30 November 2023

Taylor Swift For VP In 2024

Taylor Swift will be 35 years old in January of 2025. She is just old enough to be the VP in President Biden's 2024 Presidential election campaign.

She would make the ticket more electable, would be great on the campaign trail, and honestly, if called upon to serve as President, would probably do a good job.

28 November 2023

Priests v. Same Sex Marriage

There is suggestive evidence that one in six Catholic priests in the U.S. is gay.
We study the effect of legalization of same-sex marriage on coming out in the United States. We overcome data limitations by inferring coming out decisions through a revealed preference mechanism. We exploit data on enrollment in seminary studies for the Catholic priesthood, hypothesizing that Catholic priests’ vow of celibacy may lead gay men to self-select as a way to avoid a heterosexual lifestyle. Using a differences-in-differences design that exploits variation in the timing of legalization across states, we find that city-level enrollment in priestly studies fell by about 15% exclusively in states adopting the reform. The celibacy norm appears to be driving our results, since we find no effect on enrollment in deacon or lay ministry studies that do not require celibacy. We also find that coming out decisions, as inferred through enrollment in priestly studies, are primarily affected by the presence of gay communities and by prevailing social attitudes toward gays. We explain our findings with a stylized model of lifestyle choice.
Avner Seror and Tohit Ticku, "Legalized Same-Sex Marriage and Coming Out in America: Evidence from Catholic Seminaries" ESI Working Paper 21-07 (2021).

26 November 2023

Stray Thoughts

* Firetrucks should have lead blankets to assist in dealing with radioactive materials.

* Humans are gradually becoming like Tolkien's elves, long lived, with few children, and high cultural development. Unlike many other technologies based upon physics which are nearing their theoretical limits, medical technology and biotech has immense potential without hitting any hard scientific barriers. We already know all of the physical laws pertinent to biology and chemistry more or less exactly We have proof of concept and possibility in various existing plants and animals. We have increasingly solid understandings of many diseases, of genetics, of biochemistry and anatomy, and of the aging process itself. We have the power to remake ourselves in almost any image we imagine. 

* We are fast approaching peak human population, and have the potential to gradually reduce the globe's population without coercion and in the process increase the amount of natural resources per capita while becoming more efficient so we need fewer natural resources per capita.

* Seattle has lots of roundabouts and narrow city streets. More intriguing is why it has so many independent small businesses. Its diversity and large share of immigrants come to mind. Its downtown architecture, on the other hand, is dismal. Liquor in grocery stores is nice. Its high level of environmental consciousness and traffic safety measures are probably good on balance, but inconvenient. It seems to be doing a decent job of infill development.

* Cultures of honor are outdated in the modern world, unless it backslides. Christianity with its doctrine of forgiveness was a way to end blood feuds and get past cultures of honor to a more adaptive society. But we may be backsliding, if civilization can't work well enough.

* Imagine how utopian the world could be without dogs and without guns.

22 November 2023

Late Bloomer College Graduates

Adult non-traditional college students, who have become much more common since the 1960s, reduce the racial and gender gaps in higher education. But late bloomer college students receive less of an economic return from their degrees than traditional age college students do.
It is generally agreed upon that most individuals who acquire a college degree do so in their early 20s. Despite this consensus, we show that in the US from the 1930 birth cohort onwards a large fraction – around 20% – of college graduates obtained their degree after age 30. We explore the implications of this phenomenon. 
First, we show that these so-called late bloomers have significantly contributed to the narrowing of gender and racial gaps in the college share, despite the general widening of the racial gap. 
Second, late bloomers are responsible for more than half of the increase in the aggregate college share from 1960 onwards. 
Finally, we show that the returns to having a college degree vary depending on the age at graduation. Ignoring the existence of late bloomers therefore leads to a significant underestimation of the returns to college education for those finishing college in their early 20s.
Zsófia L. Bárány, Moshe Buchinsky, and Pauline Corblet, "Late Bloomers: The Aggregate Implications of Getting Education Later in Life" NBER WORKING PAPER 31874 (November 2023) DOI 10.3386/w31874

19 November 2023

Quora On Trump Supporters

What do liberals not understand about Trump supporters?

What liberals may not understand is that Trump supporters do feel that he did something for them. He didn’t help them financially at all, in fact he hurt them with his idiotic policies. He didn’t provide any services for them; exactly the opposite - he cut funding for any service that would help them. He didn’t ‘solve’ immigration, because he had no clue how to deal with immigrants in any intelligent, useful way. He didn’t ‘represent’ them, because he is actually disgusted by them; they were and are only a tool, a means of getting votes from the gullible.

But what he did do was legitimize their racism, their hatred for brown immigrants, their hatred for and abject fear of anyone who didn’t look, sound, or act exactly like they did. He legitimized their evangelunacy, even though he has never read a bible in his life. He legitimized their hatred of progress by attempting to roll back each and every intelligent measure made by the previous government. He legitimized their hatred of women being equal to men. He legitimized their hatred of the LGBTQ. That’s all it took - legitimizing their hatred of change and of ‘other.’

