Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Papal Election

Somehow the Atlantic got the idea of getting a historian to write up a piece.  They picked a good one, David Perry. I especially liked this:

1) Voting is medieval.
Voting is a quintessentially medieval activity. Sure, popular representations of the Middle Ages focus on kings and knights, princesses and peasants, but medieval people, especially in cities, loved to vote. They organized themselves into groups - guilds, religious fraternities, charitable organization, drinking societies - and wrote complicated bylaws governing elections. Many cities embraced various kinds of representative government during the High Middle Ages. Even the army outside the walls of Constantinople in 1204 took time to develop a voting system to elect the next emperor.
It's easy to characterize the Conclave of Cardinals as an authoritarian relic of the past. It's not. It's the same kind of democratic tradition that permeates modern American and European life, from board rooms to union halls to church groups to town councils.

1 comment:

  1. Medieval thought on elections was extremely sophisticated, at least in some circles. Ramon Lull's 13th Century work on electoral methods, the Ars eleccionis, clearly describes both the "Borda count" and the mathematical analysis later developed independently by Condorcet. He rejected the "first-past-the-post" system as insufficiently democratic. He was quite concerned with solving the "spoiler" problem which is still debated by modern electoral theorists. His mathematics was quite sophisticated, and elements of it resurface in Leibniz.