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Thursday, January 02, 2020

Political grass is always greener . . .

Thursday morning, I read this Atlantic piece from Lee Drutman (New America Foundation) arguing that a pure ideological two-party system had broken the Constitution. It produced the situation that Washington, Hamilton, Madison, and others feared of the "alternate domination of one faction over another." Drutman urges Congress or states to institutionalize multi-party democracy and proportional representation; he argues that Madison's Federalist No. 10, "with its praise of fluid and flexible coalitions," envisioned some form of multi-party system.

Thursday evening, I read this Tablet piece from Neil Rogachevsky (Israel Studies and Political Thought at (Yeshiva), arguing that multi-party democracy and proportional representation is what has placed Israel in its current political predicament, with no party able to form a government. He hopes that Benjamin Netanyahu might be able to push first-past-the-post as a parting gift to the country.

There are no right answers.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on January 2, 2020 at 09:06 PM in Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink


In a PR system, coalition-building happens in the legislature, while in first-past-the-post, coalition-building happens within the two dominant parties. This is a direct result of not needing an absolute majority to get elected in a PR system, but needing an absolute majority to pass legislation, whereas in FPTP, an absolute majority is required (as a practical matter, anyhow) for each seat in the legislature. So coalition-building happens at the lowest level that requires an absolute majority, and nowhere above or below that.

PR, taken to its logical extreme, would have proportional voting in the *legislature*. One way to do this is, when a bill is up for a vote, every legislator drops a chit of yea or nay into a bucket, and then the deciding vote is pulled out by randomly. If your party has 13% of the seats, your party wins the vote 13% of the time...but you don't know which votes they will be. I doubt, however, that would fix the fundamental problems when a polity simply can't reach compromise or consensus.

Posted by: M. Rad. | Jan 9, 2020 11:56:47 PM

Howard, we agree!!!

There's actually a rather easy solution to do this (at least in theory), but I'm saving the reveal for a law review article. No sense having a pretty great idea if you don't have the credit to go with it.

Unfortunately, it won't be out in 2020. I'm covered up trying to finish another article and, to be honest, I'm going to need a break. It's exhausting trying to write sensible scholarship that, nonetheless, has to treat all of the plainly absurd scholarship out there on any given topic as serious and refute it all.

Hopefully by mid-decade I'll have the solution in print.

Posted by: thegreatdisappointment | Jan 3, 2020 12:21:24 AM

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