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In The Guardian, 2018-12-13, historian Timothy Garton Ash asks the EU27:

“(…) all we need from you, my friends, is a clear, simple, positive message, without ifs or buts: “We want you to stay!””

The EU27 already said this, before this plea actually. Yet, let me offer my fellow citizen apologies to the British people for the misconduct by the EU27 leadership. The EU27 has not been clear enough. It has allowed itself to get infected by the irresponsibility by the UK leadership.

An issue between Member States

The EU is a union of Member States and an arrangement between governments. The EU is no usual democracy with a direct relationship between EU citizens and their collective EU government. The EU27 regard Brexit as an internal affair of the UK. EU President Donald Tusk chairs meetings of government leaders, and would see himself entirely out of place when he would tour the UK and have Town Hall sessions trying to resolve misunderstandings and pleading the common cause. Brexiteers would accuse him of meddling in internal affairs, and Tusk could only confirm this. Many Britons would see him as another Pole who should depart as soon as possible, even when he would be excellent at taking care at hospital beds or fixing the plumbing.

Clear and convincing evidence that the UK is under the spell of populism

The 2016 Referendum is clear and convincing evidence, acceptable in a decent criminal court, that the UK is under the spell of populism. In proper democracy it is Parliament that decides such issues. Who studies the mathematics of democracy can better appreciate the history that it are mostly demagogues and incompetents who resort to referenda to create the illusion as if the “will of the people” has been called upon. The 2016 Referendum was an exercise in populist lunacy and the UK government has been irresponsible concerning it. Prime Minister Theresa May clearly doesn’t have the background to understand this. In this particular respect she is no better than Silvio Berlusconi though with a feeling for understatement and a stiff upper lip, and she rather follows populism in the UK instead of steering her country out of it.

Stab-in-the-Back Myth

In this political setting, anything that the EU27 says can and basically will be used against it. The EU27 has been cautious about the risk of a Stab-in-the-Back Myth that the EU27 would be at fault for the mess that the UK is in and could be in for coming decades. When the EU27 would state with more emphasis that it would rather have the UK remain, like Garton Ash suggests, then this would likely be misrepresented as a ploy to lure the virgin UK into a place of darkness and unspeakable horror.

Take the bull by the horns

In real politik the EU27 accepted that a Member State succombed to populism. They should have been wiser. Alongside the unavoidable negotiations, the EU27 should also have discussed How to Deal with Populism in a Member State. EU scientists with basic impartiality in Town Hall meetings could have invited Britons to see this true diagnosis and monster eye to eye. It is still not too late. I myself have looked into the deeper causes of Brexit. My finding is that Britons think that they have democracy while the UK has only proto-democracy. The UK has district representation instead of equal proportionality. The UK system has been causing problems in the UK for a good part of last century, and Brexit is only a culmination.

A second referendum is populism all-over again

Garton Ash’s second referendum is populist irresponsibility all-over again. He neglects the evidence of the 2016 disaster and believes in a heaven of well designed referenda that disclose the “will of the people” like an Oracle of Delphi. His world view is locked in proto-democracy, and he doesn’t even notice the prison walls.

The advice is a moratorium

My suggestion is a Moratorium on Brexit of two years, so that the UK can discuss and improve its democracy. See the former weblog entry.

 

Wikimedia commons May and Berlusconi

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A Brexit moratorium of two years is the best advice today that econometrics can offer the UK and EU. Two years are only a short period with respect to the long future ahead. After two years of misinformation the UK and EU better make room for two years of proper information.

The difference between a flat Earth and a sphere

My background is in econometrics, Political Economy and Public Choice, and the latter is “the use of economic tools to deal with traditional problems of political science” (Gordon Tullock 1987). The Brexit referendum outcome in 2016 caused me to look deeper into its causes. In August 2017 I discovered that “political science on electoral systems” (including referenda) still is locked in the humanities and thus pseudo-science. For its claims on reality this branch is comparable to astrology, alchemy and homeopathy. This branch has been misinforming the world for a good part of last century.

The Great Depression in the 1930s came about because economists had confusions about the gold standard and such. Now we have a similar situation with respect to this branch of political science. This discovery on “political science on electoral systems” compares to the distinction between a flat Earth and a sphere. It means that all evidence must be re-evaluated.

