Systems of Democracy
#1
The Liberal government of Canada added electoral reform to their platform, and has since doubled-down on that promise. Since, a multi-partisan committee has been formed to try and get rid of First Past the Post and replace it with... something.

I know you guys don't give a shit about Canada, but looking at the US election and the results of the last British election, perhaps the Western World is in need of a bit of an electoral overhaul.

Here's a quick list of the liberal democratic systems currently in use:

- First Past the Post and its twin sister Single Member District
- Direct Proportional and Mixed Member Proportional
     - As a corollary, private party list and public party list
     - As another corollary, a cut-off of a certain percentage of popular vote (usually 5%) in order to have any seat
- Single Transferable Vote (as used in the Australian Senate)
- The Alternative Vote
- Instant Run-off Voting (only used for presidential elections)
- The US's er-hem unique system

Here are some non-liberal, but kinda-sorta democratic systems:

- Iran's Ayatollah system (wherein the president, who is only head of the legislature, must be approved by the Supreme Leader)
- Academic Meritocracy
- One Party Dominant system
- Direct Democracy
- Social Democracy

Personally, I'm a big fan of Single Transferable Vote, as a way of preserving regional representation while still allowing for a proportional system.

Generally, the balance between proportional and FPTP comes down to whether or not you want more accountability, or more representation. FPTP allows for more accountability, since a government can be much more easily overhauled due to a small fluctuation in voting, whereas Proportional systems give a representation of parties in parliament based on the popular vote.
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#2
I actually had to write an essay on this when I was doing Canadian Government in Queen's, I'll post about it tomorrow when I have my laptop.
Quote:Well, I open my eyes and I see things. I've seen spirits moving through the walls. I've seen a vortex coming through the wall. I've seen amorphous little balls of light bouncing all around in the front yard through the window. I've seen giant bugs on the floor. I was in a hotel room in Amarillo, Texas, and all I remember is standing on the bed and seeing the whole wall in front of me filled with lights that were [makes popping sound] popping like popcorn out of the wall. Then I'll wake up and I go "Wow, I was standing on my bed and staring at this wall."
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#3
...if you could summarize that essay into a few paragraphs, that would be swell
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#4
I think most of it was just lambasting the out-of-place archaic imperial overstretch-caused FPTPS.
Quote:Well, I open my eyes and I see things. I've seen spirits moving through the walls. I've seen a vortex coming through the wall. I've seen amorphous little balls of light bouncing all around in the front yard through the window. I've seen giant bugs on the floor. I was in a hotel room in Amarillo, Texas, and all I remember is standing on the bed and seeing the whole wall in front of me filled with lights that were [makes popping sound] popping like popcorn out of the wall. Then I'll wake up and I go "Wow, I was standing on my bed and staring at this wall."
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#5
This brings up another point of contention: the reason Canada is switching systems is because the Harper government, with 39.6% of the popular vote, was able to implement sweeping omnibus bills with little discourse, because FPTP gave them a parliamentary majority. Many of these laws were struck down by the Canadian supreme court as being unconstitutional.

What do you guys think the power of the supreme court should be in a liberal democracy? Is it ok for supreme court justices to be effectively partisan, like in the US?
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#6
im not sure how a court system is supposed to be non-partisan
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#7
By being self-selecting
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#8
huh. can you elaborate.
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#9
There are three ways to choose a judiciary:

- Elected judges (which I hope we can agree is an awful system)
- Chosen by the executive (a la the US supreme court, which creates partisan judges)
- Chosen by the judiciary counsel or bar association (which has the potential of creating a system favouring the judiciary in the long term)
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#10
i dont get it - how does that still result in a non-partisan court? interpreting existing laws is pretty much always informed by a certain ideological basis, and conforming to a particular set of ideals is partisan by definition
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#11
in this case I am referring to partisanship, a judge is chosen specifically because of their ideological bias by party leadership. in a system of self-selection, the judge is (hopefully) chosen based on meritocratic reasoning. Take, for example, the current US seat opened up by Scalia. There is open acknowledgement of the necessity of deciding between appointing a "liberal" or "conservative" judge. In a self-selective system, that choice is made off of previous legal expertise without necessarily regarding ideological tilt.
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#12
is there any developed country which has a supreme court like that
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#13
Google is making this a difficult question to answer. It suggests the Netherlands uses a self-selecting system for its supreme court and that this has caused it to have a moderate left wing tilt (!) but I can't find any other results. Outside the US, most non-supreme courts use a self-selecting system.
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#14
ideology is so foundational to legal interpretation that the prospect of even a self-selective system paying it no heed seems like a fairy tale.
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#15
I feel like I should know the answer to that question following my studying of Law and the Political Process but nothing's ringing in my head.
Quote:Well, I open my eyes and I see things. I've seen spirits moving through the walls. I've seen a vortex coming through the wall. I've seen amorphous little balls of light bouncing all around in the front yard through the window. I've seen giant bugs on the floor. I was in a hotel room in Amarillo, Texas, and all I remember is standing on the bed and seeing the whole wall in front of me filled with lights that were [makes popping sound] popping like popcorn out of the wall. Then I'll wake up and I go "Wow, I was standing on my bed and staring at this wall."
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#16
When I wrote this, my friend and I pulled an all-nighter to finish our essays and drank a copious amount of alcohol and coffee. I got it in three minutes before the deadline. You can pinpoint the exact moment of writing where I went from being tipsy to drunk.

