Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Wisdom of the Crowds and MMP

I've been watching the MMP debate in Ontario with interest. I've held off on commenting because it's not my province. Of course a win for MMP in Ontario vastly increases the probability of the idea spreading and would in fact probably be a tipping point for the electoral reform movement nationwide.

So what the hell, here's a diverse decentralized opinion on the value of diverse decentralized opinions.

First, those who say the results of the MMP referendum are more important than the provincial election are quite right. The sideshow of John Tory shooting himself in the foot has been entertaining, but a distraction that insured 'I don't think an election is the time to discuss serious issues.' was the prevailing opinion, yet again.

MMP however, has the potential to radically transform Canadian society, for the better.

In The Wisdom of Crowds theory of James Michael Surowiecki, he argues that there are rules of statistical probability that make the right kind of crowd more accurate at estimation and even better at decision making than elite expert opinion, but that it relies for it's effectiveness on diversity of opinion.

Here's a good post about why democracy should be the most effective application of the wisdom of the crowds and so often isn't.

I submit that the MMP system would harness the three rules of effective crowds, Diversity, Independance and Decentralization more effectively than does the current system.

For the same reason that the arguably greater propensity to deliver minority governments is in fact an argument in its favor. The greater diversity of opinion involved in the aggregation process, the greater likelihood of the most effective solutions being found. MMP would produce a sample that would more accurately reflect the diversity of opinion of the whole.

This is a math argument not an ideology one.

The big parties oppose MMP because they see in it the end of the unfettered power of unchallengeable majorities. It would indeed mean the end of such governments, but their end is near regardless. Federally the default has passed from virtually one-party rule to minority governments as far as the eye can see. Provincial legislatures will increasingly begin to reflect this and MMP would let them take the lead.

This in itself, would be an excellent application of crowd-sourcing the process of finding the best way to navigate this new world.

UPDATE: Well that's a shame.

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