Myths of National Popular Vote

2011/03/29
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Myth #1: "What long-term effects?"

Traveling around the country defending federalism and the Electoral College, I have heard an amazing array of different–sometimes contradictory–claims made by National Popular Vote (NPV) advocates. Some of this is reasonable, since different NPV backers have different complaints about the current system and very different explanations of how NPV would work. Other contradictions appear more calculated.

Examining the claims and breaking down some outright NPV myths is the topic of this and several upcoming posts at SaveOurStates. (NPV’s website contains a “responses to myths” page–we will test some of these as well, though most are mere strawmen and attempts at distraction.)

NPV Myth #1: “What long-term effects?”

The first myth perpetuated by NPV proponents, this mostly by implication, is that wiping away state lines in presidential elections will not change the rest of American politics. This is NPV’s most dangerous myth, although probably an unintended one.

NPV inventor John Koza is a computer scientist, after all. He is clearly brilliant–in his field. But that is no substitute for the real study and contemplation of politics, law, and history. While Koza can explain very well the math and mechanisms of NPV, he appears never to have considered how it might interact with actual human beings let alone the turbulent and often tenebrous waters of American politics.

Consider Koza’s first foray into politics: pushing state governments to create lotteries using his patented scratch ticket. Koza certainly did the math–he made a fortune and states gained new revenues. But did he ever even consider the social cost?

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures,

[s]tate lotteries posted more than $53 billion in ticket sales in 2006 (the last year for which data are available).  The states’ take from that amount was a little less than a third of the total—around $17 billion.

John Koza invented the scratch off lottery ticket and made a fortune lobbying state governments to use it.So lottery participants, including buyers of Koza’s scratch tickets, spent $53 billion so that states could gain $17 billion in new revenues. And lottery ticket buyers are more likely to be poor, even as these same state revenues often flow to the middle and even upper classes. The math just doesn’t tell the whole story: Koza’s scratch ticket lotteries prey on the false hopes, fatalism, and poor education of society’s most vulnerable–and on state governments’ never-ending quests for more revenue.

The social costs of NPV could be even worse. It might take decades, but NPV’s proposed alteration of the incentives that govern national politics would eventually reshape the American political landscape. The kind of structural change that NPV proposes–wiping away state lines in presidential elections–would present campaign strategists and political parties with new and different parameters and would thus produce different outcomes (and it would not make “every voter equal”–NPV’s most attractive and preposterous claim–in any practical or tangible way).

I believe the outcomes of NPV would tend toward less moderate, less national, and less stable politics. But these are topics for another post. The point here is that NPV doesn’t even ask let alone answer these questions–the big questions about how this process of government interacts with those things that are in fact the very purposes of government.

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9 Responses to Myths of National Popular Vote

  1. [...] Continue reading here: Myths of John Koza's National Popular Vote campaign | Save Our … [...]

  2. Travis on 2011/07/05 at 5:23 PM

    Getting rid of the state lines would absolutely change the American political landscape. However, wouldn't it stand to make it fairer for everyone running for political office? If you go with the popular vote instead of the electoral college, you can't let whoever is in power during census years to redistrict their states in order to partition them towards any one parties favor. This alone would force a bigger discussion on the national stage, instead of politicians travelling to states they might not win because districts in some states are divided in their favor.

  3. Amm on 2011/07/05 at 5:48 PM

    Instead of complaining about the current governments this NPV members can help the administrators to manage well the people. But the ideas of NPV members are not clear and it varies from one to another.

  4. Thomas on 2011/07/05 at 6:29 PM

    It sounds to me like our government is more afraid to try something new than actually being worried NPV wont work. Above it is saying every vote wont be equal that makes no sense. So if i have a vote in my class of 20 people one person has more voting power than the other? NO! We need to grow up and try new things that is how this country was founded, on new ideas, now we are afraid to try new things. This to me seems as if it can only lead to failure maybe not with this issue but at some point we will have to change our governments ways.

  5. saleem on 2011/07/05 at 7:12 PM

    Linking scratch ticket and active politics is not a good idea. Instead a national debate on National Popular Vote campaign will prove useful as this has enough potential ideas.

  6. shanthiimurugesh on 2011/07/05 at 8:50 PM

    I feel National Popular Vote members can take the response to manage the present Government problems. Since the kind of the structure changes the NPV proposal has a great chance to prove their power.

  7. selva on 2011/07/05 at 8:52 PM

    The first myth perpetuated by NPV proponents, this mostly by implication, is that wiping away state lines in presidential elections will not change the rest of American politics. This is NPV’s most dangerous myth, although probably an unintended one.

  8. Shital More on 2011/07/05 at 9:43 PM

    It is surely a horrible myth said above. NPV has lot of potential to prove their ways. National Popular Vote campaign will definitely prove their initiatives in coming near future.

  9. Steve Davis on 2011/07/05 at 11:50 PM

    Reshaping or reconstructing the American Political Landscape is a distant reality. A serious debate is necessary about NPV, before going into the implementation. As of now I guess it is not practical in the current scenario.

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