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Political Capital

Cold, hard votes
  (+5, -1)
(+5, -1)
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against]

Democracy as we know it is a flawed system by design. It's not really reasonable that 51% of the people get to tell the other 49% how to live. Furthermore, the results of elections tend to be skewed towards the opinions of, well, those who actually vote. But getting more people to vote isn't really the solution, because there's an argument to be made that, if you don't really know or care about an issue, you shouldn't be voting on it. But just because you don't know enough about the issue now doesn't mean you won't want to do something about it later once you've seen the effects that it has on your life. But by then it's too late. You missed your chance to change things back when you—or anybody—had no way of knowing what the effects would actually be.

One solution to these issues would be to replace the current “one man, one vote” system with an electoral currency, which can be spent on a given election or saved as the voter sees fit. At each election, a voter is issued a certain number of votes (these would be likely kept track of electronically rather than physically) and is permitted to use as many of those votes as he sees fit, towards any issue. Having been issued seven votes, for example, he might spend one vote each on three propositions and three votes on a fourth proposition, saving his last vote for future elections. Or he might be a single issue voter, and blow all of his votes on a single proposition. Or, deciding he doesn't really care about this election at all, might simply bank all of his votes for future elections.

However, not all votes spent would necessarily be surrendered. Only the votes that are in the majority would be collected, and anybody who votes on the losing side has his votes refunded for use in future elections. This ensures that, following each election, the voice of the minority becomes slightly more powerful, such that no majority can ever maintain absolute power over the minority indefinitely. The practical result of this would be that the view of the majority tends to prevail with a frequency relative to the size of that majority, rather than 100% of the time regardless of how strong the mandate actually is, as under the current system.

This would raise several questions about rules regarding votes and their distribution. One might argue that higher income tax payers should receive more votes, on the basis that they contribute more to government and should have more of a say. One might also believe that people with a greater number of minor dependents should receive more votes, because they represent the will and interests of more people. There might be other criteria for issuing additional (or fewer) votes as well. Perhaps new votes are only issued if you've voted in the previous election at all, whether or not your votes actually won.

And then, of course, there is the important question: Could votes be sold or traded? Well, if you see them as a form of “electoral currency” then there's no reason they couldn't be. On the plus side, this could be a further incentive towards keeping the politically apathetic or unaware from casting votes for things they have no business casting them for. However, this might lead to a situation where the economically disadvantaged are consistently put in a position where they feel forced to sell their votes, resulting in their de facto disenfranchisement. This may not actually be a bad thing, on the theory that since rational behavior is to maximize benefit for oneself, people in such circumstances would still be better off than under the current system where they are forced to accept something of lesser value to them (voting) in lieu of something of greater value (money). However, there are numerous ways that might work to counter this effect. Issuing votes proportional to income would actually seem to be one way to do this, since it would be infeasible to buy enough votes from the poor to counter the larger number of votes from the wealthy, and cost-prohibitive to buy the votes of the rich. Some other ideas might include revoking the refundability of transferred votes, thereby making them less valuable, or having unspent votes gather “interest”, but only for the original bearer. However, the possibility exists that this would still leave the system too open to corruption, and it might be necessary to forbid any sort of transfer or trading of votes.

As another consideration, each proposition or representative might not necessarily have the same cost. In fact, it would be more reasonable to have more broadly important measures cost more than local matters. A vote for an increased water usage fee or a city council member might only cost a single vote, whereas a vote for president might cost ten times as much (actually, it should be the other way around, since a water usage fee or noise ordinance is likely to be far more relevant to the average citizen than who's the CEO du jour of the corrupt political-military machine, but I digress).

One of the things that perpetuates the current system, with all its flaws, is the fear that, by voting for something or someone that's unpopular, you're “throwing your vote away”. The sentiment, therefore, is that you should vote for something that has a chance of winning rather than something you believe in. This is so antithetical to the continued existence of a free society that it is clear that the current system must be abolished at once, and replaced with a system such as the one outlined here, where every vote truly has value.

ytk, Jul 16 2012

[link]






       Flaw: the single-issue voters would win out over those who care about multiple issues.
RayfordSteele, Jul 16 2012
  

       Flaw: Under a strict numerical democracy, the voice of the moderate tends to be the deciding vote. Under this system, since those casting votes would tend to be the most engaged on either side, the system would tend towards even more extreme swings (one side wins on one vote, the other side, still having all its votes, would take the next, and so on).
MechE, Jul 16 2012
  

       How is this different from the current system of the wealthy and powerful buying the result they want through control of the media, disinformation, bribery and assassination ?   

       // is clear that the current system must be abolished at once, and replaced //   

       Well done !   

       // with a system such as the one outlined here, where every vote truly has value. //   

       Oh ... and you were doing so well.   

       You need to change course to 344.5 mark 6, and head for the Cynicism Event Horizon. Once you're through it, everything will seem so much better. It won't actually be better; but you'll be too bitter and twisted to care.
8th of 7, Jul 16 2012
  

       I agree about the instability that [MechE] mentioned. I think there is a huge value in having laws be relatively stable. If there is an issue, it should be debated and decided, and possibly modified somewhat after the affects of the law are observed, but if it swings back and forth every election, that is likely to be the worst of both options.   

