Duverger's Principle (a.k.a. "Duverger's Law")

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Duverger's Principle (a.k.a. "Duverger's Law")

Postby JEQuidam » Thu May 26, 2011 11:28 am

Pseudolus has raised the thought-provoking subject of “Duverger's law”. Though this is often called a “law”, it is actually a theory. For an explanation, read this Wiki article. According to that article: “A two-party system often develops from the single-member district plurality voting system (SMDP). In an SMDP system, voters have a single vote which they can cast for a single candidate in their district, in which only one legislative seat is available. The winner of the seat is determined by the candidate with the most votes. This means that the SMDP system has several qualities that can serve to discourage the development of third parties and reward the two major parties.”

While I am aware of this theory, I have not studied it nor am I familiar with whatever body of evidence may support or refute this theory; therefore, others are encouraged to provide additional insights relative to this.

Regardless of Duverger’s theory, I am convinced that if our congressional districts were much smaller then two-party control of our government would end. I make these arguments in “Taking Back Our Republic”, particularly in Section 6 of that pamphlet.

It is my belief that Duvenger’s theory is predicated upon the existence of massive electoral districts such as we have had in our country for over a century. In other words, this theory may become “law” at larger district levels, but breaks down at much smaller district sizes. It would be great if someone could test that hypothesis.

Allow me to offer a thought experiment to make my point: Imagine if we had a district size of 10 people. You and 9 neighbors elect your Rep. Do you think a two-party system would be inevitable? I don’t. You and your neighbors would simply pick the best qualified (or most willing) among you, and you wouldn’t give a damn about someone’s party affiliation. (In fact, it may turn you off.) Instead, you’re simply picking Joe or Joanne on the basis of their personal views and integrity. In a smaller electoral community, you are likely to be familiar with the candidates, or have only one or two degrees of separation from them. In any case, any candidate who really wishes to win election will need to make himself personally available to the voters (in contrast to what happens today in 700,000-person congressional districts).

Moreover, I believe this holds true if the district size is 100, 1,000, 10,000, and possibly 100,000. How do we test for this? That is, at what district size does Duvenger’s theory possibly become “law”? That is an interesting question, as knowing the answer would further bolster the argument for smaller districts.

By the way, and perhaps a little bit of a tangent, I believe there should be run-off elections whenever any of the candidates fail to receive 50% of the vote. It makes me nervous that any candidate can win office with 40% of the vote, especially given some disastrous historical examples of such. And I suspect this could help mitigate the Duverger effect to some extent.
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Re: Duverger's Principle

Postby dogtired » Thu May 26, 2011 12:29 pm

I never heard of Duverger's law until now. Thanks Jeff. Although I haven't studied it either having only read Jeff's comments and the wiki link he gave us, I will respond with my first thoughts.

I'm not in favor of those things which are designed to preserve the two-party system. I believe each of our two parties are nothing more than just another self-intrest group trying to steal our individual rights and liberties. Obviously, I'm an independent.

I agree with Jeff in that smaller districts do lessen the power of parties for the reasons he stated. Jeff, in answer to your question about the right size for districts, we can study other government levels.

When I was born, my hometown had roughy 5,000 people. By the time I graduated from high school we had around 30,000 and now we are over 450,000 and still growing. There was a time when everybody knew everybody so when voting for mayor and city council, parties didn't matter at all. It still didn't matter when we grew to the point that if you didn't know the candidates personally, you certainly knew somebody that did. Then we reached a point where very few people actually knew anyone running for office. By that time the party system had taken over as people would vote R or D. Perhaps the biggest problem was our six council districts became too big, each with over 75,000 people. The other major problem is our mayor and council still act as both executive and legislative branches.

We can no longer just drop in and see any of these guys. At best we can show up to a council meeting and say something just minutes before they vote. By this time, they have already made up their minds how they will vote and the meeting is nothing but a formality. This is all televised so once a week I get to watch our leaders make fools out of their good citizens.

I have launched a local campaign to add more council seats, thus reducing the size of each district. I've also launched a campaign to add more seats in our county's board of supervisors. Currently the board has just five seats (acting as both executive and legislative branches) and yet Maricopa County is the nation's fifth largest metro with well over 3 million people. See? Supporting the TTO goes far beyond our House of Representatives.

My local Tea Pary has taken the ball and is moving it forward. Will it go anywhere? We won't know until we've tried.
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The Duverger Dilemma

Postby Pseudolus » Thu May 26, 2011 6:49 pm

I should probably weigh in since I sparked the conversation.

I've spent much time researching Duverger's Law, and I am of the strong opinion that there is one main cause for its inevitability in SMDP systems: the inherent value of only one vote. Yes, familiarity (either through smaller districts or through an educated populace) help lessen the impact of Duverger's Law; but a simple poll of a local rotary club will show partisanship exists at the most basic levels whenever there is a SMDP system in place. I'd even argue that Duverger's Law comes into effect the moment there are as few as 3 people involved in a vote.

We don't need a complex series of tests to know the point at which Duverger's Law becomes "law", we only need to understand human behavior.

For example, if we're all at dinner together and can only voice one opinion for one dish meant to be served family style among us, Duverger's Law holds true. If I truly want to order (a) osso bucco, but believe osso bucco has a snowball's chance in hades of winning the vote over something as mainstream as (b) pizza or (c) pasta. Then I'm less likely to vote for (a) osso bucco, because I want my vote to matter in a close race between (b) pizza versus (c) pasta. Therefore, I'm no longer going to vote sincerely for (a) in the choice of dinner but instead will choose the less desirable, but more palatable between (b) and (c). Hence, pizza and pasta are now examples of Duverger's Law in effect at something even as small as the dinner table.