If you wonder where failing government in the USA, UK or France comes from, then include this misinformation and miseducation as a fundamental factor. Brexit is an example of a democracy running astray because of this misinformation. The deeper cause of Brexit is that the House of Commons and the electorate are misinformed by the academia. There is a grand scale of misinformation by famous UK scholars like Iain McLean, John Curtice, Simon Hix, younger Alan Renwick, and (other) members of the UK Political Studies Association and lack of critique by the UK Royal Statistical Society.

For the National Academia of Sciences and Humanities of the world I propose that they set up their own national buddy systems, consisting of both scientists and scholars on democracy and electoral systems. Scientists tend to be less interested in democracy and scholars are at a distance from empirics, so that buddies can support each other in commitment to study and in bridging gaps of understanding.

The evidence is in my paper “One woman, one vote. Though not in the USA, UK and France” (MPRA 84482, 2018). The buddies perhaps better start with the novel statistics on the USA midterm 2018 and the SDID measure on disproportionality.

Cold Civil War in the UK

Many Britons are dead-tired of the Brexit discussion and want a clean break of it. The term Cold Civil War has been used. Rather than force a decision down each other’s throat on the three available options, it is better to kick the can down the road, and have a time-out to reconsider how the UK got where it is now. The UK better changes the discussion to another topic, away from Brexit, on which the three options are rather clear, and instead onto the foundations, structure and workings of UK democracy itself. The UK appears to be horribly confused on both democracy and statistics, and the people in the UK will gain new energy when they finally would get proper information.

All three options have the risk of a Stab-in-the-Back Myth

Both the EU and prime minister Theresa May have emphasized that there will be no more negotiation. There are three options on the table. Firstly the EU-May deal, secondly the Crash out of the EU, and thirdly a Bregret and return to the Status Quo Ex Ante. All three options come with the risk of a Stab-in-the-Back Myth.

Many UK voters have been dreaming and have been misinformed by all sides. It will be easy for many Britons to blame the EU as the villain who abused virgin Britannia. It will be hard for them to admit that they themselves have been dreaming.

  • A stagnation or even a drop in income can be portrayed as punishment by the EU.
  • The May-EU deal would fail on the sovereignty a promised by many Brexiteers.
  • Bregret would be seen as a betrayal of the referendum outcome.

Cognitive dissonance can be resolved by finding scapegoats, and butchering them in cleansing rituals. The Stab-in-the-Back Myth would not only affect the UK and future EU-UK relations, but Pied Pipers of Hamelin within the EU would also use UK resentment as ‘proof’ that the EU is devious indeed.

This lose-lose outcome exposes the weak spots of international governance. Basically, though, the irresponsibility in the UK has infected the EU. EU policy makers should have known better. They treated Brexit as an issue between Member States but they rather should have cared for EU citizens too, also in the UK, even when this notion of EU citizenship has little legal status. This present discussion provides a solution approach.

Two past years of misinformation, two new years for information

The last two years were burdened by misinformation around the 2016 Brexit Referendum and then there were both secrecy and some open chaos in the subsequent UK-EU negotiations. Voters in the UK are only dimly aware about the logic of the Irish border and the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 in this balancing act on national sovereignty and international treaties. Yet the greatest problem lies at a more fundamental level on democracy itself.

Another two years of uncertainty might play into economic stagnation, yet there are many no-regret investments waiting to be done. It really is wisest to take a time-out. This armistice of two more years gives breathing space and appears crucial to clear the fog of war and prevent a Stab-in-the-Back Myth that would play into rancuous backlash in both UK and EU and that could wreak havoc in the future.

How this moratorium can be achieved

The current House of Commons was elected in 2017 and thus after the referendum of 2016, and it would have a mandate to reconsider the situation, even if it would mean breaking promises to voters, which promises clearly cannot be kept with only the present three options on the table. Potentially the EU27 would allow the UK time for such a reconsideration of it is democratic foundations. The recent advice by the ECJ Advocate General provides scope to unilaterally revoke the withdrawal notification (ECJ press release 187/18). However, the EU27 would tend to regard this correct unilateral act with suspicion, and fear for instability in the UK. If the UK would revoke and clarify that it would use a moratorium of two years for a reconsiderations of its democratic foundations, then fears in the EU27 about UK instability and risk about a Stab-in-the-Back Myth against the EU would be assuaged.

