Adam Langley dips his toe in the waters of political punditry, and (to stretch a metaphor) turns out to be all wet.

proportional representation means that no one is responsible for you. At the moment, you can type your postcode into TheyWorkForYou and find out your your MP is. Your very own MP and there’s no discussion about who is responsible for listening to your concerns.

Party lists mean that many people are responsible for you, and that means that no one is. And they have to vote with the government because their job depends on it. MPs in this situation become so useless they could just as well give the parties a block vote and be done with it.

What Adam seems to be considering is only a pure party-list system, in which there is no geographic representation at all, but that’s not the only kind. In fact, under either an Additional Member System or Mixed Member System (from the copy of the Voting Systems FAQ that I’ve been hosting for two years), the exact balance between geographically-elected and “at large” candidates can be set anywhere from one extreme to the other just by adjusting the number of representatives selected each way. If the “my local representative works for me” dynamic is weaker under such a system, it’s by design.

That brings me to a more general kind of question about arguments like Adam’s. Why is geographic representation considered so important anyway? Does it really matter more that I live in Massachusetts vs. Texas, for example, than what I believe with regard to separation of church and state or the merits of free markets vs. socialism? Even in a truly federal system where most law is made by the states, why should geographic interests be placed above others in federal lawmaking? I would say it shouldn’t, and that it ever did was more a matter of tradition and convenience than anything else. In today’s world where people move quickly and information even more so, I don’t think it makes much sense. For every person who might have nobody in their district to represent them in a party-list system, there are ten who might have nobody of their ideology to represent them in today’s. Which is the greater injustice? If I had my way I’d have the US Senate elected according to a strict party-list system, then throw them and the House (still elected geographically) together to eliminate the vast duplication of effort and tendency toward gridlock in our legislative system.