Replace the small dinner metaphor with something as large as a Presidential election and you'll discover the problem stays precisely the same. If a voter sincerely prefers (a) a third-party or independent candidate but believes only the (b) Republican or (c) Democrat will win, then the SMDP system forces the voter into a dilemma:
    (1) vote sincerely for the most desirable candidate (a), but know that the vote is most likely "wasted",
    (2) skip over the most desirable candidate (a), so as to make sure the less desirable/more palatable candidate (b) beats the less desirable/less palatable candidate (c), or
    (3) opt out of voting entirely because what's the point if your preferred candidate can't win anyway.
The problem with choosing options (1) and (3) is that both of those options breed resentment, apathy, hopelessness, disengagement, and ultimately unfamiliarity (regardless of district size) with future candidates, thus further perpetuating Duverger's Law (again, regardless of district size).

The problem with choosing option (2) is that the vote cast does not actually express the actual will of the voter. Rather than making a sincere vote, the voter is opting to select the lesser of two evils. Like (1) and (3), this choice (2) perpetuates Duverger's Law and, again, eventually leads to resentment, apathy, hopeless, disengagement, and unfamiliarity (even further perpetuating Duverger's Law).

JEQ's suggestion of a run-off election if a candidate does not receive 51% of the vote is on the right track, but it still does not handle the Duverger challenge. For example, candidates in Louisiana must receive 51% of the vote or there is a forced run-off; but partisan politics and corruption run rampant in Louisiana more so than most anywhere else in the country. Clearly, Duverger's Law exists here.

We've all been raised to believe that one-man-one-vote is not only the best method but the only method of voting. It's not true; there are literally infinite methods available. Voters could have a YES vote and a NO vote; they could have unlimited YES votes or unlimited NO votes or varying degrees of combinations thereof; they could have a preferential ranking system; and on, and on, and on...

The problem with the introduction of voting methods that favor multi-party systems is that often the most milk-toast candidate wins (so rarely is anyone getting their top choice) or, worse still, the highest vote-getter doesn't even win at all! This is the flip-side problem to Duverger's Law.

What I'll now coin as the Duverger Dilemma is the choice between the two problematic sides of Duverger's Law. What we need to discover is a method for safeguarding against both downsides of Duverger's Law; in other words, we need to figure out a way to make a coin land on its side.

My proposal is that we have a two-tier voting method (if any political party chose to have their own primary, it would take place before these two tiers and would not affect the solution below):
    In the first tier, voters check all those candidates whom they "approve" of as their would-be representative then cast a single (more valuable) sincere vote for their most preferred candidate. In other words, if the candidates for dinner are: pizza, pasta, osso bucco, fish, and steak; then the voter might check that they approve of both pizza and steak, but most prefer osso bucco (thus, in this scenario, pizza and steak would win approval votes, osso bucco would win a more valuable sincere vote, while pasta and fish receive zero votes--not to be confused with a negative vote.) In this manner if someone preferred an independent or third-party candidate they could feel free to give them the sincere vote, knowing that they'd still be able to approve of whichever is the less desirable/more palatable candidate while dismissing the less desirable/less palatable candidate.

    In the second tier, would be a run-off election between the top two candidates of the first tier. This would be a traditional one-man-one-vote run-off election, however the effects of Duverger's Law at this level would be irrelevant as there now would only be two candidates.
I still need to run the math on this proposal (which becomes increasingly complex with potentially infinite candidates and subsequently nearly infinite voting outcomes) to make sure I've counter-acted all the effects without introducing a new problem; but I think this method would work and be quickly understandable for the electorate.

Ultimately, it's the dragon known as partisanship that set fire to the House (setting the # of Reps at 435) and set fire first to the states' legislatures (resulting in appointment gridlock and the passage of the 17th Amendment) then spreading into yet another fire in the Senate itself (Senators towing the party line against their own state's interests). If we can slay the dragon of partisanship, then the fires will be easier to extinguish. If we simply extinguish the flames, it's only a matter of time before the dragon lights anew elsewhere...and in possibly more destructive ways.
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Re: The Duverger Dilemma

Postby JEQuidam » Thu May 26, 2011 8:42 pm

Pseudolus wrote:For example, if we're all at dinner together and can only voice one opinion for one dish meant to be served family style among us, Duverger's Law holds true. If I truly want to order (a) osso bucco, but believe osso bucco has a snowball's chance in hades of winning the vote over something as mainstream as (b) pizza or (c) pasta. Then I'm less likely to vote for (a) osso bucco, because I want my vote to matter in a close race between (b) pizza versus (c) pasta. Therefore, I'm no longer going to vote sincerely for (a) in the choice of dinner but instead will choose the less desirable, but more palatable between (b) and (c). Hence, pizza and pasta are now examples of Duverger's Law in effect at something even as small as the dinner table.
But there will be regional differences in regard to both the entrée options and the choice of candidates! A district (or a restaurant) in Manhattan would have very different candidates (or entrées) than a restaurant in the San Fran bay area or down here in Georgia.

In a nation with 6,000 congressional districts of 50,000 people each, it is easy to imagine there will be a district with the Greens and the Socialists as the predominant parties; and yet another district dominated by Republicans, Constitution Party and the Baptist Party (I just made that last one up). In both cases, you would also have independent candidates (the Joe and Joanne I mentioned in my initial post). Though we may see the dynamics you describe within any district, the result will be a variety of Representatives who are neither Republican nor Democrat. However, it is difficult to imagine a community-sized district of 50,000 that would have a run-off between the Greens and the Republicans. The reason: most such districts will represent relatively homogenous communities, and that is a good thing.

Smaller districts will have political menus as different as a sushi versus a barbecue restaurant. And not just state to state, but from Manhattan to Queens. When the districts are right sized, there won't be a runoff between Al Sharpton and a Hassidic. Though there won't be very much diversity within any district, the resulting diversity in the federal House will be dazzling.