Judicial Background And Standards Of Review

As judges, empirically, non-criminal law practitioners are less deferential to trial court decisions than criminal law practitioners, and judges with mixed backgrounds or backgrounds as non-practicing lawyers (e.g. law professors) are the most deferential to trial court decisions. 
Over the years much ink has been spilled defining, explaining, and critiquing standards of review. Countless lawyers, judges, and scholars have flyspecked distinctions among questions of law, fact, and discretion in an effort to derive a coherent theory explaining when and whether appellate judges should endeavor to correct trial court error. Most of these theories have been premised on the notion that standards of appellate review, although sometimes ill-defined, are applied based on consistent legal or rational standards. Our research, however, supports those scholars who posit that standards of review are often influenced by extraneous factors not anchored in a coherent legal conception of deference. 
We observe that across a broad spectrum of cases, different panels of jurists apply standards of review in a disparate manner, influenced by their personal backgrounds. Our research explores numerous aspects of personal background, including prior professional legal experience, length of time on the trial court, gender, and political affiliation. Among these categories, we discovered that only one exhibited a statistically significant impact on the selection and application of the standard of review: the type of prior professional legal experience of panelists. Specifically, we find that the criminal or civil practice background of jurists on a reviewing panel influences ultimate outcomes but also shapes the selection of the standard of review.  
Based on our findings, we hypothesize that the collective training and experience of a panel in civil or criminal law significantly shapes their analogic reasoning, i.e., their mental model. Consequently, this background factor exerts more influence than others in determining how and when jurists defer to the trial court.
Kira L. Klatchko & Quinn A. Keefer, "Judicial Backgrounds Influence the Standard of Review," 55 U. Pac. L. Rev. 1 (2023). 

The conclusion of the paper states: 
“Civil law only” background panels are most likely overall to apply the de novo standard of review, meaning they are least likely to afford deference to trial court decisions even where they would have the option to do so when considering “dynamic issues.” 
“Criminal law only” panels are least likely overall to review for abuse of discretion, and in reviewing criminal cases are most likely to review for substantial evidence.  
“Other background” panels are, overall, most likely to review for abuse of discretion and least likely to review issues de novo; they are also least likely of all panels to reverse issues.

Footnote 71 of the paper defines these categories:

We define “criminal law only” background to mean that while in law practice, and before taking the bench, a justice practiced criminal law only and did not report any experience practicing any form of civil law. 
We define “civil law only” background to mean that while in law practice, and before taking the bench, a justice practiced civil law only and did not report any experience practicing criminal law. Civil law, for this purpose, includes all non-criminal law, including but not limited to general civil law, probate, family, and transactional law. 
We define “other background” such that it includes a mixture of both civil and criminal law practice experience and also nontraditional practice experience that cannot be fairly classified as either civil or criminal law, e.g., law professor. 
A panel classified as having a “majority” of “criminal law only” panelists will consist of at least two members who have a criminal law only background. A panel classified as having a “majority” of “civil law only” panelists will consist of at least two members who have a civil law only background.

17 November 2023

Corporate Fraud Is Common

White collar crime is a huge problem. It is more than seven times as big of a problem, for example, than all shoplifting in the country combined.
We provide a lower-bound estimate of the undetected share of corporate fraud. To identify the hidden part of the “iceberg,” we exploit Arthur Andersen’s demise, which triggered added scrutiny on Arthur Andersen’s former clients and thereby increased the detection likelihood of preexisting frauds. 
Our evidence suggests that in normal times only one-third of corporate frauds are detected. We estimate that on average 10% of large publicly traded firms are committing securities fraud every year, with a 95% confidence interval of 7%-14%. Combining fraud pervasiveness with existing estimates of the costs of detected and undetected fraud, we estimate that corporate fraud destroys 1.6% of equity value each year, equal to $830 billion in 2021.
Dyck, I.J. Alexander and Morse, Adair and Zingales, Luigi, "How Pervasive is Corporate Fraud?" George J. Stigler Center for the Study of the Economy & the State Working Paper No. 327 (January 2023) (Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4590097 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4590097).

15 November 2023

Colonizing Space Still Doesn't Make Economic Sense


This picture isn't real. It's an AI imagined future cruise-ship/floating city.

But, the possibility that this picture depicts is vastly more technologically viable and affordable than housing the same people in orbit, or on the Moon, let alone a more distant planet or moon.

Until the oceans (on the surface and beneath them), the Sahara, the Australian outback, Siberia, Arctic Canada, the American Great Basin, Tibet, and other thinly inhabited places on Earth's surface, are teaming with people, all of which can be done more affordably and with far less ambitious technology than housing the same people in orbit, or on the Moon, colonizing space doesn't make economic sense.

14 November 2023

Cigarette Sales Down Dramatically Over Last 41 Years

The U.S. has done lots of things poorly from a public health perspective, but is a world leader when it comes to reducing rates of tobacco use. 

Also, note that the chart below isn't adjusted for a rising population, which grew 45% in the time period shown. Per capita, cigarette sales are down 81.2% in this 41 year time period.

The average American smokes about 520 cigarettes per year, although, of course, really, a modest percentage smoke far more cigarettes per year, and most people smoke none. According to the Center for Disease Control:
In 2021, an estimated 11.5% (28.3 million) of U.S. adults currently smoked cigarettes.

The average adult cigarette smoker in the U.S. smokes about 6,131 cigarettes a year (about 17 cigarettes a day, a little less than a full pack of 20 cigarettes each day). So, the typical American cigarette smoker is a pack a day smoker. In Colorado, a pack of cigarettes costs $7.99 on average. 

