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View Diary: Right-wing law prof's case against early voting (148 comments)

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  •  Why Direct Democracy Isn't Rational! (1+ / 0-)
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    godlessmath
    [...] we are talking about something that didn't get the majority of the votes from eligible voters.
    This highlights the impossibility of a direct democracy in any government entity with the population of all but (perhaps) the lowest population states.

    In a state with the population of California, it's just not rational for a voter to become truly educated in even one proposition on each ballot now because their vote is so insignificant when diluted by the 18M registered voters, let alone the 24M eligible voters.

    Consider, for example, if every registered voter voted on a measure. Suppose there was a measure that a particular voter felt strongly about, but would not quite quit their job (if any), abandon their family and friends, and devote their entire life to for ten years if that would allow them to make the decision on their own. Let's define "entire life" as 365 days a year, 15 hours a day (one needs to eat, sleep and, perhaps, bathe). Thus, this ten year commitment that they would not quite be ready to make corresponds to 3,287,250 minutes of effort. Taking this effort as their threshold (although their threshold is actually somewhat less of course) for 100% control of the outcome, what is the maximum rational effort they would take to have a 1/18,000,000th of control of the outcome? Of course, the answer is 3,287,250/18,000,000 = 0.18 minutes (i.e., 11 seconds). Since there's probably never been a proposition in the last ten years that anyone could actually read the full text (let alone understand it) in 11 seconds, voting on propositions is irrational unless you would more than sacrifice your life if that would give you 100% control (if one was on the cusp of being willing to do that but wasn't quite willing to do that for some measure, it would be irrational of them to spend more than about 93 seconds on understanding and voting on the measure if one assumes a lifespan of 85 years).

    Of course, political junkies (i.e., political hobbyists) may act irrationally for fun - much as a recreational chess player plays because they enjoy the game rather than because they actually receive tangible net gains from doing so.

    In addition, governments promulgate so many laws now that the most intelligent and engaged person can't possibly understand every one of them, let alone evaluate all those that are proposed. There just are not enough hours in the day even if one didn't have to sleep and eat.

    •  This is actually a good point (1+ / 0-)
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      Th0rn

      and a very good reason against direct democracy. I would say, however, that it is very different from the criticisms given so far of direct democracy. It is more a matter of practicality, than it is basically an accusation that the masses are inherently evil and would vote to oppress each other.

      In fact, I find that criticism quite ironic. It is perhaps a fatal flaw that in a direct democracy, people could vote to install a dictator, for example. On the other hand, this criticism concedes that a bad state of affairs is when you have less direct democracy. In other words, it seems ironic to say that the optimal government is exactly one where we have already declared the people to have voted themselves away from a direct democracy.

      I will however say, and you will probably agree, that if we were to design a government which tried to preserve the essential fairness of a direct democracy, while compromising for the fact that the people cannot possibly vote directly for every proposition, the outcome system of government would still look far faaar different from what the United States looks like.

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