As explained in "Taking Back Our Republic", the biggest factor is the elimination of the marketing costs of campaigning in 700,000-person congressional district. Campaigning in a 50,000-person district will be very affordable, and success will depend heavily upon personal outreach. In other words, I'll beat your slick TV ads with my personal door-to-door campaign and small townhall meetings. The huge political machines are made virtually obsolete (which is why they'll oppose representational enlargement).

So I'm not disputing the dynamics you are describing. Instead, I'm contending that reducing the district size is not just changing a few rules, it's creating an entirely new game.
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Duverger's Principle

Postby Pseudolus » Thu May 26, 2011 11:04 pm

JEQuidam wrote:
Pseudolus wrote:For example, if we're all at dinner together and can only voice one opinion for one dish meant to be served family style among us, Duverger's Law holds true. If I truly want to order (a) osso bucco, but believe osso bucco has a snowball's chance in hades of winning the vote over something as mainstream as (b) pizza or (c) pasta. Then I'm less likely to vote for (a) osso bucco, because I want my vote to matter in a close race between (b) pizza versus (c) pasta. Therefore, I'm no longer going to vote sincerely for (a) in the choice of dinner but instead will choose the less desirable, but more palatable between (b) and (c). Hence, pizza and pasta are now examples of Duverger's Law in effect at something even as small as the dinner table.
But there will be regional differences in regard to both the entrée options and the choice of candidates! A district (or a restaurant) in Manhattan would have very different candidates (or entrées) than a restaurant in the San Fran bay area or down here in Georgia.

Indeed the regional menus may change (though this is highly doubtful considering NH's General Court has legislative districts as small as 3,000ppl. and yet still has not one third party candidates in office--instead only Republicans and Democrats); but, even with diverse regional menus, the waiter is still only serving two specials du jour. We need to change how we order, if we want to change what we eat!

This was a problem that existed (though it wasn't yet fully understood) even in our Founders' time of small Congressional districts; and more than that, had it then been fully understood, the type of math required to test for solutions to the problem wouldn't be invented till decades later, let alone be easily calculated as it is today using computers (and even now it's not that easy to calculate).

More than that, if successful (which the partisan make-up of NH's General Court proves is unlikely), your method for inducing a change in partisanship first requires a drastic enlargement of Congress (a goal sure to be strongly opposed by those in power), which will itself first require national demand and understanding at a thundering level (a highly unlikely scenario given that the local bodies themselves derive power and influence from the status quo).

Riddle: How do you eat a whale?
                  Solution: One bite at a time (not in a single gulp!).
So if the root cause for limited representation (435 Reps) was/is partisanship and if the root opposition to House enlargement is partisanship, then it makes sense to dismantle the machinery of partisanship one bolt at a time.

Let's look at NH for example, if one state legislative district changed their voting method then a third-party candidate would be more likely to be elected to their General Court where said representative could then expand discussion to inspire and invoke similar changes in other districts, as well as perhaps in the state at large. If enough small districts changed or if the state changed at-large, then NH as a collective would be likely to elect a third-party candidate into national representation which would help expand the discussion as well as inspire and invoke change in other small districts of other states around the country, as well as perhaps in other states at large, as well as perhaps in the nation at large.

In order to get a sizable third-party presence in Congress who might be open to breaking with the status quo of limited representation (435 Total Reps. to 1:50,000 Reps), it's entirely conceivable that we would not need even one state at-large to change their voting method, simply enough districts within the various states to change their own local voting mechanisms.

We need to expand our numbers and influence, if we accomplish that then we have a chance (albeit still a longshot) to reach House enlargement. In changing the voting method, we're not only creating scenarios more probable to expand our numbers and influence; but we're at the same time tearing apart, scale by scale, the partisan dragon that first started all the fires in the House, Senate, and State Legislatures.

This is doable! Now that we have an idea on how to invent the wheel, we need to take the time to craft and sand it till it's stable and smooth enough for swift travel.
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Duverger's Principle

Postby JEQuidam » Fri May 27, 2011 9:34 am

Pseudolus, there may not be enough data available to establish a firm proof for your views or mine. We have dueling suppositions. We have both raised several questions worthy of academic scrutiny.

Pseudolus wrote:Indeed the regional menus may change (though this is highly doubtful considering NH's General Court has legislative districts as small as 3,000ppl. and yet still has not one third party candidates in office--instead only Republicans and Democrats)
I wonder if NH has any state laws mandating party affiliation in order to get onto the ballot; that is a problem in many states which helps to maintain the political duopoly.

If that's not a factor, then I cannot account for the lack of political creativity of the people of New Hampshire. It reminds me of places I've been where it seems like everyone is either a Baptist or a Methodist, at least nominally. However, not all of them go to Church regularly, if at all. Some may not know the differences between the two. In the spirit of that analogy, I suspect that many of New Hampshire's state legislators may not be "good Democrats" or "good Republicans". By which I mean, not totally orthodox to their party's platform. As a practical matter, I suspect most voters there are still voting for Joe or Joanne, i.e., someone they personally know without deep consideration to their formal party affiliation.

Pseudolus wrote:This was a problem that existed (though it wasn't yet fully understood) even in our Founders' time of small Congressional districts...
In this case I have the data, which was carefully developed. The two-party phenomenon did not really arise until some time after the "Civil War". See this chart: Political Party Composition of the House. Note that it's a percentage chart, and the "N/A" in the earlier years are federal Representatives with no party affiliation.
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Re: Duverger's Principle

Postby Pseudolus » Fri May 27, 2011 1:19 pm

JEQuidam wrote:The two-party phenomenon did not really arise until some time after the "Civil War". See this chart: Political Party Composition of the House. Note that it's a percentage chart, and the "N/A" in the earlier years are federal Representatives with no party affiliation.

