Male Brains (11 May 2005)

A little while back the president of Harvard upset a lot of people by suggesting that men and women aren't identical. Steven Pinker and Elizabeth Spelke recently had a fantastic debate on this subject (though they are careful to call it a conversation for some reason). You should absolutely take the time to watch it.

As you can probably guess I started watching it with the opinion that there are important differences between males and females which go some way to explaining the ratio in top-tier academic positions. After watching it I still have that view, but I enjoyed Spelke's presentation as a mental exercise in picking apart arguments if nothing else.

I think that discrimination is stupid and wrong and I certainly don't support “affirmative action”. Discrimination is still wrong even when someone says “It's fine in this case because it's discriminating in favor of what I want”. It's amazing how quickly some groups turn about when the discrimination is in their favor.

Electoral Reform

Once again, many people are looking at the numbers of MPs vs. the percentage of votes cast and noting the sad difference that first-past-the-post brings. Proportional representation and STV are being shouted again.

Firstly, STV sucks[1][2]. It should never be used for anything.

Secondly, proportional representation means that no one is responsible for you. At the moment, you can type your postcode into TheyWorkForYou and find out your your MP is. Your very own MP and there's no discussion about who is responsible for listening to your concerns.

Party lists mean that many people are responsible for you, and that means that no one is. And they have to vote with the government because their job depends on it. MPs in this situation become so useless they could just as well give the parties a block vote and be done with it.

And, of course, there are lots of parties and lots of backroom dealings to form coalitions. Ick.

As a first step I think we should switch to constituency based approval voting to eliminate tactical voting and redistrict to make things a little more fair. It's a good first step and we can reassess things after a couple of elections under that system.