people prefer. It does also have the benefit that someone being removed from office wouldn't need to explicitly re-allocate his remaining supporters, since they would simply be transferred based on the scores they've assigned, but that still only affects those who support people unpopular enough to lose office, so the effect wouldn't be huge.

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Re: Representative democracy without elections

Postby Zamfir » Mon Jan 13, 2014 9:34 am UTC

I have two questions: why do you consider it an advantage to spread elections out? It makes it really hard for politicians to negotiate a coherent approach to legislation and governance, because any coalition might lose its majority before the process is done.

And, what do you think is the advantage over regular proportional representation? Sometimes parties in those systems are dominated by a single person, and those parties function effectively like a single representative as in your proposal. But those cases don't strike me as particularly attractive.

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Re: Representative democracy without elections

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Jan 13, 2014 5:36 pm UTC

I like the idea, but I have some problems with the implementation...more detailed analysis coming once I collect my thoughts.

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Re: Representative democracy without elections

Postby bigglesworth » Mon Jan 13, 2014 5:51 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:And, what do you think is the advantage over regular proportional representation? Sometimes parties in those systems are dominated by a single person, and those parties function effectively like a single representative as in your proposal. But those cases don't strike me as particularly attractive.
Seems to me like it's an attempt to (among other things) combine the advantages of single-member constituencies (you know your candidate, can talk to them, they have an interest in your vote) with the advantages of proportional representation (you avoid the two-party promoting mechanics of winner takes all).
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Re: Representative democracy without elections

Postby arbiteroftruth » Mon Jan 13, 2014 7:02 pm UTC

Regarding the spreading of elections, the legislature would still be kept pretty stable by the fact that only a small percentage of votes are 'mobile' at any given time. For the majority to be severely concerned about losing their majority by the time they finish their legislation, they would need to be a rather slim majority to start with. And in that situation, arguably it's a good thing to make things more difficult for them. In fact, I'd say this issue is an advantage of the system. In general, the slimmer your majority, the harder it is to get things done because of these concerns, without having to define explicit minority protection mechanisms. If no one can easily rely on having a long-term majority, they are all forced to negotiate and compromise so that legislation will have broad support even if the balance of power shifts a bit in the meantime.

Regarding the distinction from regular proportional representation, I hadn't considered the appeal of being able to personally contact your specific representative, but that's a good point. There's also the minor advantage of not giving any explicit political power to party leaders. Mainly though, I wanted to combine extreme potential for diversity with proportionality. If there are 100 represenatives, like Zamfir said they can all be thought of as one-person parties, but all 100 of these parties would still be represented in the correct proportions.

Another way to look at it is that in this sytem, parties don't have one dominant face simply because of that person's power within the party, but because the 'party' is such a specific set of views that only representative is necessary; the party has no internal diversity of opinion. There would be far fewer voters forced to compromise on one or two issues for the sake of siding with a large party. You're more likely to be able to find the specific representative who agrees with *all* of your views and give your vote to him. And that exact set of views still gets an exactly proportional representation in the legislature.

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Re: Representative democracy without elections

Postby omgryebread » Mon Jan 13, 2014 7:29 pm UTC

I don't see how this functions at a high level. Who is the speaker? How is legislation brought to the floor, amended, and brought up for a vote? Who is the executive, and what are her powers? Is this body constitutional and limited in it's power, and if so, what body rules on that, and how are they chosen?

This seems like it would encourage gridlock. If Alice and I both share a lot of ideals, we could work together to try and get them passed... or I could call into question her integrity or ideological purity or ability or whatever and try and steal her delicious voters, which would directly increase my own power. Fuck working with someone else if I can do it myself.

In a regional democracy like most current ones (all?), I can't just up and take Alice's voting power for my own. It's in my interest to work with her, both because it gets stuff done, but also because I need her back and don't want Bob, from the other party, to get her seat.

