How to Stay in Office: Select Your Voters
Bruce Bueno de Mesquita is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the Silver Professor of Politics at New York University. He is an expert on international conflict, foreign policy formation, and nation building. His current research focuses on the links between political institutions, economic growth, and political change. He is also investigating the causes and consequences of international conflict as well as national security policy forecasting and analysis.
Using a proprietary mathematical formula that takes into account the self-interests of and alliances among actors in key business and political questions (i.e. whether Iran will build nuclear weapons), de Mesquita predicts the future for businesses and organizations such as the CIA.
His most recent books include The Dictator’s Handbook: Why Bad Behavior is Almost Always Good Politics (PublicAffairs, 2011) and The Predictioneer's Game: Using the Logic of Brazen Self-Interest to See and Shape the Future (Random House, Inc., 2009)Additionally, he has authored more than one hundred articles and fourteen books on politics, as well as one published novel, The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge (Ohio State University Press, 2001).
Bruce Bueno de Mesquita: We might ask rhetorically, whose taxes does President Obama want to increase. The standard journalistic response is the rich. My preferred response if republicans. The republican voters are disproportionately wealthy and he wants to tax republicans to reward democrats. They want to cut spending in order to reduce the deficit and where would they like to reduce spending entitlements? Who disproportionately benefits from entitlements? The relatively poor who disproportionately vote democrat. The republicans want to punish the democrats to reward their constituents. The democrats want to punish the republicans to reward theirs.
How might we fix this? Well it would be nice for example if we the people elected the congress instead of the members of congress choosing who their voters will be. Gerrymandering insures that the congress gets to pick its voters rather than the other way around. So the probability of being reelected as an incumbent in the congress is 95%, almost as high as it was in the old Soviet Union of being reelected to their parliament. We have a rigged system. We could fix that. There are lots of excellent political science studies on how to design redistricting so that it’s completely nonpartisan. It’s entirely one person, one vote subject to geographic constraints and topology. We could write computer programs that do redistricting.
Now no member of congress is going to agree to that in the short term because that would put her or his hold on power at risk, but if we were to pass a law that says starting in 20 years or 25 years this program will be used to do redistricting we would have solved the problem of the voters not choosing their members of congress and that would go a long way to altering the risk of being thrown out of office if you don’t do what the people want and we would get much better policy, but that is very far down the road. Shorter term, also hard to do. We could get rid of the Electoral College. It’s useful to remember that when people speak about standing by the original constitution and so forth, being strict constitutionalists, the Electoral College was designed as a slavery institution. We got rid of slavery. We haven’t gotten rid of this slavery institution. We ought to. That too would insure that presidents would be more responsive to a still larger coalition and that would mean doing more of what we the people want.
Directed / Produced by
Jonathan Fowler and Elizabeth Rodd
Bruce Bueno de Mesquita argues that gerrymandering gives incumbents a wildly unfair advantage.
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