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| | |-+  Is malapportionment ever justifiable?
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Question: Is malapportionment ever justifiable?
No   -8 (21.6%)
Can have small deviations to preserve communities of interest (without systematically favouring any group)   -17 (45.9%)
Can have systematic favouring of some groups (e.g. rural electorates)   -3 (8.1%)
Can have one chamber of a bicameral legislature (e.g. US Senate)   -7 (18.9%)
Other (please state)   -2 (5.4%)
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Total Voters: 28

Author Topic: Is malapportionment ever justifiable?  (Read 1287 times)
Nichlemn
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« on: May 11, 2011, 05:03:55 am »
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Vote for all that apply.

I vote #2 - I don't think there's anything wrong with having a very small deviation in order to avoid splitting a town - but this deviation should be quite limited in most cases.

However, I very much disagree with how the Canadian Parliament overweights slow-growing provinces like Quebec and the Atlantic provinces, and the apportionment of the US Senate. Most arguments I see in favour of malapportionment are along the lines of "if it wasn't for malapportionment, the big states/provinces/cities would outvote the rest" or that "the House represents the people, the Senate represents the states".

The first argument presents itself as being against the "tyranny of the majority", a phenomenon I acknowledge exists. However, it only focuses on one possible majority coalition – a specific geographical one. Yes, it is possible that say, representatives from the ten most populous US states could vote in a bloc to benefit themselves at the expense of the smaller states, and the US Senate would provide a check against this. But this is also possible for any conceivable bloc you can think of – above-average income districts, below-average income districts, Eastern districts, Western districts, you name it. In fact, any of those seem more logical coalitions than large states. Texas, for instance, has a lot more in common with Oklahoma than it does with its fellow big state New York.   

The second argument employs the infuriating technique of personifying states. States don't have rights or preferences. They are legal entities ostensibly existing for the benefit of their residents. That's not to say that all powers should be centralised – it's that the main purpose of a federal system is to decentralise decision-making for the benefit of the residents, not for the benefit of the abstract concept of “Texas”. 
« Last Edit: May 12, 2011, 04:48:21 am by Nichlemn »Logged
Franzl
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« Reply #1 on: May 11, 2011, 05:11:28 am »
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I don't think it's ever justifiable. And it doesn't have anything to do with the "rights" of small states or anything. The state of Wyoming is still free to do as it likes. There's no reason it needs as much federal influence as Illinois or California.

Add to that the fact that it takes 60% of Senators to do anything meaningful....and rural areas hold an extreme amount of power. And it's absurd.
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« Reply #2 on: May 11, 2011, 08:47:04 am »
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No.
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Antonio V
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« Reply #3 on: May 11, 2011, 08:56:08 am »
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Absolutely never.
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« Reply #4 on: May 11, 2011, 10:00:13 am »
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With the possible exception of overrepresentation for Native populations, I can't think of a situation where it is appropiate.
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Comrade Sibboleth
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« Reply #5 on: May 11, 2011, 10:01:54 am »
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Of course. And it's a very good thing if you take the term to extremes. It can also be a very bad - very undemocratic - thing. It depends, basically.
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Franzl
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« Reply #6 on: May 11, 2011, 12:45:52 pm »
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Of course! Sometimes we need to represent other things than just the whims of the majority, but also the interests of individual groups.

This is why the US senate is one of the best parts of gov. we have. If RI or CT or another small state had equal representation, their interests would hardly be heard in the national discourse...

The United States is too large not to have some regional identity.

Regional identity is not restricted in any way by fair distribution of political influence.
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« Reply #7 on: May 11, 2011, 12:59:47 pm »
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Well now I need to defend a point I really didn't like!

Regional identity itself is not restricted by political influence of course. As we are biologically wired to care more about pople in your local area and form more bonds.

But, vast territories are the enemy of democracy.

We need to be wary of the tyranny of the masses in overpowering minority opinion. Issues simply do not have the same dynamic across all regions and across all interests. Even with agriculture, yes these areas will have smaller population, but the issues key to their interests and very livelihood may not even be considered as worth while issues to the urban centers.
« Last Edit: May 11, 2011, 01:01:30 pm by MQuinn »Logged
Carlos Danger
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« Reply #8 on: May 11, 2011, 06:08:56 pm »
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Should systematically favor people who agree with me more.
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Nichlemn
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« Reply #9 on: May 12, 2011, 04:48:58 am »
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Edited first post to include my thoughts.
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« Reply #10 on: May 13, 2011, 12:12:33 pm »
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Well now I need to defend a point I really didn't like!

Regional identity itself is not restricted by political influence of course. As we are biologically wired to care more about pople in your local area and form more bonds.

But, vast territories are the enemy of democracy.

We need to be wary of the tyranny of the masses in overpowering minority opinion. Issues simply do not have the same dynamic across all regions and across all interests. Even with agriculture, yes these areas will have smaller population, but the issues key to their interests and very livelihood may not even be considered as worth while issues to the urban centers.

