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KevenSeven On November - 16 - 2009

Welcome to the second meeting of the seminar. I need perhaps to clarify our purpose here.

First, regarding the seminar concept: I am hoping that we can all work to teach each other interesting and useful lessons on various topics. My vision is that we would come together on a topic, discuss it the first time it is laid out, and then over a period of several weeks, we would each go out and find material that will illustrate the topic and provoke further discussion and learning. Perhaps in the end of a particularly fruitful discussion, a summary article could be written and published.

The various topics for discussion will burst forth from the fertile and fevered  minds of myself and anyone else who cares to offer such a topic. I would for the time being limit us to politics and policy, as that is the main focus of the site.

I came by the first topic after reading umpteenth complaints that the Dems were the same as the Rethugs (thanks for that, Ralph, you putz.   Al Gore would have been president were it not for you).    That and the endless threats of the tiresome Puritans to bolt the Dems and go join the Greens.   I usually have something snarky to respond to such tripe, but I would be glad to have more substantive information.

In our first effort most of our correspondents did not quite follow the question, which is: What number of parties is ideal for developing progressive societies?    There was much chat about how difficult it is to launch a third party in the US, which is a valid point, but not quite on point.

Several of our correspondents revealed extensive knowledge of the workings of political systems other than the US.   These I am eager to have explored further.    How many parties are actually active in Germany?    How progressive is German politics and society?    Can we draw parallels between the two concepts?

Nellie told of her experiences with her local Greens party.   While it is a bit off the topic, certainly if a party cannot build any sort of leadership, it is not going to bring any to the legislature.

We also walked around the distinction of parlimentary systems and our own seperation of powers.    To the extent that it illustrates the question of how many parties work in which system, we could take that up again.

Last week’s discussion is here:

Seminar: A weekly discussion. First topic: What number of parties leads to the most progressive and effective society?

Give that a review in order to get caught up.

A particularily interesting link in there was:

The Nation: German party politics

Kick some ideas around and I’ll come back in.

10 Responses so far.

Click here to leave a comment
  1. Khirad says:

    What is meant by politics? Like progress in real policy terms? or in the breadth of left-leaning movements? I’m assuming it’s the former. Don’t chew me out for not paying attention or missing that earlier (well okay, if I deserve it).

    When considering, off the top of my head (discounting the NDP, of course) I come up with SDP, Die Linke, Die Gr

  2. Beachchick says:

    I am going to go out on a limb and assert that the structure of the U.S. government and a two party system is the most stable. Americans --indeed the world --have become so accustomed to a stable U.S. government that it is taken for granted.

    Think about the history of the U.S. government. It has been remarkably stable and functioned well until recently. The fact that the U.S. government managed to survive the Civil War and the attempt to dismantle it by the Bush administration speaks to the strength of its design. The fundamentals of the economy are not strong but the fundamentals of the U.S. government are.

    I don

    • nellie says:

      I’ve been reading a lot of folks online who agree with you.

      My complaint with the two-party paradigm is that it inevitably devolves into a team sport, where truth and reason become less important than loyalty to the team. I think this is less likely when more parties are involved in the mix.

    • Khirad says:

      I largely agree. And we’ll never be forced into a grand coalition like the last German Bundestag was.

      I really do need to do some more reading on this.

  3. Lance says:

    Kevin7,

    I’ll be truely evil and repeat a suggestion by Dr. George F. Will, noted columnist and climate change denier, and suggest that if you want to see more parties and more effective representation of the views of the population then increase the number of representatives in the House to 1000 and put them into 5 member districts, having the top five vote getters in the district take the five seats. This has the cool effect of getting us three moderates to one wingnut and one moonbat, except in Texas of course where the ratio is three wingnuts, one moderate and one closet liberal.

    The problem isn’t parties, the problem is participation. Moderates don’t play enough in politics, especially at the convention and primary stages.

  4. nellie says:

    My post on the first Seminar article was not really about my experience with the Greens. That came up only tangentially.

    My point really was that with a system like Instant Runoff Voting, the number of parties is irrelevant, because they are weeded out by the voting system. The strongest party emerges as the winner in each election. Which makes the idea of an “ideal” number of parties beside the point. If a candidate can win votes, he can form his or her own party for the purpose of his or her candidacy--much as Joe Lieberman did with his “Connecticut for Lieberman Party.” Or, if we need a less onerous example, as Teddy Roosevelt did with the “Progressive Party.”

    Taking the political party as an organizing principle, on the other hand, I would advocate for the minimum number of parties to prevent the political process from deteriorating into a football game, to allow lies to be countered effectively, and to present genuine alternative principles.

    George Washington believed NO parties was the answer. That the candidate should run on his or her own principles and that parties only corrupted the political process.

    There was a time when I agreed with George, but I don’t think I do any more. And although I don’t belong to any political party at the moment, the Green platform does represent my philosophy. I guess the question is — how many major political philosophies are there to be found in humanity. That would be my answer. Five?

    I did a limited amount of research, because I would need journals to do this right. Here are a few links that I offer as my “research”:

    http://www.springerlink.com/content/t715r24g80t85674/
    http://themoderatevoice.com/19053/political-parties-how-many-are-too-many/
    http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2009/04/two_parties_two_choices.cfm
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nolan_Chart

    • KevenSeven says:

      Yes, and thank you for all that, it will take some digesting.

      You are correct, you made the point of IRV, although I do not think that it would make parties irrelevant, not at all. I do think it would allow more distinctly liberal and conservative parties to gain some traction.

      • nellie says:

        Not that IRV would make parties irrelevant — that it would make the *number* of parties irrelevant. I think parties are a good thing, although I’m coming to that conclusion very recently.


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