Gavin R. Putland,  BE PhD

Tuesday, July 31, 2007 (Comment)

Democracy vs. universal suffrage

Democracy as we know it works like this. Two million wolves and eight million sheep vote on who shall decide what to eat. Meanwhile the “liberal” media, in which the wolves are the biggest shareholders and the biggest advertisers, are full of reports and advertisements alleging that vegetarianism among wolves would harm the sheep by raising the price of fodder, but don't mention the maverick spotted sheep who says it is better to pay more for fodder than to be eaten.

Democracy as we ought to know it works like this. Several wolves and the spotted sheep offer themselves as candidates for the job of deciding what to eat. The candidates present their cases to an ad-hoc electoral college comprising 100 members randomly selected from all the wolves and sheep, gathered in one place. The members of the college had not heard the spotted sheep's argument before. But having heard it, they vote accordingly, electing the same candidate that the whole ten million wolves and sheep would have elected had they all been present to hear the arguments. The media report the news and advertise toothpaste.

Universal suffrage, which allows every citizen to vote in every election, and which therefore maximizes the number of voters to whom every candidate for public office must present his or her case, is an ingenious device for maximizing the cost of campaigning for public office, so that all successful candidates are drawn from the elites and from those who gain the patronage of the elites. Convened-sample suffrage, which takes the voters to the candidates, brings the cost of successful candidacy within reach of every citizen.

Implementation of convened-sample suffrage requires the convening of one electoral college per electorate per election. It does not, of itself, require any change to the voting system (e.g. plurality, preferential, proportional); whichever system is presently used under universal suffrage can be carried over to the electoral college. Whether there should be any change in the voting system is a separate question.

Until universal suffrage is replaced by convened-sample suffrage, there is little point in debating other issues, because they will not be decided on their merits.

[4th paragraph inserted August 17, 2007. Reposted June 26, 2012. See also “Convened-sample suffrage: Reclaiming democracy from vested interests”.]

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