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October 25, 2000

Inefficiency Inherent in the System (Hoo-rah!)

I thought I'd copy a comment I made out on slashdot over to the toadstool. Not because I think it's particularly brilliant, but because I think it's an interesting point that does not come up all that often. (the original post, and thread, can be found here)

In some ways, our system's division of power is responsible for producing politicians with no balls.

As it stands, there is no motivation for politicians to be arbiters of constitutionality. Why do you suppose unconstitutional laws continually come out of the beltway? Because they are passed in response to popular opinion, fears, and hysteria. Not because they are constitutional.

Why take the political risk of sinking a bill due to constitutionality when you can pass it, reap the popularity dividend, knowing full well that the courts will sort it out.

The problem is that constitutionality is rarely, if ever, an issue that the masses care about. If the public cared about constitutionality, then passing popular, but unconstitutional, laws would no longer reward the lawmakers.

Raise awareness, and fondness, for the constitution. Could you imagine, during a presidential campaign, if candidates were asked such questions as "Did you indeed sign off on the following laws, which were subsequently struck down as unconstitutional, and if so can you explain your reasoning at the time?"


October 12, 2000

Plurality of the Despot VS Tyranny of the Majority

So we had a nice, healthy drunken debate last night about the electoral system.

I by no means expect to trump the untold millenia of debate that has occurred on the very topic.

Instead, let's focus on a particular segment. The segment in question: The implicit two-party system sucks. This was the accepted baseline.

Upon further discussion, it became clear that the reason this sucks is the whole phenomenon of "if I vote for party #3 or more, I cast my vote away, useless and impotent". This is further bolstered by the tendency for the bipartisan commission on debates to (oddly enough) arbitrarilly adjust the qualification criteria to a percentage that will exlcude non-apparent dark horses. (to be practical, this threshold must exist, but it can nevertheless be abused. Can you imagine the bipartisan committee of the Broncos and the Vikings deciding who will participate in the superbowl?)

So how do you defeat the "snap" of our single round of elections? How do you make a vote count?

Personally, I have been an advocate of plank voting; nothing irritates me more than when an elected candidate claims a "mandate" for their platform when they exceed a certain threshold in the popular election. Plank voting entails detailing the "planks" of a particular candidates "platform". So vote on each plank of the platform -- this more or less results in the same candidate being elected, but robs them of the right to railroad an unpopular plank in the guise of a mandate.

Another solution, although not new (yet something I had yet to dwell on), is the notion of runoffs. As espoused by my friend Mike, in a runoff environment you are free to vote your conscience in the first round; in other words, vote for someone rather than against them.

Then, if there is no plurality, have a runoff. And so on. In the upper rounds, you can resume voting against candidates, rather than for them.

In many ways, this strikes to the heart of why I feel plank voting is a good thing.

Perhaps cross pollinating the two is in order?

There is no law that says we must have a two-party system. Runoffs would ensure a layer of conscience voting. Plank voting would ensure a record of what the public really endorsed, so that unpopular planks would not be forced on momentum.


October 02, 2000

Enter the Toad

The Toadstool has entered the building.

This is mostly a place to toss out random thoughts and keep in touch with friends and family.

But feel free to hop on in.