The World Health Organization estimates, considering all kinds of tobacco use, are much higher for the U.S. than CDC figures for adult cigarette smokers (possibly due to a less restrictive definition of who counts as a smoker), but are probably still useful for international comparisons. By that ranking, the U.S. has the 54th highest smoking rate out of 148 countries. Many countries with the lowest smoking rates have low smoking rates because they are too poor to afford tobacco.

At any rate, this doesn't discount the big improvements that the U.S. made made over the last four decades, in an approach that has treated tobacco smoking as a public health problem, rather than as a criminal justice matter.

Some improvements among men who smoke (and men are still more likely to smoke than women in the U.S. by any measure) have been offset in this time period by increased numbers of women smoking (or at least, by a slower rate of improvement among women).

Places My Family and I Have Been Abroad

I'm making this list because going someplace makes it feel real.

In North America, I have been to Mexico three times (all with my wife), and to Canada innumerable times (at least a dozen). I've made three trips to Europe: One in high school with my family to the United Kingdom (England and Scotland), France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and West Germany, one with my wife to a united Germany and Greece but mostly to Greece for my 25th Anniversary, and one with my wife, son, and daughter to the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom (England and Wales) when my son finished a semester as a foreign exchange student there. I've also been to both New Zealand and Australia, in what is best viewed as a single extended trip.

My wife has also been to South Korea, Spain, the Cayman Islands, and has made more trips to Mexico than I have as well as far more trips to Canada than I have.

My daughter has also been to Mexico multiple times, to Costa Rica, to the Cayman Islands, and to Portugal.

My son has been to Mexico multiple times, to the Czech Republic, to the Republic of Ireland, to the United Kingdom (Northern Ireland, Wales and England), to France, to Italy, to Switzerland, to Spain, to Turkey (twice), and possibly to other destinations in Europe that I'm not sure about (maybe Portugal and Germany, for example).

My brother was part of the high school trip with my family to the United Kingdom (England and Scotland), France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and West Germany. He has also been to Russia (twice) and to Finland, and possibly to other countries that I can't recall. He has also been to Canada.

11 November 2023


Many groups and causes are given perks and preferences, some governmental, and some in business practices. Many don't deserve them.

1. Senior citizens are often targeted for tax breaks and other perks on the theory that they are poor. But, they are the most most affluent age demographic with the lowest poverty rate. They have Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid nursing home assistance for those who are not upper middle class or more affluent They don't need more.

2. Legacies in college admissions. Our nation was founded on the idea of stamping out hereditary privilege.

3. People who inherit wealth. People who did nothing to earn it shouldn't get tax breaks. Also, our nation was founded on the idea of stamping out hereditary privilege.

4. Clergy.

5. Religion and the religious people.

6. Veterans who were not disabled in their service. They voluntarily made a choice in exchange for promised benefits. We should keep our promises to them. But we don't owe them more than that.

7. Small businesses. Big business should not be placed at a disadvantage vis-a-vis small business. There is nothing virtuous about being a small business and generally small businesses are small because they are not as good as what they do as big businesses, otherwise they would quickly become big businesses.

8. Farmers. Most farmers are wildly inefficient and continue to farm only because the activity is subsidized.

9. Local businesses and farmers and products. Our prosperity and lifestyle is founded upon long distance commerce, not upon buying local or making your own food or goods.

10. Domestic businesses and domestic products. Our prosperity and lifestyle is founded upon international trade.

11. Law enforcement.

12. People claiming to be aggrieved solely because their property values are harmed by something.

The 2024 Election Considered

The U.S., stunningly in what seems like such an obvious choice, is closely divided at the national level between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, and this trend seems sure to continue in every component of the 2024 election.

The 2024 U.S. Senate Race

The U.S. Senator Joe Manchin II (D-WV) isn't running for re-election. This race is almost sure to be won in 2024 by a Republican. As the New York Times article below notes, "only Wyoming delivered a wider Republican margin in the 2020 presidential race" than West Virginia.

Democrats need to hold every Senate seat they have and win the Presidential election, or gain on Senate seat, to maintain their U.S. Senate majority. This means winning an open race in Arizona (where Senator Sinema who left the Democratic party while still caucusing with it, is polling in third-place but could give a GOP challenger an edge), re-electing incumbent Democrats in the Red States of Montana and Ohio, and holding onto Democratic seats in the purple states of Michigan (an open seat), Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Nevada. Democrats best shots to pick up new seats against Republican incumbents long shots - Florida and Texas. 
The path to holding power was always going to be rocky for the Democrats’ current 51-seat majority, with or without Mr. Manchin.

Two incumbents are running for re-election in red states, Montana and Ohio. A third senator, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who was elected as a Democrat but has since switched her party affiliation to independent, has yet to declare her plans — leaving open the prospect of an unusually competitive three-way race. And the party must also defend four Senate seats in four of the most contested presidential battlegrounds: Wisconsin, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Michigan. . . . 

Democrats must win every race they are defending — and depend on President Biden to win the White House — in order to maintain a majority. In a 50-50 Senate, the vice president casts the tiebreaking vote. . . . 

The bad news for Senate Democrats is that they are on defense in each of the seven seats that both parties view as most competitive this year. The good news is that in five of those seven, the party has incumbents running for re-election, which has historically been a huge advantage.

