Superminority

Consensus-based legislatures favor bad faith actors. Just getting to a final vote on any measure is a herculean undertaking. This fact makes obstructionist tactics highly successful, so much so that legislatures are largely viewed as dysfunctional throughout the democratic world.

In part 2 of my legislative series, I introduce the superminority, a way of producing laws more pluralistically. It not only introduces a regular pattern for introducing citizen juries, but eliminates most of the tactics that make legislative politics so toxic.

7 Responses

  1. Love the concept “superminority” and the sheer realism of the call to internalize political conflict, in so far as this goes wholly against the grain of deliberative democracy. The need for consensus, as you rightly say, is what really poisons our political systems.

    The best legislators will internalize the policy preferences of the general public

    The neat thing about this is that it’s motivated by nothing more than the self-interest of legislators, rather than some pious notion of the general good — so far, so Mandeville. Is there any parallel with the much vilified MSM? Although newspapers (and other media outlets) are undoubtedly partisan, if there are a decent number of them then they need to attract support from as wide a readership as possible. The worst situation is when there are only two newspapers for a given community. Apart, that is, from the canard of the single independent public-service medium, which always ends up more like Pravda (the criticisms of the BBC in this respect have been taken on board by the newly appointed Director General).

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  2. I’m not sure that there is a direct parallel. More indirectly, however, there is some chance for improvement. Separating proposal and disposal leaves a period of time between when parties publish their proposals. The media will undoubtedly cover this, and since they are covering real policies, there is at least a slightly greater chance of holding them to account.

    For services like the BBC, my approach would be to use the superminority rule to appoint the board, but like you I am suspicious of monolithic services in general. A more market-oriented approach would be to hand citizens some amount of money that they could only spend on news subscriptions. This avoids the BBC problem, but still subsidizes the news industry, which is needed for the functioning of a free society but lacks a viable business model in the digital age.

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  3. Yes, the time delay is very Condorcet. I like the idea of allowing the public to subsidise the news industry — I’m surprised that this hasn’t been suggested by mainstream politicians. I think there would be a need to focus public money on conventional publications (OK, as a printer I would say that) the reason being that readers (as opposed to internet browsers) are more likely to read material other than their own specific interests while turning the pages, thus broadening their general knowledge base. And, if online were included, the funds would probably most end up going to Netflix.

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  4. Keith:> And, if online were included, the funds would probably most end up going to Netflix.

    Ha, I hadn’t thought of that. But I don’t think Netflix would be included, as organizations would have to be predominantly news to qualify. Of course there are concerns about how such a distinction would be made, but I think the proposal-jury system can handle it.

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  5. I’m all in favour of citizen-directed individual media microsubsidies. But I’d go one step further: rather than having recipients spend the money to buy media, simply let them donate it to the media outlet of their choice. That way people will give the money not to the media outlets they actually make most use of, but those they feel they ought to, which would tilt the balance of funding towards media seen as ‘worthy’, improving the quality of the media landscape overall while also increasing media availability by getting rid of the need for subscriptions.

    On the ownership side of things, meanwhile, it’s vital to keep the media independent of both the government and wealthy interests. There are a variety of ways this could be done; one might be to mandate that media outlets be co-ops, with investors essentially acting as lenders and having no power to appoint or fire staff, load the outlet with bad assets, or engage in other malign ownership shenanigans. This would ideally be coupled with a public media investment fund overseen by a jury, to ensure that private investors didn’t have the power to shut down outlets indebted to them.

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  6. My critique of the media vouchers idea is here.

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  7. Wow, I didn’t expect the topic of media reform to generate such an enthusiastic response. I really put the voucher idea our there without a lot of context. Vouchers can be a part of the solution, but both Yoram and Oliver correctly point out that capital financing needs to be addressed apart from vouchers.

    There is some action on this topic happening in Australia. The Aussie government is actually showing some backbone, which is as positive as it is surprising. The issue here is not, however, whether or not to run news media companies as businesses, but whether one type of business (news aggregators) can effectively bankrupt traditional journalistic enterprises.

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