Aug 6, 2010

WA Constitution Party: the Two-Party System Offers Americans Nothing More than a Hobson's Choice

From the Constitution Party of Washington State:
HOBSON'S CHOICE (from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary):
1. an apparently free choice when there is no alternative;
2. the necessity of accepting one of two equally objectionable alternatives.

In the late 16th and early 17th centuries, Thomas Hobson worked as a licensed carrier of passengers, letters, and parcels between Cambridge and London, England. He ...kept horses for this purpose and rented them to university students when he wasn't using them. Of course, the students always wanted their favorite mounts, and consequently a few of Hobson's horses became overworked. To correct the situation, Hobson began a strict rotation system, giving each customer the choice of taking the horse nearest the stable door or none at all. This rule became known as "Hobson's choice," and soon people were using that term to mean "no choice at all" in all kinds of situations.

The current American political situation is HOBSON's CHOICE in action. The voter is given two choices and two choices only, both of whom state that they are radically opposed to one another, but in reality both move the country in the same direction, just in different ways and at different paces. We would not be in this situation had not both choices let us down this path by wandering away from our constitutional roots. Both parties have had generations to correct their path and have not done it. The Constitution Party offers an opportunity to break that destructive cycle, yet voters continue to allow themselves to be swayed into HOBSON's CHOICE by tired old arguments that didn't work in the 1990's, didn't work in 2008, and won't work now.

ITS TIME TO MOVE ON AND BREAK OUT OF HOBSON's CHOICE. VOTE FOR THE VOICE OF REASON BY CHOOSING A CONSITUTIONALLY COMMITTED CANDIDATE OF WHATEVER PARTY OR AN INDEPENDENT, rather than someone who can be persuaded by political party elitists.

4 comments:

Dale Sheldon-Hess said...

Demanding people to act against all incentives is a Sisyphean task.

Single-member plurality districts always tend toward two-party dominance; this is not a moral failing, but a mathematical certainty.

I believe the only way you can change voter's behavior is by changing their incentives. There are voting methods where there is no "lesser evil" problem in a three-candidate race, the simplest of which is approval voting.

If you want voters to choose something other than the big-two, give them a voting system that doesn't punish them for doing so. Because no matter how much they may like a third party, most voters still have a strong preference between the Rs and Ds and, when push comes to shove, they will be compelled to make THAT preference known.

d.eris said...

Hey Dale, there are a couple recent posts from Poli-Tea on approval voting that might interest you, if you haven't seen them already:

Colorado Libertarian candidate for governor advocates approval voting.

And a post on approval voting and proportional representation.

What We Believe said...

Dale,
You are referring to Duverger's Law. Here is an article on All Right Magazine you might be interested in: http://www.allrightmagazine.com/politics/duvergers-law-how-third-party-and-independent-candidates-can-win-elections-4612/

Dale Sheldon-Hess said...

Thanks WWB.

Unfortunately, I don't buy the author's conclusion. Yes, if we stuck with plurality, but everyone voted their conscience, on average, we'd be somewhat better off. But each individual can make themselves better off, on occasion, by not voting their conscience, but rather voting strategically. And convincing everyone to vote in a way other than that which leads to their best immediate outcome is a losing battle.

Sure, Duverger's "law" isn't really a law; it's just a strong observed tendency. But it's REALLY strong. We've only ever had 11 presidential elections where less than 90% of voters didn't vote for one of the two most-popular choices. (And 1836 shouldn't count; the Whigs ran multiple candidates, with the expressed purpose of splitting the electoral college and throwing the election to the house (that plan didn't work, btw.))

The only times "third parties" have won the presidency was when one of the previously-existing two parties collapsed (which is a matter internal to the party, not something that outside agents can easily cause). And the result was that a "third party" became the new "second party": a three (or more) party dynamic has never been (and can never be) stable under plurality. The only times they can win smaller races is when one of the two national parties is exceptionally weak in the local area, but even these cases are intermittent, falling back to the big-two, rather than continuing to grow. In fact, the overwhelming majority of candidates who win on a third-party (or independent) ticket had previously won elections as members of the major parties (even Lincoln was a Whig congressmen before he was a Republican president; and need I mention Lieberman?)

So I reiterate: simply demanding people vote "more honestly" won't convince anyone to do so.

You must change the incentives. You must change the voting system.

Or you can continue to wait, vulture-like, for a major party to rip itself apart in a convention fight.