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"America has two great dominant strands of political thought - conservatism, which, at its very best, draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which, at its very best, breaks down barriers that should never have been erected." -- Bill Clinton, Dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library, November 2004

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Saturday, June 05, 2004


the problem with IRV

posted by Aziz P. at Saturday, June 05, 2004 permalink View blog reactions
I've discussed the problems with Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) before, but here's a nice article on the subject. Key graf:

This is the fundamental problem with IRV. The only preference that is sure to be counted is my first choice. The problem gets worse as the number of candidates increases. The outcome of the election can depend in a very quirky way on the order in which candidates are eliminated for having the fewest top-choice votes. The only way a voter can be assured of not wasting his or her vote is to rank one of the two major parties as their first choice, which is precisely what happens now under plurality voting.

Read the whole article for the rigorous mechanics of why this is so.

I also have a fundamental philosophical problem with IRV, in that it would encourage too many small political parties. I do want to see at least one or two healthy alternates to the GOP and the Democrats available to put pressure on the main parties and also serve as an outlet for the fringe, but overall the hyper-fragmentation effect of numerous political parties has been a big drain on countries that suffer it - notably Israel and the UK, where fringe parties exert undue influence on mainstream policy. A good example is the settler movement in Israel - they suck billions away from the public sector and are a net drain on Israel's economy (not to mention the security nightmare). Our current plurality system helps modulate the effect of teh fringe in a way that I think is wise.

UPDATE: Steven den Beste had a good essay on the latter rationale against IRV, which is worth reading:

The idea is that fringe or extreme political viewpoints cannot significantly influence the system through local dominance in a small area or by having a small number of followers spread around everywhere. It's structural, and what it means is that we are relatively less vulnerable to extreme political opinions. Which means we can tolerate them. We can tolerate wide expression of extremely strange, even vile, political positions because they won't make much difference until they are supported by a significant proportion of the electorate nationwide, and generally the weirdest ones will have no chance of ever doing that.


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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.