Primary 2020: A Voting System Experiment

Our election system is broken! Plurality-Take-All voting Does Not Work when you have more than one candidate on the ballot. Remember when Ralph Nader “stole” enough votes from Al Gore so that we ended up with George W. Bush? Remember when H. Ross Perot gave us Bill Clinton?

“Fine,” some of you might say. “Just stick to our Two-Party System.”

Even that doesn’t work. Both parties have more than two candidates to choose between during the primaries. As I write this, the Democrats are considering over 20.

There is a better way. Scratch that. There are several better ways: several different voting systems that allow voters to better express their preferences when there are more than two candidates to consider. Better options include: Approval Voting, Instant Runoff, Condorcet Voting, Range Voting, and Star Voting.

But which of these are the best?

To help answer this question, I have created a new poll: a simulation of the primary phase of the 2020 U.S. Presidential election. In it, you get to experience voting using all of the above systems, and we will get to see how the voting system affects the results after enough people participate.

I have made primary simulations for the Democratic, Libertarian, and Republican primaries. To make the Republican primary simulation interesting, I have added candidates from the 2016 contest. (Otherwise, we would only have Donald Trump and Bill Weld. With two contestants, Plurality Voting works just fine.)

Please participate, and then tell your friends, acquaintances, students, teachers, etc. Our current system produces winners who make half the country extremely unhappy every four years. A better system would give us uniters instead of dividers.

A better system would also let us safely choose between more than two parties. We might see some reasonable third parties arise: greenish conservatism, pro life welfare statism, budget realism, etc.

After taking the poll, feel free to comment below. Which system do you prefer? What features should I add? Are there any bugs?

Nearly 120,000 Data Points Now

After years of neglect, I have finally gotten around to doing a tally of the quiz stats.  Not quite 120,000 points.  Traffic has definitely gone down since the glory days of this site.

But also: the site’s recording mechanism had been broken since January 2019 due to changes in PHP and my hosting provider’s Apache settings. Oops!

Hopefully, it should all be working correctly now.

In other news: is now https! No more browser warnings when filling in forms. The Web is  more secure.

Hacked by Russians

Last Monday, a whole lot of files got corrupted on all my domains. My hosting provider traced it to a Russian server getting in via WordPress.

I had a backup of my non WordPress content, so most of the site should still work as it should. For WordPress proper, I clobbered all my old files and unzipped the latest WordPress. My content is in the database, and appears OK. But I have lost my old theme (which needed updating anyway).

Please have patience with this generic theme until I have the time to jazz things back up.

Right now, I am busy on a MAJOR new project for this site! After years of semi neglect, big things are coming soon.

Over 50,000 People Have Taken Version 7 of the Quiz

Have a look at the latest statistics for Version 7 of the Quiz. We are now up to over 52,000 takers! I would say that the statistics are significant, save that they are a bit biased. You can see the bias in the scatter plot:


A large fraction of my traffic these days comes from school sites. Sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll are a lot more appealing if you are a teenager than if you are a parent of a teenager. I think this explains most of the bias to the upper left.

Then again, it is also possible that the government is biased to the lower right compared to the population. I center the diagram on the amount of government we have today vs. any attempt at finding an average or median viewpoint. Whereas a democracy is supposed to reflect the median in theory, in practice we have Gerrymandering, a two-party system, and a funding bias towards towards incumbents — i.e., bribery.

There are more people at the upper corner than at any of the other corners because the Nolan Chart is a projection of a higher dimensional space that makes libertarianism appear a more coherent political philosophy than others. Other projections are possible. The Political Compass uses a different projection which measures how libertarian you are not at all, but does measure how much you agree with a certain hard left political philosophy.

One of these days, I’ll get around to making quizzes with different projections…

Over 18000 People Have Taken the Version 7 of the Quiz

After a few months leaving things alone, I have finally gotten around to  tabulating the latest results from Version 7 of the Quiz (released in August 2012). A quick look at a scatter plot indicates that the Quiz is now reasonably normalized:

Yes, there is a cluster in the Libertarian quadrant, but this is to be expected for several reasons:

  1. The Nolan Chart does look at the political map from a libertarian perspective. Libertarianism thus shows up as the most coherent ideology by this mapping.
  2. The libertarian movement has done the most to promote quizzes such as this, so more of the takers of this quiz have been prompted to do so by libertarians. Indeed, the earliest links to this site were Libertarian Party affiliates.
  3. Political quiz takers in general will tend to be taken more by those unhappy with the two major party offerings.
  4. A sizable fraction of the traffic today comes from school sites. Young people destined to become Republicans tend to score more libertarian than conservative. Whether they will become more socially conservative as they grow older remains to be seen.