Basically, this sounds like Highlander with votes instead of Quickenings, and smear campaigns instead of beheadings.
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Re: Representative democracy without elections

Postby firechicago » Mon Jan 13, 2014 7:57 pm UTC

Generally speaking, people think that the fact that legislators spend more of their time campaigning and fundraising than actually legislating to be a bad thing. This would guarantee that elected officials never left that baby-kissing, pandering election mode that everyone hates so much. After all, every day is election day. And every time your vote came up for renewal, it would be like living in New Hampshire in January of a Presidential year, you would hardly be able to spit without hitting someone trying to convince you to vote for this or that candidate.

Also, I strongly suspect that this would devolve into a situation where a relative handful of legislators controlled the vast majority of votes. Not only would the backbiting omgryebread identified push it that way, there's also the natural tendency of power to accrue to the powerful. More votes => more power => more powerful campaign apparatus => more votes. The end result would be a relative handful (less than ten) of the legislators controlling 90%+ of the votes, with the remainder split many ways between a much larger group of no-hopers. In effect, you've just replaced the party system with competing cults of personality.

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Re: Representative democracy without elections

Postby LaserGuy » Mon Jan 13, 2014 8:08 pm UTC

In a sense, this would probably work very similarly to a pure proportional representation, except with many, many more parties. For example, in a PR system, you might have ten parties with a vote share of 5-20%, and in order to form government, the parties build up a coalition of likeminded groups such that their total is >50%. In this system, instead of ten parties, you have a hundred individuals, each with vote shares of 0.1-2%, and need to build up a coalition of those individuals to form a government whose total is >50%. Or, in all likelihood, you'd just get those individuals banding together and forming parties amongst themselves, and the whole thing would collapse into a normal PR system, with all of its inherent drawbacks and flaws. Parties would be pretty much inescapable in this system, I think: Nobody is going to take the time to go through 100 candidates and see which one best suits their beliefs, and no individual candidate is going to have the resources to be, effectively, perpetually campaigning--while their own vote share is theoretically protected for two years or whatever, at any given time, there's always going to be some voters in play, so there's always an incentive to keep trying to expand your share of the electorate.

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Re: Representative democracy without elections

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Jan 13, 2014 8:42 pm UTC

omgryebread wrote:Basically, this sounds like Highlander with votes instead of Quickenings, and smear campaigns instead of beheadings.


On the other hand, governing via Highlander-style duels WOULD be fantastic.

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Re: Representative democracy without elections

Postby Zamfir » Mon Jan 13, 2014 8:58 pm UTC

There would be far fewer voters forced to compromise on one or two issues for the sake of siding with a large party

I think this goes to the heart of the matter. It's not a pure good thing if voters don't have to compromise. Because in the end, politics is about compromise. There are far more views and opinions than can be turned into policy. A good political system boils down all those different views to less and less compromised views. Until there is an actionable set left, that might not have anyone full support, but at least has some support over a wide base, and not too much opposition.

Different system approach that problem in different ways, but in the end they all have to reach compromise. The US approach is to do a lot of compromising before the voting stage. By the time you get to vote, there is not that much choice left. But in return, those choices have a fairly good shot at becoming full policy.

PR systems tend put more compromise after the election. You vote for a party that suits you better than in the US, but that party has to negotiate again after the elections. It's fairly typical that you vote for a party you like, the party joins the government, and they enact policy you don't like at all because they traded away your favourite issues in order to join the government. And other parties never join the government at all. They just eternally sit in opposition, untainted by compromise but ineffective.

It's not necessarily good to move further in that direction. In your proposal you can vote for that one woman you like a lot, but then she can either do nothing, or join with 20 or 40 or god knows how many others to make joint policy. And the result will not resemble what you voted for, because 39 others you didn't vote for also had a say. She'll say, that's the best I could, there was nothing more to get for us. And she might be right, you can't tell.

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Re: Representative democracy without elections

Postby Tyndmyr » Tue Jan 14, 2014 3:28 am UTC

Zamfir wrote:
There would be far fewer voters forced to compromise on one or two issues for the sake of siding with a large party

I think this goes to the heart of the matter. It's not a pure good thing if voters don't have to compromise. Because in the end, politics is about compromise. There are far more views and opinions than can be turned into policy. A good political system boils down all those different views to less and less compromised views. Until there is an actionable set left, that might not have anyone full support, but at least has some support over a wide base, and not too much opposition.


