Ruptured Rhapsody

A different kind of "blog," consisting of selections from my scribblings over many years. The date of each post is the date I originally wrote that piece. So, the top post is usually not the latest post, because I continually add writings from different years to the blog. If you have visited here before, you are likely to find new posts anywhere on the page. I'll continue to add "new" posts as my time allows.

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Location: Toronto, Canada

12 March 1986

An equitable formula for voting power at the United Nations

The U.S. and other Western countries have long objected to the one-country-one-vote scheme at the U.N. They claim that because of their large contributions to the U.N., as well as their large populations, some kind of weighted voting system is desirable. So the first question is whether their argument makes sense, and, if so, whether their criteria are the ones that should be considered in setting up such a scheme. A preliminary argument is that although different countries have different populations and so on, they should have equal representation because, in being sovereign nations, they are equal. In other words, they all have the same interest in themselves and their own interests, as any other one has in itself and its interests; the argument is similar to one that can be made for equal rights for individuals. However, as countries are not exactly individuals, but rather made up of individuals, it seems to make sense that their voting power at an international organization should have something to do with their populations; otherwise, a small number of people, albeit in a large number of countries, may vote against the interests of a large number of people in a small number of countries. It also seems useful to have, as one criterion of weighting the votes, the amount of each country's continuation. This is because such a procedure creates a healthy competition among states to contribute more and more to the U.N., which should help its becoming a true world government. In other words, a balance is created between increased contributions and decreased international authority of individual nations; that is to say, a state may choose to give more in order to get a stronger voice on the international scene, but at the same time the increased contributions make international agencies more powerful, and hence reduce each nation's ability to imposit will on other nations. So far, then, the formula for calculating weighted votes is:

Votes = Population x Contribution

It seems fair, however, that the absolute amount of contribution should be balanced by introducing a factor for ability to pay. Per capita income is the first sich factor that comes to mind:

Votes = (Population x Contribution) / Per capital income

A simple per capita income figure, however, is not quite representative of ability to pay, because it may hide wide disparities in individual income in many countries. A fairer measure of ability to pay, then, may be that the per capita income of the poorer half of each country's population:

Votes = (Population x Contribution) / Per capita income of poorer half

This arrangement is not fair either, because the figure for "contribution" already has a component of "population."

Votes = Contribution / Per capita of half

Another factor that may be introduced is the cost of living in each country. This is to answer the objection that the same amount of money buys different quantities of goods in different countries. The figures used should, however , relate to the absolute minimum amount of money needed to subsist in each country, though some allowance may be made for local standards.

Votes = (Contribution x Cost of living) / Per capital income of poorer half

As in progressive taxation , where the rich supposedly pay a higher percentage of their income than the poor, a similar coefficient should be introduced in the above formula. The amount of this coefficient would depend on the ratio of

Per capita income of poorer half / Cost of living

so that the higher the ratio, the closer would the coefficient be to, say, 1.00. The final formula, then, is:

Votes = (Contribution x Cost of living) / (Coefficient x Per capita income of poorer half)

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