Monday, May 14, 2018

Counting Representation

Democracy is great and so is the idea of representative government. The point where it starts hurting is that majority wins. By definition, majority is representative of just majority.  Even majority representing majority is questionable. Majority does represents majority when we have just two parties. But when we have more the two, we can be easily sure that majority is not represented. For example, in a three party, highly contested elections 34% would count as winning majority and it excludes 66% (real majority).  Essentially, majority of votes don't translate to majority in representation.

Surprisingly, it is easy to fix. All we need to change is what we count. The basic idea is to add the dimension of time to representation. Instead of the crude approximation of majority, we can have complete representation for everyone over time.  As popular is management circles, you only get what you measure.

How do we measure representation? As we discussed earlier, votes don't translate to majority representation. Well some of the votes do translate to representation. The votes which are cast to the winning party. The votes that are not cast and the votes that are not cast to the winning party are useless. They don't count toward representation.

Without much ado, here are the rules of the game:

  1. Votes which result in representation are "spent"
  2. Votes that don't get representation are "not spent"
  3. Votes that are not cast are "not spent"
In other words, votes can be stored and used across elections.  Each vote is worth 5 years of representation. They work just like currency as store of "political value".  For example: say we had a two party system with 100 people and say party A won the election with 51 votes. These 51 votes are counted as spent. Rest 49 people get to keep their unrepresented vote for later use. In the next elections, 49 people will have 2 votes each and 51 will have one vote each. It is easy to see that with 98 votes, these 49 people will we able to easily get their representation.  

Given 65 years of life expectancy and 18 years as voting age, people get to vote around 10 times in their life. If the number of political parties is less that or equal to 10, even some 10% of the population will get a chance to form a government during their life time. To make this work with even larger number of parties, we will need to either have more frequent elections or allow inheritance of "political value", just like property and money.  This makes it possible for any arbitrary group of people to eventually form a government, perhaps once in few hundred years. 

It is easy to see that this method of counting representation leads to representation of all people over time. It will probably help stop the madness around "winning" elections and all that goes into it. Why? Because if you win, you make it easy for others to win the next time. If you loose, you chance of success increase over time. 

From what I could reason about, the system has two equilibriums. One: If people are cleanly partitioned into groups, over time each group gets representation and world becomes fair in terms of representation. If the groups are greedy, they will choose policies which advance their own groups. Sadly, the same strategy will be used by each of the other groups. Sad, but fair. 

The second equilibrium, would be towards enlarging or growing the size of these groups. Essentially, if the two groups can sort out their differences and work towards what is common and important for them, we get one less group and hopefully policies which work towards welfare of all the people in this larger group. The recursive logic will bring us to some manageable number of groups or even just one.  We might even see groups getting split when they cannot reconcile their differences, but that still leaves the process fair, just and representative. 

No matter which way the wind blows, we can always be sure that everyone is getting represented over time. If nothing else, it reduces the cost of running political parties and hopefully that is the money which can be used for advancement of the country and providing public goods. 

Criticism is most welcome!  

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