antipaucity

fighting the lack of good ideas

a simple restructuring of elections

In close follow-up with my desire to see political parties abolished, we also need to rethink how voting is done.

In the United States, you can only vote for a single candidate for most positions (town councils are an exception).

You do not have the opportunity to say anything more than a binary yes|no to a given person for a given office.

You can vote for Bob for mayor. But not voting for Mary, Quentin, and Zoe doesn’t really say anything about what you think of them – just that you liked Bob the best.

And there is the problem. There is an explicit elimination of relative preference when voting: all you can do is vote “yes” for a candidate.

That is very different from voting “no” against a candidate.

What should happen instead is you should vote for your favorite candidates in order of preference, so Bob is number 1, Zoe number 2, Quentin number 3, and Mary number 4.

Then when I vote, and rank them Mary 1, Zoe 2, Quentin 3, and Bob 4, we can get a picture of the relative preference of any given candidate running for the office.

Do this across all voters in a given election, and assign the winner to the person with the lowest score (in the numbering shown above – flip the values to assign the winner to the person with the highest score).

Perhaps even look at the top 3 or 4 after gestalt ranking, then vote again to determine the winner (this would be ideal for a Primary-then-General Election method).

What research shows is that while you and I may wildly disagree on “best” and “worst”, we’ll probably be pretty close on who we think is “good enough”.

In the Bob-Mary-Quentin-Zoe example with two voters, Mary & Bob both got 5 points. Quentin received 6, but Zoe earned 4.

The two voters, therefore, think Zoe is “good enough”, even though they part ways on “best” and “worst” (Bob & Mary).

Combine such a ranking system with a fully-open Primary election (ie you go rank every candidate regardless of “party”), and we would see much more representative-of-the-citizenry candidates appear at final Election.

political parties should be abolished

John Adams and George Washington, among many others, both warned of the dangers of political parties.

There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution. –John Adams

And from George Washington:

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty

Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind, (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight,) the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.

It serves always to distract the Public Councils, and enfeeble the Public Administration. It agitates the Community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which find a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.

There is an opinion, that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the Government, and serve to keep alive the spirit of Liberty. This within certain limits is probably true; and in Governments of a Monarchical cast, Patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party. But in those of the popular character, in Governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency, it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose. And, there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be, by force of public opinion, to mitigate and assuage it. A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.

And yet for the last 200+ years, not only have we had a party-based system, but even with the American public supposedly interested in viable third parties, of which there are myriad, none have come close to appearing in a major election since 1968, when George Wallace won 46 electoral votes, and just shy of 10,000,000 popular votes (Nixon and Humphrey won 301 & 191 electoral votes respectively, and 31.7m & 30.9m popular votes respectively). The major parties have enacted all kinds of de factorules” to prevent competition.

That’s nearly 50 years since a third-party candidate won a state in a Presidential election.

No wonder candidates declare to enter races affiliated with the Big 2 instead of whom they actually feel more closely aligned with.

“Politics exists as soon as two people are in the same room,” was cleverly told to me by a former colleague at a highly-politicized company. And it’s true. As soon as you have two people together, disagreement arises. Priorities are different. Interests are different. Parties can help group together folks with more-or-less similar ideas, but they tend to either be so tightly- or loosely-defined that affiliating with the “party” either makes you look like a kook, or says nothing at all about you.

We all know there are no perfect candidates (though I’m awful darn close!) – and while aligning with a party might tell you something about the person, it often it says little at all.

So I propose to make “official” party affiliation a thing of the past. Remove barriers to entry for candidates. Remove party affiliations when registering to vote.

After all, we’re all just citizens. We shouldn’t be judged by party affiliation.

why nations fail by daron acemoglu and james a robinson

I first came across Why Nations Fail at my local Half Price Books. After seeing it on the shelves a couple times, but still being unsure about whether I really wanted to read it or not, I reserved it at my local library.

Now I wish I had bought it (and likely will) – Daron Acemoglu & James A Robinson, while sometimes slipping into an academic, journalistic tone, present a fantastic historical, economic, cultural, and international view into the similarities, and differences, of “national” failures around the world over the last several centuries.