The issue, I feel, is not one of compromise, but one of false choice. On many issues, both the republicans and democrats have no desire to differ on the matter, and it is likely that both candidates support the same thing. If these issues are the most important to you, the current options seem...well, the difference is mostly unimportant.

It may well be that the US is fairly evenly split over if pot should be legal, which means it SHOULD be at least somewhat contentious, but until fairly recently, both sides were not only against that, it wasn't seriously considered. Movement has happened on this particular issue, but for a representative democracy, our representatives may not actually represent us all that well... We get to select between two dueling power blocks, and while compromise between them is better for us than being collateral damage, that isn't exactly the same as getting a decent compromise of the views of US voters.

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Re: Representative democracy without elections

Postby LaserGuy » Tue Jan 14, 2014 3:49 am UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:
Zamfir wrote:
There would be far fewer voters forced to compromise on one or two issues for the sake of siding with a large party

I think this goes to the heart of the matter. It's not a pure good thing if voters don't have to compromise. Because in the end, politics is about compromise. There are far more views and opinions than can be turned into policy. A good political system boils down all those different views to less and less compromised views. Until there is an actionable set left, that might not have anyone full support, but at least has some support over a wide base, and not too much opposition.


The issue, I feel, is not one of compromise, but one of false choice. On many issues, both the republicans and democrats have no desire to differ on the matter, and it is likely that both candidates support the same thing. If these issues are the most important to you, the current options seem...well, the difference is mostly unimportant.

It may well be that the US is fairly evenly split over if pot should be legal, which means it SHOULD be at least somewhat contentious, but until fairly recently, both sides were not only against that, it wasn't seriously considered. Movement has happened on this particular issue, but for a representative democracy, our representatives may not actually represent us all that well... We get to select between two dueling power blocks, and while compromise between them is better for us than being collateral damage, that isn't exactly the same as getting a decent compromise of the views of US voters.


To be fair, this is mostly an American phenomenon. Most other countries have viable third parties.

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Re: Representative democracy without elections

Postby arbiteroftruth » Tue Jan 14, 2014 7:19 am UTC

The hope is that most of the bad aspects of campaigning wouldn't happen without a standard election cycle. No single candidate is going to be able to spend all their time flying around and kissing babies. And since there is no finish line of an election day, there would be little benefit in backstabbing. In a regular election, you can backstab someone to steal some of their support, and as long as you have that support on election day you have it for years, and your defeated opponent has nothing. In this system, such backstabbing would simply give you a slight increase in voting power, and your opponent would have a slight decrease, and they can do the same thing back to you the next week, with no actual victory ever coming. The cost-benefit ratio of cutthroat politics would be greatly decreased, and the idea is that this would make real cooperation and compromise the more effective way to get what you want.

Meanwhile, the voters would not need to compromise at all, nor should they. The nuances of reaching a good agreement are what the politicians are for. The voters are for expressing the will of the people as accurately as possible.

Sifting through the candidates would be a daunting task, and I do believe parties would inevitably exist, but they would exist primarily as a way of organizing the dissemination of candidate information. You look at the general party platforms and see which one fits you best, then you look at the list of candidates within that party and see which one fits you even better than the others. As opposed to regional elections, you'd be able to get specific about exactly which candidate you support within your party, rather than just whichever one happens to run in your district. Likewise, as opposed to traditional proportional representation, the party leaders would not have any direct control over the distribution of power, and the proportionality would be accurate down to the level of the individual candidates within parties.

Parties would still exist as a way of simplifying the voters' search for a good candidate, but they would have a lot less direct influence than in other systems.

Again, power might end up concentrated in a small number of people, but only if the electorate is genuinely simple enough to be represented by them. Smaller groups of voters would not be forced into supporting one of the powerful people, because it doesn't take that many voters to get a representative to at least have a seat, and then that representative can worry about the need to cooperate with the powerful people. There's nothing preventing the voters from supporting whoever they genuinely prefer.