Even in reviewing your research, the two-party phenomenon clearly existed at the start of our nation. Granted, in our early days of small districts, a dominant party was more regularly supplanted and permanently replaced by a third party; but this is all in keeping with Duverger's Law, since third parties either:
    • pull votes from the more similar-minded dominant party (causing the weaker of the two dominant parties to succeed at the expense of both the dominant party and the third party, à la Bush v. Clinton v. Perot), or
    • replace one of the dominant parties entirely, resulting in yet another two-party system (albeit a different two parties).
JEQuidam wrote:Pseudolus, there may not be enough data available to establish a firm proof for your views or mine. We have dueling suppositions. We have both raised several questions worthy of academic scrutiny.

Given that voting methodology has been studied in nearly every country throughout history, I'm quite certain there's been more than enough research on this topic--though I'm not certain the wealth of research will prove conclusively convincing to us on either supposition (even if we had the time to review it all).

However, there's something much greater for both of us to consider: assuming either one of us are correct and a multi-party system comes into being through either supposition, does then the government itself inevitably become less stable due to the preponderance of political parties rather than the simpler two-party system?
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Re: Duverger's Principle

Postby JEQuidam » Fri May 27, 2011 4:19 pm

Pseudolus wrote: Even in reviewing your research, the two-party phenomenon clearly existed at the start of our nation.
Please download that image and zoom in. Note that all the "N/A" (in white) was no affiliation. That's not two party, it's zero party! Mostly independents!

Also, as you'll zoom in you'll see a myriad of "third parties", especially between the 20th and 41st Congress. That data is very consistent with my assertion that Duverger's Principle does not become "law" until the electoral districts reach a certain size.

So, in answer to your question, I do not believe that our government was "less stable due to the preponderance of political parties rather than the simpler two-party system" during this early period in our history.

Moreover, even to the extent one or two parties were more popular than the rest in those early years (e.g., Federalists, Jacksonians, Whigs), it is my opinion that those parties were not at all akin to the two powerful national political machines that exist today.
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Re: Duverger's Principle

Postby JEQuidam » Sat May 28, 2011 12:21 am

This question was raised above: Why would New Hampshire, with its small electoral districts, have only Republicans and Democrats in its legislature? You would think that with 400 representatives in their lower house, a state like NH would manage to have at least one or two independents, Greens, libertarians or whatever. In response to the question, I wondered if NH has any state laws hindering additional political parties from getting on the ballot.

I found this explanation on a blog: "In New Hampshire, the ruling parties require that a new political party collect an estimated 32,000 party nomination ballots (a 10-foot, 8-inch stack of paper) to yield the required number of validated signatures to have another option (political party) for all elected positions."

Assuming that is correct, then we can safely conclude that the culprit is state law, not Duverger's law.

Evidently, rather than going through NH's petitioning process, it is easier for a candidate to simply declare under one of the two state sanctioned party banners regardless of how devoted they may be to that party's platform. And, once elected, why should they make it easier for challengers?

Everyone extolls bipartisan cooperation. Could there be anything more bipartisan than the two dominant parties working together to preserve their political duopoly? By the way, there are many states with such barriers to entry. On this subject, I found this article by Ralph Nader: Break Down Barriers to Minority Parties.
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Re: Duverger's Principle

Postby dogtired » Sat May 28, 2011 12:37 pm

Wow, you guys put a lot on the plate.

First, I wasn't suggesting doing any rocket science for figuring out the proper maximum size for a district. I was simple answering QED's question, "How do we test for this?" But having reread his comment, I see I hadn't taken his question in the manner he meant. Sorry about that QED.

With so many districts to look at, we already know that our founders were correct in coming up with their 30,000 figure. Once my council district had passed the 40,000 mark, the disconnect between people and candidate was obvious and the parties along with their self-interest groups had taken over.

Voting for executives (mayor, commissioner, governor, president, etc) needs slightly different rules than for district representatives because those executive positions involve other governments while the other doesn't. For now, let's just discuss electing district reps.

QED was good to show that often it's the little sneaky laws that can ruin what could've been a good system. The parties do such things for their own survival. I too support the idea that anyone can run and there should be runoffs... and have as many runoffs as it takes.

A while back, some guy in California suggested several rounds of voting. He said the first round includes everyone (regardless of party). Then take the top contenders (say top half) and do another vote (no write-ins). Repeat this until the field has narrowed down to two, then the final election. In this way, it's possible that the two finalists might be of the same party, different parties or independent.

Does this fit in with Duverger's law?

I think this idea deserves serious consideration. Of course, I'm an independent anti-party type guy so naturally I would love to see our party system lose its grip.
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Re: Duverger's Principle

Postby JEQuidam » Sat May 28, 2011 1:42 pm

dogtired wrote:... and have as many runoffs as it takes.
Various runoff solutions, and the method mentioned by Pseudolus, may be worth exploring in a country stuck on mega-districts. However, I have no interest in discussing work-around solutions that do not eliminate the fundamental problem of oversized districts. Moreover, solutions that require a constitutional amendment are unlikely to ever get past the concept phase, unfortunately.

In any case, for the reasons I provided above in this thread, I'm convinced that smaller electoral districts will break the stranglehold of the two-party system.

My own opinion is that we don't need runoffs unless any candidate fails to win at least 50% of the vote. It would be difficult to justify the expense of runoffs for any other reason.

