Unfairness and democracy

There is a widely shared belief that the result of the general election was unfair, the clearest example of this unfairness being the contrasting fortunes of the UK Independence Party and the Scottish National Party. UKIP with their almost 4 million votes ended up with just one MP, while the SNP got around half that number and have 56 MP’s. Another method of voting would have produced a fairer result.

In other words, there is a widely shared belief that election results are determined by whichever method of voting is employed. This is indeed true. In fact for any election there is always some method of voting that, were it used, would produce any result we might like.

The problem is not solved if we move to a ‘higher order’  election, one in which we vote on what method of voting should be used in elections. Obviously this would suffer from the same difficulty as the ‘lower order’ election: the result would depend upon what voting method was used. We are stuck with arbitrariness or an infinite regress.

In sum: there will be as many unfair election results as there are elections. The problem of unfairness in democratic life is insoluble. Ironically one consequence of our current method of voting is that pointing this out is likely to become far more problematic in the near future.

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