- The Washington Times - Monday, March 8, 2010

Your editorial on the Democrats’ Puerto Rico statehood-voting fix (“Puerto Ricon run,” Feb. 26) perfectly describes one of the main elements of the voting paradox, which is featured in most economics, public-choice and public-budgeting textbooks, and whose logic was ably laid out over 1,900 years ago.

What this little mousetrap boils down to is that he who controls the agenda controls the outcome. The Roman Senate, for example, that city’s only reasonably continuous legislative body, achieved a remarkable degree of relative policy stability over time in part because its presiding officer (usually a consul) controlled the agenda. When a consul tried to pull the trick your editorial describes, opposing senators would often chant “divide, divide” (that is, break down the artificially bundled choices into separate votes and thus allow the plurality of voters to express their true weight on the issues). Maybe we still have some classicists in our Senate. Divide, divide!


Adjunct Professor, University of Maryland

Herndon, Va.

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