Thursday, June 23, 2011

Thoughtful Thursday, Construction Construction Kit Two and the ACE

Protecting minority rights can be written into a Constitution. There are two cases. The easiest case, the approve case, is when the people have a plebiscite to say something is OK with them. It is a take-it-or-leave-it-proposition. The usual case is ratifying a Constitution, or voting Yes, is OK to cede sovereignty in some matter like joining the European Union, or a giving major rights to develop the country's mineral or oil resources or building a free city. The more complicated case is choosing among several alternatives. This has been studied extensively when there are n people running for a single office, e.g. President . This means that the the plebiscite has more alternatives. Allow the people to choose one of many proposed constitutions.
I discussed this briefly in the case of finalizing a peace treaty between two peoples. I explained that Israeli demos and the Palestinian Demos together would find the best peace deal for themselves without relying on their leaders to negotiate one. Simply seeing which peace deal got the most votes
total won't work. One must find one that gets the best possible approval from both

And there could have been several health care bills presented to the people.
In such a multi-candidate election, there are many techniques of converting the votes into a "Who Won?" or a ranking among candidates--approval voting, range voting, Single-Transferrable voting, Kemeny and Dodgson Scores. But these all keep all voters alike. Assume in Ethnic Group A is 55% of the population; ethnic group B is the rest. If 98% of a want to do something B really don't like such as outlawing their religion. In a simple majority or any sophisticated multi-candidated election, a could get their way. And if 60% of the A's want to do something and only 40% of B want to do it, then it will be done. But how could we design a Constitution to ensure that issues get support among both (or all) ethnic groups. Or how could we design a Constitution to encourage the legislators to prepare bills that also get support from a wide variety of individuals?

We could simply require that no bill passes unless x percentage in y percent of the ethnic groups approve the act. Thus, in our simple example above, we could require that any bill that passes earns at least 40% of the votes of each ethnic group as well as the traditional 50% of the entire population.
And the Constitution could make a broad rule of the above sort, to pass a plebiscite, in addition to getting 50% of all votes cast, it must get at least 30% of the voters in seven out of the ten designated ethnic groups.
What about a multicandidate election or a referendum with seven choices of what bill to pass. The first is simply to do whatever we were going to with the multicandidate election, but add that whatever came out of it must also pass an approve. If the winner by Dodgson score, Approval Voting or whatever method the Constitution selects, did not meet the approve criteria, where to go the next one in the ranking. See if that meets the approve criteria, otherwise, go on to the third one in the ranking. Etc.
The other option is more gentle, it adjusts or subtracts from each voting total by a deviation factor. A bill that gets the same percentage support from each ethnic group has no adjustment factor downward. A bill that gets all its support from a single ethnic group, even a majority, would have the highest adjustment factor downward.
The constitution specifies the adjustment factor.
We describe this in terms of Wally Smith's COAF system. Recall that this means that each voter gives a number for each candidate. The most general is range voting, where each candidate gives any number from one to ten, let's say. The least general, and arguably the most problematic, is the basic plurality system. Each voter gets to vote once for only one candidate. The winner is the one with the most votes.
Assume our votes came as follows in a three way election. X,Y and Z might represent candidates for the president. Or they may be one of three alternatives in a referendum.

Ethnic GroupXYZPercentage
(The percentage of the population of the ethnic group is not used in the calculation, it simply explains why the vote totals are so much higher for ethnic group C.)
The next step in calculating the ethnic group by candidate is easily done. We simply find what percentage of each ethnic group voted for each canddiate. We then average these
Ethnic GroupXYZPercentage
The next step is computing the deviation from the average for that candidate for each of the boxes. This gives us the the three data rows in the table below.
Ethnic GroupXYZ
Then, we sum the squares of those deviations, This a classic case of "sum of squares" or "norm two." Assume the constitution specifies an adjustment factor of 0.02. The new scores for the choices X, Y and Z. This gives us
Adjusted Score14.315.614.7
Y won!. Thus, observe that even though Z won the popular election with 27 to 26 votes, that candidate was somewhat more skewed than y, turning the election over to Y after the adjustment factor.

nth smallest voting

There is another technique, nth smallest voting. The Constiution specifies a number nth smallest percentage is the winner. I suggested this in my first Thoughtful Thursday on the Constitution Construction Kit.
Assume, that there are seven provinces, which I call a, b, c, d, e, f and g. And assume there are three choices or candidates: X, Y and Z. And assume the Constituiton specified n = 3, or the third smallest vote,by province, determines the winning candidate. The table below states in the election of how many voted for each choice. (We allow each voter to vote for more than one alternative, like in approval voting, so the percentages don't add up to 100 per cent.)
The third smallest in each column is marked with a -.
c1332 -40
d35 -2734
e603537 -
Thus, the winner would be Z as its 37 for the third smallest is higher than that for other two candidates (35 and 32, respectively).