EDIT:

This might be considered off-topic, but since the subject of the internal political maneuvers in the legislature has come up, I'll go ahead and share my idea for how to set up a legislative voting system that helps to ensure cooperation and compromise.

The idea is that an entire batch of propositions would be voted on simultaneously. There would be some period of time for new propositions to be submitted to the batch, or for existing propositions to be split into multiple, with such adjustments requiring only some threshold of minority support. Big enough to prevent just anyone from trolling the list of propositions, but small enough to prevent the majority from blocking minority participation.

Once the list is final, the representatives vote using a grid ballot. Each row is for a particular proposition on the list. In each column, they express either support, opposition, or neutrality to each proposition, and they assign a score to each column. Each column represents how much value the representative places on that particular combination of outcomes. After normalizing the scores on the ballot (that is, re-scaling the numbers so the highest possible score corresponds to the representative's full voting power), the support that candidate gives to a particular outcome is determined by adding up the scores of all the columns with conditions that have been satisfied. So, if I cast a ballot wherein the first column supports props A and B, and the second column opposes C, and the final outcome is that A is passed, and B and C are rejected, then my total support for that outcome is given by the score I gave to the second column (opposing C). The first column is not satisfied, because that column listed support for both A and B, but B was rejected. The second column, opposing C, was satisfied, because C was in fact rejected, so that column contributes to my total support.

Given that scoring system, the final outcome for the full set of propositions is whatever combination receives the highest possible amount of total support, when the support of all the ballots are added up. A tie would be extremely unlikely, but could be broken by voting on the specific list of tied outcomes, or by simply letting the Speaker choose the winner.

This system allows essentially the full complexity of the representatives' opinions to be represented directly on the ballot, and then the negotiation process happens automatically in the math of finding the outcome. Interdependency of multiple propositions is represented by putting them on the same column, so that both must happen together in order to receive support. If I think A is a good idea only if B doesn't pass, then I include support for A and opposition to B on the same column. The same type of action also represents a reluctance to compromise for whatever reason. By putting multiple results on the same column, I express that my support is all-or-nothing regarding those particular propositions. On the other hand, a willingness to compromise is expressed by scoring various outcomes on separate columns. I can fail to get my way on one issue, but still express my partial satisfaction in getting my way on another issue. Finally, backup preferences can be represented by intentionally creating columns that contradict each other. If I support A and don't really care for B, but I think B would be a decent substitute if A is rejected, then I create one highly scored column supporting A, and one lower-scored column opposing A and supporting B. Both columns cannot be simultaneously satisfied, and the one supporting A is scored higher, so that is clearly my preference. But if A is rejected, then and only then I might give my support to B as a backup plan.

So all the nuances of political opinion can be encoded on the ballot, and the voting system itself figures out how to negotiate an agreement. If people refuse to compromise, and put their full list of preferences all on one column, that does make it more difficult to overcome them, but if there's enough support to defeat them on even one part of their list, then their votes become meaningless, because their list will never be satisfied and they won't give support to anything less. So deciding whether to compromise becomes a risk-reward scenario. Compromising dilutes your support among multiple independent propositions, but refusing to compromise runs the risk of wasting your vote unless the gamble pays off. A strong, fully unified majority could overpower the minority by refusing to compromise, but that's no different from a more standard system, and is much less likely to happen when the legislature consists of a genuine variety of viewpoints with no one having a long-term majority.

Although the balance of power in the legislature will always be slightly drifting around under my system, it's also the case that the actual legislation will be an accurate negotiation of all viewpoints according to their various levels of support, so the political direction of the legislation will also be drifting as gradually as the balance of power does, rather than shifting abruptly every time some new coalition gains a slim majority. Or so the theory goes.

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Re: Representative democracy without elections

Postby Tyndmyr » Tue Jan 14, 2014 12:04 pm UTC

LaserGuy wrote:To be fair, this is mostly an American phenomenon. Most other countries have viable third parties.


