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'[OT]: [POLITICAL] Democracy bah humbug'
2005\07\11@174623 by Mike Hord

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> > The US presidential election is not (and never has
> been) decided by the results of the national popular
> vote.
>
> Why is that?

By the rules of the electoral college,  a rural
voter has more pull than an urban voter.  After all,
North Dakota's ~300,000 voters get more per capita
votes than voters in New York or California, since they
have 3 votes (1 per 100,000 voters), while in CA, 55
votes get divided among 16.9 million voters (1 per
300,000 voters).  I'm guestimating 50% of a given
state is of legal age and inclined to vote...actual data
will vary wildly from that guestimate.

Why is this?  My pet theory (not one I've ever heard
before) is that when the Constitution was written,
the landed, educated "aristocracy" largely lived in
rural areas.  The uneducated, unwashed masses
lived in the cities.  So something was needed to
give the educated landowners more pull, since they
obviously knew what was best for the nation.

Problems with this theory include that I haven't
actually researched the demographics of
Constitutional Congress era America, and it may
well be that cities held the vast majority of the
wealthy.  OTOH, I KNOW (having visited many
of their homes) that a fair number of those who
wrote the Constitution lived in the country.

Mike H.

2005\07\11@215210 by Lee Jones

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{Quote hidden}

In the late 1700's, there were no large cities (large in today's
sense).  The transportation and public utilities infrastructure
was insufficient to allow high population density.

Recall that the 13 colonies stretched along the eastern seaboard
since long distance transportation was primarily on water (thus
the term, shipping...).  At the time it was selected, the capitol
was centrally located.

The communications infrastructure of the time also required that
elections be done in a distributed fashion.  The time needed to
send a message from an outlying state to the capitol was measured
in days or (more usually) weeks.  And the ability to campaign (in
the modern sense) through-out the United States was impractical.

The electoral college was created to empower representatives from
each state to carry the wishes of that state's populace to a central
location and choose a president.  Those "wishes" were primarily of
the weathly, landed, male gentry.  As time passed, the "wishes" of
the people were results of an election held in each state.

I don't believe the electors necessarily have to cast their votes
according to their state election results -- it's simply guidance.
But, in practice, they always do vote per their state election.

For more information on the electoral college, see the US Federal
Election Commission web site (http://www.fec.gov/pages/ecmenu2.htm).


                                               Lee Jones

2005\07\11@221440 by James Newton, Host

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> The electoral college was created to empower representatives
> from each state to carry the wishes of that state's populace
> to a central location and choose a president.  Those "wishes"
> were primarily of the weathly, landed, male gentry.  As time
> passed, the "wishes" of the people were results of an
> election held in each state.

The electors actually where often the only ones to actually meet the
candidates.

> I don't believe the electors necessarily have to cast their
> votes according to their state election results -- it's
> simply guidance.
> But, in practice, they always do vote per their state election.


The electors are selected by the party according to the vote. So while an
elector could say that s/he was going to vote one way and actually vote
another, in practice, as you say, they always vote the party line.

The system is OLD... But people feel safe with it.

For some strange reason.

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2005\07\13@194414 by Howard Winter

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Mike,

On Mon, 11 Jul 2005 16:45:45 -0500, Mike Hord wrote:

> By the rules of the electoral college,  a rural
> voter has more pull than an urban voter.

>...<

Thanks for the explanation!  I can see how this was useful when it was set up, but with today's communications
as far as I can see the only benefit is to the politicians, so that they can concentrate on the undecideds,
rather than having to deal with the whole country!

Personally, I think the system we have (basically I get one vote which even if it goes my way decides
everything the Government does for the next 5 years) is a terribly unrepresentative thing to call democracy...

Cheers,


Howard Winter
St.Albans, England


2005\07\14@110146 by Mike Hord

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> > By the rules of the electoral college,  a rural
> > voter has more pull than an urban voter.
>
> >...<
>
> Thanks for the explanation!  I can see how this was
> useful when it was set up, but with today's communications
> as far as I can see the only benefit is to the politicians,
> so that they can concentrate on the undecideds,
> rather than having to deal with the whole country!
>
> Personally, I think the system we have (basically I
> get one vote which even if it goes my way decides
> everything the Government does for the next 5 years)
> is a terribly unrepresentative thing to call democracy...

OTOH, when you look at what happens with direct
democracy (for example, referendum voting in California),
the results can be just as bad...

Mike H.

2005\07\14@180559 by Gerhard Fiedler

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Mike Hord wrote:

> OTOH, when you look at what happens with direct democracy (for example,
> referendum voting in California), the results can be just as bad...

Some results might be different if each voted issue to the ballot was
coupled with a tax increase/decrease based on the estimated cost/savings
... :)

Gerhard

2005\07\15@085826 by Howard Winter

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On Thu, 14 Jul 2005 10:01:06 -0500, Mike Hord wrote:

> > >...<
> >
> > Personally, I think the system we have (basically I
> > get one vote which even if it goes my way decides
> > everything the Government does for the next 5 years)
> > is a terribly unrepresentative thing to call democracy...
>
> OTOH, when you look at what happens with direct
> democracy (for example, referendum voting in California),
> the results can be just as bad...

