10. Not Quite Right, but Still Good: The Democratic Ideal in Modern Politics ArrowвЂ™s Theorem вЂў All democracies are fraught with problems. вЂў Economist Kenneth Arrow demonstrated that even free and fair elections do not ensure that the majorityвЂ™s preference will be selected. вЂў Whenever there are more than two choices in an election, the method used to add up the votes has a tremendous impact on who wins. вЂў Further, one can never be certain that any one method of counting votes will lead to the majorityвЂ™s single preferred option. ArrowвЂ™s Theorem вЂў Imagine we are all going to elect the king of the ice cream social. We have five candidates, cleverly named A, B, C, D, and Bruce, the singing Wallaby. вЂў The most conservative candidate is on the right, advocating the imposition of vanilla for all, and the extreme liberal is on the left, demanding that we all must sample all flavors. вЂў The moderates are in the middle. ArrowвЂ™s Theorem вЂў With a typical methodвЂ”the candidate with the most votes winsвЂ”Bruce wins with 27 percent of the vote. вЂў It turns out that the vast majorityвЂ”73 percentвЂ”would rather have anyone other than Bruce. ArrowвЂ™s Theorem вЂў If we require the winner to receive a majority of votes, the two with the highest pluralities (the most votes) must face each other in a winner-take-all runoff election. This changes the result. ArrowвЂ™s Theorem вЂў Bruce and Candidate A would get the most votes in the first round and would have to face each other in a second round. вЂў Most who voted for the three eliminated candidates are closer to A on the ideological spectrum than to Bruce. вЂў The vast majority of them would probably prefer Candidate A over Bruce. вЂў Thus, in the second round of this different, but still fair, method of holding an election, Candidate A would defeat Bruce. ArrowвЂ™s Theorem вЂў Does the runoff method ensure that the election selects the majorityвЂ™s preference? вЂў Both methods are considered fair. вЂў There are other fair ways of adding up votes that can produce still different outcomes. вЂў What would happen if instead of voting for the candidate you prefer the most, you vote against the candidate you hate the most? ArrowвЂ™s Theorem вЂў вЂў вЂў вЂў This method would eliminate Bruce first, and A would likely be the second voted off! All of AвЂ™s, BвЂ™s, and CвЂ™s supporters, and roughly half of people who should be DвЂ™s supporters, will vote against Bruce. Assuming that voters will then turn against the remaining candidate who is most distant from them, you can see the midpoint between the most extreme candidates, A and D. A is now the least-liked candidate and will be eliminated, and the ultimate winner is likely to be C. ArrowвЂ™s Theorem вЂў вЂў вЂў вЂў вЂў вЂў In a round-by-round voting system, you vote for the candidate you like most, and the candidate with the least votes in each round gets eliminated. The first one eliminated is now C. If CвЂ™s supporters split evenly between B and D, B moves up to 23.5 percent and D gets 25.5 percent, and A gets eliminated. In the third round, all of AвЂ™s supporters go to their next-closest candidate, giving B 46.5 percent and leaving DвЂ™s 25.5 percent to lose to BruceвЂ™s 27 percent. In the final round, at least half of DвЂ™s supporters jump to B rather than to Bruce! There have been four different winners in four different ways of counting the vote! ArrowвЂ™s Theorem вЂў There are many other types of elections that are possible, such as ranked votes, the use of open primaries, or an electoral college. вЂў These methods also could provide different results. вЂў The example also assumes that the process of conducting the election was perfect. вЂў However, in the real world problems come up (e.g., hanging chads, misprinted ballots, voting machine failures). вЂў ArrowвЂ™s theorem shows that elections cannot be the perfect means of making decisions because part of the process, the way the votes are tallied, can significantly alter the outcome, even when it is done perfectly and fairly. Democracy and the Liberal Ideal вЂў When people hear the word democracy, they typically think of elections. вЂў Pure democracy, or вЂњrule by the people,вЂќ reflects the idea of people governing themselves in a direct democracy. вЂў This is not viable in the modern world. Democracy and the Liberal Ideal вЂў Direct democracy provides many opportunities for participation. вЂў But it provides little tolerance for difference and dissent. вЂў This can lead to a tyranny of the majority, where an unrestrained majority bands together to victimize the minority. Democracy and the Liberal Ideal вЂў Plato believed that simply because a majority of people have an opinion, that does not make them correct. вЂў Aristotle believed that democracies amount to mob rule in which self-interested factions fight for their own selfish interests without concern for the public good. вЂў The Framers of the U.S. Constitution shared these negative views of democracy. Democracy and the Liberal Ideal вЂў The Framers created a republic in which decisions are made by representatives of the citizens rather than by the citizens themselves. вЂў Think of the many undemocratic features of the Constitution, such as вЂ“The Supreme Court вЂ“The Senate вЂ“The Electoral College вЂў Despite its flaws, democracy remains a powerful ideal. Direct Democracy вЂў Elements of direct democracy can be a valuable part of a modern democracy. вЂў Referenda are questions that legislatures put on the ballot for the people to decide. вЂў Initiatives are questions that citizens put on the ballot. вЂў Initiatives can make legislators more sensitive to what the public wants. Direct Democracy вЂў There are two main problems with direct democracy today: 