Paul, be sure to study the Political Party Composition of the House chart. It indicates what percentage each party affiliation comprised of the total. Note that all the "N/A" (in white) was no affiliation, i.e., independents. In the early years, note the myriad of minority parties, especially between the 20th and 41st Congress. That data is consistent with my assertion that Duverger's Principle does not become "law" until the electoral districts reach a certain critical mass.
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Re: Duverger's Principle

Postby Pseudolus » Sat May 28, 2011 2:46 pm

JEQuidam wrote:In any case, for the reasons I provided above in this thread, I'm convinced that smaller electoral districts will break the stranglehold of the two-party system.
...
In the early years, note the myriad of minority parties, especially between the 20th and 41st Congress. That data is consistent with my assertion that Duverger's Principle does not become "law" until the electoral districts reach a certain critical mass.

Contrary to your view, I'm of the firm belief that this is all continued proof of Duverger's Law, both in the early years of Congress and in present-day NH.

The assertion made about small districts breaking down two-party rule is flawed because it is not taking into context the time aspect within Duverger's Law. Two-party rule does not exist at the immediate stages of Duverger's Law, because voters must first learn the patterns of other voters. Given enough time, two-party rule becomes an inevitability even for incredibly small districts.

Ballot access is merely a red-herring in disproving Duverger.
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Re: Duverger's Principle

Postby JEQuidam » Sat May 28, 2011 8:21 pm

Pseudolus wrote:Ballot access is merely a red-herring in disproving Duverger.
I did not assert that New Hampshire's anti-minority party laws "disproves" Duverger's theory! Instead, I was pointing out that NH's barrier to new political parties reasonably explains why there are only Democrats and Republicans in their state legislature. Perhaps if such barriers did not exist then there would still only be Democrats and Republicans in the NH legislature, but few people believe that would be so (and I certainly don't).

As I've stated above, I'm inclined to believe that Duverger's theory becomes "law" when the population of electoral districts reaches a certain size. The reason I say "inclined to believe" is because I have not studied this theory nor the supporting data, so my endorsement is conditional, but intuitively the theory makes sense, and it would explain the situation we find ourselves in today with the political duopoly. So, to that extent, you and I actually agree on the theory with respect to very large districts.

Our only disagreement is with respect to the applicability of Duverger's theory to smaller districts. Returning to the thought experiment suggested in my initial post, it intuitively makes sense that if the district sizes were 10 people, then there would be tremendous diversity in the legislature. In fact, I believe that a majority of the Reps would have no party affiliation (just as we see in the early years in the "Political Party Composition of the House" chart). I believe this outcome would be the same if the districts were 100, 1,000, 10,000 or possibly 100,000. I suspect that the Duverger effect does not become noticeable until the average district size reaches a certain level, and thereafter it becomes increasingly applicable as the districts grow larger. However, in the absence of an adequate body of data to conclusively prove your supposition or mine, I think people will have to run their own thought experiments in order to reach a conclusion.
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Re: Duverger's Principle

Postby Pseudolus » Sat May 28, 2011 11:38 pm

JEQuidam wrote:
Pseudolus wrote:Ballot access is merely a red-herring in disproving Duverger.
I did not assert that New Hampshire's anti-minority party laws "disproves" Duverger's theory! Instead, I was pointing out that NH's barrier to new political parties reasonably explains why there are only Democrats and Republicans in their state legislature. Perhaps if such barriers did not exist then there would still only be Democrats and Republicans in the NH legislature, but few people believe that would be so (and I certainly don't).

Yes, I understand. And what I'm telling you is that you're putting faith in a red herring. A very good and plausible red herring, but a red herring nonetheless.
JEQuidam wrote:I suspect that the Duverger effect does not become noticeable until the average district size reaches a certain level, and thereafter it becomes increasingly applicable as the districts grow larger. However, in the absence of an adequate body of data to conclusively prove your supposition or mine, I think people will have to run their own thought experiments in order to reach a conclusion.

Having studied Duverger's Law a bit, I can assure you without a doubt that there is an overwhelming body of data to prove conclusively your supposition or mine; we only need to pour through that data to discover the truth. It's exactly the magnitude of the data that causes me to be unable to tell you conclusively which is the correct supposition (yours or mine), because I haven't yet been able to sift through so much information. People need not run through their own thought experiments to reach a conclusion, they merely need to review the well-documented experiments of others.

Beyond all this, I'm still unclear why you think it would take a constitutional amendment to change local voting methods. That's an idea you've got to abandon because every small locality has their own rules and altering the method of voting need not necessarily be that difficult in any given locality.
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Re: Duverger's Principle

Postby dogtired » Mon May 30, 2011 3:34 pm

I'm still reading and rereading Duverger’s Law in hopes I can figure out exactly what this Frenchman is trying to say. Thanks to you guys, I think I'm starting to get it.

In the early days parties weren't that well organized as half were set up to promote a particular candidate and endorse his policies or just to take a stand on a particular issue. The other half were formed to simply to oppose the first half. It's not to say these parties didn't have an influence, but they were relatively weak.

Back then there were a whole bunch of little parties. For example, most of the communities didn't have a local Federlist or Republican party but did have, say, a Smith Party (supporting their mayor) and a Jones Party in opposition. The national parties had to woo the Smith and Jones party leaders in effort to get them behind their national agenda. Eventually, many of these small parties did end up merging with the big parties. The others just disappeared.

We see this today with the Tea Party. There isn't just one Tea Party but a whole bunch of them. Currently the bigger ones are: Tea Party, Tea Party Patriots and Tea Party Express. But there are many more and they don't all have the word "tea" in their name. Each of these are independent of each other and politicians have to hunt them down and woo each one, one at a time. Even the various local chapters are somewhat independent as many aren't organized with upper level structures, like at district or state level. In truth most chapters aren't all that connected with their national organization of which they umbrella-ed under. As time goes on these chapters and parties will probably merge in effort to give themselves more power.

