The Venetian electoral college

For more than five centuries (from 1268 to 1797) the procedure to elect the doge (chief of state) did not change.

  1. Choose 30 members of the Great Council by lot.
  2. These 30 people are reduced by lot to 9.
  3. These 9 people choose 40 other people.
  4. These 40 are reduced by lot to 12.
  5. These 12 people choose 25 other people.
  6. These 25 people are reduced by lot to 9.
  7. These 9 people choose 45 other people.
  8. These 45 people are reduced by lot to 11.
  9. These 11 people choose 41 other people.
  10. These 41 people elect the doge.

Funny that many Americans blame their electoral system for being complicated. You may think what you want about the Venetian system but it guaranteed what was probably the most stable government in the history of mankind.

That is from Alexey Tereshchenko on Quora, cited in this excellent post on the success of Venice.

Comments

Was the population of Venice of around 250 people?

The Venetian Empire was the dominant economic sea power between 1204 and 1453 (the two conquests of Constantinople). I knew nothing about it until I read Roger Crowley's "City of Fortune". I later read William H. McNeil's "Venice: Hinge of Europe".

I find it fascinating how many parallels there are between Venice and industrial England yet the history of the Italian Maritime Republics is missing from popular culture. We know about Venice's most famous son, Marco Polo, but we don't realize that he was a product of this oddly modern city-state.

People familiar with seapower tend to at least recognize the Battle of Lepanto, for a variety of reasons.

A glorious maritime victory over the ISIS of the day, no?

A good book on medieval Italy is this one: Medici Money: Banking, metaphysics and art in fifteenth-century Florence - by Tim Parks

'but it guaranteed what was probably the most stable government in the history of mankind'

Not even close.

Good argument, I'm convinced.

Excellent rejoinder, though what you are supposed to be convinced about is entertainingly unclear, as no argument was made in rejecting the quoted observation .

But then, one assumes that commenters here are familiar with one of the major civilizations of human history, and the fact that, depending on the strictness of one's definition of 'stable,' was either stable over considerably more than a thousand years, or had several stable government periods that each were as long as Venice's single one.

Tut-tut if you haven't guessed.

The Oxford historian of government Samuel Finer spent more than thirty years on a multi-volume history comparing the states/civilizations of the world and concluded that The Serene Republic was the most stable and prosperous relative to it's era in history. Yes, Egyptian dynasties lasted longer but Venice was both stable and prosperous for nearly 800 years. It had a higher standard of living for working people than any city in the world for close to four hundred of those years.

Finer emphasized a few key factors in Venice's success:
1) It was a merchant-led republic, not a landowner's aristocracy. Like the later Dutch Republic and then Britain after the rise of the merchant class, Venice thrived economically because its leaders depended on trade, not land or serfs.

2) It was politically independent and fiercely so. The civic history traces its real founding to the date in the 800s when a group of Venetians stole the bones of St. Mark and brought them to Venice where they justified the establishment of an independent church not answerable to the St. Peter's successors (the popes). This provided the justification for Venice to decline to participate in any crusade, papal war on insubordinate states, embargo of Turks or Saracens or dispute with French kings. For 800 years Venice used military force to preserve political independence or access to (or domination of) trade routes. The merchant republic never gave a piss who won a crusade.

3) Venice was a graduated democracy with multiple levels of participation. Typically one had to be 35 and have succeeded in an embassy mission abroad or in trade, business or manufacture to join the Grand Council. Then only senior members with 10 years good standing could sit on certain select committees. Then only emeritus members of those committees were part of permanent advisory councils. Venice was essentially a gerontocracy which made it stubborn and inflexible at certain key points in history, but also meant that it was generally immune to populist waves and wild, political swings.

4) The use of random drawings of lots for many political committees prevented factions from hardening. If no one fixer or slim majority could ever count on their team controlling a key committee, embassy or position there was much less incentive to form hard, permanent, bitter factions in the first place. Instead it was better for Council members to network broadly and steer towards consensus or compromise candidates. Venice never had its version of the Guelphs of Florence or the factional strife of other proto-democratic states of the Italian Renaissance and Finer attributed this to the unique political selection methods.

