Saturday, 2005 June 4, 23:18 — constitution, economics

Almost Invented Here — again

Once upon a time, probably 1983, I had an idea to maximize diversity in a representative assembly. You vote for more than one candidate. The ballots are counted once for each seat. On each count one winner is chosen, and if you voted for that winner your ballot is discarded. A few years later (in an article by Hendrik Hertzberg in The New Republic‘s special on the bicentennial of the present Constitution, 1987) I read about the Single Transferable Vote, a much more elegant idea: don’t throw out the winning ballots, discount them so that their aggregate value is lessened by the number of votes needed to win one seat.

Once upon an other time, namely 1993, asked how to build a straight road without eminent domain and without being held up for extortionate prices by opportunistic holdouts, I suggested buying options on land until the optioned parcels include a useful path; holdouts would see offers decline rather than rising. A few months ago I read (was it in The Freeman?) that this is standard practice for pipelines. (2017: But how straight does a pipeline need to be?)

And once upon yet another time, circa 1984–7, I proposed funding public goods by conditional donations: by contract, the donors arrange to pay a specified fraction of the budget if and only if enough others make similar arrangements. Now I learn from Mike Linksvayer that this concept has a name – assurance contracts – and an improvement by Alex Tabarrok, dominant assurance contracts.

. . Speaking of voting, I see that a voting reform bill has been introduced in Congress. It would restore the States’ discretion (denied since 1967) to elect Representatives by proportional representation in multimember districts; likely some states will do so to reduce the decennial hassle of gerrymandering. The bill also requires the States to run “instant runoff” elections for federal offices; though instant runoff is fairer than plurality election (even with a conventional runoff), it is also onerous, and I don’t think it’s within the authority of Congress to require it – and thereby forbid approval voting which I like better still, partly because it is much simpler to operate.

Friday, 2004 December 31, 13:53 — constitution


We learn something every day. The old republic of Venice took indirection to an amazing height:

New regulations for the elections of the doge introduced in 1268 remained in force until the end of the republic in 1797. Their object was to minimize as far as possible the influence of individual great families, and this was effected by a complex elective machinery. Thirty members of the Great Council, chosen by lot, were reduced by lot to nine; the nine chose forty and the forty were reduced by lot to twelve, who chose twenty-five. The twenty-five were reduced by lot to nine and the nine elected forty-five. Then the forty-five were once more reduced by lot to eleven, and the eleven finally chose the forty-one who actually elected the doge.

You have to wonder: why so many tiers? Why those specific numbers?

Monday, 2004 December 20, 23:21 — constitution, drugwar, law

how are cases named?

How did the medical marijuana case now before the Supreme Court come to be called Ashcroft v Raich? I gather that it began life as a criminal case, which would normally be titled US v Raich. Or it could be a civil suit seeking an injunction against certain practices of the DoJ, in which case it might be titled Raich v Ashcroft.

Are appeals often renamed? Is there a rule?

Dec.23: Todd Larason comes through, citing the Raich camp’s website:

It began as Raich et al. vs Ashcroft et al. — Raich is suing Ashcroft, seeking an injuction preventing Ashcroft & others from doing certain things; it isn’t an appeal of a criminal case as US v. Lopez was.

Ashcroft filed the petition for certiorari, so at the supreme court level he’s the petitioner, and it turned from Raich v. Ashcroft to Ashcroft v. Raich.

Sunday, 2004 December 12, 16:22 — constitution

approof of appudding

What would political campaigns be like if approval voting — in which a vote for X cannot cause Y to lose to Z — were the rule?

Candidates other than the frontrunners might do more “positive” than “negative” campaigning, in the hope of mutual coat-tailing.

The major parties, rather than putting all their eggs in one basket, might (at least when not backing an incumbent) put up several candidates.

Friday, 2004 November 12, 23:30 — blogdom, constitution


My friend Mike Linksvayer links to some good info about voting methods. See in particular why the problem of “tactical” voting does not go away with Automatic Runoff (Australian ballot).

Wednesday, 2004 November 10, 10:14 — constitution


H L Mencken, quoted by David Friedman in the December issue of Liberty

In nothing did the founders of this country so demonstrate their essential naïveté than in attempting to constrain government from all of its favorite abuses, and entrusting the enforcement of these protections to judges; that is to say, men who had been lawyers; that is to say, men professionally trained in finding plausible excuses for dishonest and dishonorable acts.

Monday, 2004 November 8, 08:38 — constitution

a better mousetrap

Ballot Access News: Instant-Runoff Voting Makes Gains

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