Thursday, May 21, 2009

Risk Aversion

I have all kinds of ideas for new posts, but lack some followthrough and execution this week. Some are even in draft form, but that doesn't help you now, does it? In the meantime, check out this blurb on being risk averse nationally. I was just doing my traffic school and learned that about 6% of traffic fatalities are pedestrians. Only 22% are from high speed divided highways - meaning 72% of traffic fatalities are on city streets and non-divided highways. So pay attention, buckle up, and tell the person on the other end of your cell conversation that you'll be right back but have to pay attention when you cross the street. Wash your hands, wear a bike helmet, wear a condom, buckle up, learn to swim (wear a life jacket on boats), look both ways before you cross the street, and don't worry so much about the rest.

(Keep in mind that one way not to worry about the rest is to take action for something that is important. "Don't worry" isn't the same as "ignore" when it comes to things like energy use and carbonizing the atmosphere. Save the whales and all, just don't be afraid to fly to get to your protest.)

Another idea I had was that our voting system could be leading us to increasingly stronger partisanship. Because it's well known that the more riled up people are, the more likely they are to go vote, the more extreme candidates tend to get the people out to vote and thus win elections. Then the next round, the candidates need to be even more extreme to rile people up. Lather, rinse repeat. Add to that, in the context of this, we basically have a 2 party system. (Maybe with the GOP falling apart at the seams, there will be a third party rising from the ashes in a coming election cycle, but I don't think people are willing to give up the name.) If you vote, you're either voting for a candidate or against them. It's a pretty binary system. Voting for a third party is functionally abstaining, while still voting for someone.

But imagine if we could have ranked voting. Where there are 3 candidates A, M, and Z. A's voters are all riled up lefties. Z's voters are all riled up righties. M has a solid, but less riled constituency who may or may not get out the vote. In today's politics, it's almost impossible for M to win, guaranteeing a polarizing figure in the office. But that doesn't really represent the will of "the people" as a whole, just whoever is king of the mountain today.

Consider though:
While A's voters absolutely want A to win, they wouldn't mind so much if M won. While Z's voters absolutely want Z to win, they wouldn't mind so much if M won.

So if we could set up our voting such that you could vote for anyone you'd be ok with, A voters would vote A,M. Z's voters would vote Z,M. M's voters would vote M.
Let's say A and Z each have 42% of the vote and M has 16%, but 60% each of A and Z's voters would also vote for M. The final tally would be 42 votes for A, 42 votes for Z, and 66 votes for M. Even if all of M's voters also voted for only A or only Z, they wouldn't reach 60 votes. So despite being most everyone's 2nd choice, M is the winner because M most represents most people rather than only representing some people and not at all representing others. A voting system like this would reward moderation, centrism, and hearing both sides of the discussion. And when we lather, rinse, repeat, we get more centrism, more inclusiveness, and leaders who are not foaming at the mouth crazy assed freaks.

That, and we need to allow people to be imperfect and not rake them over the coals for all past mistakes. If the mistakes are big enough, yeah, that can disqualify them, but we scare a lot of good people out of office who just aren't willing to put their families up for the kind of scrutiny that is only looking to punish, not to inform.

Back with more happiness posts soon.

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