Electoral systems

The ACE Electoral District discusses many country's experiences and many statistics on how the countries choose the systems. It is a goldmine of information and analysis and suggestions for those making the decisions about constructing a Constitution. I see the fundamental division between proportional systems and geographic districts. The United States uses the latter. Each House Representative is elected from a contiguous, if not compact, district. And each voter gets to choose only one representative.
114 have districts and 35% use PR-type systems.
And twenty-two countries have some representatives being elected from districts and other representatives being elected at large or via proportional representation. A nice twist is to deal with the "wasted vote" problem. The proportional votes are distributed so as ensure that the percentage for each party matches the percentage they got fromt he whole country. E. G. Assume, there are 150 seats in parliament and 100 districts. And assume there are two parties: A and B. The top winner in each district gets elected, just like the United States. However, assume that because of the way each district votes, only 55 members of party A get elected from  the districts, and 45 of the districts B. This parallel system would then take the top 35 from the A list and 15 from the Party B-provided list. This means that the parliament would have ninety members from party A and 60 from party B--this gives the proportionality of the list system but allows each person to have a represenative for their geographical district.
And there is a really neat variation of the proportional system. The voters can rearrange the list from the parties, or just vote for a particular party.
And countries can and do use the many techniques of dealing with multiple candidate elections. Thus, if there are three people running in a district, they can simply have the one with the most votes wins, have a run off between the ones with the top two vote counts, or use one of the Hare-techniques.
And the Hare techniques can be extended to multi-member elections. Assume there are three members in a district. Those candidates getting 33% or more are chosen. Then, the bottom most candidate's second choice gets added to the total for each candidate. We then see if any of the remaining candidates got 33% votes. If not, the second choice of the second-lowest vote getter gets added to the totals. This process can continue until all the members are selected.

Minority Protection

The Ace Electoral System points out that several countries designate certain seats for specific ethnic groups including Jordan, India, Pakistan. (Also Iran reserves seats for specific groups including Zorastrians, Jews, Assyrian Christians and Armenian Christians. And of course several countries simply overrepresent certain regions in the legislature. This, of course, is done to favor ethnic groups tending to live in the area. And many nations have special arrangements for women.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Referendum News

British Columbia is referendum voting on a different way of consumption, a "Harmonized Sales Tax) versus
the older provincial sales tax. Of course, this is a take-it or leave-it proposition.
Why can't the people vote for the tax rate (median) and choose which items are to be subject to the tax and at which rate.

The Seattle citizens are deciding part of the major tunnel
project. Sadly, it give the people an opportunity to simply not build the tunnel. They only vote on part of the document or agreement authorizing the project.


Obviously, I dropped the ball on this blog. I anticipate preparing
five or six more "Thoughtful Thursdays" over the next year. And sending out
more of these miscellaneous postings.
I have been focusing my
writing energies this semester on the complete Requirements Document for the
Constitutional Construction Kit
The next Thoughtful Thursday is from that effort.

Hack for Egypt

The Hack For Egypt , as part of Cloud Camp 2011, has proposed
a "crowdsourcing" project for the new Egyptian Constitution.
They are looking in the future at a crowdsourcing for the Bill of Rights in
that Constitution.
This is a much less ambitious proposal than the one I am working on. one needs
a simulation component where the Egyptians.
The Egyptian unemployment
is concentrated among the young
, as it is in
many other countries including the Arab world.
And 50 percent of educated of
and ninety percent of young female
college graduates are unemployed.

So there is a resource of time to work on the Constitution.

Climate Change

I talked about using sortition-based consumption taxes to address
climate change. The Wall Street Journal
had a special issue on Energy and the first article, which frankly
is an editorial, on Climate Change. They say that emissions cuts,
raising energy costs with taxes, cuts economic
activity. Countries do not want
to do this. By putting the tax at the consumption side, this attacks
imports, and tends to get people to consume in ways
that are not energy-intensive.
They may not buy a computer-they may use an internet cafe.
Imports get taxed based on the embodied energy.
They may buy a smaller and more energy efficient house, use public transportation instead of a car.
The article suggest that governments should push for innovations that produce
less costly energy.
Wall Street Journal, November 29th 2010, Page R1

