Down with Elections! Part 6: conclusion


Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6


The Mandate

One of the justifications claimed for elections is that they are the only mechanism by which the citizens give a mandate to those who govern them. “We can’t just leave choosing our representatives to chance. When we vote, we give the winning candidate a mandate.”

But who actually gives this mandate? Surely not those who vote against the winners. And not those who don’t vote, for whatever reason. So it must be those who vote for the winning candidates? Suppose you vote in an electorate where your candidate wins by a handsome margin. If you hadn’t voted at all, he would still have won. If you had voted for another candidate, once again, he would still have won. In short, your vote made no difference at all. How then can you say that you have had even the tiniest part in giving that candidate a mandate?

Only if the other voters are so divided between candidates that your vote is the deciding one, can you be said to have made a difference, and then, of course, you are in a sense a “dictator”, as the political scientists put it when speaking of this problem. In saying this, I’ve assumed a winner-takes-all, first past the post system. Is the situation different in a proportional or a preferential system? Not really. Most of the time, your vote makes no difference at all. And the statement that “we can’t leave choosing our representatives to chance” – as though chance plays no part in elections – is just laughable.

Overheard in a pub in Godelpus:

(Yes, the names have been changed to protect the guilty.)

Two men sat down at the next table.

“I didn’t catch what you were saying about a mandate” said one.

His friend took a deep swig of beer before replying. “It brings back painful memories”, he said, slowly. “I don’t know if you remember when Harry Bolt got elected?”

“That was that very close election, wasn’t it?”
Continue reading