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, February 25, 2011

Open primaries? No thanks! (But there is a good alternative!)

Solomon Kleinsmith is the owner of a centrist blog: this means, of course, a little bit to the left of my politics, but not so far that I don't agree with a lot of his positions. But one thing he favors that I cannot is open primaries.

You might think that allowing Democrats and Republicans to vote in each other's primaries might moderate their choices, but look what this could cause: Consider next year, when Barack Obama is certain to be the Democrats' nominee. Since a Democrat has no likelihood of affecting the primary process in his own party, he might decide to cross over and vote in the Republican primary, and vote for the Republican that Obama has the best chance to defeat. As a result, the Republicans would have someone like a Sarah Palin nominated, just to make it easier for Obama. (Think of Christine O'Donnell in Delaware last year. She wasn't nominated in an open primary, but open primaries might cause a lot more of this type of nomination.)

Of course, one might argue that this sort of thing hasn't much happened in those States that do have open primaries. Well, let's see what has happened in those States. Virginia is an open-primary state; it has to be, because Virginia law does not allow voters to register in a paty, the way Maryland and New York (to mention the two States where I've been registered to vote in my lifetime) do. Wisconsin is very similar to Virginia in this respect. Now can anyone argue that Virginia candidates have been more moderate, more centrist than, say Maryland candidates? I don't think they have been. And certainly the recent impasse in Wisconsin has shown that in that State, exteremism has not been driven out of local politics.

Now Kleinsmith does agree with me on another proposed election rule change: he strongly opposes "top two primaries." These were adopted statewide in Louisiana and subsequently in a couple of other states; the same system is used in my county for the nonpartisan Board of Education elections. In a "top two primary," all candidates (in a partisan election, all the candidates of all parties) run against each other, and two (who might be both from the same party!) are chosen to run in the final election. In Louisiana, this has led to the bizarre "lizard/wizard" election of 1991. It is clear that it causes all sorts of problems, and a whole chapter was written in William Poundstone's book, "Gaming the Vote" about the 1991 Louisiana Gubernatorial election. Suffice it to say that that's not the answer either.

Is there a solution that will help moderate candidates get elected? Possibly. Poundstone's book suggests that another system would be better: score voting, also known as range voting. In this system, the voter rates all the candidates instead of picking just one. And a moderate candidate might, by getting high, but not maximal, ratings from both left-of-center and right-of-center voters, actually win in a score voting election. Check out the Center for Range Voting site, or Poundstone's book. You might be impressed.

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