Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Is this the epitaph of democracy?

Timmy at the Spectator says:
This is what politics is, the purchase of a politician who then rewards you with what you want. Whether the purchase is with money or votes it's still other peoples' property and liberty that gets taken so that you do indeed get your desire.
And that, like so many of Timmy's concise offerings, got me to thinking. In this case, the thought was: why do people defend "liberal democracy" with so much vigour?

Having watched the "hanging chad" farce in the USA and our own little election fiddles here, where constituency boundaries are regularly redrawn to favour the incumbents, whoever they might be, as well as tiresome exercises in futility in places like Zimbabwe and South Africa, or the hilarity of Italy's swings from left to right and awkward coalition governments ... all claims to be in support of democracy, but actually all voters get is the right to swap the current set of vacuous, corrupt idiots for the next set of vacuous, corrupt idiots.

The fundamental problem to me seems to be that people who want to govern are all as bad as each other. The colour of the rosette may change, there may even be some actual fundamental values or beliefs in the case of individual politicians. But in their hearts, there is always the same dark thing: "I know better than you do, and I'm going to make the world a better place as a result." Even without the "lobby-fodder" mentality that the current crop of politicians show so clearly, sooner or later the "I'm going to make the world a better place" bit gets forgotten and all that is left is the "I know better than you" bit.

The people doing this aren't even especially knowledgeable about the departments they're running. Take Blinky Bollocks, for example: he is, allegedly, a brilliant economist (although you'd never guess that from the consequences of his time at the Treasury) but now he's in charge of schools. WTF? He's clearly no more qualified to be schools minister than I am.

And this lead me inevitably to a curious thought: if all you need to be the schools minister is to be elected by people, what validation does that give the process? No-one elected Balls because they thought he was going to be some kind of education guru. No-one was consulted about his appointment. The government has admitted in open court that their election manifesto is a lie, no-one has reasonable cause to expect them to keep to their election promises.

So: they don't have to keep their promises, they don't know what they're doing and they don't have our best interests at heart. And we claim this system is superior to everything else out there?

I have to wonder: why do we bother? Why do we go through putting up with all the shit that politicians inflict upon us? Why do we tolerate their lies and their theft and their abuse of privilege and their impositions on us? Why has democracy become a burden on the people it was supposed to set free?

Would it be any worse if we were to appoint people at random for a five-year term, whereby they would be the minister for schools, or defence, or interior, or foreign affairs or whatever? They could be subjected to extensive vetting, and if they failed for whatever reason, they would be released from their duty. You could have a draft twice the size of the cabinet required, so that some people would be rejected anyway and their would be no stigma to being rejected.

The first year could be spent giving them a crash course in their pain for the next four years. They could, and should, be very well paid for being shafted like this -- they will have their careers and family lives uprooted. There could be a decent pension contribution and a year's free retraining back into the market of their choice on full pay, after their tour of duty. There could also be a true "shadow cabinet" of people who work alongside the minister, but step in if the minister pops his clogs or gets removed for other reasons: we subject the "politicians" to an annual vote of approval, so that we can get shot of people who actually are useless before the damage is too great.

Also, you stagger the drafts, so that you don't have an entire new cabinet arriving at once. No real reason why you couldn't have a draft every month. You might even have a case where someone might be re-elected for a second term if they have been very successful, but only if they agree to it and the voters approve it. Being out of your chosen career for a decade would be catastrophic, so I think very few people would be keen on it.

By getting people who didn't want to govern, would you not automatically get better people running the show? By earmarking people for 4 years of doing one job for which they have shown an aptitude, are you not likely to get better people than those who are only angling for the plumpest, most aggrandizing position? By making it impossible to extend your tour of duty, do you not limit the damage that a single person can do? By making it impossible for other cabinet members to try to unseat their PM, do you not avoid the unedifying energy wastage and pathetic posturing that we currently see?

I don't know if it would work, but can it really be any worse than what we have now?


Old Holborn said...

Never mind all that bollocks. How do you embed the Politig vote bit on each post?

Tim Worstall said...

This is a variation of "sortition".

Much to recommend it of course.

Obnoxio The Clown said...

@Old Holborn: Click here, you slag.

Tomrat said...

Or you could limit party sizes by regional areas which would limit the effect of lobby money while making it easier to follow, limit the power of the whips, making it easier to vote on personal mandates (which assumedly was your ticket into power; more people saying "hey, I'm voting for that chump because he thinks like I think") without the fear of "ejection", and encouraging fair representation across the UK (note: I'm distinguishing this from "England" in this context as I include Scotland, Ireland and Wales, which is important).

Additionally this renders one of the most expensive sets of quangos in Britain - the regional development agencies - completely unnecessary as the remit for regeneration will then fall under the regional ruling party; they can employ who they like.
Of course you'd need to elect individuals for international affair areas like the foreign office and trade, as well as a leader to communicate on behalf of the country - I can see that being an area for sortition...

So how bout it - one area of policy for LPUK is the devolution of politicial parties to regional areas? LPUK Yorkshire, Ireland and Scotland anyone?

Anonymous said...

What would you do about the Civil Service, more of the same?

They are completely unaccountable.

Obnoxio The Clown said...

@nbc: It seems to me that we have an entire growth industry devoted to devolving influence and power and the rude, little Hitlers are right up there.

I think that in a Libertarian world, there would be nothing to justify a large, powerful civil service and certainly no finance for it, so hopefully they'd piss off and do something useful with their lives.