Then again, it is possible that libertarianism — broadly defined — is a growing faction in this country and currently underrepresented in our legislatures. Given the non random nature of this data sample, the scatter plot above should not be taken as strong evidence for this assertion, though.

The more detailed statistics, however, should be more useful for determining how libertarian young and/or independent voters are willing to be. (They can be used as for how conservative, liberal, communitarian, etc.) There is significant clustering in the center of the graph, so the specific answers may reveal some deal-killers for all factions.

The strongest smaller-government signal is for the issue of marijuana legalization. 60% of the quiz takers say we should legalize marijuana outright. Another 18% believe we should make marijuana less illegal than it is today, either by decriminalizing recreational use or by making medical marijuana legal.

On the other hand 56% of the Quiz takers believe we should continue keep our laws against harder drugs and/or increase enforcement. This is despite the fact that the Quiz grants users many incremental options between the status quo and outright legalization.

The strongest signal for bigger government comes from the Public Education question. There is strong support for increasing public school funding and graduate school educations for teachers. A mere 16.6% of takers favor some form of school privatization (vouchers, tax credits or simple public school abolition). Those who favor school choice have an uphill battle, at least with the Quiz2D demographic (which includes many students currently in public schools).

A few more highlights:

  • ObamaCare and/or outright socialized medicine has strong support.
  • Nearly 40% of Quiz takers believe we should legalize prostitution.
  • The Second Amendment still has strong support, though nearly a quarter of the takers believe we should have stronger background checks for pistols and semi-automatic rifles.
  • Over half the takers believe in some additional immigration restrictions.
  • There is a strong sentiment towards scaling back or privatizing Social Security over time.

Peruse the statistics yourself.





Housing Crisis

I guess I should have a question related to the current recession. Lots of options here. Could talk about banking and money, regulating the financial system or possible bailouts of homeowners who bought at the peak of the housing bubble.  Banking has lots of gradations of libertarian answers, but what could I put for authoritarian answers that hasn’t already been implemented? Ditto for the financial services industry. I can think of some useful additional interventions for the housing crisis. So here goes:



The housing bubble has only partially popped. Millions of homeowners are still owe more than their homes are worth. Many banks are still fragile and many people are unable to move to find better jobs because they cannot sell their homes. Should we do something? If we do, how do we do so without creating a new bubble?

What should we do about the ongoing mortgage crisis?

  • Inflate the currency to bring nominal incomes and rents in line with current home prices.
  • Give out grants to homeowners based on how desperate they are.
  • Buy up surplus housing and demolish it to soak up excess supply.
  • Two of the above.
  • All of the above.
  • Do nothing beyond what we are doing now. The bailouts, new homeowner tax credits, and HARP suffice.
  • Let prices continue to fall but build equity by granting existing homeowners the value of their future mortgage interest deductions as a lump sum payment used to pay down existing mortgages and then eliminate the mortgage deduction.
  • Pop the remaining bubble. Eliminate all bailout programs. Yes, some people will lose, but others will gain by being able to afford homes on the cheap.
  • Pop the bubble even harder. Eliminate the remaining bailout programs, Fannie and Freddie, and the mortgage interest deduction.
  • Crush the bubble. Pop as above and go to a gold standard to eliminate inflation.

War on Terror

War is the health of the State — except where it is the death of the State.  That exception thingy is why I have avoided the foreign intervention issue in prior editions of the Quiz. Taking out Hitler was good for liberty — but the process required quite a bit of death and taxes.

For this go around, my yardstick is amount of government vs. initiation of force. Even there, foreign policy is a bit ambiguous. Fighting WWII did require more government at home — and how!  But if the Axis powers decided to absorb the U.S. after taking care of Eurasia, the total amount of government would have been even bigger even at [U.S.] home  in the long run.

Nonetheless, given how much Ron Paul invested in the foreign policy issue, and how the War on Terror threatens to drag on indefinitely, the lack of a military intervention question is perhaps unacceptable.

