The Gipper Killed It

Seattle

Harry First’s June 2 “Bring Back Antitrust!” is welcome and refreshing. For years, as we have discussed issues of economic injustice and accelerating inequality, commentators have focused on tax policy, globalization, attacks on organized labor, minimum wage and immigration. These are important. But completely left out has been the destruction of antitrust law, which allowed fair competition and protected small businesses and consumers.

The death of antitrust occurred under Ronald Reagan. When we ended limits on vertical price controls, restraint of trade, predatory pricing and strict scrutiny of mergers, among other changes, we created a seismic shift in our economy. Large competitors can now limit small businesses’ access to vendors and suppliers, drive up their operating costs and use predatory pricing to eliminate those pesky competitors who might actually gain a foothold. This has happened in industry after industry, including emerging technologies. Wal-Mart is a prime example, but it is hardly alone. Thanks for this piece–and bring us more.

LARRY SHANNON



Elephant on a Seesaw

Stockholm

The implosion of the Republican Party, astutely analyzed by Eyal Press in “Is the Party Over?” [June 2], offers us some hope for the change many wish the November election to bring. Two points. First, the Republican Party has increased the scope of government, not shrunk it. The expansion of the military-industrial complex and domestic security apparatus contradicts the original conceptions of conservatives, who were rightly suspicious of the state.

Second, many hold to the idea that the Republican demise is simply based on their failure to deliver competent administration and to shrink the welfare state. But corporate America has killed off jobs and attacked the standard of living. We need more solutions beyond the market and the state. Many liberals love the state and many conservatives love the market. The people alternate between the limits of both. When the limits of one become apparent, the other will return to power. Liberals need to get off this seesaw and embrace options beyond the market and the state.

JONATHAN MICHAEL FELDMAN



Instant Runoff Voting–It’s Time!

Takoma Park, Md.

Boxed In” [June 2] by Peter C. Baker criticizes Instant Runoff Voting. But IRV’s record of success in practice and on the ballot (winning thirteen of its last fourteen ballot measures, including landslide wins in cities like Minneapolis, Oakland, Sarasota and Santa Fe), combined with its history of being upheld in our courts and implemented on our voting equipment, tells us we’re on the right track.

We try to avoid sectarian debate among reformers because we think it props up the status quo. Cyberactivists’ attacks on IRV can be mathematically seductive but psychologically weak, with little real-world significance (see how we address the monotonicity issue that concerns Baker at our new page, at fairvote.org/monotonicity).

IRV’s flaws, if they existed, would have showed up in the decades of IRV elections in Australia and Ireland, in the growing number of US elections using IRV and in the dozens of IRV student government elections. They’d keep League of Women Voters state affiliates and charter commissions from recommending IRV. But they don’t. In IRV elections more than two candidates can run, and no one is a spoiler.

Take Australia. In 2007, the Labor Party took power. Labor and the Liberal and National parties’ alliance won 148 of 150 seats; but independents won two and the major parties had to compete in a way that is utterly foreign to Americans. No district had fewer than four candidates, with an average of seven from across the spectrum. Every winner gained more than 50 percent of the final round tally, but only 75 of 150 winners received an initial majority of first choices. The rest had to earn the second choice preferences of backers of other candidates.

The Greens contested every seat and won 8 percent of the national vote–about three times what Ralph Nader won in 2000. If results had been based on first choices, the Greens would have “spoiled” numerous Labor victories. Similarly, Mary Robinson vaulted into first place in an IRV election to become Ireland’s first woman president.

IRV is reform that works and has momentum, highlighted by support from likely presidential nominees Barack Obama and John McCain–and savvy students of politics like Katrina vanden Heuvel and The New Yorker‘s Hendrik Hertzberg.

Our website presents information on majority voting, proportional representation, a national popular vote for President, a constitutional right to vote and universal voter registration. I urge readers to visit fairvote.org and join us in bringing our democracy into the twenty-first century.

ROB RICHIE
Executive director, FairVote



Baker Replies

Abu Dhabi

Rob Richie and many other energetic IRV defenders have slightly misread me. In no part of my piece was I out to discredit IRV (much less make the case for range voting). Instead, I hoped to express my dissatisfaction with the way FairVote sometimes goes about defending its positions, particularly on its website and particularly on the subject of the monotonicity criterion. I think my objection was clear and that Richie recognized the problem; hence the recent launch of fairvote.org/monotonicity.

Richie (who has done more for voting reform in the last week than I will in my entire life) has also been kind enough to send me some very cordial e-mails. He is genuinely concerned that I approach the issue of voting system reform with what he takes to be the most current and relevant information possible. I hope that, despite Richie’s puzzling avowed desire to steer clear of debate among reformers, this concern will find a home on FairVote’s website as it continues to grow. The first article posted is a good start, though I disagree with many of its suggestions (there is not nearly enough space for this debate here), and I wish it was easier to stumble on from their main site.

In this letter, however, Richie mostly argues against a straw man. I did not argue (and no one argues) that every IRV election will automatically result in some terrible outcome, or that IRV cannot elect likable liberals. Thus, sunny-sounding reports from Australia and Ireland do not prove me or other IRV skeptics wrong, nor do they prove IRV’s superiority to range voting or other voting systems.

Finally, it bears noting that the lack of detailed data from most IRV elections (including Australia’s) often makes it difficult or impossible to analyze the results for subtle but significant pathologies. The reform movement would be well served by the release of this information.

PETER C. BAKER



Correction

Because of a miscommunication, a month was given instead of a year in Jacqueline Stevens’s “Thin ICE” in last week’s issue. The third sentence of the article should have read, “In 2007 alone, 276,912 US residents were deported.”