Sunday, September 16, 2007

How Realistic Is John Tory's Scenario?

I was thinking about John Tory's "list candidates are creatures of party bosses" scenario. To be sure, it is a scary thought and that's why he and the rest of the no forces are putting it out there. But how realistic is it? Not very as you will see.

This is a classic "prisoner's dilemma" situation. John Tory' scenario would only work in the real world if there was a collusion of all of the parties to screw with the system. That is, say you have four parties (Blue, Red, Orange and Green). They all know the voters want democratically selected lists, with representation from women, minorities and regions. They also know that the voters will reward parties that follow their wishes and punish those that defy them. The only hope is for all four to ignore the will of the voters so the voters have nowhere to turn. They all realize that the first to defect will get the greatest reward from the voters and the rest will be punished.

Orange, Green and Red take a chance and pack their lists with hacks, hoping the others will go along. Blue decides to maximize its own rewards from the voters by screwing over Orange, Green and Red (this is a competition for rewards after all) and holds democratic processes for choosing their lists. The result is Orange, Green and Red are criticized for their processes in the press and by the other parties during the election and suffer terrible losses on election night. Blue is lauded in the press and are rewarded at the ballot box.

This is the classic "prisoner's dilemma" scenario. When the reward from being the first to defect from a conspiracy overwhelms the trust that other competing actors will stay in, people and organizations will defect. Thus, John Tory and the no side's "hacks and crooks" argument is a fantasy. Tory may pack his list with party hacks, but chances are, at least one of the other parties will not and that party will be rewarded and the Tories will be spanked by the voters.
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