Episode 160 – 2nd November 2012

We find out if the psychics passed the Halloween test, discover how losers can win elections, and hear about a machine that can turn your thoughts into actual 3D objects. For real. Also: Self-driving cars are a problem for the future, atheist street preaching and how pathology was developed.



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Psychic Test Results (2:18) by James O’Malley (ft Marsh)
Can Losers Win An Election? (13:20) by Cory Hazlehurst
Do We Care About Democracy? (20:10) By Eon
Thinker Thing (28:120 by Sean Ellis (ft Bryan Salt)
Self Driving Cars (36:12) by Salim Fadhley (ft Greg Clark)
Atheist Street Preaching (45:32) by Simon Clare
Murder And Pathology (53:13) by Tom Hodden
The sketch at the end is by David Lovesy & Brian Two

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2 thoughts on “Episode 160 – 2nd November 2012

  1. Cory’s piece this week is (unusually for him) completely wrong. The reason that a loser of the popular vote can win in the UK and the USA has nothing to do with first past the post – it is entirely down to being an electoral democracy. For example, Australia uses preferential voting in most elections, and is equally vulnerable (actually, slightly less vulnerable because we have an electoral system that ensures electorates of equal populations).

    So long as the winner of any electorate takes all the weight of that electorate (e.g. 51% of the vote gets you 100 percent of the seat) it doesn’t matter what voting system you use, you can still win with less than half of the popular vote. You need an electorate-free system to totally remove this effect.

  2. Hi Drew,

    It’s an interesting point but I don’t think I’m (completely!) wrong.

    The problem with the voting systems in America, Australia and Britain is that they are all majoritarian systems, not that they are electoral democracies. Australia uses AV, but that’s still a majoritarian system which doesn’t necessarily give a proportional result.

    It’s not an electorate-free system you need, it’s a proportional system. For instance, it’s possible that you could weight the amount of delegates each candidate gets in relation to the vote they get in that state. So, say, if Obama wins 60% of the votes in, say, Ohio, he would get 60% of Ohio’s 18 delegates. I believe that’s how some states allocate delegates in the candidates primary elections.

    Alternatively, you could directly elect the president with one-person, one-vote (or even AV or the runoff system they have in France if you wanted to be adventurous). That would mean a candidate couldn’t win the popular vote and lose the election.

    So the problem with the American system IS that it has a first past the post system. As under a first past the post system, the party with the most votes gets all the delegates/has their candidate elected as MP: it’s a winner-takes-all, majoritarian system.

    In fact, when you say: “So long as the winner of any electorate takes all the weight of that electorate (e.g. 51% of the vote gets you 100 percent of the seat) it doesn’t matter what voting system you use, you can still win with less than half of the popular vote.” that’s basically the definition of a first-past-the-post electoral system.

    If you had a non-majoritarian system (ie any form of Proportional Representation) then the party with the most votes will always get the highest number of seats. It’s not about whether a party is an “electoral democracy”: it’s about the system that electoral democracy uses.

    I hope that clarifies things I probably didn’t make clear in my rant on the podcast.

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