Biased Towards Bigger Government

Previously, I made a pitch for an improved form of representative democracy: score voting. With Score Voting we could ditch the two-party duopoly and explore incremental versions of many different ideologies: libertarianism, market environmentalism, Christian liberalism, Georgism, Objectivism, Darwinism, or whatever. While radicals of any school would still have difficulty getting elected, different districts could tentatively explore a few of many possible directions. Our state and local governments would become true laboratories of democracy. Meanwhile, our national legislatures would be filled with a variety of near-moderates; diverse enough to represent the nation while moderate enough to work together. Power would likely flow back from the executive to the legislative branch. We would be a working republic once again, instead of elected near dictatorship (in the classical sense).

Some of you received the idea warmly. Others were troubled. A more democratic system means rule by the median voter, and many of you distrust the median. With the median voter in charge, would we get even more largesse for the middle class? A more progressive income tax? Protectionism? Persecution of minorities?

Legitimate concerns all, but I think a bit misplaced. The median voter is no libertarian, for sure, but government has grown beyond the median voter's desires. We are biased towards bigger government, in several ways.

Civil servants and other recipients of government largesse vote for more. As the number of government employees, contractors and subsidy moochers grows, so grows the demand for bigger government. Moreover, these are the people who show up to vote even when the general public is disengaged. Reengage the general public; make elections interesting contests instead of coronations for incumbents; and the special interests lose some clout. Score Voting has the potential to reduce this bias somewhat, but by no means completely.

The bigger bias, however, is ideological. Our two-party duopoly virtually guarantees that government will ratchet ever upwards. Have a look at this political map. We have a bigger government party of the Left and a party of the Right which includes both big and small government coalition members. The aforementioned map is not the Nolan Chart, BTW, but a map using Left and Right in a more traditional sense: Left means a call for a more egalitarian society and looking out for the poor; Right means defense of the existing order, including wealth distribution. The Democratic Party is dominated by moderate socialists and welfarists. The Republican Party represents defense against the Democrats. The Republican Party thus contains a fair number of free market capitalists, but it is also the home of mercantilists, militarists, authoritarian traditionalists, crony capitalists, and others who wish to preserve economic elite.

The existing alignment makes government ratchet upwards. The Republicans increase the demand for socialism by widening the wealth gap, and the Democrats provide it. The United States lacks a party of the Upper Left, a party which calls for smaller government and a narrower wealth gap. So government grows bigger and the wealth gap widens. Since our society moves Down and to the Right due to systemic bias, it is reasonable to hypothesize that the median voter is somewhere in the Upper-Left quadrant. A new political party which occupies this quadrant might well become a dominant party.

But starting a new party under current conditions is a problematic indeed, and I doubt this audience is much interested in taking on such a risky and expensive venture. Our other option is to open the market to new parties -- or new non-party political factions. That is, with Score Voting in place we can expect one or several new parties of the Upper Left to enter the political market. With the Lower-Right ideological bias gone, we have hope of shrinking government back to the size desired by the median voter. And with government thus shrunk, the civil service/special interest bias shrinks as well. Positive feedback might work in our favor for a change.

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I like your idea, but before

I like your idea, but before this kind of honest debate can be considered, we will need to storm the Bastille.

Storming the Bastille

Maybe not. Score Voting can be readily pitched to the mainstream. This is not a "be on the fringe until the people get used to the idea enough to think about it" as marijuana legalization was. This is an idea that can be pitched to Rotarians and Kiwanis right now. (Full disclosure: I did once do a speech on The Cult of the Omnipotent State to a Kiwanis club and was well received. That said, I would not say that that subject is an easy pitch; I had to be quite nuanced.)

Primary problem

We would still face the problem of getting all the jurisdictions to use the same voting mechanisms for the primaries. I also don't see how this would solve the Old Media/New Hampshire/Iowa problem.

Score Voting

What if I vote 9 on all the guys I like and zero on all the ones I don't. Isn't my vote counting more that someone who hates all the candidates.

Re: Score Voting

If you hate all the candidates and give them all a zero, then that's the same as not voting -- same as today. Someone who gives all 9s and 0s (on a 0-9 scale) is doing approval voting.

Some gaming of the system is expected. But even when gamed, Score Voting is much superior to plurality voting. And enough people will make finer distinctions so as to make Score Voting superior to Approval Voting.

Consider the ballot: Barack Obama, Bob Barr, Ron Paul. Would you give Barr and Paul the same score?

Came hear by way of IOZ, so

Came hear by way of IOZ, so I can appreciate a libertarian w/a sense of humor, even tho I'm not one myself. I also appreciate the thoughtfulness I see hear, wish there was more of it out there in the intertubes.

that said, I would like to make a couple of observations on a recurrent theme I see on this subject more often than not. first of all, the strange caricaturization of civil servants. it seems they are cast in a cartoonishly 2-dimensional light regarding their inherent selfishness. this extends to their views on voting, economics, the body politic, and themselves. here, in respect to voting, I don't deny their pragmatism over job security, but they are hardly automatons. most civil servants jobs are relatively safe, as we have become quite dependent on their services. try cutting funding to fire or police depts., or roads, schools, etc. and you'll get quite a scrap.

secondly, and more obviously, this idea of the general public voting intelligently, rationally, or even sanely. I would ask you to look closely at the number of people in poverty voting for the party you admit causes the massive wealth gap. droves of drones following ideas that could best be called barbaric or idiotic vote for the same SOBs every single time. evidence means nothing, much like the "debate" over climate change or evolution. it will take generations of scrupulous attention to education to make a dent in this groupthink. an example here is the idea that Dems are "dominated by moderate socialists and welfarists". really? see the stimulus/banking bailout for a refresher on corporatism.

that said, I agree with a great deal written in this post, even if I disagree with your politics. I would hope others might care more about these matters.