A libertarian critique on modern democratic systems.
Democracy has proven to be the overwhelmingly most common system of decision in the past three centuries. First created in the fifth-century Athens, democracy is a word developed from demos, or people, and kratos, power. Cleisthenes broke up the unlimited power of the nobility by organizing citizens into ten groups based on where they lived, rather than on their wealth. This post is not a critique on the moral implications of systems of democracy, so I will not be discussing the concepts of tyranny associated with majority rule. Rather, we will look at modern interpretations of Solon, Cleisthenes, and Ephialte’s works.
The first and most common form is Plurality. Also known as first past the post, this system involves only submitting one vote. In a two party system, the outcome is logical. But let us add another party (us!). When this third party is added, they are in quite a pickle. This party can not develop a campaign to establish majority. This is called the “spoiler effect”. Do these third party voters vote for their honest favorite and leave the vote to others? Or do they strategically vote for the second choice hoping to get an outcome they prefer? The argument for voting honestly, is that these votes matter to build support over time and eventually win. But, this technique will mean throwing many elections away to your least favorite party. It is hard to ignore the immediate stakes of elections, so it turns out that most people do not even consider third parties. Thus, the ultimate result is a strategy that only involves picking from the top two. A real life example of this would be the USA.
The second option is Instant Runoff. Also known as ranked-choice, this method involves a series of elections narrowing down the list of candidates until a winner is found. Instant Runoff allows voters to be more honest while being able to fall back on the strategic second favorite. Looks like everything was fixed right? Instant Runoff for the win! Unfortunately, this system runs into the exact same issues. If the party is less popular and more centrist in relation to the others, the centrists are now knocked out due to a phenomenon known as the “center squeeze”. Here, voters are again punished for choosing their party of choice and are more inclined to be coerced to the others. A real life example of this would be Australia, who has used Instant Runoff for over a century yet still has two dominant parties.
The third and final option I will discuss is Approval voting. This method allows voters to vote for as many candidates as they like. It is commonly argued that voters will vote for any parties that fall within their approval range. Yet again, voters in this system are inclined to vote strategically rather than honestly. Voting for all three is equivalent to not vote at all, so people are more inclined to cut out a candidate to increase the chances of one they like better. Also, if two candidates have similar outcomes, voters can strategically betray the closer party to have their favorite candidate win. This exists for both of the larger parties. Now, obviously these voters cannot account for the numbers before the election, so each person will have to decide how much the party should betray before the election. Each side will have to “out betray” the other side, but if they both go too far, the third party will win. This situation creates probable chance of the least favorite party winning. Unfortunately, this system has not been brought to scale, but research shows these tendencies in voters.
Overall, I think everyone can agree that statistically the Plurality system is the worst choice for democracy. But where do we go from there? Do we live with the inevitable problems of the other systems? Do we scrap the concept of democracy for something else? Thanks in advance for reading my post. 😀
Article from r/Libertarian: For a Free Society