1. People have neither the time nor the expertise for the intricacies of politics 2. Most people have better things to do than participate in every political decision. вЂў People are willing to leave governing to others as long as the government does not get too far out of line. Representative Democracy вЂў The Framers of the U.S. Constitution consciously and rationally designed it from nearly a blank slate. вЂў Four factors are critical to the effectiveness and the remarkable endurance of the U.S. system: вЂ“ First, the Constitution uses representatives to create a democratic government of specialists. вЂ“ Second, it institutionalizes revolt through frequent elections of representatives. вЂ“ Third, it recognizes the potential downside of democracy by specifically limiting the power of government. вЂ“ Fourth, it recognizes democracyвЂ™s limits by adding a few undemocratic features. Representative Democracy вЂў Basically, direct democracy at the national level in the U.S. system is limited to choosing representatives, and personal involvement in politics is limited to deciding whom to vote for. вЂў Direct democracy in the U.S. system is best experienced at the regional (state) and local government levels, where referenda and initiatives are utilized in the various state and local systems. An Economic Theory of Democracy вЂў The spatial distribution of voter preferences in the figures illustrating ArrowвЂ™s theorem is essentially what Anthony Downs did in An Economic Theory of Democracy. вЂў A half century later, DownsвЂ™s theory remains the best way to discuss much of the why behind what we see in modern representative democracies.  Anthony Downs, An Economic Theory of Democracy (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1957). An Economic Theory of Democracy вЂў вЂў вЂў вЂў вЂў The one difference between this figure and the earlier ones is that this one adds an indicator of the concentration of voters along the line stretching from the liberals on the left to the conservatives on the right. The height of the curve indicates the number of voters holding a particular ideological preference. The curve is lowest at the ends and highest in the center. This represents the fact that most voters are concentrated near the middle of the political spectrum; they are moderate. While it often seems the opposite, public opinion polls suggest that most people are in the middle. An Economic Theory of Democracy вЂў The figure assumes two things that may seem obvious: 1. People will vote for the candidate that is as ideologically similar to themselves as possible. 2. Candidates wish to get enough votes to win the election. вЂў Given these assumptions, the spatial approach can be used to make some interesting arguments regarding the following: вЂ“ The likely ideological position of successful candidates вЂ“ The most effective ideological position of political parties вЂ“ The number of parties a democratic structure is likely to host depending on how its rules are structured Winner-Take-All Systems вЂў Downs used his calculations to explain why the United States has, and will probably always have, a two-party system. вЂў Further, he argued that those two parties would always remain close to the nationвЂ™s ideological center. вЂў The United States uses a winner-take-all (no proportional representation), first-past-the-post (no runoff elections), single-member district system. вЂў In other words, each election has one winner, that winner is the sole representative of a given location, and winning is a simple matter of receiving the plurality (most) of the votes cast in the election. Winner-Take-All Systems вЂў One can now see how an extremist can manage to win an election when there are a large number of candidates. вЂў Although most of the voters are in the middle, there are three candidates competing over this area of the graph. вЂў By dividing the votes in the middle, it was possible for a representative of a more extreme position to win. вЂў Fewer voters overall were near Bruce, but he did not have to share those votes with any other candidate. Winner-Take-All Systems вЂў The number of people voting for each candidate equals all of the voters who are closer to that candidate than to any other. вЂў The height of the curve represents the concentration of voters; therefore, the area under the curve, bounded by the two lines, is the total number of candidate votes. вЂў The candidates in the middle get a narrower slice, but the slice is taller. вЂў The candidates at the extremes get wider but shorter slices. Winner-Take-All Systems вЂў In most elections, candidates want to be in the middle. вЂў If one picks any two of the five candidates and runs them against each other, the one closest to the center will always win. вЂў In a two-candidate election, the midpoint of the curve is critical. вЂў The one vote in the exact center is called the median voter; his name is Karl. вЂў Downs argued that this fight over the median voter (Karl) explains why the United States will always have two political parties that are very close to the political center (moderate). Winner-Take-All Systems вЂў To win the general election in a two-party system, a party must run a candidate who can capture the median voter of the overall population. вЂў But the parties represent different sides of the political spectrum. вЂў In a two-party system, the candidate exactly in the center of the overall population is on the edge of his or her partyвЂ™s political spectrum. вЂў The competition for the center yields fairly similar candidates. вЂў However, there must be some difference between the candidates because within the candidatesвЂ™ parties those who are at the middle of the overall population are extremists within their