For Version 7, perhaps a foreign intervention question focused just on the Middle East is appropriate, given the War on Terror. It can serve as a proxy for attitudes on intervention in general. In fact, George W. Bush gave reason to broaden the question given his Axis of Evil speech.

So, how is this:


Ever since 9/11  the United States has been in a state of open ended war against militant Islamic groups and countries which host them. This has been very expensive, and innocent people have been killed in the cross fire. Then again, we haven’t suffered a major terrorist attack since we began the War on Terror. If we don’t get the terrorists  over there, we might need a full on police state at home to protect the millions of soft targets — or so many claim. But would we be under attack by militant Islamists if we weren’t meddling in the Middle East in the first place?

What is the appropriate military response to terrorism in the 21st Century?

  • The U.S. response was appropriate more or less.
  • We should have pulled out of Afghanistan and Iraq much sooner. Take out the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, yes. Nation build, no.
  • The second Iraq war was a mistake.
  • The first Iraq war was a mistake, as was Desert Shield. Hussein was Saudi Arabia and Iran’s problem.
  • We shouldn’t meddle in the Middle East at all. Get out of the Persian Gulf. Let the Israelis defend themselves. “They hate us because we are over there.”
  • We should focus on energy independence so we can distance ourselves from the Middle East. Levy a large tariff on OPEC oil and/or spend some billions on a serious energy policy.
  • We should be more aggressive. Bomb Iran before they get nuclear weapons.
  • We should have invaded Saudi Arabia after 9/11. Most of the terrorists were Saudi citizens, and Saudi Arabia sponsored the Taliban.
  • We should take out North Korea to finish off the Axis of Evil.
  • Invade Cuba and establish democracy there.
  • Any to of the above aggressive actions (Iran, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Cuba.)
  • Any three of the above.
  • All of the above.


My feedback from the right is that the above was a leading question. So here is a second try:



After the World Trade Center attack on 9/11, the United States embarked on a campaign of introducing democracy by force of arms and taking out terrorist cells abroad. It seems to have worked. We have suffered no major terrorist attack at home since, and democracies are sprouting all across the Middle East. But the price has been enormous in terms of treasure and lives lost. Did we overreact? And in the longer run, have the recent wars inspired as many future terrorists as we have taken out? Opinions vary.

What is/was the appropriate military response to terrorism in the 21st Century?

  • What we did. The U.S. response, including the wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq, was appropriate and sufficient.
  • We need to do more. We should intervene in Syria.
  • More: we need to stop Iran for getting nuclear weapons, by force of arms if need be.
  • More: there is another country or countries that need military correction soon.
  • Two of the above additional interventions
  • All of the above additional interventions.
  • Less. Taking out the Taliban and Saddam Hussein were worthwhile, but we shouldn’t have stayed for the extensive nation building afterwards.
  • Less. Afghanistan yes. The second Iraq war no.
  • Much less. Even the first Iraq war was a mistake, as was Desert Shield. Saddam was Saudi Arabia and Iran’s problem.
  • Much less. They hate us not because we are free, but because we are over there. We should focus on energy independence so we can end our involvement in the Persian Gulf. Levy a large tariff on OPEC oil and/or spend some billions on a serious energy policy.
  • Much less. Let’s get completely out the Middle East now, without waiting for energy independence. And let Israel defend itself.


Where I Stand

In the interest of full disclosure, I just took Version 7 of the Quiz to see where I stand as currently calibrated. Here is where I came out:


 on political map

Maybe I should relabel this Leff-Leaning Moderate Libertarian. But since I don’t use “Moderate” for conservatives and liberals at this distance from the center, I may hold back. By the standards of the active members of the LIbertarian Party, I am definitely a moderate, or even a non-libertarian (damn socialist). But by the standards of the media, the term libertarian applies to me still.

And by the way, I too struggle with some of the questions. In the interest of brevity I didn’t include all possible permutations of answers including some of my own opinions.

And in all honesty, even if you score in the same Nolan Chart location as a candidate, you might still prefer another candidate. The Nolan Chart is not the only, or even best, 2D political mapping. One of these days I’ll devise a test based on an alternative political map.

