Freedom on the March: Special Non-Iraq Edition

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In Austria, they're (surprisingly) digging the left.

In Brazil, they're not digging Lula or government corruption.

in Thailand, they're digging the new military government.

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  1. Is George Allen still digging?
    … the underwear of pages you say?

  2. It’s funny – the Austrian party that people are “digging” won about 36% of the vote, while the Brazilian President that the people are “not digging” won about 49% of the vote.

    Weigel’s descriptions are a relic of the two party, winner-take-all nature of our electoral system, which encourages “A or B” thinking. Most of the other democracies in the world have systems which allow the electorate to send much more precise messages in its elections. For example, a majority governing party whose platform people generally agree with, but which has gotten soft or self-indulgent, can be given a victor with less than a majority, which means the Yahoo Party government is replaces with a coalition govenrment led be the Yahoo Party.

    We’re still running Democracy 1.0, maybe 1.2, while everyone else is up to v. 2 or 3.

  3. We’re still running Democracy 1.0, maybe 1.2, while everyone else is up to v. 2 or 3.

    Like that’s a bad thing? Let ’em work the bugs out for us…

  4. A lot of the upgrades have bugs, as Arrow proved. But Approval Voting is simple to use, in the worst case it’s no worse than what we have, and in the best case it’s expected to perform at least as well as the more popular upgrades.

  5. We’ll all be digging our overbearing government soon enough.

  6. I’ve been much intrigued by the parliamentary systems of Europe, if for no other reasons, we’d finally get some smaller government types to at least have some seats in Congress.

    What I haven’t studied more closely, however, is whether a tiny minority of seats in any paliament would be able to change any legislative outcomes overall.

  7. joe,

    I agree with you that European elections tend to have more choices in terms of parties. However, elections are more about pacifying the people (making them think they have a choice because they mark a peice of paper that is one of millions, every few years… when really, a small group of powerful people control nearly everything). Do we really WANT voting to work that well? Maybe if they were unhappy with who has authority, people wouldn’t be so eager for authoritarianism.

    Voting in the modern era is a lot like selecting someone to decide what we should eat for dinner. If you select someone who makes good choices about what you should eat for dinner, that only distracts you from the fact that you should be able to select your own dinner.

    Ultimatly, European democracy has no more choice than the U.S. … Even if a coalition government wins, the government is still an authoritarian monopoly with zero choice. Regardless of the distribution of parties in the central government, as a citizen it is your purpose in life to obey, and to follow one centrally planned model without deviation. You are “choosing” who you want to see take away your choice.

  8. We’re still running Democracy 1.0, maybe 1.2, while everyone else is up to v. 2 or 3.

    it does not suprise me that joe focuses on our election system for the federal government yet neglects to mention our robust system of cellular governance…ie federalism.

    In his statist utopia he favors the system of less acountable by election and mared in entreched buerocrocy Washington DC dictating law to Washington state…a system heavely favored by parliamentary elections.

  9. You think 36% is small, read the article on the new Thai leader – a whopping 0% of the reactions quoted are from ordinary Thai would-be voters.

  10. RexRhino,

    All of the anti-republican/anti-parliament movements of the 20th century – in Germany, Italy, Russia, and elsewhere – made almost exactly the same argument. What’s the point of the election game, since none of the parties are going to intorduce the One True Way. My comments, and the discussion of electoral and parliamentary systems, are only going to make sense if you believe in democracy, I guess.

    Actually, joshua, I commented on the topic of national elections because the thread was about national elections. And my comments were about how to make the system more accountable.

    Have you noticed that you read every comment I wrote the way a post-modern, post-structuralist Marxists-feminist professor reads literature? You KNOW that your ideological transgressions of choice are contained in what I write, and are eager to engage in the most dramatic, counter-factual “close readings” in order to show that they’re there. Frankly, it was boring enough to have to read people with twice your education play that game.

  11. You know, there’s no reason why you have to go parliamentary to have more than 2 parties. Proportional representation systems (which come in numerous flavors) are simply a way to elect a legislature. Parliamentary rule is about having the legislature elect the executive. There are countries with parliamentary rule that use our method for electing members of parliament (e.g. England), and there are countries with proportional representation that elect the executive separate from the legislature (e.g. Costa Rica).

    I’ll just cut and paste my standard spiel about proportional representation, to answer a lot of common objections:

    1) In a bicameral legislature, it would be best to only elect one chamber by PR, not both. Obviously the US Senate shouldn’t be changed in that regard.

