“The Democrats,” wrote PJ O’Rourke in 1991′s Parliament of Whores, “are the party that says government will make you smarter, taller, richer, and remove the crabgrass on your lawn. The Republicans are the party that says government doesn’t work and then they get elected and prove it.”
For some reason - I suppose because they are having an impact - writers promoting a secular approach to society seem to be getting a hard time from the god-botherers lately. The idea that secularism is somehow a dangerous thing seems to me to be stretching the bounds of credibility mre than a little, but it hasn't stopped the Pope and various other clerics from sounding off.
Strangely however, some atheists are joining in, arguing that Dawkins et al are too strident. Now if you have read the Butterflies and Wheels blog, you will know that Ophelia Benson is unlikely to give such nonsense an easy ride and you would be right. In response to a particularly silly post by someone called Karla McLaren, described by the blog on which it appears as:
she forthrightly responds"I don’t agree. I think it’s just the 14 millionth installment of 'new atheists are bad and mean ick.' "
Make sure you read all the comments too.
To be honest I'm not sure why we need 'new (or gnu) atheism'. Old style anti-clericalism and anti-theism does me just fine. I'm happy too to respond to those who argue that atheism is a religion with the riposte that in that case, not collecting stamps is a hobby. That doesn't mean that atheism is empty of values, just that those values are based on a different way of thinking about the world than that applied by theists. An atheist morality is not a house of cards, it is based on a realistic asessment of how people relate to each other in society.
But note, third and finally, that nothing here entails that all electoral methods must be equally fair or that there can be no fair method. That, anyway, is my own understanding, ... True, there can be no fair method that will be free in all circumstances of the sort of occasional anomalies I've illustrated above. However, I don't see why Arrow's Theorem would prevent us from adjudicating on grounds of fairness between a one-person-one-vote system and, say, a system that awarded more votes to the rich than to the poor. Again, one argument for proportional systems is that it's unfair for a party obtaining 25% of the popular vote to have only 5% representation in the legislative assembly. Whatever counter-arguments there may be to this, I don't see how Arrow's Theorem rules out judgements of comparative fairness.
The conclusion of a post by Norman Geras on AV. This is the point isn't it? First past the post allegedly gives certainty of outcomes (it doesn't) but it isn't even remotely fair. AV may not be perfect, but what is?
I particularly liked this quote from the second post:
1. Under AV the person who comes second or third can win.
I find this argument laughable. The truth that the above sentence expresses is that under AV the person who would have come first under FPTP will not always win. Well I’ll be: it turns out that AV and FPTP do not lead to identical results. So that is why we are having a referendum. Duh.