Critical Section


In the Wet

Friday,  10/15/04  08:49 AM

One of my favorite books of all time is Nevil Shute's In the WetIf you haven't read it, you should.  It defies an easy synopsis but it is a wonderful engrossing read and is definitely thought provoking.  It takes place in "the future", which given that the book was written in 1952 is now our recent past.

One of the most interesting ideas of the book, thrown in almost as an afterthought, is the idea of "multiple voting".  In such a democracy - which Shute fancifully assumed Australia to become - each citizen has at least one vote.  But some have more than one, earned through various accomplishments such as education, military service, travel, etc.  Shute felt this would result in better government; whether it would or not is open to debate, and even if you grant that it would, getting there would be politically impossible.  Food for thought, nonetheless...

My reaction to the current Presidential campaign, including the debates - about which I will have more to say, possibly - is that our present system of democracy is clearly not optimal.  Any system that yields Bush and Kerry as the finalists has problems.  But political systems are like nature, you can't just get "there" from "here", there has to be a connecting path, even if "there" would be stable once you get there.  The natural selection of society, evolving in realtime.

I just voted, by the way; I'm a permanent absentee voter.  This means I get to vote early, and my vote will [in all probability] never be counted.  Of course being a Presidential voter in California means my vote doesn't matter anyway; the state will go for Kerry, regardless of my vote or anyone else's.  One of the deepest suboptimalities in our present system is the Electoral College; consider that California, New York, and Texas are the three most populous and [arguably] most opinionated states, and yet neither candidate is paying them any attention at all, because they are already "in the bag" one way or another.  Colorado has a referendum pending which would split their Electoral College votes in proportion to their popular vote, which is an interesting step in the right direction.  Imagine if we did that in California?  Arnold, what say you?

On the California ballot this year we have a number of interesting propositions.  Now I'm a fairly savvy guy, I stay current, follow the issues, read blogs, and trouble to read the voter information materials which describe each proposition.  I have to tell you, it is not easy to figure out what these propositions would do, in fact, even if you understand the premise behind them it isn't easy to tell whether voting "yes" means it would happen!  So where does this leave the average voter?  I confess to a low opinion of this mythical person, I don't think they stay current, follow the issues, read blogs, OR trouble to read the voter information materials.  In fact they probably think TV "news" is news!  (Hint: Dan Rather is an actor, not a journalist.)  Each of these hypothetical average voters has just as much say in whether these propositions pass as I do.  Maybe that's good, but I actually don't think so.

Here's an idea; on the ballot there are these propositions, and for each proposition we put five "test questions" about the proposition.  If you don't answer three of the questions correctly, your vote doesn't count.  Seems fair to me ...

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