parties. Winner-Take-All Systems вЂў вЂў вЂў вЂў вЂў вЂў вЂў вЂў The need to win the overall election drives parties to the overall center, while the need to win the primary drives candidates toward the partyвЂ™s median vote. The likely result is that there will be parties that claim ideological ground just to the right and left of center (locations 4 and 6). Once these two parties are established, it almost impossible to add a third party. New parties usually form to represent a dissatisfied portion of the population. Most dissatisfied voters will be out at the extremes. Rather than help dissatisfied voters get a representative that is ideological closer to their views, the new party does the opposite. A new candidate representing a more extreme ideological position (e.g., at 8) guarantees the election of the moderate candidate furthest from the new candidateвЂ™s ideology. The new candidate at 8 steals most conservative voters from the candidate at position 6, which hands a victory to the candidate at position 4. Winner-Take-All Systems вЂў This scenario has happened several times during U.S. presidential elections. вЂў Whenever a third candidate has captured a significant share of the vote, the candidate from the established party that was ideologically closest to the added candidate lost the election. вЂў To win an election in a winner-take-all, single-member district system like the United States, the winning candidate must be able to achieve a plurality to win any election district. вЂў A political party that wins 15 percent of the vote across the country could win none of the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. вЂў To the degree that a new party has ideas that may appeal to the center, the centrist parties will quickly absorb those ideas. Winners-Take-Their-Share Systems вЂў вЂў вЂў Given DownsвЂ™s work, how can there be so many countries with more than two political parties? Not all democratic systems have rules like those in the United States. Modern democracies come in two basic flavors: 1. Single-member district systems, as in the United States, where one winner represents one location 2. Proportional representation systems, which are common in many parliamentary democracies around the world Winners-Take-Their-Share Systems вЂў The most common alternative to a winner-take-all system is a proportional representation (PR) system. вЂў Proportional systems focus on political parties instead of on candidates. вЂў At election time, voters across the entire country cast their ballots for political parties, not candidates. вЂў The seats in the parliament are divided among the parties based on the votes they receive. вЂў All parties that get more than a certain minimum percentage of the vote (e.g., at least 5 percent) win seats. вЂў The number of representatives seated from each partyвЂ™s list of candidates is based on the proportion of the vote the party receives; that is, it is a proportional system. Winners-Take-Their-Share Systems вЂў вЂў вЂў вЂў вЂў вЂў If there are only two parties (A and B), both try to move toward the ideological center because people vote for the party closest to them on the ideological spectrum. The strategy of capturing the middle moves the parties away from the people out on the extremes. Those people want representatives that better reflect their preferences, and they will form a new party (i.e., the HGPC). The HGPC party will capture all the votes from the midpoint between it and Party A and all the votes from the extreme left. The HGPC will win seats and win the right to vote in the legislature. If the HGPC wins enough seats to prevent either Party A or Party B from holding more than 50 percent of the legislature, it will have power far beyond its numbers, as it can affect the race for prime minister. Winners-Take-Their-Share Systems вЂў вЂў вЂў The dramatic gain in the HGPCвЂ™s influence will likely lead to the formation of a new party on the right (BGBB). Any dissatisfied group can offer its own party. The only limiting factors are: вЂ“ The percentage of the vote needed to pass the qualifying threshold for at least one seat вЂ“ The strategic need to capture enough seats to either dominate or be a relevant party вЂў This typically results in one or two large moderate parties and a large number of smaller parties that vie for relevance. вЂў The lower the qualifying threshold, the easier it is to get a seat and the greater the number of smaller parties. The Real versus the Ideal, Again вЂў In reality, the type of election used to create a modern democracy is not an either-or proposition; mixed forms are abundant. вЂў No method of electing representatives is inherently superior, nor has any mixture created a perfect representational democracy. вЂў Democracy in its ideal form holds great promise, but in the real world it is fraught with problems. вЂў The common definition of the term democracy has changed from majoritarianism, or rule by the majority, to something else. The Real versus the Ideal, Again вЂў Democracy is now commonly infused with undemocratic elements, such as freedom of speech, protection of minorities, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion. вЂў The modern definition of democracy has been stripped down to its bare essentials. вЂў Joseph Schumpeter, in Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy, strips the term of all values and sees it only as a method of reaching decisions: вЂњThe democratic method is that institutional arrangement for arriving at political decisions in which individuals acquire the power to decide by means of a competitive struggle for the peopleвЂ™s vote.вЂќ  Joseph A. Schumpeter, Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy (New York: Harper & Row, 1976), 250.