After this moratorium of two years, the UK may still leave the EU perhaps in 2021 but at least then this decision would be based upon a clearer understanding in the UK about democracy and statistics.

Not “populism” but kindergarten politics

The 2016 Brexit Referendum Question itself was simplistic and doesn’t fit the requirements for a decent statistical questionnaire. It was political manipulation pure and simple. The Leave vs Remain outcome was 52-48%, but some 17% of voters had Remain between different options of Leave, and thus had to gamble what would be the likely outcome. (RES Newsletter 2018-10) Referenda are mostly dumb and risky, and an instrument of populism instead of deliberative democracy. With this lesson learned, the UK better avoids a second referendum.

Let me quote Cas Mudde who “defined populism as an ideology that considers society to be separated into two homogeneous and antagonistic groups, “the pure people” versus “the corrupt elite”, and which argues that politics should be an expression of the volonté générale (general will) of the people.” (Guardian 2018-11-22) The term “populism” is distractive though, as if there would be a core of truth in going back to the people, as “ideal democracy”. Cas Mudde struggles with the dictionary and is less observant of what is really happening here, namely kindergarten politics. A division between Us and Them is what kids in kindergarten understand, with a saviour prince on a shiny horse, and it is a core element in blockbuster Hollywood movies. This is what Donald Trump is comfortable with and what his analysts are feeding him with.

The proper answer to this kind of politics is to explain that issues are more complex, and Cas Mudde suggests this too. Complexity however requires time. Both UK and EU can use a moratorium of two years to come to terms with the complexity that we now see on Brexit. The key point is to use this time in an educational manner beyond kindergarten, and thus in a fundamentally different manner than we have seen in the last two years. The misinformation about Brexit not only concerns mere mundane points like on the NHS but also concerns some fundamental aspects by professors from the academia as well.

Weimar and equal proportional representation

This discussion now meets with Godwin’s law. In 1941, Ferdinand Hermens (1906-1998) fled from nazi Germany, found refuge at Notre Dame, Indiana, and published his “Democracy or Anarchy” that argued that the Weimar Republic collapsed because of (equal) proportional representation (EPR). After winning WW2, the USA and UK assumed that their electoral system of district representation (DR) would be superior too. Later research by political scientists has essentially repeated the bias, introducing ever more fallacies.

Historians have debunked Hermens’s analysis. Hitler seized power by using the fire in the Reichstag to arrest communists, eleminating such parliamentarians from voting committees. (Lorraine Boissoneault, Smithsonian 2017) EPR was hindering the nazis, not helping them. Anyway, the choice of electoral system must be made for its own optimality, and other rules would be relevant for such stress tests. Above, I have mentioned the evidence.

A solution for the UK is to switch from DR to EPR

The two year moratorium then could have two phases. When the proposed buddy-system of the Royal Society and the British Science Association (science) and the British Academy (humanities) has generated results and has started informing the general public about their findings, in a first phase, then in a second phase the UK can consider switching from DR to EPR, and have proper elections so that all voices in the UK are duly represented, finally for the first time in history. Parties can split along their Brexit views in order to offer voters the full spectrum. The Stab-in-the-Back Myth has less risk of developing when all people can see the true proportions of the different views on Brexit. With new elections, the House of Commons can finally start from proper proportions to negotiate between parties for a compromise. Compromises would focus on internal UK affairs, since there are no more negotiations with the EU on Brexit.

With this advised solution approach provided by econometrics, it may still be, as said, that the UK leaves the EU perhaps in 2021 but at least then all UK voters have been treated properly, with prudence, justice, dignity and compassion, in equal proportion.

Disclaimer: I did not read “Democracy or Anarchy” and the EU-May Deal, but looked at abstracts. Parts of this text have been used earlier.