They spend a great deal of time expounding on the differences of countries that succeed and those that don’t – and offer insights into how failing nations could, potentially, turn themselves around.

Interestingly, the factors that play-into national success and failure are similar throughout history – critical junctures, inclusive/pluralistic political and economic environments vs extractive/exclusive political and economic structures, empowered citizenries, overbearing rulers, literacy, economic incentives (positive and negative), etc.

The Iron Law of Oligarchy:

the overthrow of a regime presiding over extractive institutions heralds the arrival of a new set of masters to exploit the same set of pernicious extractive institutions (p366)

My recommendation? Buy it. Read it. Share it. The background and conclusions this book presents and reaches should be required reading for anyone who wants to see their nation “do better” – politicians, businessmen, citizens, NGOs: all would benefit from applying what is demonstrated in this excellent work.

  • Quality of writing: 4/5
  • Quality of content: 4.5/5
  • Historicity: 5/5
  • Educational value 4.5/5
  • Overall: 4.5/5

deadline by mira grant

I read Feed (review) a few weeks ago, and just finished the 2d installment in Mira Grant’s Newsflesh trilogy, Deadline. The frenetic pace of book 1 was upped a level in book 2 (along with some more language).

Mira is a fantastic author, and I cannot wait to read Blackout (it’s on my library queue).

“You know why corporate espionage keeps happening, no matter how bad they make the penalties for getting caught? … People stop caring. Once you reach the point where you’re working with more people than can comfortably go for drinks together, folks stop giving as much of a shit.”

“There’s always been something nasty waiting around the corner to kill us, but … [t]his constant ‘stay inside and let yourself be protected’ mentality has gotten more people killed than all the accidental exposures in the world. It’s like we’re addicted to being afraid.”

“It never pays to insult computers that are smart enough to form sentences. Not when they’re in control of the locks, and especially not when they have the capacity to boil you in bleach”

feed by mira grant

After some time of not reading fiction, I saw Mira Grant’s Feed recently in a store, checked my local library, and reserved a copy.

Now I need to read Deadline and Blackout. Grant’s writing, while typically female in style (first person dialog – both inner and outer, and the main character is a girl), does not confine its audience to needing to be female to fully enjoy it. I’ve read (or tried to read) many female-authored stories that are intensely difficult for me to really get into because it’s largely internal dialog in the female protagonist’s mind. I’m not a girl, and what ramblings are conveyed don’t jive with my brain 🙂

Exceptions to the rule have only come from Stephanie Meyer (The Host), Suzanne Collins (The Hunger Games trilogy), and one other that I purchased in Britain several years ago but whose name escapes me.

Back to Feed. Our heroes are an adopted brother and sister, Georgia and Shaun, and their tech friend Buffy. They’re all bloggers with licenses to travel into contaminated areas (ie, where zombies are freely roaming), but all blog differently – Georgia is a Newsie, Shaun is an Irwin, and Buffy a Fictional – so they report the news in an objective fashion as possible; educate by “poking things with a stick”; and write poems, stories, etc based on their type of blogging.

After a short introduction to our main crew, the backdrop of being selected to blog Senator Ryman’s presidential campaign in the substantially-post-zombified world of 2040 (the Rising happened in 2014) is the main setting.

Interestingly, Grant uses references to other pop culture zombie portrayals (including ample nods to George A Romero who more-or-less created the ‘ideal’ zombie world we all love today with his groundbreaking work in Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, Land of the Dead, and Diary of the Dead, and which is also typified in AMC’s TV production of The Walking Dead (also a graphic novel series)). This is unlike perhaps any other horror/scifi writer I have ever seen before: she uses those stories to exemplify both “what we got right”, and “what we got wrong” in her universe.

If you’re queasy at the thought of flesh-eating zombies roaming the world, don’t read Feed. (Also don’t read World War Z – another of my favorites). If, however, you love a good whodunit, and are intrigued by the backdrop of a man-made-but-survivable apocalypse, go read Feed.

I’ll tell you how the rest of the trilogy is after I’ve finished them.