The principles that rule this blog

Principles that will govern my thoughts as I express them here (from my opening statement):

  • Freedom of the individual should be as total as possible, limited only by the fact that nobody should be free to cause physical injury to another, or to deprive another person of his freedoms.
  • Government is necessary primarily to provide those services that private enterprise won't, or won't at a price that people can afford.
  • No person has a right to have his own beliefs on religious, moral, political, or other controversial issues imposed on others who do not share those beliefs.

I believe that Abraham Lincoln expressed it very well:

“The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do, at all, or cannot
so well do, for themselves — in their separate, individual capacities.”

Comments will be invited, and I will attempt to reply to any comments that are offered in a serious and non-abusive manner. However, I will not tolerate abusive or profane language (my reasoning is that this is my blog, and so I can control it; I wouldn't interfere with your using such language on your own!)

If anyone finds an opinion that I express to be contrary to my principles, they are welcome to point this out. I hope that I can make a rational case for my comments. Because, in fact, one label I'll happily accept is rationalist.

Friday, August 13, 2010

We need Proportional Representation!

The 2010 election is getting closer — less than three months away. But the chances that I will find a person to vote for to represent me in any legislative body are really remote. I live in a district that is represented in the House of Representatives by Chris Van Hollen, one of the most liberal members of the House. The VoteView rankings show Van Hollen as significantly more liberal than Nancy Pelosi! And since last year I have lived in the State legislative district that Van Hollen represented as a State Senator. Lots of luck finding anyone, in Annapolis or Washington, to represent me!

The problem is that our electoral system, known technically as Single-Member Plurality (SMP) generally allows for only one member of a legislative body to represent a whole geographical area. (In Maryland, the lower house of the State legislature, the House of Delegates, is mostly elected from three-member districts. But the voting method there (called block voting) guarantees that the three will be chosen by the same pluralities, so they are going to be ideological clones.) It doesn't have to be done that way. In foreign countries, Proportional Representation methods (PR) are used. A district elects several members, divided proportionally. If a district elects, say, five members, and 60% vote for one party and 40% for the other, then the first party will get three members and the second two. Both sides have representatives they can contact who will speak for them. In particular, it would be very easy for the Maryland House of Delegates to adopt a system called the Single Transferable Vote (STV), since three-member districts are already used, just like the system in Ireland. (Not all the districts in Ireland elect three members; some elect four or five. But for Maryland, the easiest way to go about it would be to use all three-member districts.) Actually, there is a better way than STV that has been proposed by voting methods expert Warren D. Smith, but it is untried, so it would be hard to get adopted: Reweighted Score Voting.

But whatever form of PR is used would give a better result than the way we do it now. The only problem is to convince the powers-that-be in the various legislatures. They got elected by the present SMP method, and many might lose their jobs if a new voting system were adopted.

(You might notice that I've been posting a lot more frequently recently. This is deliberate. Sometimes it's seemed that nobody has been reading this blog, so it's been hard to get the motivation up to post here. But lately, Google has provided stats, so I'm able to see how often people have come here. And it's been a lot more than I thought. Also, it's been said that you get more visits from frequent postings. Looking at July, I got about three hits per day; in August so far, it's been more than 8 — and it's only been the last few days I've really increased my posting frequency, so this is not the full story! That's why you'll be seeing me post a lot more from now on.)

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