UK Parliament on the Boston Tea Party

In May I joined NKWP, the Dutch Poltiical Science Association. I informed the board that “political science on electoral systems” is a pseudo-science, comparable to astrology, alchemy or homeopathy. The board informed me yesterday that they will do nothing on this. Thus I better put a stop to my membership. I should be no part of an association that claims to be for science but that doesn’t react to information about pseudo-science under their wings.

This is my farewell letter to the board of NKWP.

Let us look beyond Brexit and determine the implications w.r.t. democracy itself. We can conclude that the UK has an intellectual community that is quite blind on the very notion of democracy. When the educated run astray then there is only an anchor in the democratic notions of the whole population, and this opens the doors to what is called “populism”.

I started looking into Brexit after the surprise referendum outcome in 2016. This memo sums up my findings over the last two years. The following identifies where the educated community in the UK is in need of re-educating themselves.

Earlier in 1990-1994 I already concluded that Montesquieu’s model of the separation of powers of the Trias Politica fails in a key aspect since its conception in 1748. Democracies need the fourth power of an Economic Supreme Court, see (2014). It is necessary to mention this earlier conclusion that predates Brexit, but let us now continue with findings following Brexit.

To start with: What does the UK electorate really want w.r.t. Brexit or Bremain ? Both the Referendum of 2016 and the General Election of 2017 do not provide adequate information. One would think that it is rather damning for a claimed democracy when its procedures do not result into adequate clarity on such a fundamental issue.

The 2016 Referendum Question concerned the legal issue of Leave or Remain but was disinformative about the ways of Leaving or Remaining. The political parties that are elected into the House of Commons are split on both direction and ways as well. The overall situation can only be described as chaotic. One might try to characterise this more positively as that a population with divided views generated a House of Commons with divided views, which would be democracy itself, but this neglects that there is no information about what those divided views actually are. The true process is “garbage in, garbage out” and this doesn’t fit the definition of democracy.

The very Brexit or Bremain Referendum Question fails the criteria for a decent statistical enquiry. I am surprised that the Royal Statistical Society (RSS) did not protest. The question of Leave or Remain is a binary legal issue but the true issue are the policy options. It took some time to analyse this, but with the help of Anthony Wells of YouGov.com I managed to dissect this, see (2017abc). Some 17 per cent of voters ranked Remain between different versions of Leave, which implies a grand game of guessing what to vote for, and which means that the Referendum failed on its purpose of expression of preferences. The UK Electoral Commission missed this but it does not care about this and is happy to take the legal position. They claim to provide proper information to the general public, but what they regard as “information” is regarded by statistical science as disinformation (but the RSS is silent on this). One is reminded of Byzantium instead of claimed modernity.

The main question is why the UK had the referendum in the first place. In Holland since 1917 there is system of equal proportional representation (EPR) for the House of Commons so that referenda are not required. The UK has a system of district representation (DR) that lacks such proportionality, and that invites the confusion that referenda might be used to find out what the electorate really thinks. The latter is a confusion indeed, since it neglects the important role of bargaining, see (2017c).

This diagnosis set me on the course of investigating why the USA, UK and France have DR and not EPR. My original thought was that a party that won an election would have no reason to change a system that caused its election. This would explain why the USA, UK and France were stuck with DR and did not switch to EPR. Last year I discovered that the true cause is different. My finding for the UK is that there is an amazing blindness in the UK intellectual community. The report in (2018a) causes a chill down the spine. It appears that “political science on electoral systems” is no science yet, but still solidly within the Humanities, and alike astrology, alchemy and homeopathy. The eye-opener is that these academics use the same word “election” for both DR and EPR while they actually have entirely different meanings. In reality only EPR has proper elections fitting of proper democracy. The DR system is a proto-democracy that relies on contests. Political “science” is blind to what this means not only for proper scientific analysis but also for communication with the general public. Voters are disinformed on a grand scale, both in the textbooks in government classes and in public discussion e.g. at “election” nights.

Compare physics that also borrowed words from colloquial English, like “force” and “mass”. Yet in physics these words have recieved precise meaning. In physics, gravity in Holland has the same meaning as gravity in the UK. Political “science” uses colloquial terms like “election” and “democracy” but those meanings are not fixed. An “election” in Holland with EPR is entirely different from an “election” in the UK with DR. Political “science” thus uses terms that confuse both the academics and the public. When historians describe how the West developed into democracy, they occlude the fact that the USA, UK and France are still in a proto-democratic phase.

