Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Would You Be a Republican or Democrat if You Didn't Have to?

One of the criticisms I bear most often as a libertarian is the notion that I'm throwing away my vote, because my party (if I choose to vote with the Libertarian Party) or my candidates will rarely get elected.  My response is often shrill, because voting based on chances of winning does not, in my estimation, indicate one being guided by their own inner principles.  Rather, it seems like people are more interested in simply being on a winning team...for reasons that make little sense other than it gives one a social group or bragging rights.

However, between Tea Party and Occupy protests and a recent New York Times/CBS News poll that suggests a 9% approval rating for Congress, it appears that the majority of Americans do not favor their elected officials.  The problem is that many people likely don't think they have much in the way of choice.  The US system is a de facto two-party system, as much as it pains me to say so, and people fall into three camps as a result: people who agree with one party for the most part, people who choose the party they disagree with less, and people who refuse to vote because neither works.

So...why don't we try a multi-party system based on proportional representation instead?  People simply vote their consciences, and based upon the self-identification, seats are allocated to each party.  Overly-fractured government can be avoided using minimum quotas to qualify (no more than 3 or 4%, ideally more like 1%), and the only way that legislation proceeds is through coalitions between parties.  Many of our closest allies, such as Canada, Germany and France have used systems like these effectively.

Though such a system would temporarily cause governmental gridlock, eventually, parties would figure out that legislation would do well to appeal to as many people as possible, and would account for many minority interests.  Installing a slowdown on legislation is, in my opinion, a good thing because it would force legislation to be well-considered and fair in order to pass.  Gone would be the days of statements like "we have to pass this bill to see what's in it."  Besides, can we really say that a different system would produce more gridlock than the current one, particularly with two sides hellbent on zapping each other?

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