“The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.”

― Winston S. Churchill


THE RULES OF THE GAME.


 
The Canadian electoral system was inherited from the United Kingdom during the days of the Imperial Empire (as such, the entire political system is a constitutional monarchy). It is a single member plurality (commonly referred to as first-past-the-post) electoral system (LeDuc, 2009). Candidates are elected to Parliament based on whoever obtains the highest amount of votes in whichever electoral district (Lovink, 1970). Each party can back only one candidate in each electoral district (Lovink, 1970). Candidates usually have an affiliation to some party but if not they are categorised as independent (Lovink, 1970). It has been argued that the electoral system is archaic, outdated and very obviously ill-suited to the Canadian democratic system, a claim I will investigate further throughout the course of this essay.

ASSESSING THE FUNCTIONING OF THE INSTITUTION AND DESCRIBE THE FRAMEWORK UNDER WHICH YOU WILL ASSESS THE EFFICACY OF THE INSTITUTION.


  Pulling away from the trends dating back decades that have been so prominent in Canadian political science literature, I will investigate a wide range of institutionalist analysis methodologies when carrying out my assessment of the Canadian electoral system. This includes different analytical frameworks such as empirical, normative and sociological. The all-inclusive policy of these various evaluation frameworks is not a massive point of this essay solely to be contrarian, but because it is my belief that the merits of the electoral system – or its drawbacks – cannot be critically assessed under a normative framework of investigation alone. Normative evaluation is, of course, extremely useful, as evidenced by the fact that it makes up the majority of political science literature published in Canada since the Second World War (Smith, 2005). Normative evaluation is preoccupied with rating the efficacy and legitimacy of the institution under analysis based on the purpose they are supposed to serve (Smith, 2005). This rating is usually dependent on some defined standard usually predicated on contemporary social values and attitudes and as such any conceptions or ideas as to what a political institution is supposed to do or what ends it is supposed to serve is dynamic at best, in a process of perpetual evolution as societal values and attitudes are always changing.


    I will be examining the Canadian electoral system under a normative framework, that is to say I will be determining its efficacy based on how its outcomes correspond with the foundational principles upon which it is built – in this case upholding the governing body of Canada to a certain standard of democracy. Therefore it is necessary to articulate what exactly constitutes the concept of democracy. The Oxford English Dictionary puts forth the following definition: “Democracy, or democratic government, is "a system of government in which all the people of a state or polity ... are involved in making decisions about its affairs, typically by voting to elect representatives to a parliament or similar assembly." If the institution does not efficiently serve this concept of democracy, then it can be argued that the electoral system is bad for Canada.


  Evaluating solely under a normative framework strikes me as unnecessarily restrictive and possibly even a little bit nonsensical. Normative framework evaluation is predicated on the idea that the electoral system can be reduced to some sort of mathematical function. This is not a far-fetched idea per se, nor one that sounds good in theory but fails in execution – political scientists have been incorporating mathematics into their research since the field of political science was first established. The problem is the simplicity of the mathematical model in this particular instance ie. measuring the efficacy of the system based on how its outputs line up in accord with a certain established standard. On first impression, that previous sentence sounds perfectly reasonable – but I believe that the electoral system as an institution is much more complex than that. It cannot be measured based on its output as mentioned above, especially when its input variables are mostly comprised of living and breathing human beings, which should allow for some level of irrationality in the system (Dean, 1960). Hence I deem it necessary also to evaluate the electoral system under a sociological framework, investigating how this particular system is connected to and is a part of the society in which it operates (Smith, 2005). Through this I will attempt to explain state-society linkages and hopefully provide a more well-rounded evaluation as to the merits of the electoral system than would have been provided otherwise should my sole framework of evaluation have been normative.


WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE ELECTORAL SYSTEM?


  Voter turnout in Canada has been declining steadily since the 1940s (Scarrow, 1961), but has fallen exponentially since the 1993 federal election (LeDuc, 2009). As voters themselves are critically important components of the electoral system, this is a very worrying trend which is a direct violation of the principles of the democratic system itself – why should everyone possess a voice of equal weight if the majority of voters are opting not to use their own  (Dean, 1960)? Such a conscious collective action can only be indicative of a deep-rooted problem within the political system itself and Canadian society as a whole. This does not reflect well on the supposed validity and efficacy of the democratic system in Canada.


