||[Apr. 15th, 2010|02:20 pm]
I've been offline for a bit while I panic about thesis stuff - but an election's happening here in the UK, so I thought I'd take a moment to link to a couple of handy tools:
Vote For Policies
Who should you vote for?
Both of these sites anonymise the policies of our major parties, to allow you to see how well your tribal instincts match up with your policy beliefs. If you're interested then it's worth using both tools, since they present the data in different ways - which may affect your results.
I think the whole concept of these things is fascinating. Firstly, it's worth noting that if a party were to promise "magic" - for example simultaneous tax cuts and spending increases - then they'd do well in these systems. By anonymising the policies, we remove some of our ability to judge how sincere and/or practical the promises are.
Also, I was a little surprised at how mind numbingly dull the process of wading through all those policies is. I mean, I expected it to be dull, but I found wading through all the options at the Vote For Policies site really quite hard. I may have been almost random in my choices by the time I got to the end. I think this is interesting, because I know that I'm well educated and very well placed to read and understand that kind of policy statement. It seems that voting rationally is hard. This leads me to wonder what we actually expect from our democratic system. Do we want the majority of the population to vote tribally (as I suspect I do)?
Are there any students of politics or anthropology out there who can give me some hint as to what it might all be about? :)
2010-04-15 03:28 pm (UTC)
Hope you don't mind me commenting - Susz's dad - I tend to just watch to keep up to date with her public posts, but I do have some background in social sciences around elections/stats etc. The main thing that bothers me about this election is that it's only the last month or so that people, including commentators, have started mentioning the possibility of a hung parliament. If you look at the maths, it's been the likely outcome for over 2 years on visible swings. First past the post voting systems heavily encourage what can look like tribal voting as they amplify the impact of local swings in marginal seats.
It's also interesting to look beyond the publicised campaign to where the parties are putting their actual money/effort - fairly cynically into the marginal seats. Safe seats effectively get little or no say in who is elected, other than in the very long term as patterns drift (e.g. dissillusion with politics). Policies haven't been a major driver of voting for some decades, at present personalities and image are much more important - I don't approve of this but it is what swings voting patterns at the moment.
2010-04-15 03:40 pm (UTC)
All comments are welcome :)
Yeah - I'm aware of some of the relative properties of first past the post systems vs PR systems, and I'm quite looking forward to seeing what happens in practice if we really do end up with a hung parliament. And I'm aware that a good strategy for a party in the current system is to play personality politics, and to concentrate on swing seats...
The thing that I'm only just starting to think about is trying to figure out what we want, as distinct from what we have, in a political system. Do we want people to vote for personality? Do we want people to vote for policies? Do we want people to vote for a political tribe, or a particular point on the Nolan chart
? Do we want some combination of the above, or something I haven't thought of yet?
Once we've decided what we want, how do we change what we have to make it closer to what we want?
I had thought that what I wanted was for people to vote for policies, and that our current system might be fairly easy to retro-fit to encourage that. Now I'm not sure of either of those things :)
2010-04-15 04:59 pm (UTC)
Under the current system, it's a bit like letting the winning football team be the referee for its next match. NB there are lots of PR systems - some of them just as bad at encouraging binary swings as first past the post. The likely ones to be proposed tend to encourage either unstable coalition/horse trading or difficult to dislodge stability/consensus. My own view is that this election is going to be more interesting in its aftermath - lots of policy/positional horse trading, leadership shifting and probable indecision on any non-consensus issues.
NB None of the politicians are talking in much detail about the really polarising issues - Europe, immigration, spending cuts, tax increases etc. (though they do have views)
Hi there! I've been thinking about this lately too. In fact, we might even be on the same wavelength :) I've been building a Haskell library (currently called Votelib  on Github) that will address some of these issues. To summarize, it will combine Maximum Majority Voting  with Delegable Proxy Voting .
To be a little more detailed, I think the combination of these two features provides an optimal solution for the modern communication-rich world: basically, we ought to have more control over the issues we care directly about. And we have the computational power to make voting more intelligent, too (i.e. something better than first-past-the-post).
Since the barrier to learning and involvement is so low these days, it seems clear that voting on issues is a real possibility. But we should also be able to delegate our vote to someone we trust if the case for learning and deciding is not strong enough (and clearly, we can't learn about and make a decision on EVERY issue). With "Delegable Proxy Voting", the basic idea is you can assign your "right to vote" to a friend or family member for a period of time. They too can delegate their own vote and any votes entrusted to them to someone else. The real value to this system is that it's a better compromise between the "True Democracy" and the "Representative Republic" systems of governance.
Maximum Majority Voting is a way of repairing the voting system so that each individual can rank their preferences rather than vote for one individual. The result is that the most people get a "satisfactory" candidate in office, rather than the one they hate least. With this method, you can't game the system like the two-party American system has done, and you usually end up with a centrist leader who isn't beholden to any of the extremes.
If you'd like to discuss, please do email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hello, commenter coming in via Planet Haskell...
I agree with you about the difficulty of reading through the policy bullet points on Vote For Policies. Though I wonder if that's more to do with the incredible vagueness of the policies. What do you know, everyone wants to improve healthcare/education/justice! The only parties which were visibly exact with what they wanted to do were the ones I was least likely to vote for --- bringing back corporal punishment and Christian assemblies in schools, and other Moral Majority-style stuff. (I guess these policies were from UKIP though I haven't checked.) All the others were quite wishy-washy such that I ended up choosing 50% green, 25% labour, 25% conservative.
I shall have a look at the other site when I get a free moment!
Thanks for the links - I really need to spend some time looking at policies before the election, although after midnight probably isn't the best time to start :)
I've voted LibDem at almost every election so far (local/national), but that's mainly because I liked what they said about Proportional Representation when I was at school. I'm aware of the counterargument (fringe groups having to form coalitions), but if you want a strong government then you could simply say that the winning party gets all the seats. However, I've now seen the BNP win two Euro MP seats due to PR, which makes me wonder whether it's not such a great idea after all.
Taking a quick glance at the questions, my first reaction to lots of them is "Meh, I dunno." Ideally, I'd like to say "Party X seem to have some sensible people, so I'll delegate my vote to them, once they've researched the subject in depth." However, it's tricky to decide which party is sensible unless I already know about the policies...
Benevolent dictator, that's the way forward!
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