A first complication is: There appears to be a special role for the UK Electoral Reform Society (ERS) founded in 1884 and originally known as the Proportional Representation Society. Here we find an independent and disinterested group that criticises DR and that claims to further the UK on the historical path towards EPR. However, it appears that ERS wants a transferable vote, while their claim that transferability generates proportionality is simply false. Such distortion contributed to the debacle of the 2011 Referendum on the “alternative vote”, which is a counterproductive construct to start with. When one presents the ERS with this criticism then the reply appears to be disingenuous. Instead of a clear adoption of EPR, either in the Dutch version or like the UK elections for the EU Parliament, with their wealth of experience by actual application, one can only conclude that the ERS is addicted to this notion of a transferable vote, and they want this model at any cost. Psychology might explain how such zealotism may arise but it remains far removed from proper information for the general public.

A second complication is: There appears to exist a confusion w.r.t. the interpretation of Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem on democracy. In this, there is a major role for mathematicians who mainly look at models and who neglect empirical science. This leads too far for this memo, and an overview is given in (2018e).

A third complication is: There is the interference by a grand coalition of statistics and political science (with some ambiguity whether quotation marks should be used) in creating a black hole on democracy and its measurement, see (2018bcd). Political science never managed to find a good measure for the difference between vote shares and seat shares. My proposal is to use the “sine-diagonal inequality / disproportionality” (SDID) measure, that does for democracy what the Richter scale does for earthquakes. Political science has shown less understanding of statistics, or perhaps failed in finding such a measure because statistical science did not develop this theory or did not understand what the political scientists were looking for. This hole has been plugged now, see (2018bcd). Nevertheless, this diagnosis calls for a reorganisation of university courses in statistics and political science.

The enclosed graph highlights the “perfect storm” of blindness of the intellectual community that lurks behind Brexit. The figure is documented in (2018d). The main idea is that statistics and other sciences like physics, biology, psychometrics and econometrics could help “political science on electoral systems” to become a proper science. Then science can provide adequate information to the general public.

A conclusion is: The UK electoral system has “winner take all” district representation (DR) that does not provide for equal proportional representation (EPR) of what voters want. Again the word “representation” means something else for proto-democratic DR versus democratic EPR. My suggestion is that the UK switches to EPR, say adopt the Dutch system of open lists, has new elections, and let the new House discuss Brexit or Bregret again. Bregret is defined by that the House adopted Brexit before and thus might reconsider. It is not unlikely that the EU would allow the UK the time for such a fundamental reconsideration on both electoral system and Brexit.

It remains to be seen whether the UK electorate would want to stick to the current system of DR or rather switch to EPR. The first step is to provide the UK electorate with adequate information. For this, the UK intellectual community must get its act together on what this information would be. A suggestion is to check the analysis that I have provided here.

 

References

Colignatus (2014), “An economic supreme court”, RES Newsletter issue 167, October, pp. 20-21
Colignatus (2017a), “Voting theory and the Brexit referendum question”, RES Newsletter, Issue 177, April, pp. 14-16
Colignatus (2017b), “Great Britain’s June 2017 preferences on Brexit options”, RES Newsletter, Issue 177, October, http://www.res.org.uk/view/art2Oct17Features.html
Colignatus (2017c), “Dealing with Denial: Cause and Cure of Brexit”, https://boycottholland.wordpress.com/2017/12/01/dealing-with-denial-cause-and-cure-of-brexit/
Colignatus (2018a), “One woman, one vote. Though not in the USA, UK and France”, https://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/84482/
Colignatus (2018b), “Comparing votes and seats with cosine, sine and sign, with attention for the slope and enhanced sensitivity to inequality / disproportionality”, https://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/84469/
Colignatus, (2018c), “An overview of the elementary statistics of correlation, R-Squared, cosine, sine, Xur, Yur, and regression through the origin, with application to votes and seats for parliament ”, https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.1227328
Colignatus, (2018d), “An overview of the elementary statistics of correlation, R-Squared, cosine, sine, Xur, Yur, and regression through the origin, with application to votes and seats for parliament (sheets)”, Presentation at the annual meeting of Dutch and Flemish political science, Leiden June 7-8, https://zenodo.org/record/1270381
Colignatus, (2018e), “The solution to Arrow’s difficulty in social choice (sheets)”, Second presentation at the annual meeting of Dutch and Flemish political science, Leiden June 7-8, https://zenodo.org/record/1269392