At least 83 percent of Senate incumbents have won re-election in 18 of the past 21 election cycles, according to OpenSecrets, a nonpartisan group that tracks money in politics. Last year, 100 percent of Senate incumbents were re-elected. . . . 

The Democratic incumbents in Montana and Ohio . . . are seeking re-election in states former President Donald J. Trump easily won twice. Both Senator Jon Tester of Montana and Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio have exceeded expectations before, but never with such an unpopular presidential candidate at the top of the ticket. And unlike most incumbents, whose victories tend to become easier over time, Mr. Tester has always had close races. Mr. Brown’s margins have narrowed. . . . Democrats maintain that the personal brands of both Mr. Brown and Mr. Tester matter more in their states than national political winds. . . . 

The most interesting of the second-tier races may be in Arizona, where the state may have a competitive three-way race — a rarity in American politics. The wild-card is Ms. Sinema. If she runs for a second term, she will most likely face Representative Ruben Gallego, a well-liked progressive Democrat who has already spent $6.2 million on the race this year, and Kari Lake, the firebrand conservative Republican and one of her party’s best-known election deniers who is favored in her party’s primary. . . . 

There is no top-flight Republican challenging Senator Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin, but the party has been pushing for Eric Hovde, a businessman who ran for Senate in 2012. 
In Pennsylvania, Republicans have cleared a path for David McCormick with the aim of avoiding a bruising primary and strengthening their bid against Senator Bob Casey, who is seeking a fourth six-year term. . . . 
In Michigan — the only competitive Senate race without an incumbent — Democrats so far have mostly aligned behind Representative Elissa Slotkin, a former C.I.A. analyst who represents a divided district. Mr. Daines recruited former Representative Mike Rogers, who was chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. But James Craig, a former Detroit police chief, and former Representative Peter Meijer, who lost his seat after voting to impeach Mr. Trump, have also entered the Republican race.

The Republican establishment pick in Nevada is Sam Brown, a retired Army captain who lost a Senate primary last year. But he’s facing a primary against Jim Marchant, a Trump loyalist and election denier who lost a race for secretary of state last year. The winner would take on Senator Jacky Rosen, a Democrat who is seeking her second term. . . . 

In Florida, Senator Rick Scott, the state’s former governor, is seeking a second term. He’s never won an election by more than 1.2 percentage points, and he’s also never run in a presidential election year — when Democrats typically fare better in Florida. But the state lurched to the right last year when Republicans won five statewide races on the ballot by an average of 18.9 percentage points. The leading Democratic challenger in the Florida Senate race this year is former Representative Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who was unseated from her Miami-based seat after one term.

In Texas, Senator Ted Cruz has been a constant target for Democrats — and survived each time. This year, his top challenger appears to be Representative Colin Allred, a Dallas-area Democrat who defeated an incumbent Republican in 2018.
From the New York Times by Michael C. Bender and Shane Goldmacher (A version of this article appears in print on Nov. 11, 2023, Section A, Page 1 of the New York edition with the headline: Democrats See Narrower Path To Keep Senate.).

The 2024 Presidential Race

While Biden undeniably won the 2020 Presidential election, his win was no landslide victory and carried no coattails in down ticket races. Now, he is running for re-election, more or less unopposed in his efforts to secure the Democratic Party nomination. 

In the Presidential election race, the same small handful of swing states that tipped the balance in 2016 and 2020 are likely to be decisive again in 2024.

President Biden is polling very poorly in his re-election run despite strong economic conditions, but polling also suggests that this will change decisively in former President Trump is convicted in any of the four felony prosecutions that he is currently facing (assuming that he can make it onto the ballot at all in the face of a Section 3 of the 14th Amendment challenge to his eligibility to run at all). Also, favorable opinions of the incumbent President are a lagging indicator of positive economic news, so eventually, over the next year, Biden's popularity could improve before the 2024 election.

If Trump is not the Republican nominee, however, for any reason other than his death from natural causes, many Republicans might not vote at all in 2024, potentially swinging many otherwise close races for both the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate in favor of Democrats.

And, of course, both Trump and Biden are old men. Trump isn't very healthy. Biden is starting to shown the signs of age. Either man could easily die or suffer a health setback making a Presidential bid to strenuous to continue in the next year, and creating massive uncertainty over who would be their party's nominee in that situation. There are several serious back up contenders for the GOP nomination in addition to Trump who is the clear front runner despite all of his legal woes. There are no clear alternatives to Biden as the Democratic nominee at this point.

The 2024 U.S. House Race

Democrats also don't need long coattails to retake control of the U.S. House. Flipping half of dozen seats would be sufficient. The seat of Republican George Santos in New York will almost surely flip to the Democrats. And, while the Democrats haven't won every redistricting map challenge that they have brought, they have won enough times to pick up at least one or two more House seats with redrawn Congressional district maps. Newly divorced Republican Lauren "Invade Canada" Boebert, who just barely managed to win re-election in 2022 by a few hundred votes, will struggle again in 2024 to be re-elected in Colorado's comfortably Republican leaning Third Congressional District, because of her deplorable personal conduct and outrageous statements made while in office. These aren't the only seats that could be picked up by Democrats in 2024 either. Democrats lost many close races in 2022. A seat likely to be lost by a Democratic Congressman from New Jersey who is probably taking bribes, in contrast, is unlikely to be picked up by Republicans.

