Radical Democracy

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Wouldn’t QV allow extremists to dominate politics?

A: No; the quadratic cost makes extremism costly and disciplines expressions of extreme views so only if they are very firmly held will they be expressed.


Q: What would have been the results of the last presidential election if QV had been used?

A: While measurements of preference intensity without QV are tough,. The standard Likert scale gives some sense.  Based on this, adding things up as QV would, John Kasich would have come in first, Sanders second, second-to-last, and Trump last.  QV would have hurt Trump because his opponents were even more extreme than his supporters were. A system that can express this sinks greatly disliked candidates like Clinton and Trump in favor of those with a lot of net support, often centrists like Kaisch, or sometimes bold reformers like Sanders who do not inspire widespread loathing.


Q: QV assumes that everyone acts based on their own selfish interests, rather than for the public good doesn’t it?  That’s not how most people act in politics

A: While some of our arguments start from this premise, QV works even better if people are public-spirited.  In this case it allows them to express confidence in their views without falling prey to groupthink


Q: What happens if interest groups organize individuals?

A: Much of the incentive and need to create interest groups falls under QV, because individuals can weigh in on the issues they know and care most about, rather than needing to have their votes corralled by interest groups.


Q: Can’t someone who controls the agenda repeatedly put trolling initiatives onto the ballot to drain the resources of a passionate minority?

A: The agenda should not be set by a single individual or small group of individuals, but instead by an open process where people can tentatively commit credits to an initiative to get it onto the ballot, forcing anyone who is trolling to commit lots of credits and thus defeating their trolling scheme.


Q: Isn’t there a huge incentive to get around the quadratic nature of the cost by collusive agreements and log-rolling?

A: Yes, but the incentive is even greater under 1p1v where outcomes are wildly inefficient absent such collusion and there are tons of indifferent people who do not have any cost of voting or care what they vote for and thus can easily be influenced. QV would need norms and laws to police against collusion and fraud, as with other voting systems.


Q: Could you really do away with all the discretionary power of judges in your system?  Don’t you need someone to enforce the rules of the game?

A: No, you cannot do away with all discretionary authority; there are too many possibilities for abusing even a very well-designed formal system.  However, by reducing the necessary role of such authorities to defending quite clearly delineated rule rather than vague judgements about things like rights, the scope for abuse and feelings of disenfranchisement would be greatly reduced.


Q: Why should victimized minorities be forced to spend disproportionate numbers of credits to defend their legitimate fundamental rights against attacks?

A: While this may feel unfair for minorities you favor, you probably feel the opposite for minorities you think are abusing the system (choose either gun owners or sexual minorities, depending on your side of the political spectrum).  Ultimately such disagreements cannot be resolved by just choosing sides on these contentious issues.  You need a system that allows for democratic resolution to make these difficult judgements and that’s what we offer.



Q: Why not allow people to buy voice credits using dollars?

A:  At present wealth and income are very unequally distributed and thus the purchasing of votes with real money would tilt important political decisions towards the interest of the wealthy.  Unless accompanied by large redistribution, this would be politically unacceptable and morally wrong.  In a more equal society, such as one where our other proposals are realized, however, it would become desirable to allow expression not just of relative intensity of preference but for trading off private v. public goods, which using real money would allow.  This is one more reason why there are complementarities between our different proposals. That said, we do not support allowing people to use money to buy voice credits or votes for the foreseeable future.


Q: How can anyone understand a voting system that is based on a complicated mathematical expression, the quadratic function?

A:  Quadratic voting is actually intuitive, as we have demonstrated with empirical testing of our software. Ordinary voting is also very intuitive. The math behind both quadratic voting and the electoral college is highly complex. People don’t need to know the math in either case in order to understand the system.


Q:  Doesn’t this system require citizens to make very complex and taxing trade-offs against different dimensions of policy?

A: 1p1v is much more complicated along this dimension as citizens must have a clear preference on every issue.  QV does inspire reflection, but it demands much less of it as citizens can focus on the issues most important to them rather than having to weigh in on issues or races they know nothing about.


Q: Why the quadratic function rather than any other function?

A:  The quadratic function is the only one with a linear derivative and thus the only one where when people buy votes just up to the point where the next vote is just worth it, they buy votes in proportion to how much the issue matters to them.


Q: There are all sorts of voting rules.  Why focus on this one?

A: Quadratic voting is the only voting rule we know of that is flexible, approximately optimal and reasonably practical.  Common voting reforms, such as approval voting, may improve in some ways on the status quo but they are not close to optimal and in particular do nothing to protect minorities, a critical goal for us. Systems like storable votes or cumulative voting with a linear budget allow for protection of minorities, but allow extremists to dominate and thus are  worse than existing rules.  Optimal voting systems, like the Vickrey-Clarke-Groves mechanism, are extremely fragile to collusion and impractical because of their strong reliance on using real money.


Q: Could this idea be applied to campaign finance reform?

A:  Yes.  There could be a system of taxing large contributions and subsidizing (matching) small ones so that the recipient receives some constant times the square root of the amount contributed.  This solves many of the goals of both public financing and donation limitations and can be show to optimally allocate campaign funding.