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Subject: People/EV correlates weakly with urbanization rss

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Kelsey Rinella
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Lots of people have claimed that the purpose of the Electoral College is to protect rural voters from being overwhelmed by urban voters. I finally decided to see whether it does that at all.

Method:
Wikipedia was my source. I used their page on urbanization and their list of states and territories by population, which helpfully estimates 2015 population and lists number of Representatives in the House. I eliminated everything that wasn't a state, added two the the House Reps to get number of electors, and divided each state's estimated population by its number of electoral votes. That gives a rough measure of how screwed the state's voters are by the EC: the more people you have per EV, the more screwed you are.


(That's urbanization on the X-axis and people/EV on the Y.)

Result:
Turns out there is a correlation--the more urbanized the state, the more screwed it is by the EC, but the r-squared value is only .2391. So, as a means of helping out rural voters, the EC kind of sucks.

And that's exactly what we'd expect. The EC rewards having low population, not having low urbanization. A state with one small city and no rural population makes out like a bandit in the EC, but doesn't have any rural residents at all. Contrariwise, a very large state could have lots of rural residents but also a large population. Even worse, states with large populations often have both large numbers of city and rural dwellers. In the EC, these rural dwellers get just as screwed as those in their state who live in the city. The EC was only a sensible way to protect rural interests when we lacked things like cars and computers.

Does anyone think my method obscures anything important?
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Think you could persuade Californians to split up their block of 50 votes because they are getting screwed? NY? Texas?

No.

1 voter in California potentially controls 50+ votes, while 1 voter in Wyoming controls 3.

I doubt you'll persuade California that they are getting the shaft. Because... they aren't.
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Koldfoot wrote:
Think you could persuade Californians to split up their block of 50 votes because they are getting screwed? NY? Texas?

No.

1 voter in California potentially controls 50+ votes, while 1 voter in Wyoming controls 3.

I doubt you'll persuade California that they are getting the shaft. Because... they aren't.


You're absolutely right, Koldfoot. I propose that 1 million of California's votes be applied to Wyoming next election... just to even things out.

Another 2 million could count for Florida, 2 million for Pennsylvania and 2 million for Michigan. That way all those extra Dem votes won't be wasted on something as archaic as the electoral college.
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Kelsey Rinella
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Koldfoot wrote:
Think you could persuade Californians to split up their block of 50 votes because they are getting screwed? NY? Texas?

No.

1 voter in California potentially controls 50+ votes, while 1 voter in Wyoming controls 3.

I doubt you'll persuade California that they are getting the shaft. Because... they aren't.


Mathematically correct, but for two things: assuming independence of votes, a California vote has a higher possible impact (as you say), but at a much lower probability. It's like betting on a long shot with odds hundreds of times worse than the favorite, but a payout only a few times better. Second, it's California, one of the most reliably liberal states we've ever had. The probability of a single vote swinging a national election there is even lower than the math would suggest.

There are two much better reasons California doesn't split up--water rights are a huge statewide issue and would become intractable, and such a split would require the consent of Congess, which they won't get for exactly the same reason we can't change the number of House Representatives to something like the original proportion: power. No low-population state is going to vote to give residents of high-population states as much power as they have.
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rinelk wrote:
Lots of people have claimed that the purpose of the Electoral College is to protect rural voters from being overwhelmed by urban voters. I finally decided to see whether it does that at all.

Method:
Wikipedia was my source. I used their page on urbanization and their list of states and territories by population, which helpfully estimates 2015 population and lists number of Representatives in the House. I eliminated everything that wasn't a state, added two the the House Reps to get number of electors, and divided each state's estimated population by its number of electoral votes. That gives a rough measure of how screwed the state's voters are by the EC: the more people you have per EV, the more screwed you are.


(That's urbanization on the X-axis and people/EV on the Y.)

Result:
Turns out there is a correlation--the more urbanized the state, the more screwed it is by the EC, but the r-squared value is only .2391. So, as a means of helping out rural voters, the EC kind of sucks.

And that's exactly what we'd expect. The EC rewards having low population, not having low urbanization. A state with one small city and no rural population makes out like a bandit in the EC, but doesn't have any rural residents at all. Contrariwise, a very large state could have lots of rural residents but also a large population. Even worse, states with large populations often have both large numbers of city and rural dwellers. In the EC, these rural dwellers get just as screwed as those in their state who live in the city. The EC was only a sensible way to protect rural interests when we lacked things like cars and computers.

Does anyone think my method obscures anything important?
This is exactly what I want. In most cases the popular vote and the electoral college will yield the same outcome. When it's close I want the EC to take priority as a means to have widespread geographic unity slightly favored over population centers. Look at Nevada for example, the state went blue when only one county went blue. The popular vote still came out on top despite the fact that the state by geographic region widely went red. The popular vote is not that screwed so get over it.