Before the UK Brexit referendum of June 23 2016 I warned that referenda can be silly and dangerous, see here in April 2016. I clarified that the Brexit referendum question was flawed in design. I did not look deeper into this, since, like so many others, I had been put on the wrong foot by the 2016 poll average that suggested a continuation of the status quo. After the surprise outcome, I advised the youngsters in the UK to focus attention on this design flaw, as this is the clearest issue and proper reason to argue that the outcome should be annulled, see here in June 2016. When Kenneth Arrow passed away in early 2017, this was an occasion to have a summary text published in the RES Newsletter, which was republished on the LSE Brexit blog. Now, with the 2017 UK general election, I have been looking a bit deeper at these UK election issues.

One result has been the use of the Lorenz curve and Gini coefficient to show the disproportionality in the UK between votes and seats. Almost all EU members have Proportional Representation (PR) with clear exceptions of the UK and France that have District Representation (DR). Apparently, this is a main reason for the influence of populism in the latter two countries. DR allows that politicians are elected with a minority of the vote, which causes a gap with the majority. Politicians like David Cameron can use a referendum to introduce an element of proportionality. Yet referendum questions are quickly flawed.

A main confusion

Another surprise for me was the existence of the Re-Leavers who make up some 23% of the electorate, and who are very likely also a major section in the House of Commons that supported the invoking of article 50.

Apparently many British voters are awfully respectful of democracy, and while they voted for Remain, they accept the referendum outcome, and let their voting behaviour now be guided by Leave. In other words: they no longer operate as voters who are supposed to express their first preference, but they operate as politicians who develop policy using such preferences.

Voters are better not confused about the following angles:

  • It is one thing to accept the Brexit referendum outcome as a fact. Please accept facts.
  • It is another thing to discuss the consequences of that fact.
  • There is always the distinction between your first preference and dealing with new developments.
  • Your first preference can change, but rather only because of arguments, and not just because of a majority view.

For me, it is easy to say this, in a country that is used to PR. In the UK case of DR it may well be that strategic voting requires voters to run with with herd. Nevertheless, the Re-Leavers cause quite a confusion in the voting record. Also for the general elections of 2017 we now can observe that we don’t know what people really want.

The YouGov data of June 12th – 13th 2017

Anthony Wells provided and discussed these data that show the impact of the Re-Leavers. Let me quote the main part, and for this quotation I also moved their copyright sign up.

These early June data are most relevant for judging the June 8 2017 UK general election. Apparently 26% of all adults in Great Britain (UK excl. Northern Ireland), but also 53% of the voters who voted Remain in 2016, reason as follows:

I did not support Britain leaving the EU, but now the British people have voted to leave the government has a duty to carry out their wishes and leave.

I consider this an illogical and rather undemocratic statement.

  • Logic would require the annulment of the referendum outcome, and not to take it seriously.
  • In representative government, it is Parliament that determines policy, not the people by some referendum.

Most of the EU has PR and thus the notion of representative government. The 2016 Remain voters want to remain in the EU, but, 53% apparently also reject the EU notion of representative government, and instead they appeal to the populism of referenda.

More on the design flaw of the Brexit referendum question

A few days ago, I rephrased one aspect as follows: With R for Remain, S for Soft (EEA), for some Tariffs, and N for No Deal (WTO), there are 6 possible strict preferences for a deal, from R > S > T (Theresa May before the referendum) to T > S > R (Theresa May after the referendum). If S and T are collected in L (Leave) then there arises the claimed binary choice between R and L. Voters who are in the categories S > R > T or T > R > would face a hard question. If they expect that R might win, but also that their own preferred option might not win, should they still go out and vote ? They might decide not to turn out, or develop assumptions about what actually might become, given what what they think about future developments. Similarly for the versions of R. See the voting theory about single peaked preferences (and these are not single peaked but double peaked). Overall it is a fallacy that there is a binary choice. Lawyers can argue that one either invokes article 50 or doesn’t invoke it, yet the referendum isn’t such a legal case, for it is an issue of policy preferences.