True. That's mostly an artifact of our terribly voting system. I actually think there are a number of systems that would be a demonstrable improvement over fptp. I rather like approval, based primarily on the fact that it's very easy for people to understand and adopt, and thus, likely much easier to get in place than more extensive changes.

Still, alternative arrangements like this are fun to ponder.

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Re: Representative democracy without elections

Postby Ormurinn » Tue Jan 14, 2014 12:16 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:
LaserGuy wrote:To be fair, this is mostly an American phenomenon. Most other countries have viable third parties.


True. That's mostly an artifact of our terribly voting system. I actually think there are a number of systems that would be a demonstrable improvement over fptp. I rather like approval, based primarily on the fact that it's very easy for people to understand and adopt, and thus, likely much easier to get in place than more extensive changes.

Still, alternative arrangements like this are fun to ponder.


The UK has FPTP, and between three and five significant parties, depending how you count.
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Re: Representative democracy without elections

Postby Lazar » Tue Jan 14, 2014 1:38 pm UTC

Ormurinn wrote:The UK has FPTP, and between three and five significant parties, depending how you count.

And conversely, Australia has a two-party system despite using preferential voting.
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Re: Representative democracy without elections

Postby bigglesworth » Wed Jan 15, 2014 11:03 am UTC

firechicago wrote:In effect, you've just replaced the party system with competing cults of personality.
Yeah, but if that happened it'd only be because it's what the people want.
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Re: Representative democracy without elections

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Jan 15, 2014 12:56 pm UTC

bigglesworth wrote:
firechicago wrote:In effect, you've just replaced the party system with competing cults of personality.
Yeah, but if that happened it'd only be because it's what the people want.
Democracy!


While that probably WOULD be popular, that's also a bit depressing. People friggin' love cults of personality.

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Re: Representative democracy without elections

Postby TallDave » Tue Jan 28, 2014 9:00 pm UTC

Too much democracy doesn't work, never has. The US Bill of Rights is very intentionally anti-democratic: "Congress shall make no law..." So is the process for amending the US constitution -- huge majorities required, lengthy process.

The ideal republic probably has a high threshold (two-thirds or three-quarters) for passing any law that expands the reach of the state, and tends to decentralize power to the lowest (and hence most accountable) level.

I suspect secession is the wave of the future. Quebec and Scotland may mark the beginning of the Age of Competitive Government, in which people leave failing models for better opportunities elsewhere.

There is no need to draw districts at all, so there is no potential for gerrymandering.

That also means no local accuntability, though. As Acemoglu has written about, corruption is the main reason poor countries are poor.

In fact, it would really be more accurate to say rampant corruption is the norm for human societies and by some freak occurrences a few countries managed to institute relatively non-corrupt governments and are consequently now very rich. This is very, very, very hard to do though (nearly all the incentives flow the wrong way), which is why most people still live in very poor countries.

arbiteroftruth
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Re: Representative democracy without elections

Postby arbiteroftruth » Tue Feb 04, 2014 3:25 am UTC

I'm not sure how likely it is that secession will become common in the near(ish) future, but I agree that it's a good idea. Institutionalized rules for secession and union of governments essentially allow society to draw its own optimized district lines for a republic. Each level of government can be almost completely democratic, with the bounds of that government's authority being set by the genuine unity of the society it governs. If the government starts to overstep its bounds in favor of one group, the other groups just break off, and possibly re-unify under a new government with a clean slate that allows it to be appropriately limited in scope once again.

You'd need to set specific rules for when secession is considered acceptable, in order to preserve basic government stability, but that doesn't strike me as a particularly difficult problem. Certainly not as difficult as trying to set up the rules to directly keep the government in check by requiring supermajorities and multiple branches of government cooperating.

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omgryebread
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Re: Representative democracy without elections

Postby omgryebread » Tue Feb 04, 2014 3:50 pm UTC

Secession is a terrible idea in almost every case (Some make sense: Tibet, for example. Chechnya, even. Somaliland, if you want to call that secession.)

The first problem is setting up a new and effective government. This is a big problem in some areas that might otherwise have good reasons to secede. South Sudan's formation was a good thing, but they've struggled with this.