In the Middle Ages Venice's great art was in public squares, on the exterior frescoes of warehouses, in churches and monasteries open to the public. A humble smith or glassblower had free and open access to the greatest art collection in Europe, publicly subsidized feast days and holiday parties and the broadest selection of affordable goods and foodstuffs. They enjoyed political stability, had less political violence or personal risk than just about anywhere in Europe and had better access to any published materials they cared for than anyone else on earth. It didn't last forever, but 800 years is a lot longer than most current states have existed.

To be balanced I should point out that as admirable as the Serene Republic's achievements are, the fact that it was built in a swamp and had ships arriving from all over the world meant that it suffered malaria and sporadic waves of fever and disease pretty terribly, even relative to other large cities of the times. They largely conquered the threats or poverty and war, but mosquitoes took a ghastly toll on La Serenissima.

Thanks! Compelling reading. I know that Venice has one of the largest and best espionage networks in Renaissance Europe, too, probably adept at both political and industrial espionage.

This is an excellent, informative post. It is the reason we come here and wade through the bullshit.

I appreciate the detailed comment but your description of the Great Council of Venice, not "Grand Council", leaves out the fact that being a member means you were part of a pre-selected group of upper class families.

"Participation in the Great Council was established on hereditary right, exclusive to the patrician families enrolled in the Golden Book of the Venetian nobility."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Council_of_Venice

Your comment left out that it wasn't named in English at all and that the translation (of Maggior/Mazor) is reasonable as Grand, but good job dunking on him about calling him out for going against Wikipedia's preferred translation that itself goes against what many other sources call it.

weird goalpost and strawman. is stability really the goal of the government? perhaps something about economic growth? quality of life?

also, is the problem with the electoral college that it is complicated or that it is undemocratic? complicated would be fine if it reflected the will of the people, which it most certainly does not.

That's the whole point! You know, balance of power, pit vice against vice, what what. Not everything should be decided by mod rule, just look at antifa in Portland on any given weekend if you want to see what the demos does when unrestrained.

We could just make the POTUS a hereditary position if the idea of popularly elected government easily frightens you.

Hereditary is one of the worst options for stability. Leads to a civil war as soon as a weak heir shows up.

Also has trouble as soon as there is no clear successor. I can only imagine the fun that could happen today with IVF (conception date vs birth date) or the science fiction stuff (i.e. those Japanese guys making eggs and sperm from mouse skin cells).

Whatever is not explicitly spelled out and half of what is becomes an issue at some point.

What about the later Empire adoptions? Competent people getting to choose their successors is not a bad bet.

suffers the same problem but in reverse eventually someone has a son and choses them instead of a good successor (or they try not to chose the son and then the son forces their way in through a civil war)

The electoral college does nothing to prevent bad outcomes or promote stability, it just biases the outcome towards whatever the least populous states prefer. Based on the basic fact that low population states are almost by definition states which are unsuccessful, I see no reason why they should have greater weight in deciding outcomes.

" I see no reason why they should have greater weight in deciding outcomes."

We are a government of Laws not of Men, so your personal opinion is pretty irrelevant with respect to the Constitution.

We are not a nation of laws. In a nation of laws, Trump would be in federal prison and Hillary would be leading this nation of immigrants and slouching towards utopia.

In a nation of laws, illegal immigrants are welcomed and not robbed of their progeny. In a nation of laws illegal immigrants are granted Medicare and language disability payments. In a nation of laws veterans are carefully monitored for their obvious white supremacist leanings. Any social media posts about illegal immigration would result in their termination of employment, chemical castration, and subjection before the show trial.

We will be a nation of laws, and it will be a nation of social justice laws. We are winning.

I’m a peaceful man, generally, but I’d prefer being ruled by the first 1000 North Dakotans in the phonebook to being ruled by anon-a-mouse and his merry band of Seattle city councillors.

Well thank you. We'll do a great job, you betcha!

Your tongue should burst into flames for even suggesting we live in or should be a democracy.

