Saturday, February 23, 2008

Three Reasons

Three Reasons I've Tuned Out the Opposition

  1. They've cried wolf too many times. For all I know, the opposition may be right this time. For all I care; they no longer hold any claim on my credulity. Excluding Lozada, their credibility is zilch.
  2. Extreme skepticism that any regime change would actually bring about meaningful, systemic reform (cue Neri).
  3. A genuine loathing for the people the opposition is composed of -- trapos and starry-eyed idealists, Maoists, would-be fascists, and Chavez wannabes. Greater than any loathing I now feel for the administration.

Three Reasons I'm Loath to Defend the Administration

  1. Thanks to our economy decoupling from politics, there hasn't been any major damage. As long as the opposition does not spook the administration enough to go all out and spend mucho moolah once more to hang on, all is good. Keeps her and hers on their toes. Might actually give her an excuse to renege on, or at least defer, some other 'deals'.
  2. I like de Venecia, actually voted for him in that insane election back in '98 that put Erap in power. I think he would've made a good PM. So Malacanang easing him out has me considering my position. As FVR once said, my support for the administration is waning, waning. However, since Ramos himself won't support regime change sans a better alternative, I'm still waiting, waiting.
  3. Like a growing number of people these days, I personally do not benefit from a strong peso. It devalues my income, and I've yet to see its upside. Gasoline prices have risen faster here than in the US, God knows why, and consumer goods haven't gotten any cheaper, thanks to local protectionists like our onion growers. Seriously, why hasn't China or Taiwan complained about us yet to the WTO? So fuck that. The opposition is doing me a favor by doing all they can to prevent the peso rising any further. Not that they're having much effect, but it's the thought that counts.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Hot or Not?

A few posts ago, I'd commented on how our voting system was inherently flawed and dangerously predisposed towards electing leaders without a broad base of acceptance (witness Erap on one hand, GMA on the other). I'd also started to delve into the various alternative voting systems that sought to eliminate, or at least minimize, the current system's disadvantages. I had intended to write comparisons of one-man-one-vote plurality voting, runoffs, instant-runoffs, approval voting, and my own pet theory, net-approval voting. However, work and my inherent laziness got the better of me, and I never got beyond run-offs.

Fortunately, voting systems are also a perennial topic in the states, and whenever their elections draw near, the theorists come out of the woodwork. This article on Salon touches on most of what I had originally planned to write, with the added mention of range voting. This particular system, in the off chance you were wondering, has already proved its worth in the real world, as demonstrated quite enjoyably by this website.

I, for one, would welcome the day we can upmod or downmod candidates as if they were entries in Reddit.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Too Menny People

MLQ3's post tonight on the death of Mariannet Amper, including excerpts from Thomas Hardy that, disregarding details and trivialities, recount almost exactly her unfortunate fate.

All best summed up by little Jude's last pencilled note:

Too menny people, and more added each day, that even decent GDP growth can barely keep up; the country's been treading water for decades.

Too menny priests and bishops opposing contraception, burdening us with too menny unwanted babies and, later on, too menny desperate adults fighting for too few jobs.

Too menny well-meaning people only too willing to give the Church a free pass despite its too unreasonable stand.

Too menny people, period. Doesn't matter if you divide the pie equally. If there are just too menny people, then everyone just starves.

I blame the Catholic Church for this. Had we been able to stabilize our population early on, then our past modest growth might have been enough to give most people jobs and a modicum of dignity. But no, they had to have their souls. And for too long they made it political suicide to promote effective birth control. Now they reap what they've sown.

Every priest and bishop should carry a picture of Mariannet, a memento of the death they've caused.

Monday, August 13, 2007

More Fodder for the Language Wars

English for Everyone, an article in Newsweek that will surely enrage our cultural politburo...

Some choice quotes:

"... From Brussels to Beijing, English is now the common language spoken in multinational firms, top universities and the scientific community. A recent survey by the San Francisco-based firm GlobalEnglish found that 91 percent of employees at multinationals in Latin America, Europe and Asia believed English was "critical" or "important" to their current positions. And the consulting group McKinsey warned China in 2005 that fewer than 10 percent of its college graduates were suitable for employment at multinationals—primarily because they couldn't speak English..."

"... In recognition of this fact, numerous countries are starting to teach their kids English at ever younger ages. According to the British Council, the prevailing model is to ensure that students gain basic English proficiency in primary school and then use it as a language of study in secondary school. This model is much evident in Europe; Eurydice (an EU education unit) reports that more than 90 percent of primary-school students in Austria and Norway study English, as do more than 80 percent in Spain..."

"... In 2001, Beijing ordered that English classes start in the third grade, rather than in high school as before. In big cities like Beijing and Shanghai, such instruction now begins in grade one. And many Chinese parents try to accelerate the process by sticking their kids into English buxiban—cram schools—as early as possible..."

"... Asians who work at multinationals but speak broken English are likely to bump up against a linguistic "glass ceiling" and be passed over for promotions..."

"... last year Tokyo created 100 "super English high schools," where core classes are taught exclusively in English..."

"... If study patterns are any guide, even many Chinese agree. More and more of them are heading to English classes wherever they can find them: voting with their feet in the great language election..."

