Some highlights of arguments against PR from academic studies. I seem to have misplaced a bunch of articles I had printed and made copious notes on. If I find these notes, I'll provide further comments, but at the moment this – plus the material I've already provided, is sufficient to start working on a paper/ mini-book, to be entitled, The dangers of Proportional System of Representation. After compiling these arguments, I'll then start attending to the task of rebutting JP/Shailesh/PD and others.
It seems to me that I'm being forced to waste a lot of time on an entirely unnecessary issue, but if people can't even agree that FPTP is best for liberty, then it is hard to imagine what we'll get agreement on.
1) PR representatives avoid meeting their constituents
FPTP "decreases the absenteeism rate by about one third". If at least one of the key purposes of democracy is to listen to the voice of the people, PR is definitely not the way to do it. [Source: Electoral Rules and Politicians’ Behavior: A Micro Test, by Stefano Gagliarducci, Tommaso Nannicini, and Paolo Naticchioni]
The greatest fans of PR in India are urban voters who dislike the idea of visiting constituencies and meeting villagers.
2) PR systems tend to lead to more political parties
In general, proportional representation tends to yield more political parties than plurality voting (Taagepera and Shugart, 1989), [Source: ECONOMIC ANALYSIS OF CONSTITUTIONS by Roger B. Myerson, March 2000]
"unpredictable and unstable coalition formation in multiparty parliamentary systems with proportional representation (Lijphart, 1992, Linz and Valenzuela, 1994)." [Source: ECONOMIC ANALYSIS OF CONSTITUTIONS by Roger B. Myerson, March 2000]
4) Strategic voting contrary to one's own preferences
"Austen-Smith and Banks (1988) used a rather different model, but again taking account of voter's concerns about which party is most likely to form a governing coalition in a multiparty democracy, to explain how a small centrist party could persistently hover at the threshold of extinction in a proportional-representation parliament (as happened to the Free Democrats in Germany for many years) even when a majority of voters would actually prefer its policy positions. The problem highlighted in this model is that voters care most of all about which party gets the largest number of seats in the parliament, because the largest party is assumed to get the first chance of forming a government, and so a voter may rationally vote for a large leftist or rightist party even when the voter would actually prefer to have the small centrist party lead the government. In this scenario, the expectation that this centrist party will get only a small number of seats becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. This model of Austen-Smith and Banks also explains why the two large parties in Israel lost seats in 1994 when a constitutional reform there cut the link between being the largest single party and getting the first chance to form a government. [Source: ECONOMIC ANALYSIS OF CONSTITUTIONS by Roger B. Myerson, March 2000]
5) PR systems harden identities and can foster separatism
"Systems based on PR are more likely to exacerbate fault lines of conflict than to generate compromise because they encourage fragmentation and the hardening of narrow identities (Horowitz 2003). In a setting with multiple social cleavages, this magnifies rather than compresses differences, makes it difficult to build sturdy government (coalitions), and can lead to immobilism and even polarization." [Source: Why electoral systems matter: an analysis of their incentives and effects on key areas of governance, by Alina Rocha Menocal]
6) There is no easy choice
This argument is something I've been making for a long time. I believe that FPTP can do very well in India with a few minor tweaks. PR is not just not an improvement, but will actually harm.
For advocates of responsible party government the most important considerations are that elections (not the subsequent process of coalition-building) should be decisive for the outcome. The leading party should be empowered to try to implement their programme during their full term of office, without depending upon the support of minority parties. The government, and individual MPs, remain accountable for their actions to the public. And at periodic intervals the electorate should be allowed to judge their record, and vote for alternative parties accordingly. Minor parties in third or fourth place are discriminated against for the sake of governability. In this perspective proportional elections can produce indecisive outcomes, unstable regimes, disproportionate power for minor parties in "kingmaker" roles, and a lack of clear-cut accountability and transparency in decision-making.
In contrast, proponents of proportional systems argue that the electoral system should promote a process of conciliation and coalition-building within government. Parties above a minimum threshold should be included in the legislature in rough proportion to their level of electoral support. The parties in government should there-fore craft policies based on a consensus among the coalition partners. Moreover, the composition of parliament should reflect the main divisions in the social composition of the electorate, so that all citizens have voices articulating their interests in the legislature. In this view majoritarian systems over-reward the winner, producing "an elected dictatorship" where the government can implement its programmes without the need for consultation and compromise with other parties in parliament. The unfairness and disproportionate results of the electoral system outside of two-party contests means that some voices in the electorate are systematically excluded from representative bodies. [Sanjeev: This is nice. Indeed, the liberal wants a government that is a "dictatorship" bound by the constitution to defend our liberty. This feature of FPTP - that it gives overwhelming power to the largest party - is its most desirable feature: provided the largest party doesn't start violating liberty.]
Therefore there is no single "best" system: [Sanjeev: I disagree. FPTP should be preferred, and constitutional constraints in favour of liberty strengthened] these arguments represent irresolvable value conflicts. For societies which are riven by deep-rooted ethnic, religious, or ethnic divisions, like Mali, Russia, or Israel, the proportional system may prove more inclusive (Lijphart, 1984), but it may also reinforce rather than ameliorate these cleavages. For states which are already highly centralized, like Britain or New Zealand, majoritarian systems can insulate the government from the need for broader consultation and democratic checks and balances. In constitutional design, despite the appeal of "electoral engineering", there appear to be no easy choices.
[Source: Norris, Pippa, Choosing electoral systems: Proportional, majoritarian and mixed systems, International Political Science Review July 1997, Vol. 18 Issue 3, p297]
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