Living in rural/underpopulated areas has nothing to do with being part of a minority interest group that might be oppressed by the majority. Overrepresenting certain geographically underpopulated areas thus does nothing to block real majority tyranny. The overrepresented groups and the oppressed groups do not correlate, certainly not in the US, and not generally worldwide, either.
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« Reply #11 on: May 13, 2011, 08:38:01 pm »
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If you have a bicameral legislature with fairly equal power given to both branches (like the US but not the UK), then I think malapportionment is possibly justifiable on the grounds that the lower house would most likely be based on population/majority.

That said I favor unicameral legislatures that are all-powerful for the functions of the legislative (and perhaps the executive if you want a Parliamentary system), and unicameral legislatures should never be malapportioned.
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« Reply #12 on: May 14, 2011, 10:03:48 am »
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"Overrepresenting certain geographically underpopulated areas thus does nothing to block real majority tyranny"

Hogwash. People care more for their local area than they do for any 'larger' interest. Why else do individual congressman gennerally have positive support, but congress negative? Other than that 'we get our own, but everyeone else shouldn't!) If the lesser populated areas were not given an equal voice than they would smiply not be of equal importance. And one cannot possibly make the claim that they are not of 'equal importance' just because less people live there...

Now, an INTERSTING counterpoint one could raise is that in the United States not only are rural areas given more weight than their population, but it appears it is done so to the detrement of more populated areas! Why do urban areas recieve such neglect, and rural populations recieve the benefit of arcane policy? (Besides the fact that it is impossble to get rid of old policy for our brave political class). 

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Nichlemn
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« Reply #13 on: May 15, 2011, 01:35:46 pm »
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If the lesser populated areas were not given an equal voice than they would smiply not be of equal importance. And one cannot possibly make the claim that they are not of 'equal importance' just because less people live there...

Er, why not? Areas don't have voices. People have voices. What you're claiming is that some people should granted bigger voices than others simply because they live in arbitrarily defined low population areas.
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« Reply #14 on: May 16, 2011, 12:57:18 pm »
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Yes I am saying that, very much indeed. I was never saying I was defending a pure democratic sentiment, rather a proper tailoring needed to make a democracy viable, well one of such massive size.

This concern is not new, hardly so. If you are interested in perhaps a more credible 'theorist' than a forum poster, Rousseau's Government of Poland at points talks about this issue.
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« Reply #15 on: May 16, 2011, 01:47:09 pm »
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For a unicameral legislature, no it is not.  For a multicameral legislature, it can be.  For example, in a Federal government, it would be reasonable for Federal laws that affect the state/provincial governments to be subject to a house where each government has equal weight.  (i.e., like the US Senate pre-17th Amendment, but restricted to certain topics)  A house in which apportionment is based not on population, but taxation would also be reasonable.
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« Reply #16 on: May 16, 2011, 04:02:28 pm »
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Yes, because districts are arbitrary anyways. Might as well keep communities together.
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« Reply #17 on: May 16, 2011, 09:03:10 pm »
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Your poll is biased.

You refer to "rural" electorates. I ask you is this rural:

http://goo.gl/maps/0zTs

this?

http://goo.gl/maps/natU

Most people would say yes.

How about this:

http://goo.gl/maps/XY3a

Or this?

http://goo.gl/maps/cBvp

Or this?

http://goo.gl/maps/Js5h

More people will read this post than are in the three maps. These are not "rural" areas. These areas are "empty".

Canadians believe that citizens deserve accessibility of their MP. If one riding/district is the same physical size as an urban riding in NZ, and another is the same size as 20 NZ's then there is a clear problem in accessibility, especially if both have equal population bases. You will have a hard time finding Canadians to disagree with this.

On the flip side, Australians will agree with your viewpoint, despite having an equally empty country; because of gerrymandering - something that we've not seen here (outside a few choice ridings in parts of Quebec, provincially)
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Nichlemn
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« Reply #18 on: May 16, 2011, 11:59:00 pm »
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Your poll is biased.

You refer to "rural" electorates. I ask you is this rural:

http://goo.gl/maps/0zTs

this?

http://goo.gl/maps/natU

Most people would say yes.

How about this:

http://goo.gl/maps/XY3a

Or this?

http://goo.gl/maps/cBvp

Or this?

http://goo.gl/maps/Js5h

More people will read this post than are in the three maps. These are not "rural" areas. These areas are "empty".

Canadians believe that citizens deserve accessibility of their MP. If one riding/district is the same physical size as an urban riding in NZ, and another is the same size as 20 NZ's then there is a clear problem in accessibility, especially if both have equal population bases. You will have a hard time finding Canadians to disagree with this.

On the flip side, Australians will agree with your viewpoint, despite having an equally empty country; because of gerrymandering - something that we've not seen here (outside a few choice ridings in parts of Quebec, provincially)

The poll question wasn't exclusive to rural electorates, it was merely using them as an example (see: e.g rural electorates). I could have used "large geographical areas". But it's a fill-in-the-blank question anyway - I wanted it to be open to whatever justification you think is valid to systematically weight some kinds of electorates. 
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