Why I Support Proportional Representation

I’m not much of a fan of democracy, yet the alternatives, absolute monarchy, oligarchy, or dictatorship, seem to be worse. The main problem with absolute monarchy is an incompetent might succeed, and the main problem with dictatorship or oligarchy is that there is no clear successor, thus you’ll have struggles for succession. And even if you would prefer another system, democracy seems to be the spirit of the age. So what electoral system makes the best democratic system? I support a system of party list proportional representation. In my system the House of Representatives would be replaced with a 120 member body elected across one national constituency with a 5% threshold. The Senate would be abolished or limited in power(as many other upper houses are). There would be a ceremonial president or constitutional monarch and a prime minister. This system is like that of the Netherlands or Israel.

The major advantage of this system is that it doesn’t have local representatives. Local representatives are presented as an advantage of FTPT voting,(like that of America or Britain) I see it as a disadvantage. One problem with local representatives is they have an incentive to selfishly pursue the interests of their own district to the detriment of the country as a whole. Another problem is that they are much more vulnerable to lobbying from special interest groups. If an interest group has, say, half a million dollars to spend on an election, that’s going to be almost insignificant in a national election with 300 million people. But in a constituency election where the constituency has 750,000 people or 120,000 people the half a million dollars could really matter.

Interest group politics, one of the worst aspects of democracy, is harder without local representatives because the interest groups would have to be sufficiently large to have influence. The local factory owner or union boss could influence a representative under FPTP, but he’s not going to be able to influence a national party.

With party list PR a few “party bosses” are going to control the ordering of the party list, minimizing inter-party disputes. This will reduce the amount of gridlock that results from party infighting.

If having no local representatives makes it harder for small special interests groups to affect elections, won’t it also make it harder for you to affect elections, if you had the spare time to campaign for a candidate? Yes it would. Most arguments in favor of proportional representation are from people who say they want the system to be more democratic, thus they ignore the ways that PR can limit the bad parts of democracy. Essentially, PR allows leaders of the party to look out for the national interest, or for whatever ideology they believe in, while not having to worry about seven thousand interest groups who populate their elected constituencies.

Some people don’t like the idea of proportional representation because it institutionalizes the idea of the political party. They’d rather have a system where there could be no political parties and just have elections between individuals. Political parties, however, seem to be a universal feature of true democracy, no matter how rich, homogeneous, and socially cohesive the country is.

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2 Responses to Why I Support Proportional Representation

  1. Pingback: The Unamendable Senate | Jason Bayz

  2. szopeno says:

    In Poland we have proportional democracy. In effect, until quite recently the system degenerated into two-people system: most of population divided into those, who hated Kaczyński, and those, who hated Tusk. As a result, everything Tusk did, could be forgiven, because _he was not Kaczyński_, and vice versa.

    Moreover, even people who were completely moronic and despised, could be still be elected into parliament, because they have good relationships with their bosses. The another result was that Tusk effectively destroyed ALL within party opposition, and when he left, he left no successor – the current prime minister is incompetent moron, as are all of hers ministers. The same happens in Kaczyński: he also destroyed all in-party opposition, and one can only wonder what would happen when he would eventually retire. Deputees are no longer people who are competent or ideologues – they are people who are most loyal to the party bosses.

    Another effect is the fact that effectively there are no new faces in government. Tusk and Kaczyński are in politics and are leaders of their parties since 1990.

    All in all, this led to corrupting the democracy.


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