Voting Systems: The Lifeblood of Democracy (Part 2)

Voting Systems: The Lifeblood of Democracy (Part 2)

sLast post, I went over the broad categories of voting systems and discussed how to judge them. Now we can get to the really interesting part: using that knowledge to critique our current voting systems and evaluate better ones we can use in the future.

Modern democracies today mostly use one of three major types of electoral systems:

  1. Plurality,
  2. Proportional Representation with Single Transferable Vote
  3. Proportional Representation with Party List voting

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Plurality Voting: The Worst

With Plurality voting, aka First-Past-The-Post voting (FPTP), people vote on a single candidate and the candidate with the most votes wins. This system is familiar to probably everyone, and especially anyone in the countries that use it like the ones founded by England and their colonialism (US, UK, Canada, Australia, India) as well as France and a smattering of other (mostly African) nations.

While plurality might seem simple and fair, it has a lot of problems and complications in practice.

Continue reading “Voting Systems: The Lifeblood of Democracy (Part 2)”

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Voting Systems: The Lifeblood of Democracy (Part 1)

Voting Systems: The Lifeblood of Democracy (Part 1)

The idea of democracy goes hand in hand with voting. The ability to vote and choosing a good method of voting is critically important in a democracy. The strength of a democracy is intrinsically linked to what percentage of the population have a meaningful say in the voting process and how that say is translated into collective action.

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Continue reading “Voting Systems: The Lifeblood of Democracy (Part 1)”

Kenneth Arrow is a Dick

Kenneth Arrow is a Dick

Ok, so I don’t know Kenneth Arrow, and he’s probably not a dick. But his so called “Impossibility Theorem” is definitely a dick. The theorem has been misinterpreted by decades of students and political thinkers to mean that there is no possible voting system that is always fair. This has discouraged many people into thinking that trying to find a better voting system is futile.

In reality, Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem only applies to ranked-order voting system (where voters rank their choices in order of their preference). It states that there exists no ranked-order voting system that satisfies three fairness criteria:

  1. Unanimity: If every voter ranks candidate A over candidate B, then A will always be preferred over B in the total vote results.
  2. Independence of Irrelevant Alternatives: In every possible set of vote results where each voter’s preference between A and B are the same, the candidate preferred in the total vote results will be the same (even when voters preferences between A and candidates other than B change, and vice versa).
  3. No Dictator: No single voter controls the vote results.

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We’ve Been Duped

Rather than being generally applicable to all voting systems, the Impossibility Theorem is really an indictment of ranked-order voting systems, which includes both the plurality voting system used in the US, UK, and at least 40 other countries worldwide, as well as the Two-round System and Instant-runoff voting widely used in South America, Eastern Europe, and northern Africa.

Continue reading “Kenneth Arrow is a Dick”

So you Wanna Understand Bitcoin… (Part 1)

So you Wanna Understand Bitcoin… (Part 1)

Bitcoin has been on a somewhat incredible-seeming upward trend recently. You can regularly see articles talking both about bitcoin “surging” and “crashing” all in the same week. This is no surprise coming from a media industry that is ever more senationalistic. But because of this, Bitcoin has been registering on the radar for more and more people who have never even heard of a digital currency before. Bitcoin may actually be the most important invention in the last 500 years. And since currencies both have government and economic implications, let me see how I can help..

Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency, which is a digital currency defined by a cryptographic protocol designed to keep the currency mathematically secure. With a cryptocurrency, if you send, say, 1 bitcoin to Alice, she can verify that she received the bitcoin by using some math, and only Alice can then use that bitcoin by doing some more math. This is very different than your usual currency, where you can only verify that you have received money by asking a trusted authority, like a bank. Even if you’re using cash, you don’t really know whether or not that cash is part of the $200 million in counterfeit money currently in circulation, unless you ask a bank or the government.