United States Health Insurance Mandate

As I assume all readers of this blog know, the United States has
mandated that all people purchase health insurance. However, there
is some question whether that is constitutional. The famous "necessary
and proper" clause of the United States Constitution gives the
United States Congress the power to make laws "necessary and proper" to
exercising its enumerated powers.
Does mandating that everyone buy health insurance fall within the
"necessary and proper" clause? One District Court has said no!
And it appears that a Florida judge will rule the same way.
However two lower courts said yes, they did.
I made a proposal that would resolve this. Make individuals tax rate
dependent upon their financial responsibility. We already have deductions
for contributing to IRA and for some education items. Individuals who are
purchasing disability insurance, health insurance, education should pay
lower taxes than those who are not.
There are people who cannot be expected
to have money for
health insurance, the single mom putting
herself through Nursing School
. However, those who have money
for a flat panel TV or internet, should spend or invest
it some other way such as health insurance.
The New England Journal of Medicine article,
"Can Congress Make you Buy Broccoli?
and Why
That's a Hard Question" by Wendy K. Mariner J.D. M.P.H.,
George J. Annas, J.D. M. P. H. and Leonard H. Glantz J.D.
said that Congress had two goals in passing the health reform
it did:

  1. provide a way for all Americans to gain health care

  2. preserve the private, commercial health industry
Obviously, it is not reasonable to require the health insurance companies to insure anyone regardless of sick they are and let people wait until they are in the proverbial ambulance to buy health insurance.
When a person wants insurance and has a "preexisting condition," we need to distinguish between those who simply waited until they got sick and those that had good reasons for not purchasing health insurance. A bureaucracy cannot. A sortition jury can.
Judge Vinson asked "If the government decides that everyone needs to eat broccoli, can Congress require everyone to buy Brocolli." If Congress chose to expand Medicare or Medicaid to cover everyone, they could have. Congress could then raise everyone's taxes to do so.
I believe at tax time, everyone should compete to show how responsible they are, buying and eating their broccolli, and saving, whether for retirement or their health needs.

Bronte Capital Management Blog

I met Mr. Hammond on the plane to New York City, and then by luck as I walking near 42nd Street in Manhattan. The first article I turned to, was the one on the Australian financial system. There is concern about one of the strategic funds in Australia. More importantly, he discusses the risks with privatized social security of fraud.
There are many other articles there, often very insightfully showing the numbers in investments and securities, from Chinese bus adverts and alcohol sales to Australian Real Estate near the iron ore mining boon.

Benefits Schemes

A gentleman who won two million dollars from the lottery is still collecting food stamps. The food stamp program uses income and lottery winnings is not considered income. State of Michigan is talking about getting a special waiver from the Federal government. (Ron French, Detroit News)
This is why all benefit recipients should go before a sortition jury to eliminate those who don't deserve them, even though they may qualify under the rules.

State Income Taxes

Wall Street Journal, Volume CCLVII Number 70, Page C1 and C2, March 26th to 27th, "The Price of Taxing the Rich" Robert Frank
Million dollar a year incomes pay 45 percent of California's Income Tax receipts. Similarly percentages for Connecticut and New Jersey. The problem with this is that these individuals incomes are erratic. Of course, when the market is up, these people "take their profits." And they have to pay their taxes on the capital gains, and tax revenue goes up. (We saw that when the federal government was briefly in surplus around the turn of this century. But some of this was due to "hundreds of millions in unanticipated tax revenues from taxes on capital gains.") In one year, the top one percent of the taxpayer's income dropped sixteen percent. In 2006, California anticipated a six billion change, either direction, from year to year on a regular basis. In the dot com bust, revenue from capital gains changed from seventeen billion to five billion.
Of course, states can protect themselves with "rainy day" funds. But state governments, like people in general, do not have the discipline to do this.
This blog has long called for salaries and other expenses to be a share of their revenue. Thus States would make goverment salaries and pensions a percentage of revenue. (Note that under the full share economy, government workers and retirees would set their mortgage, rent, etc. as a percentage of this amount. Thus, if this varied fifteen percent a year, they would not be between this decrease and an expense that does not change. Their discretionary income for day-to-day purchases would go up or down by the same percentage as the state's revenues.) And their "borrowing" would be the same way. Thus, rather than selling a three percent bond due in thirty years, they would sell a perpetual bond that paid out nnn percent of the revenue. I earlier called for a "clawback" tax to deal with, among other things, those earning high pensions.
A consumption-based sortition "badness tax" could have firms competing to avoid the taxes necessary to fund the state government.
And with individuals having a share of the income of the companies in which
they invest, there would be less variability of income. Individuals
earn money as the company does, not by selling the shares.