  Leduc (2009) writes that ‘The 1993 federal election […] produced a much more strongly regionalised configuration of parties.’ This lead to less people voting in federal elections, due to voters feeling as if their own individual vote had become effectively worthless as seats in a constituency-based system changed form in public perception from potentially static to perpetually dynamic (Dean, 1960). This effect came to be known as the democratic deficit (Subramanian, 1993). Since 1993, the concept of the establishment of democratic renewal was created by the Liberal Party, and gained traction as the years passed and the problem itself worsened (Belanger, 2004). But Stephen Harper’s Conservative government coming into power in January 2006 lead to the deceleration of democratic-renewal related policy proposals, and soon after they came to a halt completely. The Conservative government had no interest in the topic of electoral reform (LeDuc, 2009). The will of the government to not fix a democratic issue because it worked out in their favour is also a major contributing factor to increasing trends of voter apathy (Dean, 1960).


  The Law Commission appointed by the Liberal Party before the Conservatives came into power is without a doubt the definitive authority on the various problems pertaining to the electoral system, nothing that: ‘...  for the  past  decade  or  so  [Canada]  has  been  in  the  grip  of  a  democratic  malaise,  the symptoms  of  which  include  declining  levels  of  political  trust,  declining  voter  turnout, increasing  cynicism  and  hostility  toward  politicians  and  traditional  forms  of  political participation, and growing disengagement of young people from politics.’ It concluded that there was no quick fix or easy solution for the democratic problems facing Canada.


  That, however, only deals with the electoral system at the federal level. Impressively enough, it somehow manages to be even more inherently flawed and counter-intuitive at the provincial level (Belanger, 2004). While the aforementioned regionalisation-induced democratic deficit signs and symptoms are not applicable in this instance, the electoral system is considered flawed for a variety of reasons. If the smaller provinces are examined, it is very apparent that ‘the relative homogeneity of electorates and the small size of the legislatures have not infrequently produced widely distorted seat distributions (LeDuc, 2009).’ To say opposition parties tend to win a small percentage of seats after a majority vote is an understatement (Belanger, 2004). This example of disproportionate seat allocation is evidenced by past provincial elections in territories such as New Brunswick, Prime Edward Island and Alberta (but it is not limited to these areas). This is an indicator of another major flaw in the electoral system, as these elections produce ‘lopsided majorities with very weak oppositions’ and so parties that do not form the majority are not adequately able to represent their voters (LeDuc, 2009). Then there are the infamous “wrong winner” elections as seen in both British Columbia and Quebec, in which ‘the party that secured the largest number of votes won fewer seats and therefore failed to form government’ (LeDuc, 2009). This is obviously a violation of the basic principles of democracy because it means the electorate are not being represented fairly or as they should be.


WHAT CHANGES SHOULD BE MADE.


  On October 19th 2015, the Liberal Party (spearheaded by Justin Trudeau) won the Canadian federal election, resulting in the formation of a majority government with one hundred and eight-four seats. This follows a decade-long Conservative-dominated form of government. One of the Liberal Party’s main pledges in the lead up to the federal election was a promise to restructure the electoral system. Prior to this development, any talk of potential electoral reform would be disregarded as a quixotic dream but now there is a new party in power, one with different priorities, values and attitudes. They have pledged to remove the First-Past-The-Post electoral system within eighteen months of their being elected to government of their being elected to office and plan to install another system in its place. An all-party Parliamentary Committee will be created to investigate a number of aspects of electoral reform (rank ballots; proportional representation; mandatory voting and online voting).

  While the plans to attempt to restructure the status quo are admirable, I believe the Liberal Party are going about trying to introduce change the wrong way. They are approaching electoral reform from a normative framework of institutional analysis ie. deriving from the institution’s output the problems inherent to the institution itself – but I would argue that increasing trends in voter apathy and dissatisfaction with the electoral system are not so much the fault of institutional shortcomings as they are a cultural problem (Dean, 1960). Therefore my proposed solution for the problems associated with the electoral system are borne out of a sociological framework of institutional analysis. This is not to say restructuring the electoral system is a bad idea, it is direly needed. It is just that institutional restructuring will not be sufficient by itself, and I feel the Liberal Party are ignoring an essential aspect needed to be addressed should they want to fix the problem of voter apathy (Dean, 1960).

