The possibility that Karl Marx will be voted Britain’s favourite philosopher by
middle class dickheads Radio 4 listeners is prompting much angst. For me, it merely shows the folly of first past the post voting.
The problem, I suspect, is that the anti-Marx vote is split among Hobbes, Hume, Mill and Popper. With a simple FPTP vote, this split allows Marx to win. But if we had (say) an alternative voting system, he might not.
Imagine people ranked (say) five preferences in order, and that when the votes were counted the candidate with the fewest first preferences got eliminated, with those second preferences being distributed to other candidates, and so on.
Then, I suspect that as, say, Hobbes, Popper and Mill (who's read A System of Logic?) got eliminated, enough second preferences would go to Hume that we’d get the right result.
The “nation’s favourite philosopher” under one voting system, therefore, would be very different from the “nation’s favourite” under another system.
The lesson is that we should not trust the notion of a single collective preference.
Of course, it’s possible that Marx gets over 50 per cent of the vote (even without the standard Marxist practice of ballot-stuffing) in which case this argument doesn’t apply.
Would that be a disaster? It wouldn't be, if it means that 50 per cent of the British people have read John Roemer’s General Theory of Exploitation and Class. But the contingency, sir, is a remote one.