In fact, above YouGov poll provides us a bit more information on this issue. Look at this section on their page 15:

Look at the column of the total (with 1651 people in the weighted sample). 35% are clearly for Remain, in their first rank. 47% are clearly against Remain, in their last rank. Thus the middle 8 + 9 ≈ 18% (rounding error) is rather confused, for they put Remain between one of the Leave options. How would they have to vote at a referendum that only allows R or L ? We find similar percentages for the subgroups on the right hand side.

Conclusion

The discussion in the UK would be served by greater awareness of these distinctions:

  • The difference between voting for your first preference (setting the target) and trying to second-guess politicians (as if you are in the driver seat).
  • A valid question and an invalid or flawed one, like the Brexit referendum question.
  • The crucial differences between Proportional Representation (PR) and District Representation (DR), linked to the distinction between representative democracy (mostly PR) and populism (mostly DR).
  • There is also something not discussed in the above, but that is the difference between the failing Trias Politica and improved democracy with an Economic Supreme Court.

(Updated July 11  2017) (September 18 2017: Changed “Hard, H” in “No deal, N”)

There is a bizarre incomprehension of democracy.

I was inclined to say in the English speaking world – UK, USA, India – but there is also France, with the upcoming elections for the French National Assembly 2017. Also France has a system of District Representation (DR) rather than Proportional Representation (PR). Examples of PR are Holland, Germany and to some extent the European Parliament.

Democratic theory favours PR above DR. It is a historical mistake that countries have DR.

The UK Electoral Reform Society (wikipedia) protests about the UK general elections 2017.

Electoral Reform Society, website June 2017

Indeed, there is this difference (wikipedia) between the UK system of DR with the better system of PR. While the popular vote gives a majority to Lab + SNP + LibDem, the majority in seats goes to Con + DUP.

Seats Votes
Con

317

48.8%

13,632,914

42.3%

DUP

10

1.5%

292,316

0.9%

Lab

262

40.3%

12,874,985

40.0%

SNP

35

5.4%

977,569

3.0%

LibDem

12

1.8%

2,371,772

7.4%

Other

14

2.2%

2,047,362

6.4%

Total

650

100.0%

32,196,918

100.0%

There is also the political dynamics of proportionality. Once a proportional system is in place then new parties will have a larger chance to get elected, and then they also have more scope to grow and to challenge the existing parties. We may observe that the UK 2017 outcome may be more proportional than in the past, but this still neglects the dynamics and the build-up of frustration amongst minorities that aren’t represented well.

The UK already has experience with the system of PR, namely for the European elections. While UKIP didn’t do so well within the UK system, Nigel Farage gained the limelight via the elections for the European Parliament.

The UK Electoral Reform Society fails too

Part of the bizarre situation is that the UK Electoral Reform Society (ERS) fails too. They favour the system of “Single Transferable Vote” (STV) and they call this a system of PR while it isn’t PR. It is rather bizarre that they do not comprehend this. The UK had a so-called “referendum on PR” in 2011, but this was actually on the system of “Instant Run-Off” (a.k.a. “Alternative Vote”).

Apparently, the UK has a hangup on DR. They think that districts allow voters to connect directly with the local politicians, and that this reduces the influence of the party bosses. This is a dubious argument. If a representative and party member is out of line with the party then the party might still sack him or her nevertheless. In PR it is easier to start a new political party and be elected (when the issue likely isn’t just local).

Thus the statements by the ERS about district representation derive from historical bias and not from clear theory and practical experience with PR.

Let me give an example how STV favoured by ERS is not PR at all, even though they claim that it would be PR.

Example that STV is not PR

Consider two districts with 30000 voters each. Each district has 2 seats, so that the Droop Quota is 30000 / (2 + 1) + 1 = 10001. Parties contending for these seats are Con, Lab, en LDP. In District 1, the Con are popular, and they present there a list with two candidates. In District 2 the Lab are popular, and they present there a list with two candidates. We consider a rather symmetrical situation as in the following table, also with the STV results.