Next, in most regions, the people are probably not homogenous. Many are going to be part of an ethnic or cultural group still attached to the region you're leaving. Take the proposed state of Idel-Ural. Out of the 6 Russian Republics that would make up this independent state, ethnic Russians are a majority in Bashkortostan, Mari El, Mordovia and Udmurtia. The Mari people have lived in Mari El for thousands of years, but that doesn't answer the problems that ethnic Russians who legitimately live there might have should the republic leave the Federation. This is a much lesser problem in more developed countries, but still a thing. What would happen to people from other provinces living in Quebec now, would they be allowed to remain in Quebec? What about Quebec natives who are living elsewhere? Would they have Quebec citizenship? Dual citizenship? What about Quebec natives living in Quebec who would rather be Canadian citizens? Would Canada allow them to move to Ontario and be Canadian citizens? Would they have to relinquish Quebec citizenship?

Then, your new country has to deal with economic factors. Quebec would find itself outside of the domestic Canadian market, as well as outside NAFTA. It now has to negotiate foreign trade agreements with Canada, the US, and other countries. And because it's such a tiny state without an established independent economy, it's negotiating from a weakened position. What about currency? Yes Scotland promotes keeping the pound sterling: giving the UK significant control over the Scottish economy.

The final question is what advantages does secession bring? There are certainly some resource-rich locations that might wish to leave a country that they are the primary income for. (The oil-rich region of Cabinda has a strong separatist movement from Angola, for example.) These regions would be able to keep more of their income in their own region, which in many cases is nice. In other cases, it's absurd. Texas leaving the US and taking all it's oil is stupid on Texas's part, losing the access to US markets, and unfair to the US, which has invested significant money in the defense and infrastructure that has allowed Texas to have an oil industry. Scotland has a bit to gain from secession (national pride, more progressive government in line with their values, North Sea oil revenue), and a whole lot to lose (geopolitical weight, access to English markets, a say in their own currency). If Scotland secedes, the Tories would have firm control of the UK parliament, and their policies with the pound would be quite antithetical to what Scotland would want.

I think you'll likely see many independence movements quiet down as the economy recovers, barring the long-standing cultural and religious ones. Rather than more local government, I think you'll see more and more integration: The EU will expand, Puerto Rico will join the US, the African Union will grow in influence, and the Gulf States will find it in their interest to cooperate on issues like Palestine, Iran and a transition from an oil-based economy; if I really want to turn the optimism on, ASEAN will gain more influence as well, and strengthen ties with Japan, Korea, Australia and the US, as well as China.
avatar from Nononono by Lynn Okamoto.

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Darekun
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Re: Representative democracy without elections

Postby Darekun » Mon Feb 17, 2014 11:31 am UTC

Hm. I've been thinking of a "proxy voting system", which is basically delegative democracy used as a voting system, within the greater context of USA-style representative democracy(election day takes a snapshot of the proxies, etc). One of its advantages — recursion — may be useful here, both for controlling concentration of power and generally "saning" the system a bit.

In particular, representative political systems(and I'm including delegative here) tend to be pretty far down the road of cult of personality to begin with… I'm not sure they aren't already all the way down that road. Even where you vote for a party, and that party selects a representative, the party tends to have a brand identity with all the needed personality, if not an outright face.

The reason I think this applies is that intermediaries(delegates who delegate) don't need to rely that much on brand identity. Some will, and Rush Limbaugh is perhaps the classic example of these, but others should be more like Nate Silver. The old saw that "a degree in political science doesn't help you get into office" would apply just as much to people who presented themselves as trying to get into office, but people seen as knowledgeable who say they don't want to be in office would be delegated to, and a significant number of them should actually be knowledgeable. (And if they are, I suspect they wouldn't lie about their intentions, on the grounds of it being a violation of their platform.)