It was the civil war that made our two parties strong. In a sense, the Republicans had won the war and were in control. Regardless of which state or what side of the Mason-Dixon line one lived in, this created a need for a stronger opposition party and the old Democratic Party was in the best position to provide it. Since then, both parties became better organized and found ways to not only increase their power... but keep it. And they do this by stealing ours.

I think our oversized districts certainly have contributed to our overpowering two party system but it's not the cause. Therefore, I don't think having smaller districts would break the system either, but would weaken each party's influence because the personal connection between representative and people would be reestablished.

Perhaps my biggest reason for wanting smaller districts is to make each representative more accessibile to their own people, so each of us can be heard. Another is so we can establish and maintain a more personal connection with him/her. This is tough to do even with just 30,000 people but not impossible. With smaller districts, the R & D thing really wouldn't matter in regards to local or district voting and small parties could compete. But the big parties would still retain a strong influence with electing those positions of which the candidates most likely live outside ones own district.
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Re: Duverger's Principle

Postby JEQuidam » Mon May 30, 2011 6:13 pm

Pseudolus wrote:...I'm still unclear why you think it would take a constitutional amendment to change local voting methods.
I only meant that an amendment is required for any changes to the voting method relative to federal elections, not local elections. The alternative methods referenced in your initial post, or the "several rounds of voting" method mentioned by dogtired, would require an amendment to be implemented for federal elections. It's not even possible to implement term limits on federal representatives without an amendment. And if a solution requires an amendment to be implemented then I'm not really interested in discussing it, because (I believe) it would be a futile effort, even if I thought they were good ideas (which I don't).
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Re: Duverger's Principle

Postby JEQuidam » Mon May 30, 2011 7:36 pm

dogtired wrote:I think our oversized districts certainly have contributed to our overpowering two party system but it's not the cause. Therefore, I don't think having smaller districts would break the system either, but would weaken each party's influence because the personal connection between representative and people would be reestablished.
You are unconvinced by the thought experiment I posed above. Allow me to make the hypothetical more extreme. Imagine that we had 1-person districts; in other words, a "direct democracy" relative to legislative matters. In effect, this is similar to California's proposition system, so the notion is not as absurd as it would seem. In this case, it is manifestly clear that we would not have a party system since each of us elect ourselves to participate (or not).

For the record, I am an ardent supporter republican government and would be opposed to such a direct democracy method of self-government (except as it relates to a proposition system such as California's).

So there are no political parties if we had only a direct-democracy legislature. (For this hypothetical, assume there is no Senate or President.) Instead, we would have only issue-driven "movements", as we do now (e.g., environmental, pro-life, Fair Tax, gun rights, etc). People would tend to support two or more various combinations of movements.

Now let's create 2-person districts. There are only two of you; for example, the two adults who head a household, or two roommates. There obviously will not be a party-affiliation requirement in order to choose which of you will be the Representative. You'll flip coins, take turns, or whatever. Continue this thought process: You can't possibly believe that when there are three of you, or four, or five, that it will become inevitable that all of you suddenly become Republicans or Democrats, unless you think people are mindless robots (I don't). Within your tiny district, a majority of you will simply vote for the person who is the most likely to reliably represent your values and interests. As I said above, I have no doubt that this state of party-irrelevance will hold true for 10, 100, and much larger districts. We can debate where Duverger's Principle begins to take effect, and at what point it becomes "law".

By the way, I believe the predominance of issue-movements will continue (in lieu of parties) until Duverger's becomes law. This is much more nuanced than everyone declaring allegiance to being either an R or a D. In smaller districts, one candidate could be "Green" and pro-life and favor gun-control, and so forth (but no party). The permutations of issues will depend on the community they represent and so there would be a great variety. Rather than two political parties, numerous coalitions of interest will be formed. So two Reps who work closely together on pro-life might oppose one another on environmental issues.

All that being said, I would be quite happy if someone could convince the duopoly that Duverger's theory would still be law if the population of congressional districts were reduced to 50,000. Wouldn't the party machines love to have a Congress comprised of 3,000 Democrats and 3,000 Republicans? Couldn't we then count on having bipartisan support for representational enlargement? At a minimum they would not oppose it if they were convinced of the inevitability of two-party rule at all district sizes. However, when the concept of representational enlargement eventually gains broader support, the two political machines will vehemently oppose it. The reason: They recognize the serious threat this poses to maintaining their perpetual political duopoly.
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Re: Duverger's Principle

Postby Pseudolus » Tue May 31, 2011 5:19 am

JEQuidam wrote:I only meant that an amendment is required for any changes to the voting method relative to federal elections, not local elections. The alternative methods referenced in your initial post, or the "several rounds of voting" method mentioned by dogtired, would require an amendment to be implemented for federal elections. It's not even possible to implement term limits on federal representatives without an amendment. And if a solution requires an amendment to be implemented then I'm not really interested in discussing it, because (I believe) it would be a futile effort, even if I thought they were good ideas (which I don't).

JEQ, this conversation is becoming exceedinly frustrating; because you're so smart, yet you refuse to address the strategy suggested. I'M NOT SUGGESTING, NOR NEVER SUGGESTED A CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT! STOP TALKING ABOUT CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS IN THIS THREAD! Why the heck do you think I provided the riddle of 'how to eat a whale'? I've explained myself in so many ways, yet you refuse to see the suggestion. A Constitutional Amendment would be the equivalent of eating a whale in one gulp, i.e. it's not going to happen!, which is why I'm suggesting the exact opposite!!!

If the problems in the House (only 435 Reps) came to be due to two-party dominance, if the problems in the Senate today are a result of two-party dominance, then it behooves us to dismantle that two-party dominance; and, in so doing, we stand a better chance at taking on the greater issues of House enlargement and 17th Amendment repeal.