  As such, my proposed solutions are cultural ones. It is has been proven time and time again by various studies that the earlier one is inducted into the political system, the more likely it is that he or she will vote throughout the remainder of their life (Beck & Jennings, 1969). This can be achieved in numerous ways, the obvious route being a restructuring of the educational system to allow for political or civic learning, with a curriculum that is less focused on the mechanisms of the political system so much as it is on the role of the individual in relation to the entirety of the political process (Beck & Jennings, 1969). There are other ways to get youths to engage in politics, such as the joining of youth politics groups and the role of positive parental influence. The media is also responsible for fostering good relations between the government and citizen. Most importantly – and this cannot be stressed enough – the government itself is responsible for establishing a sense of trust between it and each and every of its individual citizens, which can be achieved in an innumerable amount of ways, but the easiest and most efficient would probably be lowering the voting age (Beck & Jennings, 1969). This is not to say that institutional restructuring is not needed – at this point it is pretty much essential – but encouraging a cultural overhaul is probably more important and will produce better long-term returns, because the problem of voter apathy is not institutional – it is systemic. It is very important that the Canadian people believe in the political system and feel as if their vote is worth something. As postmodern author David Foster Wallace once wrote, ‘In reality, there is no such thing as not voting: you either vote by voting, or you vote by staying home and tacitly doubling the value of some Diehard's vote.’ It is direly important that people realise there is no such thing as abstaining from voting – that not voting does in actuality cast a vote.


  So we are presented with a Venn Diagram and two separate sets – one being institutional reformation and the other being cultural restructuring. There is an intersection between them – lowering the minimum voting age from eighteen to sixteen would encourage the youth to become more politically involved from an earlier age, and would also involve an institutional restructuring (Beck & Jennings, 1969).     


POSSIBLE OBSTACLES TO THESE CHANGES.

  In the interest of writing a gripping political science essay, one tries to avoid banal platitudes or factoids but the cliché and extremely obstructive truth in this particular instance is simply that an institutional or cultural restructuring is extremely difficult to achieve. It takes a very long time to organise a systemic overhaul of that scope and magnitude, and even then they results are not guaranteed to be efficient or positive. A general axiom always applicable to daily life is that people are creatures of comfortable routine – they do not like having the countenance change, especially in regards to socially engrained values or attitudes. It can take generations for a change in cultural mind-set to occur.
  Pertaining to an institutional restructuring of the electoral system as a whole, there could be many potential drawbacks to this. For example, it might look like a very good idea when written down as a policy proposal – but after being forced through various bureaucratic steps it may be completely unrecognisable when compared with its original form, and the proposal could be essentially compromised. On the other hand, it is possible that if such restructuring was allowed to pass, then it would actually have an actively opposite effect than it is supposed to, as people would feel like the political system is being pushed upon them and they would become even more disillusioned with the system and subsequently even more apathetic than they were originally (Dean, 1960).
Quote:Well, I open my eyes and I see things. I've seen spirits moving through the walls. I've seen a vortex coming through the wall. I've seen amorphous little balls of light bouncing all around in the front yard through the window. I've seen giant bugs on the floor. I was in a hotel room in Amarillo, Texas, and all I remember is standing on the bed and seeing the whole wall in front of me filled with lights that were [makes popping sound] popping like popcorn out of the wall. Then I'll wake up and I go "Wow, I was standing on my bed and staring at this wall."
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#17
Here's another question: Should electoral reform require a referendum before institution? The kneejerk reaction is "yes", but I have read some very convincing arguments otherwise. If we look at the previous electoral reform referendum in BC, it failed because, even though people wanted a different system, there was not enough information available and not enough agreement on the new system to change the status quo.
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#18
im somewhat drawn civil-exam meritocratic system of government, with some kind of body of popular representation that can veto things. perhaps the executive would be elected by the civil service and would need to be confirmed in a plebiscite.
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#19
What do you mean by civil service?
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#20
i mean a relatively responsible government (as in playing a significant role in things like transportation, housing, construction, etc) staffed by a civil service which is selected solely by the results of an open examination.
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#21
basically it should be a pretty good job with potential for high pay so many of the most capable people will be attempting to take the exam to get into it every year. perhaps you can think of other ways ensure popular representation and checks on power throughout the system.

this isn't necessarily my "ideal form of government", just an idea i find increasingly worth considering.
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#22
I worry about absolute meritocratic systems in a capitalist system, because they inevitably lead to class immobility
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#23
india does exactly that

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_Adm...ve_Service
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#24
i don't know if that's true. i don't consider the current capitalist system to be especially meritocratic. i think a pure meritocracy would be more mobile than what we have now or have had in the past.

if you compare my system to the current system for example, all social mobility takes is a high enough score on a test, whereas now it takes money and parent involvement throughout one's entire life to do well enough in formal education, to be able to afford to go to college, to be able to afford all the pointless "resume building" stuff that high paying jobs often require, etc.
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#25
(06-28-2016, 09:31 PM)Ascaris Wrote: india does exactly that

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_Adm...ve_Service

it only has some 5000 members or am i reading this wrong?  my idea would employ a small but significant percentage of the population -- say, 10 to 15 percent.  rough numbers.
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