The EC (and the Senate) make perfect sense as soon as one realizes that the 13 colonies were, in effect, separate sovereign countries and that NONE of them wanted to surrender that sovereignty. Small states in particular did not want to be ruled by the vast numbers in large states. Recognizing though that both people and states have legitimate interests, the Connecticut Compromise balanced both interests. The larger states STILL had substantial power but small states had in some cases a veto. Collectively, small states could muster a good defense against anything but a large state consensus.

The Constitution is a compact of STATES, not the people, despite some court cases that wrongly hold otherwise.

The electoral college is not "undemocratic" in a federal system of government. And what exactly is the "will of the people" in light of Arrow?

What is democratic/undemocratic changes with the times. The US Senate used to be appointed by state legislatures rather than by popular vote today. Suffrage wasn't always universal and even today in some states that right can be taken away if you commit a felony.

Would you prefer that instability be the goal of government?

Of course, if you're going on about whether something is democratic, perhaps you would...

If someone was chosen at an early stage, either by lot or by being selected, were they then ineligible to be chosen at a later stage? If so, one might imagine that some of the best electors might get chosen at an early stage, and then be ineligible to actually vote on the doge. But if a person could serve at multiple stages, they could simply be selected again and again.

Does it matter if the best selectorsselect the doge, or if they select the selector of the doge? If sufficiently skilled in selecting, the result should be the same.

Wikipedia says that from 1297 on, participation in the Great Council was hereditary. Membership in it was restricted to certain patrician families, creating an oligarchic system. The doges' actual powers also gradually declined over time.

Then, as now, oligarchs tend to decide things among themselves ahead of time, behind closed doors. So this whole ridiculously elaborate waltz was surely just an empty ritual formalizing a predetermined outcome.

So, stability wasn't due to some democratic magic ensuring the voice of the people was heard? It was actually due to oligarchs knowing how to maintain stability?

Have you heard of this place called Red China? You might like it there.

Modern day Venice is dying and depopulating turning what used to be a real city-state with outsized worldly influence centuries ago into a showcase piece right out of Disneyworld bereft of actual citizens, so what does that tell about this system? They NIMBY'd themselves to death to get those high property values but made their state unlivable for everybody else.

"Longtime residents are being driven out by housing owners – who can make more money from wealthy foreigners buying swanky vacation apartments than they can renting to families "

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/the-death-of-venice-corrupt-officials-mass-tourism-and-soaring-property-prices-have-stifled-life-in-10251434.html

Why not? Better to sell to the fools and get a big palazzo somewhere else for the $$$, before Venice is completely underwater in a few years.

One could even conceive of "underwater mortgage jokes" in that context.

This has been goin in for a very long time no? Don't see how the outcome could have changed. Same thing happened to Florence, Toledo, etc.

You realize that modern-day Venice is not ruled by the remnants of the Republic of Venice, correct? As in it was conquered by Napoleon and traded to the Austrians before landing in Italy (that is, the Kingdom of Italy)? So perhaps it is not a stretch to say that the government of a maritime capital that existed over 200 years ago doesn't have much import on the policies of a museum city today.

Surely we are in a "climate" emergency and as such places like Venice will have to abandoned in a few months. On that basis why is anyone buying property there?

"The Electoral College is a ridiculous anachronism that needs specious excuses to obviate one man one vote"

Yep. This post certainly qualifies. Of course, I'd have been living in the Ghetto for most of this history. I think Napoleon had a hand in ending this discrimination, it wasn't due to local popular demand. I guess making Jews equal citizens qualifies as an instability Venice overcame. Too much.

Wow, what a crazy system! But upon reflection:

-- The initial random seeding from the population gives an impression of universal participation and impartiality.

-- The selection of the next group means that people will think about qualities they want in a leader, such as popularity, leadership and gravitas, ability to execute, political philosophy, connection to an important trade or business, and so on.

-- The subsequent iterative rounds mean that people who are progressively even more well connected and with better judgment or support from the people will be choosing the next group from their rolodexes.

-- The random member reductions ensure that the selection committees are not too big to function efficiently, while still leaving the people pruned out with an impression that they participated.

