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THE HARE SYSTEM, WITH SPECIAL REFERENCE TO ITS
APPLICATION IN TASMANIA.
remarkable chapters in the history of representative govern- System. ment. Mr. Hare's treatise, ' The Election of Representatives,' was published in 1859. It claimed to have discovered a remedy for some of the most serious of the evils to which democracy is subject, and almost immediately received a flattering, if not a popular, attention. In 1860, the celebrated Henry Fawcett published * Mr. Hare's Reform Bill simplified and explained.' In the following year, the Representative Government' of John Stuart Mill appeared. The latest advocate spoke in no uncertain tone :-
Mr. Hare's scheme has the almost unparalleled merit of carrying out à great principle of government in a manner approaching to ideal perfection as regards the special object in view, while it attains incidentally several other ends, of scarcely inferior importance. ... Such and so numerous are its advantages that they place it among the very greatest improvements yet made in the theory and practice of government.”
Such commendation, if it failed to evoke enthusiasm, might at least have aroused interest. No champion came forward to defend the older system: many of the evils which the new was designed to remedy, were becoming increasingly grave. Yet thirty-five years after the publication of Mill's treatise, when the Attorney-General of Tasmania introduced a bill to apply the Hare System to city constituencies, he could appeal to no precedent in the parliamentary experience of English-speaking peoples. Weighed in the balance and found wanting! The conclusion seems Explana
tion fof its irresistible, but it is not supported by facts. Neither experience nor argument has condemned the Hare System. The objections larity. which have been urged are commonly but the afterthoughts which justify an argument founded in prejudice. Even where they are serious, they are not unanswerable. The solution of the mystery is rather to be found in two facts, of which one is a weakness of human nature and the other a satire on party government. In the first place, the plan of Mr. Hare involves innovation. In the second place it is one of those innovations which invite the fate of the inconstant lover ; by affecting to be kind to all parties, it secures the allegiance of none. It might also be added that the most
serious of the evils which it claims to correct are only beginning to receive adequate recognition : and, finally, that it is opposed to the spirit of parochialism and to the omnipotence of majorities. Each of these facts would admit of illustration and proof. But it is not so much my object to write a history as to explain the general character of the Hare System, and to give an exposition of its application in Tasmania. The Bill of 1896 has become law. While retaining the leading characteristics of Mr. Hare's scheme, it includes several important modifications which possess a more than local interest, and have received a liberal discussion in other Australian colonies. Before attempting their consideration, it will be well to indulge the curiosity of the uninitiated by a statement of the general character and merits of the system, whose defects the
Tasmanian modifications are designed to remedy. General Mr. Hare's great aversion is the determination of constituencies object of by reference to geographical considerations. In substitution he System.
proposes that constituencies should be formed by voluntary association. The tie by local contiguity is to be superseded by the bond of kinship-kinship not of blood but of ideas! The great law of progress, defined by Maine as from status to contract, already abundantly illustrated in the sphere of private law, is to find a new illustration in the domain of jus publicum. Every constituency is to be a partnership in which there are to be no sleeping partners, much less partners repudiating and protesting against the acts of the rest, and yet unable to extricate themselves. . . . Full scope will be given to every generous sentiment by which men may be drawn together. Devotion to a great principle – regard for an illustrious name—affection for an ancient house-admiration of worthy deeds -attachment to a particular neighbourhood—love of country or of class—community of feeling-harmony of taste-may all form so many occasions of concord, and create innumerable circles, binding together in society all varieties of rank and station.' A recent writer has expressed the general character of Mr. Hare's object in even more forcible language. On August 8, 1898, Professor Nanson, writing to the Melbourne Argus on the occasion of a parliamentary debate, expressed himself as follows:
· Let us, however, compare the two ways in which we go to work to make a map-geographical or political. It is interesting to see what sort of a geographical map our political method would produce, and also we may derive instruction from seeing what sort of a political map the geographical method would produce. How, then, do we go to work to make our political map? First, let us consider the system of single electorates, so strongly in favour just
| Hare, Representative Government, pp. 38, 39.
now; and, further, let us suppose that in no case are there more than two candidates at any electorate. What we do, then, is this. We cut up the country into a number of blocks, in a more or less arbitrary manner. We then elect a member for each block ; Conservative, say, when the Conservatives in the block outnumber the Liberals, and Liberal when the Liberals outnumber the Conservatives. Now supposing these principles applied to the construction of a geographical map, what kind of result would be obtained ? First, we divide the country in an arbitrary manner into blocks, then we send a man to each block to measure the number of square miles of land, say, and the number of square miles of water. When there is more land than water in the block we put the block down in the map as all land, and when there is more water than land in the block we put it down in the map as all water. It is conceivable then, that the map may represent the whole country as one vast arid Sahara, and, on the other hand, as being in a state of submersion. A geographer who proceeded on these principles would doubtless soon find his way into Yarra Bend, but anyway his map would certainly find its way into the wastepaper basket. Yet these principles are the ones on which our political maps are based, and all our politics are based on the accuracy of our political maps. Truly it would seem that any method, no matter how rotten, is good enough for politics in electoral matters, provided it has on it the stamp of antiquity.'