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ironcates wrote:

This is exactly what I want. In most cases the popular vote and the electoral college will yield the same outcome. When it's close I want the EC to take priority as a means to have widespread geographic unity slightly favored over population centers. Look at Nevada for example, the state went blue when only two or three counties went blue. The popular vote still came out on top despite the fact that the state by geographic region widely went red. The popular vote is not that screwed so get over it.



I'm not sure that "the side that received the most votes in Nevada won Nevada, so the EC result going the opposite of the popular vote nationally is OK" is a very persuasive argument.
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wifwendell wrote:
ironcates wrote:

This is exactly what I want. In most cases the popular vote and the electoral college will yield the same outcome. When it's close I want the EC to take priority as a means to have widespread geographic unity slightly favored over population centers. Look at Nevada for example, the state went blue when only two or three counties went blue. The popular vote still came out on top despite the fact that the state by geographic region widely went red. The popular vote is not that screwed so get over it.



I'm not sure that "the side that received the most votes in Nevada won Nevada, so the EC result going the opposite of the popular vote nationally is OK" is a very persuasive argument.

I don't think it's good that Nevada came out blue. Does some 20 year old in a studio apartment in Las Vegas have any clue about the operation of the rest of the state? You're use of quote marks doesn't mean what you think they mean.
 
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ironcates wrote:
wifwendell wrote:
ironcates wrote:

This is exactly what I want. In most cases the popular vote and the electoral college will yield the same outcome. When it's close I want the EC to take priority as a means to have widespread geographic unity slightly favored over population centers. Look at Nevada for example, the state went blue when only two or three counties went blue. The popular vote still came out on top despite the fact that the state by geographic region widely went red. The popular vote is not that screwed so get over it.



I'm not sure that "the side that received the most votes in Nevada won Nevada, so the EC result going the opposite of the popular vote nationally is OK" is a very persuasive argument.

I don't think it's good that Nevada came out blue. Does some 20 year old in a studio apartment in Las Vegas have any clue about the operation of the rest of the state? You're use of quote marks doesn't mean what you think they mean.


A 20 year old in a studio apartment in LV has at least as much understanding as a 20 year old living in a small outbuilding with no plumbing somewhere outside of Tonopah.

I very much do not get the concept that somehow, rural voters are uniquely wise and uniquely qualified in government such that they should be granted an out-sized say in the operation of a vast, diverse, and complex entity such as the United States. The fact is, the 20 year old in the studio apartment in Las Vegas is likely much more attuned to the reality of the modern American society and economy than his counterpart who has never been to a human settlement larger than Tonopah.
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ironcates wrote:
Look at Nevada for example, the state went blue when only one county went blue. The popular vote still came out on top despite the fact that the state by geographic region widely went red.


you do understand that empty land doesn't get to vote, right
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wifwendell wrote:
ironcates wrote:
wifwendell wrote:
ironcates wrote:

This is exactly what I want. In most cases the popular vote and the electoral college will yield the same outcome. When it's close I want the EC to take priority as a means to have widespread geographic unity slightly favored over population centers. Look at Nevada for example, the state went blue when only two or three counties went blue. The popular vote still came out on top despite the fact that the state by geographic region widely went red. The popular vote is not that screwed so get over it.



I'm not sure that "the side that received the most votes in Nevada won Nevada, so the EC result going the opposite of the popular vote nationally is OK" is a very persuasive argument.

I don't think it's good that Nevada came out blue. Does some 20 year old in a studio apartment in Las Vegas have any clue about the operation of the rest of the state? You're use of quote marks doesn't mean what you think they mean.


A 20 year old in a studio apartment in LV has at least as much understanding as a 20 year old living in a small outbuilding with no plumbing somewhere outside of Tonopah.

I very much do not get the concept that somehow, rural voters are uniquely wise and uniquely qualified in government such that they should be granted an out-sized say in the operation of a vast, diverse, and complex entity such as the United States. The fact is, the 20 year old in the studio apartment in Las Vegas is likely much more attuned to the reality of the modern American society and economy than his counterpart who has never been to a human settlement larger than Tonopah.
No, but 50 20 year olds in aggregate spread across the rest of the state probably know more than a 50 20 year olds in one city.
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ironcates wrote:
No, but 50 20 year olds in aggregate spread across the rest of the state probably know more than a 50 20 year olds in one city.

probably not because jobs that require someone to "know more" typically exist in cities
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ironcates wrote:
No, but 50 20 year olds in aggregate spread across the rest of the state probably know more than a 50 20 year olds in one city.


How so? And what do they know more about?
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wifwendell wrote:
ironcates wrote:
No, but 50 20 year olds in aggregate spread across the rest of the state probably know more than a 50 20 year olds in one city.


How so? And what do they know more about?