It may also help concentration of power through a feudal kind of effect. Even if polarization results in no more meaningful parties than we have now(i.e. power is concentrated to a few or even two people), there are probably a number of intermediaries close to those legislators, who can stand on their own without shedding too many votes, and sometimes will because factions are fractal. And personally, I suspect the ability for marginal groups to "bloc up" will really help proliferate; even if it only adds one legislator for the League Of Non-Aligned WorldsVoters, that's one more than we have now. I think more likely, we'll get something akin to the Wheel Of Reincarnation in computing, where those two effects alternate to maintain legislator numbers.



On an unrelated note, my knee-jerk guess is both systems and a hybrid will all do poorly under Condorcet's jury theorem, but I'm not sure how to tell. If each member of a voting group is more likely than not to make a correct decision, the probability that the highest vote of the group is the correct decision increases as the number of members of the group increases… but if we get down to a dozen meaningful legislators, it could be trouble.

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DireKobold
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Re: Representative democracy without elections

Postby DireKobold » Mon Feb 17, 2014 4:52 pm UTC

@Talldave I would be inclined to agree with you that the cause of many of the problems mentioned here is too much democracy, not too little. Also the corruption angle is worrisome as well.

I've seen a lot of proposed changes for making things work better and the one that's appealed to me the most was this one:

http://www.wired.com/opinion/2012/05/st_essay_voting/

tl;dr Essentially you pick a statistically representative sample of people from the country and only they get to vote. Reduces money, increases information and engagement, etc.

Probably never happen, but if it worked as expected it would accomplish some interesting things

kha-khees
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Re: Representative democracy without elections

Postby kha-khees » Sat Feb 22, 2014 5:32 am UTC

PeteP wrote:Possible problems: confidental votes. This system requires keeping records of who voted for whom and the people processing new votes, since the votes expire naturally that is the only group which needs access, but still a bit harder to ensure confidentiality.
Also I consider it as not unlikely that the votes will concentrate on a low number of highly visible people. Whether that is a problem or not is a matter of opinion, but I find concentrating power a bit worrying. (Especially since a decent part of it will probably be distributed based on charisma, not that it's different now.)

I like the petition system. Personally I would prefer if I could give my vote to someone for specific topics, but that isn't really possible since topics tend to overlap.


Power is quite concentrated in the currently popular systems anyway.

Here's a suggestion for casting votes: Assign people to blocs. A certain percentage of the population will be voting on rotation, say each quarter year. So over two years you have 8 blocs voting until the cycle resets. (hmm actually this doesn't really solve the anonymity issue. As recasts required if a rep loses office would mean people have to report for their vote to be recounted.)

I feel like the current practise of 1 large election each term leads to so many unfulfillable promises being made on campaign and broken in office that it would force representatives to show they are doing good work. So as each bloc rolls around their power will ebb and flow as their quality does.

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Darekun
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Re: Representative democracy without elections

Postby Darekun » Sat Feb 22, 2014 7:01 am UTC

kha-khees wrote:Here's a suggestion for casting votes: Assign people to blocs. A certain percentage of the population will be voting on rotation, say each quarter year. So over two years you have 8 blocs voting until the cycle resets. (hmm actually this doesn't really solve the anonymity issue. As recasts required if a rep loses office would mean people have to report for their vote to be recounted.)

Hm. I think it helps, it just doesn't outright solve the problem — instead of tracking that this vote is from someone who voted on the 9th of March two years ago, it's from the much broader category of people who voted in spring two years ago. They can hide in 1/8 of the population, instead of something like 1/730.

Ideally there'd be a cryptographic solution…

kha-khees wrote:I feel like the current practise of 1 large election each term leads to so many unfulfillable promises being made on campaign and broken in office that it would force representatives to show they are doing good work. So as each bloc rolls around their power will ebb and flow as their quality does.

Yeah, that makes sense from a game-theory perspective — leading up to a current election, the reward/effort ratio to spend time campaigning is so high they'd be a fool not to do it, even if the ratio's not great on average. The only problem is the ratio might be great on average :|

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PeteP
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Re: Representative democracy without elections

Postby PeteP » Sat Feb 22, 2014 11:52 am UTC

Well there is the cryptographic option of signing votes with private keys, which would work quite well as long as people keep their keys perfectly confidential. Which is probably not realistic.


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