For those who want to nitpick with my calibration, you can do a “view source” of the quiz proper and see how I score each answer. Look for “value=”. For each you will see something like 0_60. The first number (0 in this case) is the ord of the answer. The second is how I score it on a 0 to 100 scale. 0 is maximum authority/minimum liberty. 100 is maximum liberty/minimum government. 50 is status quo. Feel free to quibble with my calibrations in the comments below.

Version 7 is Up!

At long last Version 7 of Quiz2D is up and running! As I write this I have just put the fifth draft up on the site. (The fifth draft has an added question on abortion.)

I write this post both as a quick announcement and as a placeholder for general comments on the new edition. I’m still taking suggestions on additional answers for the existing questions as well as for additional questions.

I’m especially interested in errors and biased wording. I am open to additional questions and answers to existing questions, but becoming less open day by day. The new edition of the political test is getting pretty long. I’m going for longer as this is a web-only test — the original was kept short for use at fair booths and the like — but even at home on a computer, people do have a patience limit.


Immigration is a somewhat ambiguous issue on the Nolan Chart. Cracking down on immigration definitely requires government action — huge amounts of intrusive government action to deport illegal immigrants not caught at the border. But given the existence of the welfare state and minimum wages laws, granting amnesty and/or opening the floodgates would require expanding the already over-extended welfare system and other government services. This holds even if every immigrant is hard working.

Low skill hard working immigrants pull down the market rates for the jobs they do, causing many native-born to go on welfare. The developing world has billions of people with poor English language skills and little education who would earn more working in First World sweatshops. This thwarts the goals of progressive legislation designed to eliminate such sweatshops.

Open immigration between nations of equal economic status is workable. Free immigration is also workable with factories hungry for manual laborers or a frontier open for colonization. These conditions no longer apply to the U.S.

So is immigration an economic or personal freedom issue? Technically it is both. I think I’ll keep it in the personal axis as liberals are making more pro-immigration statements and conservatives more anti-immigration statements. But note how Obama is deporting plenty of illegal aliens, and how much amnesty was granted under Republican administrations. This issue does not fit cleanly in the left-right axis.

I’m tempted to omit this issue for the next Quiz, but I’ll keep it for two reasons:

  1. I’d like to pitch a creative compromise which keeps the inflow manageable while protecting the civil liberties of recently nationalized citizens.
  2. I’d like to know where people stand on this issue with respect to other issues. For example, Ron Paul was quite anti-immigration in previous runs, whereas the Libertarian Party is and was open borders in its platform. Most liberal pundits make pro-immigration statements, but Ed Schultz is quite an outlier. I’d be curious to know how many liberals agree with Schultz.

So, for the next version a few more options on immigration. Also, the question will clearly be on immigration vs. illegal immigration. (Raise the quotas and the illegal immigration problem goes away.)


The United States and other developed nations have welfare systems and minimum wage/job conditions laws designed to set a minimum standard of living for all citizens. This minimum standard is way above the standard of living for billions of people in poorer nations. This leads to massive immigration pressure. Immigrants — legal and illegal — enter rich nations like the U.S. willing to do hard jobs at minimum wage or less. Consumers of their labor benefit, but many citizen laborers suffer and some of them go on welfare raising the general tax burden.  We currently set immigration quotas far below the demand, with the result of millions of illegal aliens residing within the land. Since they are illegally here, they cannot safely call the police, so alien communities are ripe pickings for organized crime. But getting them out would be a civil liberties nightmare.

What should the U.S. immigration policy be?

  • Open the gates! Borders are artificial. Let the welfare system crash and shantytowns bloom. Overall, more people benefit with fully open borders.
  • Raise the quotas a bit, but favor skilled immigrants to ensure enough jobs for unskilled immigrants.
  • Keep the existing immigration laws.
  • Tax the poor but give all citizens a monthly rebate check. This could be the “prebate” promoted by the Fair Tax folks, or making the income tax flat towards the bottom coupled with a citizen’s dividend.
  • As above, but also sell citizenships. Anyone can become a citizen as long as they obey the laws and prove that they are/will be a net taxpayer.
  • Seal the borders but don’t violate civil liberties trying to hunt down illegals already within the country.
  • Institute a national ID in order to catch illegals within the borders.
  • Reduce the immigration quotas so we can assimilate the immigrants we have.
  • Do two of the above three options (seal borders, national ID, reduced quotas).
  • Do all of the above three options to reduce immigrations.

What have I missed?