I'm not talking Constitutional Amendment; I'm talking about taking apart the two-party dominance in individual districts. If we can start there, then we're dissipating R&D(Republican & Democrat) control. If other districts then begin adopting similar measures, then we're dissipating R&D control even more. If enough districts in a given state change their own local voting methods, then third-parties in that state will begin to gain power, money, and influence. When power, money, and influence are paired with voter expectation that a third-party might win an election, then Duverger's Law states it becomes possible for a third-party actually to win an election.

If a state elects a third-party representative to a federal level, (it's not because there has been a Constitutional amendment) it's because that third-party has slowly gained credibility and influence in local elections throughout the state! NO CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT NEEDED, NO CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT SUGGESTED! If enough districts in enough states then elect enough third-party members, then we're in a much better place to take on the House enlargement issue!

You eat a whale one bite at a time, but you have to take that first bite. You pick apart a dragon one scale at a time, but you have to pull off one scale first. We'll tear into two-party dominance one district at a time, but we have to succeed in one district first. We don't need a constitutional amendment to start, we just need 1 freakin' district!

This was all explained in detail earlier in this thread, I'm not sure why you keep bringing up Constitutional Amendments while ignoring the actual strategy suggested.


JEQuidam wrote:Allow me to make the hypothetical more extreme. Imagine that we had 1-person districts; in other words, a "direct democracy" relative to legislative matters. ... In this case, it is manifestly clear that we would not have a party system since each of us elect ourselves to participate (or not).
...
Now let's create 2-person districts. There are only two of you; for example, the two adults who head a household, or two roommates. There obviously will not be a party-affiliation requirement in order to choose which of you will be the Representative. You'll flip coins, take turns, or whatever.

What the frick is this?! Didn't I expressly say above that I believe Duverger's Law begins taking affect the moment there are three voters? Would you also explain to a returning Christopher Columbus that the humans he met in New World don't actually exist because people can't live in the ocean? He's not claiming they live in the ocean!

Your examples for 1-person districts and 2-person districts are inaccurate reflections of Duverger's Law, because Duverger's Law is about how and when people engage in insincere voting (aka tactical voting). Duverger says that our current U.S. voting method tends to favor two-party rule. Obviously, there cannot be two party rule in a 1-person district; because two parties cannot exist in a 1-person district! 1 can never equal 2! Obviously Duverger's Law is impossible to prove in a 2-person district, because you either see the basic logic in the reflexive property of equality (i.e. 2=2) or you don't. And if you don't first admit that 2=2 then no further equations can be proved or disproved (or even intelligently discussed).

Duverger's Law can only be debated once there are three people in existence, because without that there's nothing to debate.
JEQuidam wrote:You can't possibly believe that when there are three of you, or four, or five, that it will become inevitable that all of you suddenly become Republicans or Democrats, unless you think people are mindless robots (I don't). Within your tiny district, a majority of you will simply vote for the person who is the most likely to reliably represent your values and interests. As I said above, I have no doubt that this state of party-irrelevance will hold true for 10, 100, and much larger districts. We can debate where Duverger's Principle begins to take effect, and at what point it becomes "law".

First off, I find it completely disrespectful for you to toss nonchalantly aside ALL political science, psychological, and mathematical study on voting methodology for the past 60 years post-Duverger without any real research or understanding into what makes Duverger's "principle" accepted as Law according to everyone else who has studied it. UGH!

Secondly, no one is saying people become mindless robots clicking R&D's in 3-person districts. Quite the contrary! We're actually suggesting that people are not mindless robots even in grotesquely large million-person districts. Duverger's Law is based on the fact that people are not mindless robots, they are instead individuals with individuals votes actively attempting to get the most voice out of their one vote. There have been countless proofs of Duverger's Law in 3-person districts if you'd bother to do the research!

    Example: There are three of us (JEQ, Pseudolus, and DogTired) and three dinner options (pasta, steak, salad). JEQ sincerely wants pasta; Pseudolus sincerely wants steak; DogTired sincerely wants salad.

    If Pseudolus knows that DogTired is a vegan and thus believes his own sincerely-preferred steak is unelectable, Pseudolus is likely to vote insincerely for pasta over steak in order to prevent his least preferred choice salad from winning. Pseudolus is doing this not because he's a mindless robot, but precisely because he's not a mindless robot and wants to have a better say over his future meal. Hence, Duverger's Law.

    If we had changed the voting method to "approval style" voting, then perhaps Pseudolus wouldn't have had to pick pasta at all, because he'd have had faith that someone else might at least approve of steak. Hence, the following happens:
    • JEQ votes for Pasta and Steak (no salad)
    • Pseudolus votes Steak (no pasta, no salad)
    • DogTired votes Salad (no pasta, no steak)
    Now Steak is the winning candidate, whereas beforehand Steak was only a dismissed third-party candidate.
Thousands of people have spent their entire professional lives trying to disprove Duverger--including through the small district approach. They've all failed! Moreover, mathematicians have proven why they failed (though they can't outright prove Duverger's Law itself because Duverger was describing a strong tendency). Psychologists, sociologists, political scientists, etc. have also all in their own respective fields proven the failures of those attempting to disprove Duverger. Look it up!
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Re: Duverger's Principle

Postby JEQuidam » Tue May 31, 2011 7:17 am

Pseudolus wrote:I'M NOT SUGGESTING, NOR NEVER SUGGESTED A CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT!
I NEVER SAID YOU SUGGESTED AN AMENDMENT [/all caps]. I was just commenting that: I'm generally not interested in discussing solutions that would require an amendment, such as multiple runoffs, term limits etc.
Pseudolus wrote:Example: There are three of us (JEQ, Pseudolus, and DogTired) and three dinner options (pasta, steak, salad). JEQ sincerely wants pasta; Pseudolus sincerely wants steak; DogTired sincerely wants salad...
I understand game theory. I understand there is "politics" whenever you have three or more people. It seems to me that we are talking past each other because you are discussing microeconomic principles and I'm discussing macroeconomics, so to speak.