Which is something we've been doing here for ages, voting with our feet I mean. After all, no private school here can remain in business very long without giving English pre-eminent position in its curriculum. No, the issue here is the failure of our so-called democracy for the past two decades to heed the will of the people, instead paying obeisance to the all-knowing 'nationalist' academicians of our cultural politburo. Look where that got us. Only now is the situation being rectified, and none too soon. No, the issue was never which was the better curriculum. The issue was always about choice. And that those who had none should have the same as those who could, and did, vote with their feet.

Hehe, it gets better. Another article in the same issue talks about how private schools and school vouchers might actually be a viable alternative to the public school system. Hope they read it with their morning coffee, the better for them to choke on.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Run-Off Voting: Marginally Better

Certain quarters, including mlq3, have called for a switch to run-off voting in order to ensure that incoming presidents have majorities and therefore stronger mandates. The main drawback here is cost: depending on the particular variant used, we'll be holding at least two elections every time we choose a president. Considering the costs involved in just a single election, and considering that we'll probably end up having two campaign periods as well, this would be very difficult to justify, more so since the advantages of a stronger mandate are hard to quantify. Should this proposal come up for serious consideration, political and economic conservatives would likely oppose it.

As cost is unfortunately an object, the variant we'll probably be considering is the top-two runoff method. In this, only two elections are required, with the top two candidates from the first round going on to the second round. The other two variants, elimination and exhaustive runoffs, often require more than two elections, with the former depending on the number of candidates to be eliminated, and the latter depending on the candidates' coalition building and/or poaching skills.

Still, there's a problem with the top-two runoff method. Essentially, the voters are being asked to decide between the top two first-choice candidates; no consideration is given for getting lower-preference votes (second choice onwards). Thus, there is a significant possibility that a candidate, although not very popular as a first choice, is overwhelmingly popular as a second choice compared to the rest of the field. Such a candidate then could conceivably defeat either of the top two candidates in a two-way race. The rules, however, would eliminate him in the first round, which is a pity since it would be more likely he's a moderate acceptable to a large majority of the electorate, and would probably be able to work more productively with the legislature.

The elimination method, which removes the lowest scoring candidate in successive rounds, would be better in selecting a winner, as it takes into account lower-preference votes. Indeed, it could select a different winner from the top-two method, one more likely to defeat all other candidates in a two-way race. The caveat, as I mentioned above, is that it would require more than two elections. In fact, the number of elections needed is equal to the total number of candidates minus one. Given the number of candidates fielded in recent elections, this method, despite its advantages, is not really economically feasible.


To illustrate these two methods, consider a hypothetical race with four candidates: FPJ, Lacson, Roco, and GMA. They get 35%, 25%, 21%, and 19% of first-choice votes respectively. Using the top-two runoff method, Roco and GMA are immediately eliminated, and voters are forced to choose between FPJ and Lacson. Of the 40% total who voted for Roco and GMA, assume 18% are willing to support Lacson either as second or third choice, 9% would vote for FPJ, and 13% would abstain. Results for the second round would thus be 44% for FPJ and 43% for Lacson. If we don't count the 13% who abstained, that would be 50.6% for FPJ and 49.4% for Lacson. Using the top-two method, FPJ wins.

The elimination method yields a different result. In the first round, GMA is eliminated. It's not farfetched to assume that most of her supporters would have Roco as their second choice. Thus we can postulate that of her 19% base, 15% would go to Roco, 2% to Lacson, 1% to FPJ, and 1% would abstain. The second round results would thus be 36% for FPJ, 27% for Lacson, and 36% for Roco, eliminating Lacson. Of Lacson's 27% total, perhaps 2% would abstain, 13% would go to Roco, and 12% would go to FPJ. Final round results would thus be 48% FPJ and 49% Roco. Leaving out the 3% total who abstained, we'd have 49.5% FPJ vs 50.5% Roco. With the elimination method, Roco wins after three rounds. This is arguably a more accurate reading of the electorate's collective intent.


The top-two runoff method is unfortunately only marginally better compared to plurality voting. The sole advantage gained is the certainty of a majority for the winner. As we noted, it fails to take into account voters' second and third choices (as well as all subsequent preferences). By combining an emphasis on first-choice votes with a high cutoff requirement (as only the top two are selected for the second round), candidates are rewarded for staking out relatively extreme positions that appeal to a sufficient portion of the electorate who can give them their first-choice votes. Moderates, while acceptable to a larger portion of the electorate (as second or third choice candidate), would lack a large enough base of first-choice votes to advance to the second round. They are inherently disadvantaged by this system.

In any case, the advantage of a majority is dubious anyway if turnout for the second round falls significantly. Is it still a strong mandate if a large number of voters found both top-two choices unacceptable?

The elimination method, by getting rid of only one candidate at a time, allows a greater range of voter preferences to come into play. Second and third choices, even fourth or fifth, can affect the outcome significantly. There is a relatively higher tendency for the more moderate, more generally acceptable candidates to be selected. If we consider that such people would likely be able to work with Congress more effectively, then this may be the better method. Unfortunately, there's the cost. If only there was a way to do this more cheaply...

Next, we look at instant run-off voting...