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.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Perils of plurality voting

One of the perils of plurality voting, the system we use here in the US for most elections, is that the candidates most similar to each other are the ones who will attack each other the most viciously. There are two candidates for Governor of New York in yesterday's election who could be described as "libertarian": Warren Redlich, who actually had the Libertarian Party's nomination, and Kristin Davis, who ran under the banner of the Anti-Prohibition Party (apparently favoring legalizing prostitution). Davis had tried to gain the Libertarian nomination, and before Redlich had secured it, he called her a "whore." (She had actually run an "escort service," though apparently she was not a prostitute herself.) Later on, just before the election, campaign flyers were distributed, it would appear by members of Davis' campaign staff, though with the actual connection obscured by using a fake sponsor's name, calling Redlich a child molester. Obviously, these two candidates, who were seeking to get the same voters' support, felt it necessary to attack each other rather than their more remote opponents.

And this is only one such example. I remember one election, many years ago, also in New York when I still lived there, when the Socialist Workers' Party and the Socialist Labor Party candidates found themselves on adjacent lines of the ballot. Now it is granted that these two parties differed more than their names would imply, but they were the most left-wing of the parties on the ballot and were obviously competing for the votes of those who favored some sort of socialism. So again, they felt it necessary to attack each other rather than their more remote opponents.

It's one of the plurality system's biggest flaws. Candidates who should be boosting each other as second-best end up fighting tooth and nail. If we had score voting, or approval voting, or even instant runoff voting (though supporters of SV and IRV mostly oppose each other's ideas almost as strongly as supporters of rival, but similar, candidates in plurality do!) you would not see this. Candidates who were rather similar would be more likely to boost each other since it would not hurt themselves to do so.

That alone is a good reason to change our voting system.

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