Even if there would be, as you said above, "two-party dominance in individual districts", even tiny districts, that does not mean it would be the same two parties nationwide! In a liberal district near San Fran, there might be 2-party domination by the Greens and the Democrats. In a conservative district in Georgia, it might be the Constitution Party and the Republicans. In another district in Texas it might be Libertarians vs. the Constitution Party. In a small district in Wisconsin, it might be the Progressive Party vs. the Socialists. None of that would concern me, because the result would be a diversity of parties and independents in the federal legislature. It is my contention that all these various political interests do not begin to coalesce into a national two-party system until the congressional districts reach some critical mass of population (e.g., 100,000).

In my comments above in this thread, I have only been trying to explain and elaborate on my views, not "disprove" Duverger's theory.
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Re: Duverger's Principle

Postby Pseudolus » Tue May 31, 2011 11:40 am

JEQuidam wrote:Moreover, solutions that require a constitutional amendment are unlikely to ever get past the concept phase, unfortunately.
JEQuidam wrote:I only meant that an amendment is required for any changes to the voting method relative to federal elections, not local elections. The alternative methods referenced in your initial post, or the "several rounds of voting" method mentioned by dogtired, would require an amendment to be implemented for federal elections. It's not even possible to implement term limits on federal representatives without an amendment. And if a solution requires an amendment to be implemented then I'm not really interested in discussing it, because (I believe) it would be a futile effort, even if I thought they were good ideas (which I don't).
JEQuidam wrote:I was just commenting that: I'm generally not interested in discussing solutions that would require an amendment, such as multiple runoffs, term limits etc.

For someone "not interested" in talking about an amendment, it seems you keep bringing it up. Let it go! No one else is speaking of an amendment in this thread but you!
JEQuidam wrote:Even if there would be, as you said above, "two-party dominance in individual districts", even tiny districts, that does not mean it would be the same two parties nationwide! In a liberal district near San Fran, there might be 2-party domination by the Greens and the Democrats. In a conservative district in Georgia, it might be the Constitution Party and the Republicans. In another district in Texas it might be Libertarians vs. the Constitution Party. In a small district in Wisconsin, it might be the Progressive Party vs. the Socialists. None of that would concern me, because the result would be a diversity of parties and independents in the federal legislature.

That's perhaps true, no argument; but how are you going to get Congress to increase the House first, hmmm? You're trying to swallow a freakin' whale! You know the duopoly of Congress is going to fight to keep their numbers small; it's in their interest to do so (because it increases their power and maintains their controlling duopoly). It'll first take massive simultaneous national support to increase 435 Reps; and how are you first going to get that massive simultaneous national support? It'll be about as difficult as passing a Constitutional Amendment (which I know you love to hate to discuss).
JEQuidam wrote:It seems to me that we are talking past each other because you are discussing microeconomic principles and I'm discussing macroeconomics, so to speak.

Exactly! That's the only reason this method is worth discussing: because it can be implemented on a micro-scale! We don't need massive simultaneous national support like we would with House enlargement. We don't need a Constitutional Amendment like we would in the Senate. We only need to persuade one small local district once. That's a reachable goal!

We're no longer attempting to lift 2000lbs, instead we're more modestly permanently removing 2lbs from that larger goal. And, if we remove 2lbs again and again, then we won't ever have to lift the 2000lbs; those in power will simultaneously lift 2000lbs for us because it's in their interests to do so (i.e. they'll want more power!):
  • An elected third-party will want more power and so will be more likely to push (from whatever level) House enlargement.
  • A public who elects (at any level) a third-party Rep will want to increase their Rep's influence so will be more likely to push for House enlargement.
All we'd be doing is creating the climate where our education on House enlargement will have the most impact and be most likely embraced. That's why this idea of changing the voting method in a small local district is worth discussing!

If we can't change the climate, then TTO's efforts will be like someone shouting in a hurricane: it'll never be heard over the tempest. Quiet the storm, then those nearby will be more likely to hear TTO's message.
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Re: Duverger's Principle

Postby JEQuidam » Tue May 31, 2011 1:37 pm

Pseudolus, you're way too contentious for me. We've pretty much beat this subject to death. I understand your view, and you understand mine. Good luck with whatever it is you are working on.
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Re: Duverger's Principle

Postby Pseudolus » Tue May 31, 2011 2:23 pm

JEQuidam wrote:Pseudolus, you're way too contentious for me. We've pretty much beat this subject to death. I understand your view, and you understand mine. Good luck with whatever it is you are working on.

Yes, I tend to get impassioned, which is both a good and a bad gift.
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Re: Duverger's Principle (a.k.a. "Duverger's Law")

Postby dogtired » Tue May 31, 2011 3:11 pm

Thanks to you learned gentlemen, I think I got it.

In regards to the House, none of us believe a constitutional amdendment is needed, we just need Congress to follow the Constitution as written. So let's agree not mention it again.

If I understand you guys right, Duverger's theory says that the bigger a district becomes, then the more stronger the two party system will be. Can we all agree on that? Yes? No?

I, too, we can end this thread. Unless of course, someone else has questions to learn more about Duverger's Law, like I did.

Thanks again guys, I learned a lot.

So our next question to address is, how big does a district have to be for Duverger's theory to effectively become the unwritten law, thus making us too dependent upon a two party system? I'll pose this question in a new thread entitled, What is the best size for a district?
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