Voter competence under compulsory voting

by Micah on December 6, 2003

Following Brian’s “post”: below about voting in Australia, I thought I’d mention a paper that raises some interesting questions about the relation between compusory voting and voter competence. Dan Ortiz has an article called “The Paradox of Mass Democracy,” printed in recent book called “Rethinking the Vote”: (OUP), in which he argues that democracies are supposed to meet three conditions: (i) near universal suffrage, (ii) equality among those granted voting rights, and (iii) some degree of thoughtfulness among voters. The problem, as Ortiz argues, is that we can’t have it all:

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Democracy, Whiskey, Sexy

by Henry Farrell on December 6, 2003

Extracts from a piece in today’s “NYT”:

bq. As the guerrilla war against Iraqi insurgents intensifies, American soldiers have begun wrapping entire villages in barbed wire. In selective cases, American soldiers are demolishing buildings thought to be used by Iraqi attackers. They have begun imprisoning the relatives of suspected guerrillas, in hopes of pressing the insurgents to turn themselves in. …

bq. “If you have one of these cards, you can come and go,” coaxed Lt. Col. Nathan Sassaman, the battalion commander whose men oversee the village, about 50 miles north of Baghdad. “If you don’t have one of these cards, you can’t.” The Iraqis nodded and edged their cars through the line. Over to one side, an Iraqi man named Tariq muttered in anger. “I see no difference between us and the Palestinians,” he said. “We didn’t expect anything like this after Saddam fell.” …

Underlying the new strategy, the Americans say, is the conviction that only a tougher approach will quell the insurgency and that the new strategy must punish not only the guerrillas but also make clear to ordinary Iraqis the cost of not cooperating. “You have to understand the Arab mind,” Capt. Todd Brown, a company commander with the Fourth Infantry Division, said as he stood outside the gates of Abu Hishma. “The only thing they understand is force — force, pride and saving face.” …

bq. “With a heavy dose of fear and violence, and a lot of money for projects, I think we can convince these people that we are here to help them,” Colonel Sassaman said.

Libertarianism without inequality (5)

by Chris Bertram on December 6, 2003

Apologies to those of you who followed my first four posts on Michael Otsuka’s “Libertarianism Without Inequality”: (“1”:, “2”: , “3”: , “4”: ). For various reasons — mainly pressure of work — I’ve taken a while to get around to chapter 5 (though I’ve actually read the whole book now). Some comments on that chapter are below the fold. I’ll try to comment on the two remaining chapters over the next week. (Comments are welcome from those who have read or are reading the book).

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Preferential Voting

by Brian on December 6, 2003

I know this makes sense given the way votes are counted in Australia, but it’s still a very odd paragraph.

In a fascinating glimpse of the immediate reaction to Mr Latham as Opposition Leader, voters elevated Labor to pole position with 42 per cent of the primary vote, compared to 45 per cent for the Liberals. (Sun-Herald 7 December.)

I’m not so upbeat about the poll though. Latham’s entire campaign strategy seems to involve focussing on western Sydney and hoping the rest of the country doesn’t mind being relatively ignored. If he still can’t win the primary vote in western Sydney, the results in, say, regional Victoria could be brutal.

Most annoying Christmas record

by Harry on December 6, 2003

My friend Carrie writes from England to say that her annoyance with the radio play of Wham’s Last Christmas is interfering with her work. Is Last Christmas the most annoying Christmas record? No way.

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Isn’t PageRank marvellous?

by Tom on December 6, 2003

Given that the result of a Google query consisting solely of the string ‘miserable failure’ is this, I think it truly is.

(Via Atrios.)

Love is a many-legged thing

by Kieran Healy on December 6, 2003

Via my former RA Brayden King comes news that you can now Marry Your Pet if you feel that it’s, you know, the one. Matilda, who has been a “Pet and Partners Priest for longer than she’d care to remember” will marry you and your chosen pet in one of three sizes of wedding. Many happily married interspecies couples testify that it brought added depth and meaning to their lives. It was the disclaimer that convinced me the site was on the level. It helpfully points out that although you get a marriage certificate “You have no conjugal rights. You are not allowed to have sex with your pet.”

If you don’t want that kind of relationship with your dog, then perhaps you should consider sending it to Dog Island, where they may roam freely on one of the three constituent islands (for big, medium and small dogs, as appropriate), and feed on rabbits raised on wild carrots.

Incidentally, you may not wed if both you and your pet are gay, as this would desecrate the sanctity of marriage.