Ah, but what's "bad"?  My definition of that would be that I didn't get the result I wanted!  :-)

You obviously can't have voting on illogical issues, such as "No taxes and free fuel for everyone".  But I
would really love to be able to vote "Stop persecuting motorists", but unfortunately none of the major parties
have this in their manifesto  :-(

Cheers,


Howard Winter
St.Albans, England


2005\07\15@091053 by Howard Winter

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Gerhard,

On Thu, 14 Jul 2005 15:05:57 -0700, Gerhard Fiedler wrote:

> Mike Hord wrote:
>
> > OTOH, when you look at what happens with direct democracy (for example,
> > referendum voting in California), the results can be just as bad...
>
> Some results might be different if each voted issue to the ballot was
> coupled with a tax increase/decrease based on the estimated cost/savings

Hertfordshire County Council did issue an "opinion gathering" voting sheet a couple of years ago, which they
weren't bound to follow, but which gave the impression that they were asking people what they wanted.  It had
three or four "bands" of increase in Council Tax, with the associated actions that would be financed by them.  
But it was a masterpiece of asking "When are you going to stop beating your wife?"-type questions.  It started
with an increase of 6%, with few extra goodies and some being cut back.  

Then for 9% you could have extra "eco-friendly" features, like planting more trees, improvements to public
parks, more speed-bumps ("sleeping policemen" as they're known here), and lower speed limits outside schools.

Then for 12% things like correcting the gender-imbalance in pay for council workers.  Since this last one is a
legal requirement anyway, it's not something they can't do!

There was no option to vote "Reduce the council tax and stop wasting money on unnecessary changes to road
layouts" or whatever, which is what I would have liked to vote for!

They have been talking about making voting compulsory (as I believe it is in Australia) - but if they do then
in my opinion they *must* include an option to vote: "I do not support any of these candidates".

Cheers,


Howard Winter
St.Albans, Herts


2005\07\15@092657 by Russell McMahon

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>> OTOH, when you look at what happens with direct
>> democracy (for example, referendum voting in California),
>> the results can be just as bad...

> Ah, but what's "bad"?  My definition of that would be that I didn't
> get the result I wanted!  :-)

> You obviously can't have voting on illogical issues, such as "No
> taxes and free fuel for everyone".

There's no reason that you can't. Especially so if the rules that
determine ballot subjects don't do a watertight job of defining what's
allowed.

To cite an example directly related to what you mention above, I
recently got "in trouble" (for reasons that still don't make sense to
an antipodean whose sensibilities aren't find tuned to the political
sensitivities of USAians) for commenting on California's "proposition
13" where I made the apparently unnacceptable comment that voters
attempted to have their cake and eat it too. Apparently that's not
what actually happened :-) so I won't suggest again that it was.
However, the effect of the passing of the proposition was (according
to general net info) that Californian property taxes dropped to 40% of
prior values. One can imagine that this just possibly may have had
some flow on effect :-). Some would (and did) argue that this decision
was totally illogical. Others would (and did), of course, disagree.
The overall result was apparently not as bad or as good as any of the
extreme opinionists opined but it certainly caused a massive shakeup
not only in California's finances but also in the US's generally
subsequently.

Although it was passed in the ?1970s?, the subject is apparently still
sensitive enough that Arnie steered well clear of it when his opponent
attempted to raise the matter in the last gubernatorial elections.


       RM

2005\07\15@094127 by Jinx

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> Hertfordshire County Council did issue an "opinion gathering"
> voting sheet a couple of years ago, which they weren't bound to
> follow, but which gave the impression that they were asking
> people what they wanted

>From Think It Over, NZ Listener 16/7/05, an article about
information overload. The article also questions how any
decisions can be made, given the conflicting studies about
just about anything

"The infoglut is not only stifling intelligent debate but also
threatening consensus, the very basis of democracy. With
so many sources of information available, it's much harder
for the politicians to get their messages across because the
audience is increasingly fragmented across different media.
Appearing on Close Up won't help you influence the younger
demographic who watch Campbell Live or the devotees of
Shortland Street [all of these are on at 7pm] or those unwinding
with a Sky movie or video game. It's not surprising then that
polling has assumed paramount importance. It's the only accurate
way of determining how voters are reacting. Instead of politicians
taking positions closer to their personal convictions because
they had no real idea of what voters thought on particular issues,
they now find themselves reacting to a constant stream of
polling information.

As David Shenk [Data Smog - Surviving The Information Glut]
says, this has reduced leaders to followers. Which might be no
bad thing if citizens were capable of making leadership-quality
decisions, "But they're not, because they're simply too busy
with their own complicated, distracted lives, and because
their knowledge is too specialised and fragmented to help them
make intelligent decisions on broad national issues. Therefore we
have the an unfortunate coinciding of two consequences of
technology : more citizen power with less citizen understanding"

2005\07\15@110443 by Gerhard Fiedler

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Russell McMahon wrote:

>> Ah, but what's "bad"?  My definition of that would be that I didn't
>> get the result I wanted!  :-)

Now here's a universal truth! :)

>> You obviously can't have voting on illogical issues, such as "No
>> taxes and free fuel for everyone".
>
> There's no reason that you can't. [...]
>
> [...] commenting on California's "proposition 13" where I made the
> apparently unnacceptable comment that voters attempted to have their
> cake and eat it too. Apparently that's not what actually happened :-)

And this isn't what happened. What happened is that some bake the cake, and
others have it and eat it. But that's what usually happens with public
finances :)

Since the amount of money the public administration spends is mostly
determined by other factors, this issue was simply about how the (property)
taxes are distributed. Which in this case meant that on otherwise similar
properties some have to pay a lot more than others, because of a different
/history/ of the property. This may be fairer, or unfairer -- depending on
your point of view. It just takes something into account that often is not
(the history of the property). Nothing really illogical here, especially
not when you consider that in CA property prices can rise 100% in 2 years
-- and that the rise is caused by the "newcomers". So why not have them
take the lion share of the burden? :)  (I'm not stating an opinion here,
other than that both sides have reasonable arguments other than cakes.)

Gerhard

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