And this is where the power of a cryptocurrencies lies: people can send each other money without involving a bank or a government. This is why a slogan often heard in the Bitcoin community is: “Be your own bank”.

Bitcoin isn’t the first digital currency, but it’s a first-of-its-kind currency in a lot of different ways:

  • Transactions are irreversible. Only the holder of the wallet key (similar to a long password) can access the bitcoins in that wallet.
  • Cheap transactions. You can send someone $1 million for a fee of less than $2. Transactions used to be free, but have recently become somewhat expensive for day-to-day purchases. However, if plans for the Bitcoin lightning network bear fruit, these transaction fees could drop to less than a cent.
  • The bitcoin network is decentralized. No central authority can print more bitcoins, freeze someone’s account, or seize someone’s coins. Bitcoin holders don’t need to trust anyone in order to maintain or use their bitcoins, and any changes to the Bitcoin protocol can only happen if most people in the network agree to those changes.
  • No inflation. There will eventually be a maximum of 21 million Bitcoins, and about 80% of them already exist.

Bitcoin visionaries see Bitcoin as the first currency that will be truly global. A currency that can cross borders as easily as exchanging hands. A currency where spending 1 cent is just as cheap as spending $1000 or $1 million in seconds rather than days. Many also see the currency as en escape from government manipulation and a platform that can enable a huge assortment of new financial applications.

There are 3 major things that Bitcoin is based on:

  1. Cryptography
  2. The Blockchain
  3. Consensus Rules

Bitcoin’s cryptography ensures that only you can spend your bitcoins. Bitcoin’s blockchain ensures that all the transactions are recorded so that other people can verify that you sent them some bitcoin. And, importantly, Bitcoin’s Consensus Rules can not be changed by any central authority, and instead, users can choose to or not to opt into changes.

But how does this all work? And why does this make Bitcoin worth real money?

Continue reading “So you Wanna Understand Bitcoin… (Part 1)”

Reaffirming Innocent until Proven Guilty

Reaffirming Innocent until Proven Guilty

Amid all the talk of possible impeachment of President Trump, its probably really easy to miss the fact that the supreme court did something pretty incredible recently: they upheld the idea that you are innocent until proven guilty. Doesn’t seem like this  should be much of a contentious issue.. but major legal procedures have been violating this tenant for hundreds of years and continue to do so today.

For example, in the case of Nelson v Colorado, Shannon Nelson and Louis Madden were convicted of a crime and were ordered to pay thousands of dollars in restitution and other fines. That conviction was later overturned by the Colorado appellate court, but the state refused to return a few thousand dollar of the fines they paid. The Colorado supreme court refused to order the return of that money, citing a Colorado law that required them to prove they were innocent.

The US Supreme Court overruled this and set an important precedent that could have far reaching and overwhelmingly positive consequences. This ruling applies to a bevy of legal rulings in recent decades that have continued to uphold civil forfeiture – where the state can take your property on the basis that it may have been involved in a crime without requiring due process.

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Civil Forfeiture: A Legal Nightmare

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An International Federation: Part 2

An International Federation: Part 2

Mankind can be saved only if a supranational system, based on law, is created to eliminate the methods of brute force.” – Albert Einstein, 1950

In my last post, I discussed some important aspects of an international government: that such a government should derive its power from the widespread agreement of the people via super-majority votes, and must foster an international law that is understandable to everyone. In this post, I’ll talk about points of enforcement and the structure of such a government, concluding with a full and finished draft of a constitution for an International Federation.

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Enforcement

The enforcement of international laws will naturally require a trial process to determine culpability. I propose a multi-phase trial process that requires reasonable proof from the accusers before action can be taken against someone. The first two phases are a hearing and trial that have no defense and where the defendant is not present. If no reasonable doubt is found in those phases, the last phase is moved to, which is a more traditional jury trial with a defense and prosecution. This way, no one can be even brought to trial or detained without proven evidence against them.

Continue reading “An International Federation: Part 2”