Thursday, August 23, 2012

Getting political compromise through a new election format

It is commonly said that we live in an atypically divisive era in politics characterized by extreme partisanship and bitter, hostile stalemates. I have my doubts about how atypical this era really is or how bad the consequences really are from it. George Will seems to agree (specifically around the 13 minute mark).

But let's assume too little compromise is a colossal impediment to competent and effective (and desirable) government. What might be a solution? Perhaps a change in how the ruling elite come into power. One not too well fleshed out idea is as follows below. Think about it from a game theoretic perspective with the idea that we are trying to get reliably constructive political compromise between the two major parties. A key assumption is that the public strongly prefers compromise. I'll make the further ridiculous assumption that only the two major parties versions of the same party (Republicans and Democrats) are in contention for election (i.e., I'll ignore all independent parties just like the media does).

Every five years the party out of office makes a decision. It can either:

  1. Choose to hold the presidency for certain for two years followed by the opposing party holding office for certain for the next three years, or
  2. Choose to have an election with the winner holding the presidency for five years.
Here is my theory on why this brings about compromise. For the party in office in years three, four, and five, being too uncompromising allows the opposing party to choose an election which the opposing party is most likely to win. If that party during it's five-year reign is too uncompromising, an election is sure to follow along with another flip in who holds government. It seems to me that the equilibrium is a revolving two-year, three-year rotation kept alive by the party in power working hard to sell the public on how constructively compromising they are. Of course this is oversimplifying and of course this would just lead to bad politics on steroids as the uncertainty was removed for the political class. My belief is that these guys fighting is a lot better for government than these guys getting along. But I think it is a fun thought exercise, nonetheless.