It’s not exactly a light topic, but here’s a thought on democracy.
I’m sure most people understand the rudiments of democracy – rule of the majority is essentially what it boils down to, or so that’s the theory. Which is the point I was pondering the other day, really – if you take the English model, the numbers look a bit off to me.
To win government, a party must have 51% of the members in the parliament. To win a seat, a candidate must win 51% of the local vote. Nothing here however says that the overall popular vote must be won, though.
The way I see it, the minimum needed to form government is 51% of 51%. The other seats could be lost by margins as wide as the Pacific, or not even with candidates for that party. Assuming electorates are created equal, effective targeted campaigning could mean that 51% of 51% of the population – 26.01% – could deliver a party to government.
That is a little scary.
Now, that kind of result is about as likely as ski weekend packages in Hell, except perhaps in Zimbabwe, but it shows the idea of democracy being majority rule is a bit of a fallacy. If the other parties win a combined, say 75% of 49%, that’s 36% – just in the wrong place.
If you want to ensure that you’ll always represent a majority of the population, winning a seat and winning government would require 75% of the vote in 75% of the electorates. You can probably expect Air Bacon to be operating the day after that occurs.
Practice suggests governments tend to have about half the country on side, but this also is on the assumption that voting is compulsory as it is in Australia. If you make voting optional and reflect realistic voter turnout rates, you cut down the minimum proportion of people even more.
So, when they ask you whether you want a directly-elected president on the basis of a pure popular vote, or you want something else, explain what democracy is really about and go for direct election, any day.