Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Critiquing Christopher Kam’s critique of Proportional Representation regarding False Majorities


In Christopher Kam’s blog post entitled, “Proportional Representation cures cancer & wipes out poverty…” he writes the following as he describes the coalition governments that are formed under electoral systems that incorporate proportional representation:


“…the electorate was not presented with a choice over all possible outcomes; they got to vote only for a or b or c – not a coalition of a & b, b & c, or a & c. If voters had been given such a choice, a majority might well have voted for a coalition of a & c given that all a-types prefer a and a & c to b and all c-types prefer c and c & a to b. On this basis, one could argue that the coalition of a and b reflects a “false majority”….”

My analysis:

Kam has indeed pointed out faults with proportional representation (PR) electoral systems, but has not shown that the alternative is better.

The alternative is a plurality electoral system where it often happens that 35% of the vote fetches a party 60% of the seats. Is that less “false?” I would argue that an election result is more genuine if “the % of seats a party gets” comes as close as possible to matching “the % of votes they get.” That is reduced “falsehood” in that overt election result.

Under PR, the overt “representation falsehood” is reduced even though strategic voting is not eliminated. (Strategic voting is not eliminated because many voters will try to second guess how their vote will affect the inevitable coalitions that are formed under PR.) This mixed result is illustrated by the below table:




“% of seats a party gets” comes closer to matching “the % of votes they get”



Strategic voting is eliminated



Total score:




Notice the total score of PR is higher than Plurality. If these are the only metrics used then that higher score is a reason to prefer PR over Plurality systems.

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