-- Ironically, by the time that you go through this many steps, you probably end up with the same basic group, simply on the basis of Kevin Bacon six degrees theory and the Friendship Paradox social network/assortative mixing phenomenon.

-- This final group thus picks from a small usual-suspects circle of local bigwigs. But the illusion of some sort of roundabout democracy is maintained by the 180 or so people who had a part in the process.

"The initial random seeding from the population gives an impression of universal participation and impartiality."

This is wrong. As the comments pointed out earlier, members of the Great Council or what you call the "initial random seeding" is not random but hereditary and thus pooled from the top aristocratic families. Minor aristocrats and plebs need not apply.

O.K., whatever. But the system could be applied to any chosen subset of a national group. For instance, the non-slave male population of the early U.S., or the citizen population of the current U.S.

With respect to whatever starting population you have, this seems like a pretty reasonable approach to the goal of -- from the point of view of that starting population -- a democratic method veering into republicanism, basically with an underlying math/statistics basis.

I think that for larger populations, such as the U.S. the initial seeding would have to be much larger, and each step would be larger, and the number of cycles more, so it has a practical limit, and probably not practical in modern use with our large countries and cities.

Many Americans' (read: progressives') dislike of the electoral college just comes up when the results lead to the unwashed masses getting what they want.

'dislike of the electoral college just comes up when the results lead to the unwashed masses getting what they want'

You do know that the only reason Trump is president is that the 'unwashed masses' (ie the majority of voters in the 2016 presidential election) did not get what they want, right?

In a country with so much election cheating, what could the meaning be of "the majority of voters"?

I'm old enough to remember when American Dems would admit to me that their party did far better out of electoral cheating than did the GOP. Do Dems still admit to that in private?

'In a country with so much election cheating'

Fascinating to see what some people will believe, regardless of facts. Yes, it is true that American democracy can be considered 'lively,' and that its Infinitesimal rate of election fraud is maybe 5% higher than the amount of election fraud found in the UK or Germany.

Amusingly, more people have been charged with the crime of voting illegally for Trump than for Hellary, at least in the aftermath of the 2016 election - https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/12/01/0-000002-percent-of-all-the-ballots-cast-in-the-2016-election-were-fraudulent/?utm_term=.41a1b2581652

(Yes, the American system is also remarkably creaky with the entire aspect of needing to register to vote, but that is a much broader discussion - and leading to amusing cases such as this - 'Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law and one of his closest White House advisers, is registered to vote in both New Jersey and New York, while White House press secretary Sean Spicer is on the rolls both in Virginia and his home state of Rhode Island, according to elections officials and voting registration records.

Their dual registrations offer two more high-profile examples of how common it is for voters to be on the rolls in multiple states — something Trump has claimed is evidence of voter fraud.

With Kushner and Spicer, The Washington Post has now identified five Trump family members or top administration appointees who were registered in two states during the fall election. The others are chief White House strategist Stephen K. Bannon; Tiffany Trump, the president's youngest daughter; and Treasury Secretary nominee Steven Mnuchin, as first reported by CNN.' https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2017/01/26/it-turns-out-trump-son-in-law-jared-kushner-is-also-registered-to-vote-in-two-states/)

'I'm old enough to remember when American Dems would admit to me that their party did far better out of electoral cheating than did the GOP.'

Are you confusing something like gerrymandering with 'cheating'? A common mistake for non-Americans to make (explaining gerrymandering to Germans is always amusing), but the idea of rewriting political boundaries every ten years, to the benefit of those in power when writing the boundaries, is a centuries old American practice.

"In states around the U.S., major problems with our voter registration systems have been tolerated for years. A 2012 report by the Pew Center on the States found that more than 1.8 million dead people were registered to vote and 2.75 million people were registered in more than one state.

The Pew report found that 24 million registrations were either invalid or inaccurate, making the registration systems vulnerable to fraud."

https://www.heritage.org/election-integrity/commentary/voter-fraud-exists-even-though-many-the-media-claim-it-doesnt

Maybe dearieme can tell you in detail how the UK works - let us just say that the UK does not have American problems in terms of a registration system that does not seem to contribute to a better voting system than the one in the UK.

