"instant runoff" voting

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Most democracies in the world today have healthy multiparty systems, but older ones (such as America and the UK) don't. The reason is simple: the idea of proportional representation hadn't been conceived when the older democracies were formed.

It wasn't until the 1840s that John Stuart Mill first wrote about it, which is why most democracies formed after 1850 have healthy multiparty systems that represent a broad range of political opinions. Older democracies are usually two-party states.

Knowing that there was a deficiency in the American system, James Madison wrote long letters and articles begging America's politicians not to form political parties, but it was all for naught. By the late 1790s, the Democratic Republicans had split off from the Federalists and we've had a two-party system in the United States ever since.

The problem is that we have winner-take-all elections. If more than two candidates run, it's possible for a candidate to take the seat with fewer than a majority of the votes--and, as Madison noted, then the people are represented by a candidate whose opinions reflect only a minority of Americans. (A good example was the presidential election of 2000, in which Bush got three million fewer votes than his opposition, Gore and Nader.)

There are two solutions to this problem...

Read more of this extract from "What Would Jefferson Do".

SueN's picture
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm


It is interesting as well as distressing that the right wing has developed a way to use the term "We the People" to divide and conquer in our nation. They have been painting "the government" as the mysterious and sinister "other" rather than acknowledging that to the extent that we bother to take part in it, the government is the people--us, in other words. I would say that everytime we refer to "the government" as an entity apart from us, we help to reinforce this divisive perception. I would strongly advise any of us--political commentators especially-- to refer to "us" or "we" or, at the least--"our government" rather than referring to "the government" as a thing apart from us. It is one of the best ways I can think of to combat the image of government as boogey-man. An example would be to speak of national health care as a way that WE may take care of ourselves.

Marc Hurlbert's picture
Marc Hurlbert
Jun. 14, 2010 9:55 pm

It's a viscious circle, they treat the government the way they fear it can be, so it becomes what they fear. How can it be efficient when they use it as a cash cow to keep their corporate friends subsidised? How to break the circle?

SueN's picture
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

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