In their book Free to Choose, Milton and Rose Friedman put their finger on the following problem:
“As the scope and role of government expands – whether by covering a larger area and population or by performing a wider variety of functions – the connection between the people governed and the people governing becomes attenuated. It becomes impossible for any large fraction of the citizens to be reasonably well informed about all items on the vastly enlarged government agenda, and, beyond a point, even about all major items.”
“No federal legislator could conceivably even read, let alone analyse and study, all the laws on which he must vote. ..The unelected congressional bureaucracy almost surely has far more influence today in shaping the detailed laws that are passed than do our elected representatives.
Bureaucrats have not usurped power. They have not deliberately engaged in any kind of conspiracy to subvert the democratic process. Power has been thrust upon them. It is simply impossible to conduct complex government activities in any other way than by delegating responsibility.”
Arthurian Legend’s question
In light of this, should a new parliamentary procedure be established?
What about the following:-
No MP may vote upon a piece of legislation unless he/she has read it.
After each vote, 10% of voting MPs will be randomly picked and set a basic test by the Speaker concerning the legislation. If an MP cannot get 70% or more in two tests then he/she is automatically obliged to resign their parliamentary seat.
This would take us a lot further towards the position where MPs only voted on what they have read and understood; it could help to increase the amount of “free thinking” and reduce the power of the whips. It would make for fewer laws (which MP could read all that legislation?) and hopefully, with better understanding, it would make for better laws.
The only problem, as I pointed out yesterday, is this:
"Once back here I got to thinking - 'how do I get out of this?' Perhaps the really haunting spectre is that I would have to turn my back on the lake, and the prospect of the sword." Alan Clark, Diaries - 19th May 1999