Talking about other countries like France or Germany would be less appropriate, since unlike the UK or the US, citizens in France and Germany have mandatory ID cards, thus completely removing the need for any form of voter registration in the first place.

One does trust that Bannon, Kushner, Spicer, Mnuchin, and Tiffany Trump are no longer participating in voter fraud, even if the media claims that such people are not engaging in voter fraud.

American citizens have to register to vote because there are so many people who insist that anyone should be able to just live here. Would you prefer we send out mail-in ballots to all 7 billion people on Earth? Don't answer that, I've already read the DNC strategic memos.

'Don't answer that, I've already read the DNC strategic memos.'

But apparently you have not read the Constitution, as only American citizens can vote in federal elections. Which, oddly enough, means you would have lost a point on the American citizenship naturalization test. One wonders if you actually know why the U.S. also does not send out notices for jury duty to all 7 billion people on Earth.

Cool story bro. That must be why half the country considers any attempt to verify the citizenship status of a potential voter to be suppression. Even your national ID cards that you tout from the land of effeminate communists would be considered a racist and classist attempt to keep hardworking Americans away from the polls.

Gibberish. We elect a president by the EC and by the EC the candidates campaigned. With a popular vote they would have campaigned differently.

Also, by vice of California's jungle primary, state Republicans had no candidates to vote for, suppressing turnout. California accounts for the entirety of Clinton's popular vote lead.

But even if Trump would have lost the popular vote, the EC did EXACTLY what it was designed for: to give smaller states a bigger stake in the outcome.

If we had a popular vote, half the country would have nuked the cities by now. They are fetid and festering sewers of human filth.

ummm, some parts are. Other parts, often not very far away, are glittering playgrounds for the rich and would-be rich. On average American cities are so-so, not "festering sewers of human filth," which actually is fairly insulting to the many decent neighbors of the bad actors who live in urban slums.

He knows it's insulting. Kinda the point.

No candidate in the 2016 presidential race got a majority of the popular vote. So what did the unwashed masses want?

Not to mention eligible voters who did not vote.

A simpler explanation is that voting for your local sheriff, board of education, county commissioner, state judge, state legislature, mayor, governor, House representative, and Senator are all done through popular election. Even Saddam Hussein or Nicolas Maduro understands that much. The election of the US Presidency is the one oddball out.

It's the "one oddball out" because its position is as well: it's the only elected position in the nation that transcends state lines.

You might do well to ask yourself whether the current antipathy towards the electoral college (beyond a gaslighting attempt by the left to remove one more obstacle to their corporeal stuffing of the national ballot box) results from a misunderstanding of one's role and the role of one's state in the national government.

This was at least slightly clearer before 17A was (regrettably) ratified, but then perhaps that's exactly why it was.

The US situation is hardly unique at all. There are many democratic countries where the head of government is not directly elected and/or the outcome is not determined by which party gets the most votes nationwide.

For example, in 1951 in the UK, Labour got more votes but fewer seats, and lost the election. In Germany, the Chancellor is selected by secret ballot vote by the Bundestag. And so on.

I wonder which is the largest direct election in the world, with more voters than California state elections. When a close presidential election turns all eyes toward Florida or Ohio or whichever state, and the parties square off on counting and re-counting, there is a limit to how many ways and times they can try to come up with a majority of that state's votes. In a national direct election, there would be no end to the counting. In the 2016 election the Democrat took Hawaii 62.3 to 30.1%, and the Republican took Arkansas 60.4 to 33.8%, so all concern for those results, and those of most states, was wrapped up before the next morning. In a direct national election, however, every tenth of a percent of the vote of every state would matter and would be open to endless wrangling.

So, I wonder how big of a direct election is really manageable.

France manages with a population of 70 million. I don't care for it, but they can manage it. They have a long history of administrative centralism and they select their civil service through competitive examinations. In this country, we build adaptable private enterprise. Our public agencies are masters of the half-assed. The electoral college contains the worst fiascos to particular areas.

