Arthurian Legend

"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

Tuesday, 13 February 2007

Radical Proposal

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:


Newmania said...

Well that would not work in practice but I think you are right that it is the sheer size of Governemnt that turns into a dictatorship of bureaucrats.

Arthurian Legend said...

What you are politely saying is that the Friedmans were right (in their part) and I was wrong (in mine)!

I agree that no government at this point in time is likely to consider anything quite so radical; I throw it out merely to plant a positive idea, and as an (albeit token) stand against the crap that is currently emanating from government.

But what have things come to if the idea that 'no MP may vote upon a piece of legislation unless he/she has read it' is seen as quite so heretical and unrealisitc...?

purplepangolin said...


Can you be morespecific about why you think it wouldn't work in practice? I admit that it is difficult to imagine MPs submitting to this but this is just a gut feeling.

Arthurian Legend said...

Hi PG, and welcome; interesting name...what's its root?!

Newmania said...

Well the way our democracy works is essentially Parties and manifestoes that attempt to synthesize areas of disagreement in the country . The reason why MP`s cannot pick and choose what they want to do or not do is that they are elected along Party lines as well and not for their particular expertise( GOD FORBID!). In other words the MP`s are there to represent the voters not as professional something or others .at least they should be .

You vastly overestimate the complexity of real initiatives. They are made to appear complex by the accumulated verbiage but almost all laws have a straightforward core that is clearly place-able politically.

What you are proposing is that the politics is discarded in favour of a meritocracy. I hardly know where to start with how silly an idea that is in practice .
1 In whose opinion?
2 How could you actually govern the country with “experts “ swilling about from vote to vote in an unpredictable way
3 Why stop there why not give ten votes to the real experts and not have MP`s at all?

This misunderstands fundamentally what a democracy is and how it works . What Freidman is saying is that the bureaucrats deliberately make things opaque so the VOTERS cannot see what is going on ( Look at the EU). This is leaves the politicians a freer hand which they use to feather their own nests by increasing state power and size of empires
This point is a very good one and we can see with the growth of hidden tax that the “mangement 2 of the electorate has replaced the free vote of the citizenry.

MP`s are not there to think they are there to do as they have been told by the electorate in accordance with its understanding of the broad manifesto of the Party in question.

Its bad enough already for god`s sake don`t let the poor boobs start thinking for themselves