Thursday, April 25, 2013

Changing to a Parliamentary System won't change enough.

One Law Professor made an interesting paper that claims that in order to solve our political disfunction we should move to a Parliamentary System. You can read a summary here. His three major points are that 1) our government is currently disfunctional, 2) our system could be fixed by moving to a parliamentary system aka a system where the executive is selected by the legislature, and 3) no other proposed change will fix the disfunction of not having a parliamentary system.

There are a few major problems with this paper however.

If we take the United Kingdom as our archetypal Parliamentary system wee need to analyze how well it works. the UK's House of Commons right now is 303 Conservatives, 57 Liberal Democrats, and 255 Labour, among other smaller parties. There are 650 members of the House of Commons total, which leaves 35 members of smaller parties. If the last election was proportional you would expect that the Conservatives had won 47% of the vote, the Liberal Democrats 9% of the vote and Labour 39% of the vote.

This is just plain not the case. In the last election the Conservatives won 36% of the vote (overrepresented by 11%), Liberal Democrats won 23% of the vote (underrepresented by 14%), and Labour won 29% of the vote (underrepresented by 10%).  The largest problem of the current American House of Representatives, a ruling minority, is also present under the British system. Last year we saw the results of gerrymandering where the Republicans lost the vote but won the seats, and looking at the key swing states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and especially Florida, we see that there was clear gerrymandering going on that gave the Republicans a large advantage. Looking at the riding by riding results in the last UK election you find that Labour and the Liberal Democrats stole votes from each other which gave the Conservatives a majority (despite winning 52% of the votes nationwide together). This problem is very clear when one looks at the results.

Rick Hasen doesn't solve this major problem.

His third proposal is also wildly off base. By allowing people to use ranked voting and vote for third parties without wasting votes it will fix the disfunction of having a government with only two parties and no opposition on the left to the Democrats consistent pandering to Republican demands to move further and further right. a Parliamentary system alone won't fix this problem, ranked voting will. Just turning our President into a Prime Minister won't fix disfunction if the House can still be gerrymandered and the Senate still exists. No problem is really fixed with this solution.

Parliamentary or Presidential systems are both good, I see no major advantage that they have for each other, but ranked voting systems have a very clear advantage over First Past the Post, and when you compare the results of Australia's elections (where they use IRV) with Britain's elections (where they use First Past the Post) you find an enormous difference in how accurately the makeup of Parliament represents the national vote, and comparing Britain's elections with America's elections shows only a difference in how the head of government is selected, but no real difference in how the government represents the people. Also, I must say that comparing party list methods (like Germany) resemble the inaccuracies of Britain and America more than the more proportional representation of Australia.

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