Speaking approximately, there are three possible ways of arranging constituencies. According to one plan, constituencies may be arbitrarily fixed with the express object of depriving the people of fair representation. This is the plan adopted in American party politics under the name of Gerrymander, the general principle of which is to fix boundaries in such a manner as to give an opposing party the opportunity of returning members by uselessly large majorities. A second plan is to arrange constituencies arbitrarily, but without any reference to the views of the voters, and in such & manner as to leave the general results to chance. A third plan, and that proposed by Mr. Hare, is to endeavour to achieve a numerically accurate, or proportional, representation of the electorate.
By what means is it possible to secure the unanimous con- General stituencies? If the electors are left to their own devices, attempts character at the formation of voluntary constituencies may end in a Parlia- means for ment of party leaders. To avoid such a contingency it is neces- attaining sary to establish a quota by dividing the number of voters by the objects. number of seats: whoever obtains the quota is elected, and any excess vote recorded in his favour is given to the next preference of
This simple plan of transferring the vote is also followed in cases where the first preference of the elector has no
chance of election. As nothing is to be gained by transferring a vote to a candidate who is already elected or excluded, next preference must be understood to mean invariably next available preference. Such refinements need not perplex the elector, who is only required to express his judgment by placing the numbers 1, 2, 3, &c., opposite the names of favoured candidates.
However we may differ in estimating the importance of the fact, (1) A fair
it must be admitted that such a system secures a fair representation tation of of the electors. The Legislature represents the opinion of the country
with an approach to ideal fidelity ; its members are the representatives of the people, not of the chance majorities of arbitrarily formed electorates. It is impossible to doubt the justice of such an arrangement.
* The electors are the dispersed inhabitants of an extensive and populous kingdom, possessing knowledge and powers of thought infinitely varied and diffused: and to expect that the electoral forms of a rude and illiterate age will gather for the national benefit the fruit of this expanded intelligence, is as reasonable as to suppose that the vast manufacturing results of this day could be produced by the primitive loom and the hammer. To succeed in this work it is indispensable that every elector should have the widest field of choice, and the most extensive sphere for co-operation ".'
Thus Mr. Hare. The unfairness of the present system in England has been established in the publications of Sir John Lubbock ? In the election of Victorian delegates for the Federal Convention of 1897, the whole of the elected candidates were chosen from the ticket of the stronger party. The injustice is perhaps more glaring where a minority of the electors return a majority of the representatives. In the Canton Ticino, the more numerous party, as result of its concentration in particular districts, found itself in a minority in the Representative Chamber. Owing to the multiplicity of candidates at a recent election in South Australia, 7,664 votes elected eight members, and 9,411 votes were thrown away on defeated candidates. In the election of representatives to the Parliament of New South Wales in June, 1898, the Federal vote outnumbered the Government by a majority of 14,839 ; yet it
secured fewer representatives in the New South Wales Legislature. Represen- There is one aspect of the general question of fairness to all minorities, parties which attracts an increasing attention. If we regard the
total results of a general election, the Hare System achieves the representation of majorities as much as the representation of minorities. But the fact that the latter object is secured deserves special con
Hare, Representative Government, xvii. * Lubbock, Representation, 1890, and Analyses of English Elections in Prop. Rep. Rev., Sept. 1895.
sideration. It should be superfluous to insist upon the importance of the fact, in spite of the contention, to be dealt with in speaking of the Tasmanian Act, that minority representation consecrates the principle of sectarianism in politics. The national welfare is best secured under conditions which favour sustained conflict. The wise rule of the strong demands the sustained opposition of the weak. When victory puts an end to strife, the days of good government are numbered. In an age of democracy nothing can be more fatal than a tendency towards the political extinction of minorities; yet the reality of this tendency must appear indisputable. When the organization of labour is less incomplete than at present, the labour vote will be able, and may be disposed, to carry the election in every constituency. Yet it would be an unhappy day for the people when education and intelligence were excluded from a just share in the representation of the country, or when the infinitely varied character of the national life found no correspondence in the national Parliament. No one claims that the minority should rule ; but it must be heard. Ultimately all questions must be decided according to the wisdom of the parliamentary majority; but the decision should be made under conditions which ensure an adequate expression of the opinion of the minority. Herein is the dilemma of the future. Not whether the few or the many shall rule, but whether the sway of the majority shall be absolute or qualified. In proportion as we recognize this fact, in proportion as we see that light is the best policeman within as well as beyond the precincts of our Legislatures, we are able to appreciate the importance of achieving the representation of minorities in the constituency and in the nation.
Fairness of representation constitutes but the first of those merits (2) Inwhich a disinterested advocacy may claim for the Hare System. I believe that the system offers a reasonable hope of remedying, or politics. of palliating, the evils of popular indifference. The virtual disfranchisement of the minority in each constituency is an evil of the present system which goes far to condone the indifference of the elector. When the stronger party is well organized, the disfranchisement of the weaker party acquires a prospect of disagreeable permanency.
Under the Hare method of voting the extinction of the minority ceases. Every elector may have a representative in Parliament; no elector need be compelled to console himself with the hope, often faint and illusory, that unfair losses in some constituencies will be compensated by unfair gains in others. But there is a second evil of the ordinary electoral system tending to discourage popular interest, which the Hare System removes. This evil was forcibly illustrated at an election recently held in Tasmania under the old system of voting. Two questions
creased interest in