QV Or Not QV? That Is The Question: Some Skepticism About Radical Egalitarian Voting Markets

I have posted this draft on SSRN (forthcoming, University of Chicago Law Review, Online).  Here is the abstract:

This paper is part of a symposium on Eric A. Posner & E. Glen Weyl’s recent book, Radical Markets: Uprooting Capitalism and Democracy for a Just Society. Posner and Weyl argue for the use of quadratic voting, or QV, for conducting voting for ballot measures and (perhaps) representative government. The original version of Posner and Weyl’s QV would allow literal vote buying, in which the wealthy could decide how many votes to allocate in an election such as one to decide whether to build a public park. In the current version of their proposal, contained in their book, Posner and Weyl advocate a modified version of QV in which all voters receive an equal number of “credits” which they can then vote quadratically across ballot measures over time or among a number of candidates for office. They argue that such a system will allow “a passionate minority” to “outvote an indifferent majority” and that “the outcome of the vote should maximize the well-being of the entire group, not the well-being of one subset at the expense of another.” Their chapter on QV begins with a vignette of a rural Japanese voter saving up his money to cast a large number of votes in favor a measure repealing gun control in rural areas.

In this short response, I express some skepticism about the creation of the radical egalitarian voting market Posner and Weyl suggest, and argue instead for QV-based public financing of elections. First, I argue that the kind of tradeoffs that modified QV elections require are both normatively undesirable and likely beyond the rational capacity of voters, especially in a politically polarized political environment fueled by social media and disinformation. Second, I argue that the caveats and constraints Posner and Weyl build into their model makes modified QV risky and impractical as an actual voting reform, as compared to other voting methods that reflect intensity, such as cumulative voting. Third, I briefly argue that QV public financing of elections through campaign finance vouchers is both practical and can achieve many of the benefits Posner and Weyl suggest for their voting market without some of the drawbacks I have identified.


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