    2) I’m not talking about statewide or nationwide elections for the lower chamber. In the US House, a small to mid-sized state could serve as a single district electing up to 10 or so legislators. Larger states could be divided into districts, with each district electing 5 to 10 legislators. On the state level, the lower house could be divided up among districts of 5 to 10 members.

    3) I’m not suggesting the party list elections that European countries often use. There are plenty of ways to keep the focus on individual candidates rather than parties. See the Center for Voting and Democracy for more info.

    4) I’m not suggesting a parliamentary system that goes unstable and requires a new election every time a legislative coalition falls apart. The executive would still be elected separately, but one house of the legislature would simply be elected by PR.

    5) Yes, I realize that this is a republic, not a democracy. My goal is to get the best representation for the people, rather than a system where the majority in a district gets all the representation while the minority gets no representation.

    6) For those who lament large district sizes distancing people from their legislators, when’s the last time the legislator from your gerrymandered district paid any attention to you?

  12. Rex Rhino,

    “However, elections are more about pacifying the people (making them think they have a choice because they mark a peice of paper that is one of millions, every few years… when really, a small group of powerful people control nearly everything).” You mean, every few years, the proletariat is allowed to decide which members of the ruling class will represent them?

    I guess the Karl Marx view is one way to consider the problem, and there’s a valid point in there. But what this Marxist vision leaves out is that the “ruling class” is not a monolithic entity. Politicians are divided in their ideologies and interests just like everyone else. Even when there is a divide between the public and the politicians, allowing voters to choose among differnt political parties who stand on different sides of the issues is still an effective way for the public to express its values and interests, and to bring to power a government that shares them.

  13. joe, it’s interesting that you should bring up proportional voting and related schemes. Normally, I’d agree with that sort of thing, but just yesterday, while listening to The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, I heard Shirer suggest that the ability of splinter groups to get representation in the German government played a major role in the rise of Nazism. It’s a valid point, though I don’t think it means that proportional voting systems are inherently doomed to failure. The danger, to the extent that there is one, is less in some crazy minority party grabbing power on its own as in one or more crazy minority powers becoming the arbiters of a coalition government.

    I don’t agree with the idea that our system is somehow more primitive that the political systems in Europe. We’ve been pretty stable, and I can point to a lot of problems with the parliamentary alternative. Truth be told, the “perfect” or even “nearly perfect” political system hasn’t been found yet. Rather than toss out our way of doing politics, I’d just like to improve it. Maybe a modified proportional system would help–I’m favorable to thoreau’s suggestion of doing that in the House but not in the Senate. In any event, like most libertarians/classical liberals, I think part of the way to improve our system is to take the Constitution a little more seriously 🙂

  14. I had an Anglophilic history professor in college who thought we should adopt the British parliamentary system (sans monarch). He had several arguments for doing so, but I remember one of his biggest being that when countries adopted a republican style of government that they virtually always opted for a parliamentary system, even when being occupied by the United States at the time (e.g., Germany and Japan).

    I think the reality is that bits and pieces of our system are, in fact, adopted by other governments, but it does seem that the separation of executive and legislative power is less important to most other cultures than ours. I happen to think that we’re right and they’re wrong on that point, but who really knows?

  15. In Austria, two “far right” parties, the FP? and the BZ?, garnered, respectively, 11% and 4% of the vote. So the Far Right won 15% of the vote. Just to put the advance of the Social Democrats in perspective.

  16. Frankly, it was boring enough to have to read people with twice your education play that game.

    If we are going to play the elitist game joe I would lie to remind you I am richer then you are.

    🙂

  17. PL: The problem of splinter parties in the German Federal Republic is dealt with by having a 5% vote total set as a threshold before a minor party can get any seats. The liberal Free Democrats and the Greens are usually able to top that, while extreme Marxist and rightist parties usually can’t.

    BTW, Reason has run articles on the recent Mexican and Swedish elections. I tried to post the links, but they didn’t survive moderation.

    Kevin

  18. Pro Lib,

    The Nazis didn’t leverage splinter-party-level support into major political power. They didn’t gain any power at all until they were a large, popular party. Had the German public not accepted, even supported, what they had to say – that is, had their electoral support never risen into the double digits – they never would have come to power. In other words, it wasn’t the system that brought them to power, it was the people.

    Nor would an American two-party system have held them off; if their ideology found as much support in the U.S. as it did in Germany, they simply would have taken over one of the parties.

  19. 6) For those who lament large district sizes distancing people from their legislators, when’s the last time the legislator from your gerrymandered district paid any attention to you?

    Anytime i feel like calling him up…or showing up where he lives or when he is making a speech…are you implying that it is even remotely hard to reach a house rep?

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