Can you explain why you don't care for the direct French election of a president?

I can't watch the Democratic debates. I couldn't watch the Republican debates in 2015-16 either. They are too depressing. Picking names out of the phone book and then reducing the number by a series of lots might be a better way of picking the president. No, I don't mean picking the people who will pick the president. I meaning picking the president. Could we do any worse?

Gratifyingly, there was a strong moderate undercurrent to last night’s debate, where the main progressives (Sanders, Warren) weren’t on stage and the firebrands (Harris) fizzled. Unfortunately many of the less well known candidates (who are moderate) will be out of the picture in days.

"Choose 30 members of the Great Council by lot.
"These 30 people are reduced by lot to 9."

What's the point of the double lottery, rather than a single lottery picking 9 people? Is it worries that a lottery of the eligible population could be rigged, while the 30 lottery winners can watch the second lottery carefully to make sure it's not rigged?

Whatever, judging from Venice as a giant work of art, the system seemed to work.

If it's rigged, it's rigged. That objection applies to any approach.

But assuming it works as stated*, and assuming social trust in the randomness and fairness of the system, I think the second lottery in each cycle can function as a show of representation and diversity. You have more of a selection of people in the larger group, who, but for chance, would have been in the smaller group. So people who feel more represented by someone in the larger group who didn't make it to the smalaler group figure, "Shucks, maybe next time," rather than, "Burn it down! This isn't fair!"

* I find that more and more people cannot mentally deal with hypotheticals, spherical cow problems, gedanken experiments, Fermi problems, and the like, if the hypothetical requires one to assume something that is NOT TRUE or politically incorrect to one's tribe. This trend doesn't speak well to legal education and really all kinds of academic inquiry. (I'm not saying that you, Steve, have this kind of a problem, but you reminded me of this particular pet peeve of mine.)

No kidding. Me: "Assume that everyone in a given population has the same IQ." My wife: "You know perfectly well that they don't."

The Great Council at its peak had nearly 2,800 members. It's possible it was simply a matter of logistics, perhaps they didn't have a big enough hat to draw the names out of.

I am surprised that we did not hear the real influences of this process:

Multiple rounds of selection required super-majorities to proceed.
Failure to proceed resulted in starting the process over.

The first of these meant that it was very hard to have partisans dominate the process. Narrow majorities, even with fortune on the lots, could not simply impose their will on the rest.

The second meant that there was no endless filibuster. You either made some sort of compromise or you risked triggering another round of selections. This meant that the noble doing the selection would forfeit his personal influence on the selection process and his party would risk both inflaming more of the Grand Council against them and that future selections would be less favorable.

When your election requires something like roughly 70% of the electorate to back you and for there to be very real risks for intransigence of the minority it is not surprising that you typically got stable consensus candidates who enjoyed broad political support.

On 29 May 1784 Andrea Tron, known as el paron ("the patron") because of his political influence, said that trade: "is falling into final collapse. The ancient and long-held maxims and laws which created and could still create a state's greatness have been forgotten. [We are] supplanted by foreigners who penetrate right into the bowels of our city. We are despoiled of our substance, and not a shadow of our ancient merchants is to be found among our citizens or our subjects. Capital is lacking, not in the nation, but in commerce. It is used to support effeminacy, excessive extravagance, idle spectacles, pretentious amusements and vice, instead of supporting and increasing industry which is the mother of good morals, virtue, and of essential national trade."

Wow, that hits close to home.

Or is the lesson that Tron's complaint has been made for centuries and yet the world continues to advance anyway?

I'm sure the Venetians took solace in that when surrendering to Napoleon. "The empire our forefathers built and maintained for centuries is being broken up and sold off to occupying Powers, but hey, at least the world continues to advance."

Lol indeed. To be fair, for a decade or do it would be pretty hard to find anyone not surrendering to Napoleon.

The average Venetian's life probably didn't change much when Napoleon took over, just like our lives don't change much when Trump or Obama or whoever is president.

