The Public Choice Theory of Asset Voting


In our current system, we have the problems of rational ignorance and logrolling. Rational ignorance is when someone, in this case, voters, lacks incentive to learn something because the costs of doing so are too high, and the benefits too low. Asset removes that by concentrating power and creating specialization - candidates have power and social/moral incentive to know as much as they can when they negotiate.

Logrolling is when any group of deliberators agree to vote for each others’ priorities to assure the passage of their own priorities. Asset assists with this by letting each individual voter, not the whole electorate, have a logroller, and in the final elected body, candidate-electors serve as the perfect check and balance to keep legislative priorities on track - special interests group’ requests are carefully monitored and thought through, and candidates serve as an intermediary to individual voters and individual elected officials.

Regarding trust, candidates can be written in. This prevents oligopolic takeover.


Asset, though conceptually simple, is truly revolutionary. Direct democracy is great with small groups and highly interested, informed participants. It breaks down when the scale is large, and the effect of media, which can be bought, looms large. Populist “democracy,” tends, in practice, to devolve into fascism, because of the Iron Law of Oligarchy.

We do not actually know how Asset will function on a large scale, hence my suggestion that the way forward is to create Asset implementations in nonprofits, and to make the structures advisory rather than controlling. The actual control mechanisms would remain the same, perhaps an elected board, with Asset advising members how to vote, and serving as a communications medium between the formal control structure and the members. Asset will create a bidirectional communications hierarchy.

It is a hybrid between direct democracy and representative democracy, and should be fully scalable. As I would have it, all representatives who obtain seats on an Assembly or Advisory Board will be unanimously chosen by the voters or those chosen by the voters. Thus they would truly represent the voters, by choice, not through “winning” over others.

Like delegable proxy, ideally trustworthiness will increase with depth of delegation. In a mature Asset system, voters will know exactly how the seat that represents them was elected, know whom to talk to, to communicate with the seat. (The original election would be secret ballot, but everything beyond that would be public record.) People who vote for electors on a large scale will be opting not to enjoy that communication with someone more local (this is the classic "problem of scale in democracy,: those who represent a hundred thousand voters or more cannot possibly maintain communication with all or even most of them.) Thinking of Asset as merely yet another voting method misses the point.

Let this sink in: representatives should be elected by unanimous consent of those they represent. Otherwise, “my representative” was elected by someone else.

Asset can be used “single winner,” but that will work best in a parliamentary system, where there is no fixed term of office and the electors can recall the officer. That could even be used to elect a temporary representative for the “dregs,” the votes left over that don’t find agreement, but that’s a detail best left to the electoral college itself. Creating a body that fully represents the voters is what Asset would do, and it should be maintained, not dissolved, until the next Asset election, to advise the Assembly and to inform the voters in the other direction.

Asset can bypass the existing power structures, including the media. For that reason, don’t expect it to be welcomed by the status quo! To overcome that bias, people will need experience with it, hence the NGO recommendation. If Asset works, these organizations will become more powerful and effective.


How would we do this legally? Adding language to this effect on the ballot measure is complicated and messy.


Just use the existing House of Representatives with the trivial modification of doubling the House size to 870. (Better than a constitutional amendment allowing neighboring states with tiny populations to share an at-large district.)


What ballot measure? Asset has very little chance of being implemented until there is experience with it. If there is a measure, it would be for the election of an assembly, and initial implementations would simply use Asset to elect an Assembly, more like a traditional voting system. However, the Electoral College could simply continue to function as a lobbying and public-interest advisory body. Once the Assembly is fully representative, it could then expand the functions of the College.

Asset would completely replace the need for “ballot measures.” But it could start that way.

Asset can start and probably should start, as a purely advisory body. It’s quite simple to implement, in fact. As an advisory body, if it follows the principles that have been outlined, it should be fail-safe.


Large assemblies are largely unworkable, without structure that effectively breaks them down (such as committees.) My opinion is that the optimum size is about thirty, plus plenty of staff. The issue is floor time, and the larger the group, the more exposed to disruption that does not create consensus.


Do the voters need experience, and if so, how? Organizations don’t cover them directly.


The whole point of asset is that the voters do not need major experience, but simply choose the person they most trust, and, with some understanding, they will choose someone they can communicate with.

Government by consent of the governed. At least representation by consent. There may always be the dictatorship of the majority, but if those actually trusted – personally! – by the majority are wise, they will not run roughshod over minorities. Robert’s Rules of Order were designed to protect minority opinion. We know how to do it in small organizations, but the principles have never been applied on a large scale.

“Experience” is needed for those who will work for implementation. Without experience, it will just be theory, and societies are highly conservative – except when they aren’t, and when they aren’t, the results are often disastrous. We think we know but we don’t. Intellectuals, especially.