Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: Electoral Reform

The American Two Party System is Actually Pretty Great

There are lots of folks who think that the answer to America’s woes are more political parties, and the way to get more political parties is to adopt electoral reforms which move America in the direction of continental European-style proportional representation. I used to like electoral reform once upon a time, but I have increasingly become convinced that this is not only never going to happen but it is actually a bad idea. Here’s why.

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The Limitations of Proportional Representation

About 23% of Americans don’t like both Trump and Clinton. Many of these people are considering third parties, or would like to be considering them but don’t feel they can safely do so because of the American voting system, which makes it very difficult for third parties to win and ensures that people who vote third party get no say in the choice between the two major party nominees. Some people have talked about wanting to switch to proportional representation (PR) to break the stranglehold of the two parties on politics. Under PR, if 8% of the population votes for a Green or a Libertarian, 8% of the legislature is comprised of Greens or Libertarians. If no party is able to put together a majority of votes, parties have to cooperate in coalitions to get things done. PR is in Jill Stein’s platform and some libertarians have expressed enthusiasm for it as well. PR cannot really be applied to the presidential race, because the president can only be one person–he or she cannot be 8% Green. But for presidential races we could employ a ranked ballot system allowing for an instant-runoff. On this system if you voted for Jill Stein your vote could be transferred to Clinton after Stein is eliminated. This may sound intriguing, but PR is not a magic bullet and it can produce some very bad situations that we should consider.

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Dear Benjamin: Could Electoral Reform be a Catalyst for Peace in the Middle East?

Readers, I’d like to try something a little out of the ordinary today. A friend of mine from when I was doing undergrad at the University of Warwick, Calum Murray, came to me with an idea he wanted both to share and to get my input on. I have decided to help him do both. In this piece, Calum outlines for you his thoughts on how Israel might get more moderate government out of a recent electoral reform spear-headed by Prime Minister Netanyahu. After he’s finished stating the position, I’ll come back in to offer my thoughts and dissection. Today’s piece comes out a bit longer than usual, but I’m curious to see if my readers will welcome the added depth that comes with having multiple perspectives on the same thing. If this goes over well, I may do additional “Dear Benjamin” pieces—if you or someone you know has a proposal that might be worth sharing and examining, leave a comment. Read the rest of this entry »