       Unfortunately the thing that causes the instability (loosing votes being stored up for later), is the one aspect of the idea that really caught my eye as something new and good. It seems like there ought to be some way to take this concept and make it useful, but probably not.   

       Perfectly half-baked [+]
scad mientist, Jul 16 2012
  

       (marked-for-tagline)   

       "It seems like there ought to be some way to take this concept and make it useful, but probably not."   

       Yeah, but at least it's got paragraph breaks.
normzone, Jul 16 2012
  

       This is so machiavellian it hurts. [+]
Voice, Jul 16 2012
  

       nifty, but how is something decided up as being an "issue" ? Who gets to word the referendum ? [+] for generic flow though.
FlyingToaster, Jul 16 2012
  

       //Flaw: the single-issue voters would win out over those who care about multiple issues.//   

       There are a lot fewer of them, though, and though they may win for a single election cycle, that puts them at a disadvantage for the next one. The net result is that in the short term single issue voters might prevail, but in the long term (i.e., more than a single election cycle) they would tend not to.   

       //Flaw: Under a strict numerical democracy, the voice of the moderate tends to be the deciding vote.//   

       Exactly, and that's the problem. The current system is inherently polarizing: the so-called moderates are forced to choose one extreme position or another, like we do in the U.S. every four years. Under the proposed system, an extreme view has a good chance of being displaced by a moderate view, or at least an opposing one, in short time—even if that view doesn't have strict majority support. But people will shortly realize that championing extreme viewpoints is futile, as they're nearly impossible to sustain for more than one or two election cycles.   

       What it all comes down to is that extreme views inherently don't have the mandate of the masses, even if they temporarily have managed to accumulate enough support to be codified. Thus, they should be replaced as soon as everyone calms down a bit, and while this system might make it a bit easier for extremist propositions to win elections, it also makes them substantially easier to subsequently eliminate those propositions from the law. Besides, maybe trying out an extreme viewpoint every now and then isn't such a bad thing?   

       //I think there is a huge value in having laws be relatively stable.//   

       The problem with this is that it becomes very hard to undo bad laws once they are passed, because the notion that you can't fight the majority rule becomes ingrained in the minds of the voting public. The idea here is to replace the “tyranny of the majority” with the notion that the majority doesn't always get its way indefinitely simply because slightly more people happened to hold that view at a key point in time.   

       //How is this different from the current system of the wealthy and powerful buying the result they want through control of the media, disinformation, bribery and assassination ?//   

       Hah! If only that were true now. As it is, nothing rallies the voting public to take up the banner of class warfare like a good populist appeal. Unfortunately, when the end result of that is inevitably disastrous, the moderate voters tend to lose interest and trudge back to their bread and circuses, leaving the ill-conceived law in place until the next exhortation to eat the rich; thus the cycle begins all over again. At least with this system, they could sell their unneeded votes to somebody who could put them to good use undoing the damage they did.   

       Is that cynical enough for you?
ytk, Jul 16 2012
  

       Not bad … not bad at all.   

       <Vader>   

       "The Force is with you, young Skywalker, but you are not a Jedi yet."   

       </Vader>
8th of 7, Jul 16 2012
  

       // But people will shortly realize that championing extreme viewpoints is futile, as they're nearly impossible to sustain for more than one or two election cycles. // That's an interesting point, and might remove my objection, except that I don't believe you when you say that people would realize the futility of championing extreme viewpoints. They would pass an extreme law in the hopes that when it is changed back, the opposing side would take a position closer to their view in the next cycle to appease them and make them unable to rally support to change the law again. But in the end, both sides would think this way. The fact that each side had the ability to save up votes would simply allow even more extreme versions of laws to pass.
scad mientist, Jul 16 2012
  

       It would be really nice though if a minority could rally the support to tweak a law slightly, eventually achieving a fairly stable equilibrium.
scad mientist, Jul 16 2012
  

       //They would pass an extreme law in the hopes that when it is changed back, the opposing side would take a position closer to their view in the next cycle to appease them and make them unable to rally support to change the law again.//   

       It would be counterproductive to do so. The extremist group, not having anything else they're interested in voting on, would simply save up their votes and attempt to pass a new version of the law when they feel they have enough votes saved up. As a practical matter, though, it would be very hard for any but the largest extremist groups to do this very often, at which point they're not really extremist groups anymore, are they? A group that represents a view held by only 1% of the population would need to either compromise its viewpoint to increase support, or maintain its extreme viewpoint for perhaps fifty election cycles, at which point there's a /chance/ that they might get it passed, and an even bigger chance that it'll simply get repealed in the cycle following that.   

       The frequency with which this cycle would repeat itself is proportional to how widely that viewpoint is held. But the “stroke of luck” victories by extremist groups that capitalize on some particular event temporarily shoring up support for their cause would be easy to undo in subsequent elections, after everybody has woken up with a bad hangover and snuck out the back door before anyone sees them, pretending thereafter that no, /they/ certainly weren't sucked into the wave of righteous indignation that led the deluded masses to vote for whatever stupid law is now permanently on the books.
ytk, Jul 17 2012
  
      
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