In STV, voters vote only once, but they can assign a rank order of the candidates.

In District 1, 7503 Con1 voters give Con1 as their first choice and Con2 as their second choice. Also 7501 Con2 voters give Con2 as their first choice and Con1 as their second choice.

  1. In the first round, no candidate meets the quota. LDP1 has the minimal number of votes, 7494, and is eliminated.
  2. In the second round, Con2 has the minimal number of votes, 7501, and is eliminated.
  3. In the third round, the Con2 votes are allocated to Con1, and Con1 meets the quota and is elected.
  4. In the fourth round, Lab3 is the remaining candidate and thus is elected, though the 7502 votes are below the quota.

The situation in District 2 is analogous.

District 1 Votes District 2  Votes
Con1

7503

Elected Con3

7502

Elected

Con2

7501

Lab1

7503

Elected

Lab3

7502

Elected Lab2

7501

LDP1

7494

LDP2

7494

30000

30000

Let us now join the two districts, and look how STV works for the national vote.

There are 60000 voters and 4 seats, so the Droop Quota is 60000 / (4 + 1) + 1 = 12001.

The Con voters put the Con candidates of their district in the first places, and then the Con candidates of the other district. For example, the 7501 Con2 voters have the rank order {Con2, Con1, Con3}.

Because of the symmetrical structure of this example, there are some ties. Rather than using a coin, we use the alphabetical order.

  1. In the first round, no candidate meets the quota, and LDP1 is eliminated.
  2. In the second round, the LDP1 votes go to LDP2, and it is elected.
  3. In the third round, alphabetically Con2 has the minimal number of votes, and is eliminated.
  4. In the fourth round, Con2’s votes go to Con1, and it is elected.
  5. In the fifth round, alphabetically Lab2 has the minimal number of votes, and is eliminated.
  6. In the sixth round, Lab2 votes go to Lab1, and it is elected.
  7. In the seventh round, alphabetically Con3 has the minimal number of votes, 10506, and is eliminated.
  8. In the eighth round, Lab3 remains, and is elected, though with only 10506 votes.

Thus now LDP2, Con1, Lab1 and Lab3 are elected.

Upshot:

  • As the UK Electoral Reform Society (ERS) states that STV would generate proportional results, both {Con1, Con3, Lab1, Lab3} and {Con1, Lab1, Lab3, LDP2} would be proportional results, which however are quite different results, which destroys the meaning of proportionality.
  • With a hangup on DR, there will be little scope for fair representation of the minority LDP.
  • PR would require party representation with {37.5%, 37.5%, 25%} of the seats. Admittedly, this is difficult to achieve with 4 seats, but if the situation persists then one might change the number of seats. This uses the PR criterion rather than the STV criterion.

In these considerations, the notion of PR dominates DR.

Confusing information from Holland

Holland is a small country with some 10 million voters. One might think that its proportional system might not easily scale up to a large unit like the EU. If the EU Parliament would be fully proportional, then Germany might have too large a weight. However, there are also divisions along party lines, and proportionality still would be a fair choice.

Holland had general elections on March 15 2017, and political parties are still negotiating about a coalition government. This is bad advertisement for the system.

There is a confusion in Holland about desiring the minimal majority coalition, that bargains for an agreement that would apply for the next 4 years. It would be more rational to look for a larger majority, and rather set for a flexible agenda, so that issues can be dealt with in varying manner. See this paper of mine. It may also be better to have elections every year, so that Parliament becomes more sensitive to the popular vote. (If you would replace only 25% of the seats, then the electoral quota becomes 4 times larger, and this might be too high again.)

Most bizarre is that the Dutch party D66 wants to change the Dutch PR system into more use of districts … see here. Thus the good news about democracy in Holland is killed again by the campaigners on the D66 hobby horse.

Conclusion

We observe that the UK ERS protests against the failure of the UK electoral system, but we can also conclude that ERS doesn’t comprehend democracy.

We find similar confusions all over the world. The best advice is to change your national electoral system to the PR system like in Holland (or to some extent the EU parliament), yet many campaigners ride their hobby horses of wildly confusing varieties, and calling it “democracy” while it actually isn’t.

PM. A paper of mine on comparing PR and DR is here.