Conventional wisdom about the lessons of the 2023 elections is that Republican anti-abortion positions hurt them now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned by Dobbs, and will continue to do so in 2024. 

Polling has shown that the U.S. Supreme Court, under the weight of controversial hard core conservative rulings on sensitive issues like abortion and gun control, and corruption scandals limited to their conservative members, is at a record low in unpopularity and public confidence, and voters may have that in mind as well when they go to vote in 2024.

Slowly but surely, conservative voters are dying, young liberal voters are joining the electorate, and the electorate is getting less white and less Christian. Fox News and social media, which were critical in driving far right Republican support in most other recent election cycles have become less influential. And, generally speaking, Democrats do better in Presidential election years when there is more voter turnout.

All of these general considerations are particularly important in U.S. House races, that tend not to be driven by high profile personalities to the same extent as U.S. Senate races and Presidential races.

10 November 2023

Election Rules And Gridlock In American Politics

This post restates an answer I made at Politics.SE where I am a moderator and participant, with only one minor modification to remove a reference to another answer at the site, adding a link, adding some discussion of the situation in Alaska, making minimal formatting modifications, and quoting a comment to the answer. I quote the question I am answering piecemeal during the answer.

In the course of answering this question, I was surprised to learn just how undivided and not gridlocked the state political process in the United States has become, in stark contrast to the federal political process in the United States.

A false premise
What kind of amendment clause can encourage many parties to represent the voters in the way originally intended by the founding fathers?
The Founding Fathers intended the constitution to result in a no party system within many disorganized majority and minority factions (see, e.g. The Federalist Papers, especially Federalist No. 10 written by James Madison), not a multi-party democracy. They predicted wrong, in part, because the world known to them had very little experience with national level democracies in early 1789 when the U.S. Constitution was drafted.

In particular, they were unaware that political parties arise spontaneously, more or less automatically, whether formally recognized or not by the electoral system, in any governmental system with a group of multiple legislators, even when legislators are appointed, rather than elected. But political parties profoundly change the dynamics of the legislative and electoral process in ways that they didn't anticipate.

Also, to slightly nitpick the title question:
What kind of amendment can oblige multiple political parties, to fix the unintended two-party malfunction of the constitution?
You can't oblige people to form multiple political parties. Some electoral systems favor the creation of multiple political parties, but this only happens if someone decides that it a worthwhile thing to do and creates and runs them. Often at the outset of a new political system, the people who caused the system to come into being are so united from that struggle that multiple political parties aren't established right away.

Securing a multi-party system through electoral reforms

But securing a multi-party political system, which is the international norm for democratic countries, rather than a two party system, in the United States wouldn't be that hard to achieve in terms of the formal constitutional process to do so. It wouldn't even require a constitutional amendment. Politically, however, there would be big barriers to achieving this goal.

Duverger's Law, a law in the social sciences sense, says that first-past-the-post election systems tend to cause dual party systems (there is an exception to this law for geographically segregated political movements, such as nationalist parties for a region like the nationalist parties in Quebec and Scotland). So, all one needs to do in order to end a two party system is to change the election law system. This doesn't require a constitutional amendment.

Reforms possible with a change to federal law without a constitutional amendment

The U.S. Constitution does not direct that members of Congress be elected from single member district plurality election system. This system exists in the U.S. because it is mandated by 2 U.S. Code § 2c, which currently mandates single member districts for U.S. Congressional elections in states with more than one representative in the House.

Historically, before 2 U.S.C. § § 2c was adopted in 1967, multi-member Congressional districts were common in U.S. states, although not by a proportionate representation system. The reason for this reform in 1967 is that the majority in a multi-member district would elect all members of Congress from that multi-member district from the party with a majority in that multi-member district and this approach was used to suppress the black vote in the South, and this legislation reinforced the mandate of the Voting Rights Act of 1964 to prevent the suppression of the black vote in the South.
This statute states, in its entirety, that:
In each State entitled in the Ninety-first Congress or in any subsequent Congress thereafter to more than one Representative under an apportionment made pursuant to the provisions of section 2a(a) of this title, there shall be established by law a number of districts equal to the number of Representatives to which such State is so entitled, and Representatives shall be elected only from districts so established, no district to elect more than one Representative (except that a State which is entitled to more than one Representative and which has in all previous elections elected its Representatives at Large may elect its Representatives at Large to the Ninety-first Congress).

Even with this statutory limitation, some U.S. states (e.g., Maine and Alaska) already elected members of Congress by ranked choice voting. Several other states require a majority vote to elect a member of Congress with a runoff election held if no candidate receives a majority of the vote in the first round (e.g. Louisiana), which like an instant runoff voting system eliminates the spoiler effects associated with third-party candidacies.

There is no reason that you can't have proportional representation in a country with a strong Presidential government like the U.S. with its current constitution. This is what is done in almost every other country with a strong President system countries (e.g. Turkey and Russia).

A conversion to a proportionate representation method of selecting members of Congress in states with more than one member of Congress could be accomplished without a constitutional amendment simply by repealing 2 U.S.C. § 2c and replacing it would a statute that mandated either rank choice voting or majority required to win with a runoff voting in states with a single member of Congress, and mandating proportional representation with a party list system of some kind in states with more than one member of Congress. This would also, simultaneously, end the problem of gerrymandering.

