30 Apr 2008

Voting Rules and Results

An interesting post on voting rights:
Did you know that different water districts have different ways to vote in district elections? Some districts have a one-landowner, one-vote structure; others have a voting structure where the vote is weighted by amount of acreage the vote caster owns; others have a voting structure where the votes is weighted by the dollar value of the land the voters owns. ‘Aha!’, you said to yourself! ‘At long last, I know the difference between a water district and an irrigation district!’ Not so fast, Spanky. I thought that too, but we’re both wrong.
She's getting at an interesting question that I cover in my dissertation [S 4.2.1]. How does the apportionment of votes affect the efficiency of the outcome? If votes are per capita but the topic is land value, the voting outcome may favor the landless at the expense of the land-owners. This is the case at Imperial Irrigation District, where people in the cities vote against water sales because they want to keep their jobs (see yesterday's post).

Bottom Line: One man, one vote makes sense when all policies affect all men equally. If they do not, voting should be proportional to who bears the costs of the policy. (Why are income taxes no higher in the US? Is that a sign that the rich control policy -- or is the fact that the rich do pay nearly all the income taxes a sign of a soak the rich policy?)

Thanks to Noumenon for the pointer


  1. Okay, voting rules and water, interesting, I would like to learn more. Do the voting rules bias investment, any sign that prop 218 is leading to less or different investment. All good topics, more depth would be nice and you could supply it. However, if you are actually trying to build a reputation that people will respect you might want to steer clear of "rich people pay most of the income tax" sort of throwaway lines. There are some good analyst out there that can discuss tax policy in a clear cogent fashion and when I want to read about income tax policy I go to where individuals are pulling together interesting non knee-jerk analysis but I don't come to this blog for income tax analysis. But it's your blog you can do what you want...

  2. RCJ,

    For a good study of the effect of voting rules on outcomes at Imperial Irrigation District, read this:
    Rosen, M.D. & Sexton, R.J. Irrigation Districts and Water Markets: An Application of Cooperative Decision-Making Theory Land Economics, 1993, 69, 39-53
    [If you want me to email the article, tell me.]

    or, read:
    McCann, R.J. & Zilberman, D. Political Structure and Management Decisions in California's Agricultural Water Districts University of California Water Resources Center, 1997
    [this one has to be checked out :(]

    On income taxes, what I was trying to do is relate voting and taxes to a subject (income taxes) that everyone understands. Apparently you disagree with the fact that I used to create that analogy so you should probably ignore it.


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