Even the aristocracy of Venice probably didn't lose much, besides some pride. Were they all put to death?

My point is, it seems throughout history there have been complaints about industry turning to decadence...but humanity's overall well being has done nothing but improve over those centuries.

If the common Venetians defined their lives by the "idle spectacles, pretentious amusements and vice" as described by the patron above, then yes, it probably didn't change much. Bread and circuses have a very high return on investment and le petit caporal would know this as well as anyone.

On the other hand, if those on the Grand Council considered themselves to be a part of something bigger than the minutae of their everyday lives, then they lost everything. Again, we are talking about families who had ruled over La Serenissima for centuries, who had fled the barbarians by settling in the middle of a backwater lagoon, then built it up into one of the most powerful empires of its time. Each previous generation died knowing they had left their posterity a secure and autonomous life, yet the last had to give it up to foreign invaders thus rendering their children mere subjects.

The parallels between this situation and ours should be obvious. We are indeed being supplanted by foreigners who penetrate right into the bowels of our country. We do indeed run up trillions in debt to support excessive extravagance, idle spectacles, pretentious amusements and vice. The number of Americans who believe that their children will be worse off than they is at a record high and yet half the country not only tolerates this situation but encourages their own demise. Perhaps they too believe that it's no matter as long as humanity's overall well-being improves.

Man up, Nancy. For gods sake things change. It's fine.

I appreciate your willingness to self-identify so readily as an enemy of the continued viability of the American experiment.

Kids these days... (I say semi-seriously after seeing a parade of tattoo- and piercing-laden young people of indeterminate gender handing out coffee at Starbucks)

Just because an electoral college in one context produced stability does not mean, necessarily, that it will produce stability in other or all contexts.

Speaking of "stability", check out this essay by Adrian Vermeule: https://churchlifejournal.nd.edu/articles/all-human-conflict-is-ultimately-theological/
One of the points in this essay is that political liberalism, by its very nature, is in tension with the goal of stability on many fronts.

How was the great council chosen?

Now I know what it must have been like to be an American in the 1850s. Los Angeles County alone is more populous than all but 10 states. This is not sustainable.

Exactly, and the people in those 10 states don't care what the people of LA want them to do.

Ohio and Pennsylvania maybe. But In 1 or 2 more cycles, GA, FL and TX will be voting in sync with LA County. So a huge swath of the country just may as well stop voting--they lost the demographic war, and that's that.

People dislike the electoral college not because it is complicated but because it is undemocratic. Speaking of undemocratic, you seem to have ignored the fact that the choice of Venetian electors at all stages was restricted to hereditary aristocrats. But hey, if you are good with a republic run by an oligarchy based on heredity, no biggie.

Right, what backwards heathens. What Venice should have done is allow everyone living within its borders to have a say in government regardless of their tenure, intelligence, and motivations. Surely they would have lasted another 500 years that way.

Democracy doesn't scale. The Electoral College is a compromise because in its absence, a few urban counties on the coasts would run the whole country. That may be fine with you but not 60+ million other American voters, who realize their votes simply do not count at that point. Then the fun really begins as they start wondering why there's even a Union. The last time we had this much fun we killed 600,000 of each other.

It's no more 'undemocratic' than a half-dozen other relics. Judicial review is undemocratic, first-past-the-post is undemocratic, the wretched way in which elections are scheduled vitiates democratic choice, 'ballot harvesting' is undemocratic, &c. Partisan Democrats only give a rip when a practice is inconvenient to them. Unless they're willing to address other issues, screw 'em.

It seems an element of randomness is the key here. Say I wanted to get some policy enacted, say I wanted the city to use my company to provide free wi-fi to everyone within its borders. It seems like there's only two viable paths with this system:

1. Present a dynamite case to the city council and doge. They are almost like a jury since there's no way to know who they will be ahead of time.

2. Present a case to everyone, get the bulk of the population to be in support of it. Then when people are chosen at random they will likely be in support and will select others in support as well.

It does seem to short circuit lobbying/special favors and other mechanisms in politics that are generally inefficient.