A statute, needless to say, is much easier to enact than a constitutional amendment which requires a two-thirds majority of both houses of Congress (or identical proposals from two-thirds of the U.S. state legislatures, or by constitutional conventions in two-thirds of U.S. states) to propose, and ratification by three-quarters of U.S. states to approve.

The relevant statute would require a majority of the U.S. House, a majority of the U.S. Senate (after overcoming a 60% of the U.S. Senate filibuster or using the nuclear option to abolish the filibuster in this situation with a majority of the U.S. Senate) and the signature of the President (or an override of a Presidential veto by two-thirds of the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate), with no state legislative action before the law in enacted.

The main barrier to this kind of change (which would be even greater to enact a U.S. Constitutional Amendment) is that at least naively, it is not in the interest of either of the two major political parties that control all but a handful of seats in Congress to create a multi-party system that would reduce their control of the process. But reforms of the electoral process contrary to the seeming narrow interests of those currently in office aren't unprecedented, usually because the political party backing the changes sees partisan gain from doing so, even though it technically makes their current voters less powerful.

For example, if the Democrats had a thin majority in both houses of Congress and held the Presidency, and abolished the filibuster in the U.S. Senate with the nuclear option, they might decide that proportional representation was the lesser of two evils to end the disadvantages that they face due to gerrymandering at the state level, and this might cause them to enact a statutory reform like this one.

On the other hand, if Congress simply repealed 2 U.S.C. § 2c, the laboratory of democracy in the states could reopen and some U.S. states with more than one member of Congress, perhaps by citizen's initiative following the model of Maine and Alaska adopting ranked choice voting, could adopt proportional representation, and if this system was popular, other states might follow suit and this could become the national norm, or provoke a national level re-enactment of 2 U.S.C. § 2c that mandated proportional representation.

Proportional representation at a national level, rather than state by state, would require a constitutional amendment. But since the practical difference between a state by state proportional representation system and a national one would be slight (basically just a rounding error scale effect), and because this would also require amendment to the Presidential election contingent election system at the same time, it probably wouldn't be worth the additional effort to attempt to achieve one.

Furthermore, you don't want to have too many seats at state in any proportional representation system because then it becomes possible to elect fringe candidates backed by just a tiny percentage of the vote (less than 0.25% in a single national proportional representation system) which if the majority coalition is thin, gives outsized power to fringe groups. This has historically been a problem in Weimar Germany which dealt with it by adopting a 5% threshold to get any seats post-WWII, in Italy where unstable coalitions of centrists designed to keep the extreme left and the extreme right out of power led to a very fragile democracy after WWII until recently, and in Israel. In contrast, only a handful of states have enough seats to allow a party with less than 5% support in the voting public to gain a legislative seat because they have 20 or fewer members of Congress.

Reforms possible without federal statutory reform or constitutional amendments

Short of this kind of statutory amendment, it would be possible to enact more limited reforms that don't so strongly lead to a two party system without amending 2 U.S.C. § 2c, either a state by state level (possibly with reforms enacted via citizen's initiative to overcome the biases of legislators elected in a two party system in many states where this is possible), or by enacting an additional law mandating certain reforms for the conduct of U.S. House elections from single member districts in addition to 2 U.S.C. § 2c.

Any single member district system inherently distorts the results in a state with more than one member of Congress relative to proportional representation except in the most idealized distribution of voters. But one can (and a number of states, such as Colorado and Ohio have) imposed standards implemented on a non-partisan basis for how Congressional districts are drawn that reduce the impact of partisan gerrymandering relative to the worst case scenario. This doesn't weaken the two party system, however.

But if you mandate, either nationally or in a single state at a time, that states used ranked choice voting, or require the winner to have a majority of the vote to win (with runoff elections if necessary) or have a California style "jungle primary" with the top two finishers in the primary facing off in the final round vote, you can eliminate the spoiler effect of first past the post voting systems.

In a first past the post voting system, a vote for a third-party or independent candidate always helps the candidate from the political party least similar to the third-party or independent candidate that you vote for.

This inherent bias against third-party candidates in first-past-the-post voting systems prevents viable third-party candidates from emerging. But if you have a system that eliminates the spoiler effect, voters are free to support a third-party or independent candidate in a first choice or first round vote, without worrying about helping their least favorite candidate. And, free to do so, third-party candidates would receive more support and stronger candidates would be more comfortable running on third-party tickets, and gradually, a multi-party system would emerge, although probably not one with as many viable political parties as a pure proportional representation system, because any candidate elected would have to receive at least second choice support from a majority of voters in a single Congressional district. Still, it might make three or four political parties, rather than just two, viable and would allow more unaffiliated candidates to be elected.

Any of these systems (but especially "jungle primary" systems) also inherently favor more moderate candidates relative to a system in which each of two major political parties holds a primary election and those two candidates then compete in a general election (which is the status quo in most, but not all, U.S. states). Partisan primaries favor farther left of center candidates in Democratic primaries and farther right of center candidates in Republican primaries, and in the process make it harder for moderate or centerist candidates to make it to the general election.

First-past-the-post elections with closed political primaries in many states are among the multiple reasons that Congress currently has fewer moderates and a larger partisan divide between the two political parties than at any other time in U.S. history since the eve of the U.S. Civil War. This is trend that is likely to continue to become more extreme with West Virginia's U.S. Senator Manchin, the most politically moderate U.S. Senator right now, announcing that he will not seek re-election, and independent U.S. Senator Kyrsten Sinema, from Arizona, who was elected as a Democrat and left the Democratic party in December of 2022 (who is the second modest politically moderate U.S. Senator U.S. right now) is unlikely to be re-elected in 2024.

