People think the electoral college failed in the 2016, so now they want to get rid of it. Correlation, is not the same thing as causation. What if it was something else that failed? If we saw a car crash, and the airbag failed to save someone’s life, would we argue to get rid of airbags? Just because a failsafe fails in one particular situation does not mean that the fail safe is not doing it’s job. Instead, I would argue that the problem is we need more than just the Electoral College as a fail safe. Here’s why…
In Jim Whitehurst gave a Ted Talk, Economics of The Information Revolution, he outlines three major epochs in the modern economy and which people were able to extract the most value. I will quickly summarize:
1. History of Humanity – 1800s – Land. Land mapped directly to power. The more land, the more food you had, the money you had, the more power you had, the more people you controlled. It was a direct mapping between land and power. The electoral college worked well because coincidentally, it also mapped to land. This meant that land holders balanced each other’s power out.
2. 1800s – 1980s – Manufacturing usrups land. Things changed with manufacturing because land became less important than machines. The machines that extracted food from the land became the most valuable assets. The more manufacturing you had, the more power you had. Selling tractors and cars, Henry Ford and friends indirectly extracted more value from the land in that short period of time than had ever been done before. The electoral college didn’t keep up nor help balance this shift in power. Instead, the unions eventually formed and things balanced out after a painful journey.
3. 1980s – Now – Information usurps manufacturing. With the age of information, the machines that extract food are now mostly a commodity, but the information on where food will grow, which food will grow best, how to prevent disease, and how to genetically modify the food is the most valuable asset. This information is wildly more valuable than the tractors. Owners of the information are the ones who extract the most value from the economy. The electoral college and unions can mitigate this power imbalance. Facebook, Twitter, Monsanto and others leading the information economy are extracting the most value, and essentially have nothing to balance that power.
The irony of this whole debate with is that the people with the “information” are the ones setting up this straw man against the Electoral College. We dont’ need to get rid of the Electoral College, we need the new thing that helps prevent HUGE imbalances of information. Some people are rambling on about it, including me, but none of us seem to have the answers. Hence, Zuckerburg (Facebook) is going to propose is “own” business friendly regulation to mitigate the threat of an Information College. He feels no guilt about this because he figures he’s as good/bad of a person as anyone and he might not be all that wrong.