Again, the utility of the electoral college is that it supplies a conventional method of tallying the vote among states which have different definitions of who is part of the electorate and different procedures for administering elections. You can improve the system some (say, by eliminating the office of elector, assigning to each state and territory a quantum of electoral votes equal to the citizen population, and breaking up the most populous states into multiple constituencies), but instituting popular vote is going to require a national system for defining the electorate and administering elections. Rather anxiety provoking, that.

States have some leeway in deciding who is in the electorate but not much given the Equal Protection Clause and requiring 18 year olds the right to vote.... Also the Constitution requires Congress to ensure states have a 'republican form of government' so that somewhat limits just how 'creative' states can get. It also means a state can't, say, be run by a religious cult or strongman dictator.

The electoral college is of the form but the substance. The idea of an electoral college is electors come together to decide who the person should be. The Pope, for example, is selected by an electoral college. Generally a real electoral college leaves some doubt as to who will be elected by it.

Reality is all the electoral college does today is given a person a different goal in the popular vote other than simple majority. Since limited 'points' are awarded for each state you stop campaigning in states you won. It's much like the 3 point shot in the NBA. You get 3 points for sinking a basket from 23ft 9 inches or more from it. No point in trying to do it from, say, 30 feet since there's no additional points.

Reality is all the electoral college does today is given a person a different go

You don't know what you're talking about.

The reality is the electoral college prevents my vote from being diluted by ballot-harvesters in Arizona and California. Partisan Democrats don't care about electoral probity because they're the ones stuffing the ballot boxes.

Not sure what you're talking about there. Fact is in a popular election Trump voters in NY and CA would count, today they don't. Whose vote is diluted?

Can a state choose its electors based on the actions of voters in other states? The National Popular Vote Initiative is predicated on the idea that it can. This seems unconstitutional to me (equal protection of the laws).

A state today can opt for 'winner take all' when it comes to electors or proportional.

I'm not sure how you could sensibly argue it's an equal protection violation for a state to say they will switch to proportional if X number of other states do so but not otherwise? In all cases your vote counts no different than everyone else's vote in your state.

Doges served for life. They were also afforded small, for their rank, salaries and often comingled state and personal profit. However on death, their estates were held liable for any corruption under their tenure. Corrupting the doge with lobbying and special favors was pretty much SOP for Venetian politics.

The big value of the Venetian system is that afforded multiple incentives to reach a consensus candidate. By some estimates, candidates with under 30% general antipathy were unelectable as getting past some of the smaller rounds required supermajorities (e.g. 7/9). This also made flagrant vote buying, rather than you-scratch-my-back-I'll-scratch-yours coalition building a very pricey and unreliable game.

On the flip side filibustering or otherwise holding the majority hostage to the minority meant that eventually they would rerun the system enough times that majority eventually gets good enough seeds in the early round (and makes furthers selections accordingly) to overcome resistance. It also afforded many opportunities for individuals in one faction to defect to the majority for some "principled" reason.

The 41 at the end of the tree were virtually never unknown and the all but invariably had deep ties to the leading families of the day. The biggest advantage was that securing a 25th (deciding final) vote allowed people to be "bought" and they could plausibly argue that the next recursion might be even worse for the losing side.

I thought Venice is going down the drain.

That's why I am in favor of representative democracy chosen by lot. Particularly, a bicameral system where all members of the parliaments are chosen by lot among eligible citizens and these 600 people then chose a PM.

The electoral college was supposed to protect against demagoguery. So the real complaint wasn't that it was 'too complex', but that it failed to work as designed. Given that Trump was a demagogue clearly unfit for office in every way, the electoral college should have ignored the popular vote in michigan, pennsylvania and ohio and voted instead for Hilary.

The electoral college was supposed to protect against demagoguery.

Actually, it was a jerry-rigged compromise between competing plans for electing the President, each of which incorporated a different set of interests. It didn't have some airy purpose in the realm of political sociology or social psychology.

Indeed, it was created because of the tension between the idea of treating states equally versus treating populations equally. It splits the difference where big states get more votes than small states but not as dramatic as if it was done totally by population only.

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