In 2024, the most moderate U.S. Senator who caucuses with the Democrats will probably be the independent U.S. Senator from Maine Angus King, and the most moderate U.S. Senator on the Republican side will probably be U.S. Senator from Maine Susan Collins, since there are no strong candidates campaigning for U.S. Senate seats in the 2024 election right now who are more politically moderate than either of Maine's Senators, and they are quite far apart. In contrast, for much of recent U.S. history, there has been some overlap in political ideology at the moderate end between the Democratic party and the Republican party in the U.S. Senate and in the U.S. House.

On the other hand, these election laws clearly aren't the only reason for the currently highly divided partisan breakdown in Congress. More states have reformed their election laws incrementally to reduce the tendency of those laws to elect less moderate candidates than had done so a couple of decades ago, but Congress has nonetheless grown more divided on partisan grounds. These institutions have only led to the current status quo with the help of additional factors not so directly related to U.S. election laws (most notably the fact that "realignment" of the two main U.S. political parties has run its course as described below).

Reducing partisan voting with legislative rule reforms

It would also be possible to reform legislative rules in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate respectively, in ways that would reduce the pressure on federal legislators to vote with their political party, weakening party discipline and the hold of the majority party on each house of Congress.

Unlike a parliamentary system, in the strong President system of the United States, you don't structurally need stable partisan majorities in either house of Congress to have a stable, functioning government. As long as there are majorities to pass the necessary appropriations bills every year to keep the government running, and to approve enough Presidential nominees to executive branch and judicial positions to keep the government running, you don't need bills that are passed to have the same partisan majority backing them for every bill.

The U.S. already has relatively weak party discipline compared to parliamentary systems, but it could be weakened further.

We know this from experience.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the United States political party system was in the middle of a transition of the policy positions of the two major political parties (called "party realignment"), which basically traded ideological positions on most issues in a process that began with Presidential candidate Goldwater's "Southern Strategy" for the Republican Party in the 1960s.

This produced a de facto three party system of Northern Democrats (who are similar to today's Democratic party), Republicans (who are similar to today's Republican party), and Southern Democrats, who were conservative on issues of national defense, foreign policy, and social issues, but liberal on economic issues. So, the working majority in Congress on economic issues was made up of Democrats, and the working majority in Congress on national defense, foreign policy, and social issues was made up of Southern Democrats and Republicans. But this lack of a consistent one party majority of every policy subject matter didn't seriously interfere with the operations of the government.

This de facto three party system eventually ended as the two major political parties completed their realignment into one fully liberal Democratic party and one fully conservative Republican party. But if electoral reforms produced a new groundswell of mode moderate legislators in Congress, this could resurface.

To make this work, however, partisanship in the procedural rules of each house of Congress would have to change.

In the U.S. House, the main reforms that would be necessary would be (1) to remove the control of the partisan leadership over the committee assignment system (e.g. by seating members on the committees of their choice by seniority with a proportional partisan balance in each house), and (2) to remove the authority of the House Rules committee to decide on a partisan basis what legislation is taken up on the floor once bills clear committees, for example, by granting every bill that clears a committee a right to a floor vote with significant right to make amendments, in the order adopted, without a supermajority vote to consider urgent legislation out of order. The allocation of U.S. House resources, like office space, would also have to be vested in some non-partisan decision-maker.

In the U.S. Senate, partisan control is already weaker, but rules that strongly empower the minority acting in a partisan fashion, like Senatorial holds and the filibuster would have to be repealed.

Is the system actually not working as intended?
The founding fathers did not foresee that the constitution would foster a two-party political system that is radical, inflexible and deadlocked. There is probably little political will to reform it for many reasons, at the cost of prosperity, security, efficiency and peace.

The U.S. federal government is undoubtedly very prone to deadlock. A majority of representatives in the U.S. House, a large minority of U.S. Senators, the President, or the courts applying constitutional rules that invalidate federal laws, each have de facto veto power over new legislation. And, the power of the two major political parties in the U.S. is equally balanced.

One of the other well known political science laws is that in a two party system (or generalizing it, to a two coalition of parties system), where the parties (or coalitions) are ideologically coherent are prone to continually attempt to tweak the composition of their pre-election coalitions by changing their policies or political tactics, in a way that tends to bring them close to a 50-50 balance of power in the governmental institutions that they most strongly wish to control (the federal government in the U.S. case).

The U.S. federal level political system has been quite evenly balanced between the two major political parties for most of the period since the 1980s (more than four decades) with only brief periods when a single party had "trifecta" control of both houses of Congress and the Presidency, and courts that have been disinclined to thwart their agenda.

In contrast, during the Great Depression and into World War II, the federal government was a dominant party system united under FDR's Democratic Party, and the initially combative Lochner era U.S. Supreme Court eventually backed down when faced with court packing legislation that was likely to pass.

Also, the most recent Congressional elections in 2022 produced outcomes in terms of legislative seats held in the U.S. House that quite closely tracked the overall popular vote for each political party nationwide, with factors that favored Republicans in some places balanced by factors that favored Democrats in other, ultimately balancing out for the nation as a whole. And, the increased partisanship and ideological distance between the political parties seen in Congress mirrors increased partisanship and ideological distance between the political parties in the electorate itself.

