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Huh, it's been three days already?

Canadian stumbling towards democracy continues. The election results show just how bad plurality voting can get without strategic voting. The Quebecois get a good deal more MPs than the NDP, despite half the vote; the Greens, with a bit fewer votes, got no seats. And then the whole thing was being run by a plurality of the MPs, the Conservatives, with not quite half the MPs but only 38% of the whole vote. And it's not like they were the centrist compromise; pretty much everyone else is to the left of them. I've been following a busy thread on RPG.net; there's much angsting about unprecedented political experimentation, and not wanting the "losers, commies, and traitors" in charge, plus Alberta equalization stuff. (Note: this is a one-sided representation of Canadian opinion on rpg.net, but it's no fun reporting the sane posts.) And at Making Light, there's a software style description of the Parliamentary process, complete with "locally distributed queenship nodes" and "NOCONFIDENCE signals" and "prorogation subroutines".

I found an old bookmark, Accurate Democracy, from voting systems interest years ago. I don't think I'd ever actually looked through it. It's a mix of well-organized and *not* well-organized, but one basic theme is that proportional representation (PR) is nice, but tends to off-center majorities. For greater stability, the site advocates having maybe 20% of a legislature elected via Condorcet or approval or other center-tending system, from large heterogeneous districts, and the other 80% via PR. So you get a decently strong centrist swing-vote. They also suggest using Condorcet within a legislature, to rank various versions of a bill and take the winner, and "fair share spending", letting minorities of legislators allocate some amount of money, rather than having everything be subject to majority votes -- fiscal federalism within one house, as it were. Interesting ideas for the progress of democracy.

From there I found Direct Representation, another take on proxy voting ideas.

All that had me thinking how parts of the geriatric US system make sense, in a looking-glass way. Given plurality districts and a two-party system, one could argue heavily lopsided and uncompetitive districts maximize utility, in that most residents are satisfied, or at least prefer their rep to the other major party choice. Whereas competitive districts leave half the voters feeling unhappy. Lopsided districts also increase stability, of course, though the other word for that is "insensitive". There's a time and place for non-linear and digitized responses, as opposed to linear and 'analogy' ones, but I'm not sure that legislative districts are it... Similarly, while I think the US President is too powerful, it's worth noting that it's one of the most evenly contested elections in the whole country, and one could argue the veto power is a majoritarian offset of the warped nature of Congress.

(Except, of course, that the electoral college warps the majoritarian nature, and we have the non-linear problem again of veering from one side to other, fossilized in Supreme Court appointments. While if we stripped the President and Senate of power, we'd basically have the UK or Canadian system of one powerful House and crappy elections.)

* I finally read The Ladies of Grace Adieu by Susannah Clarke. Good stuff, like Strange and Norrell. Illustrated by Charles Vess, which mildly surprised me. Then I found that one of the stories is set in the universe of Stardust. I think all the other stories are in the Raven King universe, though honestly, Stardust could probably fit as well.
* I've liked Runaways enough to buy collections of it. Take that, Y and Fables!
* How good PR is for electing women women. Note that some countries -- Australia, Germany, New Zealand -- even serve as their own controls.
* "I don't think there has been any election where a single candidate got more votes than Barack Obama did." Though the next Indonesia election might beat that.
* A friends-locked post somewhere notes the irony of Sweden being used as the socialist bugaboo in US politics, when Sweden is arguably far less 'socialist' in terms of corporate welfare and coziness with government. Is a free market for businesses, with high taxes and social programs for people, more socialist than a "free market" for the poor, but lots of bailouts and cushy contracts for companies?
* Kristof on the long-term pattern of acid attacks in Asia.
* No link, but Swiss voters made permanent a 14 year old program that gives heroin to addicts from various government treatment centers. But they rejected decriminalizing marijuana, not wanting Europe's junkies to visit them a la Amsterdam. Of course, if *everywhere* decriminalized marijuana... I smell a public goods/choice/externality problem, only at the level of law.
* Global AIDS crisis overblown?
* Supposedly color printers are trackable via secret yellow dots.
* Med school flowchart
* If he's being ironic, I lack the ear to tell.
* Leaving this apartment might not suck after all; I'm starting to get annoyed more by noise, especially the heater of the other units, which vibrates my floor. I've been looking into noise-cancelling headphones, though possibly what I really want is just earplugs. There are links out there about soundproofing apartments, with vinyl mats and acoustical drapes and window plugs. Slate has an earplugs review, as do other sites.


Damien Sullivan

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