July 22, 2019 at 5:40 am #26825
Looking at research, citizens assemblies, independent commissions, public inquiries, etc. over the last century, it appears that conclusions are consistent: FPtP should be replaced by a proportional representation electoral system. If a PR system is recommended for Canada, federally, it’s either Mixed Member Proportional or Single Transferable Vote.
Are there any qualified, peer-reviewed, academics/researchers–as opposed to lay ‘experts’–who have recommended FPtP? If so, what were their reasons for recommending FPtP?
[email protected]July 22, 2019 at 10:25 am #26826
Most academics keep their personal preferences to themselves in public, to preserve a veneer of academic neutrality that is beneficial to their academic advancement. That is, most try to demonstrate the differences of Pro Rep vs FPTP and let the reader decide which is best, which is usually pretty obvious.
The few who favour FPTP are usually older and seem to have two main arguments.
The first is that FPTP favours the large parties and disadvantages the small parties. This results in two things: strongly encouraging the voters to opt for a mainstream party to avoid wasting their vote; and encouraging the mainstream parties to focus on mainstream issues more than niche issues. Together, this movement to the centre is supposed to foster national unity and avoid the factionalism and civil unrest seen in banana republics. (This idea seems to be based on whimsical theorizing; Pro Rep seems to be better for unity by allowing minority issues to be publicly aired, e.g. as used in Ireland, Belgium, and many emerging democracies.)
The second argument is that it’s safer to stay with the status quo because Canada has done pretty well compared to many other countries, and changing the voting system might cause a disruption of more-or-less good government. I haven’t heard what actual evidence there might be that changing a voting system caused such a disruption. One has to wonder whether this is really underlain by a fear that increased power by minority voters would lead to an increase in socialism. Some academics feel the socialism in the Pro Rep Nordic countries, enabled by voters, has gone too far. For Canada, judging by the amount of money spent by governments vs private citizens, Canada is about half socialist, which some academics feel is enough already. However, they don’t want to publicly say that they don’t trust voters in that regard – the argument that voters could not be trusted pretty much was suppressed after the 19th century – so they obfuscate it with the “don’t fix it if it ain’t broke” argument. Their argument ignores the vast evidence that FPTP is dysfunctional or “broke” in many ways.July 22, 2019 at 10:48 am #26827
Thanks for this, Maxwell. I’m aware of the arguments. Academics have written papers on the effects of electoral systems on policy and governance. Some of those academics appeared at the ERRE hearings. I’m not aware of any academics whose area of expertise is voting systems who appeared at the ERRE who recommended FPtP. I don’t think there are any academic studies or research that concludes that FPtP is preferable to a PR system. In discussions and debates, I’d like to be able to make that assertion without ‘fear’ that someone will say, “Ah but, Cyrus Weathersneakers, Professor of Political Science at Whereabouts University has done research showing the FPtP produces better [insert variable] than PR systems.”July 22, 2019 at 2:39 pm #26828
Thanks, I tried to answer just one of your questions “what were their reasons for recommending FPtP?” Another common reason is for decisive concentration of power not subject to the delay and gridlock that can occur when cooperation and consensus are required (and of course, studies show the artificially-created decisive power under FPTP leads to worse government on average). I can’t recall specifics but I have seen some academic articles that way, but they’re pretty rare, low quality, and years out of date. When there’s some public event like ERRE various political scientists feel entitled to come out of the woodwork to offer their advice even though it’s not their area of expertise, and occasionally they spout the most ignorant rubbish, it’s quite frustrating to those who know far more about this niche subject but don’t happen to have a degree in Poli Sci. Among those opposed to Pro Rep is Lydia Miljan, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Windsor, who wrote at least 24 pieces on the subject, but as far as I can tell, none in peer reviewed academic journals, and her claimed area of expertise is quite different. Similarly, John T. Pepall. I’ve never heard of any PR opponents suggesting in debates of recent years that Prof. So-and-So had published peer-reviewed research favouring FPTP, so that’s not something to worry about.
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