Legislation that has bipartisan support (e.g. aid to Israel in the wake of recent events there) can still get passed. But it has been the exception rather than the norm pretty much since the 1980s (before which there was a short period when the Democratic party was dominant at the federal level) that a single party without bipartisan support can pass federal legislation leading to major policy changes. These windows of opportunity have appeared now and then and been utilized by the parties having them. But these windows of opportunity have generally been short-lived and resulted in only moderate and somewhat incremental, rather than decisive and bold reforms.

Arguably, a system that produces gridlock and little federal legislative activity in time periods when the nation is deeply and fairly evenly divided on most political issues, is exactly what the Founders intended when they created a federal political system. When the nation is united, major new national political policies can be enacted, but when the nation is divided, real major policy innovations become much easier to achieve at the state and local level than they are to achieve at the federal level.

The two party system doesn't necessarily have a lot to do with that. Ultimately, exercising political power to change the status quo is about securing legislative majorities to take action, which requires majority support from legislators as measured by the standards of the political system to pass legislation.

In a two party political system, one assembles coalitions that the organizers of the respective political parties hope will be sufficient to secure the majorities necessary to pass legislation before the election into two pre-negotiated coalitions.

In a multi-party political system, coalitions that their member political parties hope will be sufficient to secure the majorities necessary to pass legislation are negotiated after the election.

Lots of countries, especially non-federal "unitary" political systems, make it easier to secure a legislative majority than the U.S. does. But, it isn't manifestly obvious that the task of organizing a multi-party coalition (probably balanced close to 50-50 anyway) with sufficient backing to pass legislation after Congressional elections are held would have an easier time passing legislation than the task of building one of the two major party coalitions before the election to achieve this goal in the status quo.

Also, countries with these unitary systems where the majority threshold needed to pass legislation is lower are often more politically homogeneous than the United States is politically. This lack of political consensus at a national level was a fact that was apparent even back in the time when the Founders set up the current U.S. Constitution, and it shaped how the U.S. Constitution was written.

Federal level political gridlock is ugly and frustrating.

But political gridlock is not the norm in most U.S. states, despite the fact that they also have two party political systems, mostly because most U.S. states aren't so evenly politically divided and secondarily because most U.S. states have fewer barriers to legislating (like the minority veto powers created by U.S. Senate rules and unequal populations for U.S. Senate electoral districts, i.e. U.S. states).

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Republicans secured a trifecta in Louisiana after the 2023 general election. Democrats gained control of both houses of the Virginia state legislature in the same election, although Virginia's Governor is still a Republican.

In the wake of the 2023 general election in the U.S., for example, there were 22 Republican trifectas (plus Nebraska where Republicans elected on a non-partisan basis to the unicameral legislature controlled it and the Governor was a Republican), 17 Democratic trifectas (plus the Democratic party controlled District of Columbia), and 10 divided governments where neither major political party had trifecta control. As a result of the 2023 elections, there are fewer divided governments across the United States than at any other point from 1992 to 2022.

In all of those ten states, except Pennsylvania and Alaska, both houses of the state legislature is controlled by the same political party. In theses eight states, one major political party controls the legislature and the other major political party holds the Governorship (with a Governor who is almost invariably a moderate within his or her own political party and who usually holds a line item veto that brings more give and take to partisan budget negotiations). 

Alaska's state legislative houses both have split party control after adopting ranked choice voting, with the state house also having a significant number of members who aren't members of the two major parties. This has produced a political culture which is "moderate and consensus based." A majority of the legislators in both houses of Alaska's state legislature are Republicans (as is Alaska's Governor), but each house has chosen instead to organize itself on a bipartisan basis.

Pennsylvania is the only U.S. state where the legislative process is even close to being as vulnerable to being gridlocked as the federal legislative process. It has a Governor who is a Democrat, Democrats control the state house by one seat out of more than two hundred, and Republicans control the state senate.

Also, legislative process gridlock on particular key issues can be overcome with citizen's initiatives in many U.S. states, an option that is not available at the federal level in the United States.

Federal government political gridlock has not been accompanied by corresponding state level political gridlock in the U.S.

Divided control and gridlock is the exception rather than the norm at the state level in the United States, and there are no states with legislatures elected from districts with unequal populations nor are there any states that give legislative minorities the privileges the receive in the U.S. Senate. So, getting clear majorities to pass legislation is easier at the state level than at the federal level in all but a modest minority of U.S. states.

Given the currently deeply divided state of political preferences in the U.S. at the national level, that has a strong regional geographic character, a system where state level policy reforms are much easier to achieve than federal level policy reforms where gridlock prevails, is arguably a feature and not a bug, of just the kind that the Founders intended.

One Comment

There were a number of comments to this answer, but one in particular deserves to be mentioned as it adds an important factual observation:
"not in the interest of either of the two major political parties" In the simplest case where no new parties get founded and actual voters' votes remain the same, PR would have denied the Republicans a majority in the House in 1996, 1998, 2000, 2004, 2012, and 2016; but there has been no case since the present system was introduced when the Dems won a majority under the present system but would have been denied it under PR. Hence, PR could be argued to be in the Dems' interest. – Daniel Hatton