The two party system – with discussion

April 30, 2011 at 11:11 pm (cartoon, politics) (, , , , , , )

5th may: referendum in the UK about reforming our “two party” first-past-the-post voting system.

There is much discussion about whether to vote yes, or no.  Most of it focusses on the short term impact – how seats won would change in the new system if people kept their voting habits.  This misses the point.  More astute observers note that whether people support “yes” or “no” depends on how their preferred party will benefit.  This is true, but somewhat beside the point – we should choose a system that gives the best outcome, not the one that favours us.

An important, and somewhat overlooked implication is that the Alternative Vote (AV) system would allow people to vote honestly.  This means that candidates can be ranked by the order an individual wants.  This is not true in the current “First Past the Post” (FPTP) system, where many people are forced to vote tactically.  If you want your vote to count, you have to pick your favoured option from the two candidates you predict to do best.  This prediction leads to a very nasty feedback – the two leading options in public opinion (usually the top two from the last vote) get a disproportionate share of the vote.  This is bad for the system in general because votes do not correspond to public opinion.  The more we can tell the politicians about what we want, the better they can represent us. So we should prefer a voting system that allows us to be honest.

Even worse, it leads to political lock in – the parties who did best in the past will do best in the future, irrespective of their policy. This permits leading parties to interpret a vote for them as a support for their policies, when in fact most voters may disagree with the majority of such policies.  (Though more than the competing party…)  This lets policies with little public support be pushed through… the Iraq war being seen as “supported” due to Labour’s re-election is one example of this, as is the Tory University reform.

(As a side point, AV may result in increased participation in voting.  If you know that your vote will be counted, even if it not for one of the major parties, then you are more likely to bother.)

That is why I’ll be voting “yes”.

PS No doubt the AV system will have its own problems, but the current system seems unjustifiably broken to me.  I’d particularly welcome comments explaining how FPTP is not broken in the sense above.

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The two party system

February 20, 2011 at 4:10 pm (cartoon, politics) (, , , , , , )

5th may: referendum in the UK about reforming our “two party” first-past-the-post voting system.

It is about more than personalities: it is about having a real choice.

NB: Inspired by making the decision Cake or death? when the cake is a lie.  Of course, it will still be politics and the cake will still be a lie, but we might hope for a slightly more appealing specials board.

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Stock Market Cash

January 4, 2011 at 5:27 pm (politics) (, , )

This graph in the NY Times by Ed Easterling makes for fascinating reading for anyone who has any interest in dabbling in the stock market.  It shows how much money you would have made/lost in real terms depending on when you invested.  Although there is a trend to gain roughly 4% a year, the volatility of the stock market is gigantic: if you put in £10000 and didn’t touch it for 20 years, you could have lost 2% by the end, or gained 8%, all depending on when you invested.  Investments post 2000 have been poor on average, but there are nice patterns of “boom/bust” that *if they continue into the future* would indicate that the next 20 years might be higher than normal.  Or they might not; the stock market sucks that way!

In conclusion: don’t invest in the stock market if you need reliable returns in less than 40 years…

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Broken Britain

April 25, 2010 at 10:23 am (politics) ()

For everyone who didn’t already know, the British political voting system is heavily broken.  Using the BBC’s vote calculator you can see how many seats each party gets given the votes.  So if for example all the 3 main parties are equal:

Then the political may would look like this:

And the final distribution of votes would be:

So with an equal amount of votes,  the Lib Dems get under one third of labours seats and under half of the Tories.  In what world does that make sense?  The Lib Dems and Tories combined in this scenario are still behind Labour, despite having 60% of the vote between them!

This is an absurd situation and strongly justifies proportional representation system, which is advocated by the Lib Dem.  I think this is worth having a hung parliament over.  In fact I think that a hung parliament would be a good thing, but that is a different point…

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