Friday, November 7, 2008

Electoral Dysfunction

Elections appear to be the best mechanism yet devised for giving "the people" a voice in government. There are, of course, problems, many of which involve corruption and criminal behavior.

But more generally, some of the widely accepted but nonetheless disturbing features about elections, at least in the U.S., include:

  1. It costs a huge amount of money to compete effectively, at least at the state and national level. While donations ultimately account for a lot of this, there are certain hurdles that prevent impoverished candidates and organizations from even getting into the race. Elections are won by people with money.
  2. Elections are pretty good at deciding between two alternatives, but when it comes to three or more, the system doesn't work as well. Multiple choice election systems could work by letter voters rank the various alternatives, and then tallying the scores, but this has not really moved beyond the theory/research stage.
  3. Elections tend to pick candidates who are good at winning elections. This does not necessarily translate to actually governing. Certainly there are some overlapping skills, but there's also a large non-intersection.
Despite these issues, elections sometimes have great outcomes!

1 comment:

Peter Davis said...

I left out one obvious one:

4) Majorities don't always make the right decision!