Ironcates is going down the wrong path on this one. College educated people voted for Hillary more than Trump. There are more college educated people in cities than in rural areas... and so on and so forth.

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mrspank wrote:
wifwendell wrote:
ironcates wrote:
No, but 50 20 year olds in aggregate spread across the rest of the state probably know more than a 50 20 year olds in one city.


How so? And what do they know more about?


Ironcates is going down the wrong path on this one. College educated people voted for Hillary more than Trump. There are more college educated people in cities than in rural areas... and so on and so forth.



I'm sympathetic to that view, but that's not what ironcates is talking about, and we know it. The vast majority of what we know doesn't come from formal education, and the variety of experiences of people in widely spread areas is, he claims, greater than the variety of experiences in a single city.

There are two empirical claims there, one implicit, for which I know of no support:
A) Diversity of experience is greater in widely-spread rural areas than in tightly-spaced cities.
B) A government is better if it represents the will of a diverse set of experiences, rather than a uniform set, even if the uniform set is more numerous.

Regarding A), I'm just not sure how uniform the experiences of people in cities are. My impression is that, in the ways that matter most to people, the lives of two accountants who live two blocks apart in cities are more different from each other than the lives of two rural farmers whole live 500 miles apart. Part of the appeal of cities is that the large number of people allows the city to cater to a wider variety of tastes--it's basically the long tail made concrete. Whereas tiny towns can support a Walmart, but not much else, so everybody shops at Walmart. That same idea, applied to churches and recreation and everything else, makes me seriously question whether ironcates' assumption is correct. And even if it is correct, is it better to get ten different narrow points of view, or two points of view with lots of experience of other people?

Regarding B), this seems wide open. I've seen arguments that some interests are crucial to the country but neglected by much of it (usually food production or the military), and that systems which privilege these interests are good for that reason. But I don't know whether diversity generally is especially good, and any particular interest you want to privilege needs an argument.
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ironcates wrote:
When it's close I want the EC to take priority as a means to have widespread geographic unity slightly favored over population centers.


Can someone explain their position on why this is a desirable attribute of a voting system? I understand the Constitutional foundation of spreading out influence among the States, but it can be argued that that was merely a necessary measure to get a collection of self-interested independent states to unite in the first place.

But aside from that initial condition (which is state-specific, and says nothing inherent about rural vs urban), why is "geographic spread" a desirable thing to reward electorally? The more spread out a population lives, the more expensive it is to serve it. Other than that, "physical dispersal" seems an awfully arbitrary metric to incentivize.
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rinelk wrote:
There are two empirical claims there, one implicit, for which I know of no support:
A) Diversity of experience is greater in widely-spread rural areas than in tightly-spaced cities.


Having lived in both the suburbs and the city, I have a pretty damn hard time imagining that to be true. At the same time, I imagine that for folks who have never lived in a city, they'd also have a hard time imagining the opposite. So I'll just say this:

Anybody simply assuming that 20 random city dwellers "know more" about how to govern than 20 random country dwellers, or vice versa, is likely full of self-interested shit. Unless they've got some sort of data to back it up that I haven't seen yet.
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ImaSokpupet wrote:
Quote:
But I don't know whether diversity generally is especially good, and any particular interest you want to privilege needs an argument.
I wish most liberals considered this before spreading the myth that multiculturalism is beneficial to our society.


Consider what, whether to consider diversity "especially good"? As compared to, what, "uniformity"? Done. Considered. Uniformity sucks.
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jasonwocky wrote:
ImaSokpupet wrote:
Quote:
But I don't know whether diversity generally is especially good, and any particular interest you want to privilege needs an argument.
I wish most liberals considered this before spreading the myth that multiculturalism is beneficial to our society.


Consider what, whether to consider diversity "especially good"? As compared to, what, "uniformity"? Done. Considered. Uniformity sucks.


Being exposed to people and cultures outside of your own only ever led to trouble!
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ImaSokpupet wrote:
Quote:
But I don't know whether diversity generally is especially good, and any particular interest you want to privilege needs an argument.
I wish most liberals considered this before spreading the myth that multiculturalism is beneficial to our society.

it is to a highly developed capitalistic society - immigrants for example empirically show a higher entrepreneurial spirit
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jasonwocky wrote:
ironcates wrote:
When it's close I want the EC to take priority as a means to have widespread geographic unity slightly favored over population centers.


Can someone explain their position on why this is a desirable attribute of a voting system? I understand the Constitutional foundation of spreading out influence among the States, but it can be argued that that was merely a necessary measure to get a collection of self-interested independent states to unite in the first place.

But aside from that initial condition (which is state-specific, and says nothing inherent about rural vs urban), why is "geographic spread" a desirable thing to reward electorally? The more spread out a population lives, the more expensive it is to serve it. Other than that, "physical dispersal" seems an awfully arbitrary metric to incentivize.


