Tuesday, June 28, 2016

What price democracy?

It's interesting that the Brexit vote was carried on such a modest majority. I guess I would have thought that such a significant issue would need to be decided on more than a bare majority.

Usually a constitution provides for significant institutional changes to take place only on the vote of a strong majority of, say, 66%. Or there may be some checks and balances so that a wide popular vote can be reviewed and countered to some extent by some kind of group who might bring more thought to the decision. The complex US system of voting for President was deliberately enshrined in their constitution so that the collective will of every last individual voter need not necessarily carry the day; the President is elected by the Electoral College of only 538 voters. Furthermore, most of them are not bound by the political loyalties of those who appointed them to the College. Their task is to find the best person for the position.

That procedure could conceivably save the country from a somewhat unpresidential president. And some similar procedure, such as Parliament over-riding the popular vote, might have enabled a less controversial decision in the Disunited Kingdom last week.

Sometimes, the people do not have adequate understanding of the issues. Sometimes, the people are careless of the privilege of being able to vote. Sometimes the vote of the people does not deliver a result that is best for the whole community.

We have an AGM coming up in our village. We could probably use some similar electoral system this week!

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