I don't know what ironcates would say, but one reason would be to reduce the probability that people who all interact only with one another feel disenfranchised, in order to make civil unrest and war less likely. That makes sense to me--after Trump's election, what gave me the most hope was seeing how positive and energized some of my relatives were. If I had no contact with anyone who was happy about it, I'd have felt more hopeless and supportive of resistance to the government.

Which means the insular nature of online communities poses an interesting problem.
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rinelk wrote:
I don't know what ironcates would say, but one reason would be to reduce the probability that people who all interact only with one another feel disenfranchised, in order to make civil unrest and war less likely. That makes sense to me--


That doesn't make sense to me, as instead you're disenfranchising everybody else, and there are more of "everybody else". Unless you're supposing that "[geographically dispersed] people who all interact only with one another" are particularly more likely to declare a civil war than "[urbanized] people who don't".
 
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ImaSokpupet wrote:
Quote:
But I don't know whether diversity generally is especially good, and any particular interest you want to privilege needs an argument.
I wish most liberals considered this before spreading the myth that multiculturalism is beneficial to our society.

They love diversity except where it really counts, in the realm of ideas. They want all the sheeple to fall in line and be ruled by the masters.

We are still a nation of sovereign states despite all efforts to ignore the 10th amendment. Explain to me why the electoral college is an "arbitrary" measure.
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jasonwocky wrote:
rinelk wrote:
I don't know what ironcates would say, but one reason would be to reduce the probability that people who all interact only with one another feel disenfranchised, in order to make civil unrest and war less likely. That makes sense to me--


That doesn't make sense to me, as instead you're disenfranchising everybody else, and there are more of "everybody else". Unless you're supposing that "[geographically dispersed] people who all interact only with one another" are particularly more likely to declare a civil war than "[urbanized] people who don't".

The people in more urban states and even urban people in rural states like Nevada still get their say. That's why I appreciate that the correlation is so low. There is only a slight advantage to the rural states on the whole.
 
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ironcates wrote:
ImaSokpupet wrote:
Quote:
But I don't know whether diversity generally is especially good, and any particular interest you want to privilege needs an argument.
I wish most liberals considered this before spreading the myth that multiculturalism is beneficial to our society.

They love diversity except where it really counts, in the realm of ideas. They want all the sheeple to fall in line and be ruled by the masters.

We are still a nation of sovereign states despite all efforts to ignore the 10th amendment. Explain to me why the electoral college is an "arbitrary" measure.


The fact that you can say any of this with a straight face is mad depressing.


~~~

I will say that the EC is anything but arbitrary. It's entirely intentional, and largely is serving it's intended effect (which is increasing the power of some groups at the cost of others).

The problem with this is that the intent is harmful, and the only good justification (which is technical) is long obsolete.

Almost 250 years later, we're still paying the price that many of our founding fathers were aristocratic slave owners with a deep distrust of the common man.
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jasonwocky wrote:
rinelk wrote:
I don't know what ironcates would say, but one reason would be to reduce the probability that people who all interact only with one another feel disenfranchised, in order to make civil unrest and war less likely. That makes sense to me--


That doesn't make sense to me, as instead you're disenfranchising everybody else, and there are more of "everybody else". Unless you're supposing that "[geographically dispersed] people who all interact only with one another" are particularly more likely to declare a civil war than "[urbanized] people who don't".


It's better to disenfranchise city-dwellers in cities greatly separated from one another than to disenfranchise the entire South, for example. So you want the people you disenfranchise to not only be dispersed, but to have non-disenfranchised people between them. The argument for the EC in one of the Federalist Papers specifically called out avoiding candidates who concentrated their support in one area.

But, looking back, I think I misunderstood what you meant by geographic dispersal. You just meant low population density, not dispersal throughout the union. So everything I wrote in response was irrelevant. My bad.

I think the assumption is that people generally have a narrow view based on their experiences, and that people's experiences are substantially influenced by their location. If those things are true, then following the views of people based only on population will leave the government unable to behave responsibly across most of its scope, because there are too few people in many wide areas for proportional representation to be responsive to conditions there.

I think that's a bad argument, because having government instead ignore life in cities seems even worse, but it suggests to me a better argument I've not seen advanced. Our elected representatives effectively have to live in cities. Their day-to-day experiences therefore leave them automatically more cognizant of the challenges of city than rural life.

That's an interesting possibility to me, because I think there is a sense in which we can think of the personal experiences of legislators as counting as effectively extra votes. However, it also suggests a fairly radical set of additional problems due to the similarity of experiences of legislators. Something like Mac's suggestion of a much larger House might make telecommuting more sensible, and allow Representatives to actually live in their districts and live lives more like the lives of those they represent.
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