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September 15, 2006


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Referenda: yes, I suspect you're right. And I also suspect that Blair has tested the notion of the "unwritten constitution" pretty much to destruction too. It's time for some rather sweeping reform. To which almost no-one on the left will contribute much of value, since they've been chattering about the wrong things for the last decade or ten. (Naturally, you don't fool me with your amusing conceit of being a lefty.)

tom s.

A bill of rights is an odd thing, and you may want to look at Canada's experience with one over the last 25 years before advocating one too seriously.

The main effect of such a thing is to shift power from parliament to the courts. Now depending on who is where, you might like the outcome or not. Personally, I absolutely agree with many of the decisions that the Supreme Court of Canada has made. But I do find it makes me nervouse that the court rather than parliament has been setting the pace for social change - abortion, gay marriage, and reproductive technologies are all getting addressed by the court, while parliament (to date) doesn't want to touch them.

tom s.

Plus, I've never quite understood how inequality affects the outcome of demand-revealing referenda and so on. The topic is ignored in the texts I've read because that billionaire might covet that $10 just as much as the homeless guy, but I have a feeling it must make a significant difference. Not that I've thought it through or anything - just mouthing off.

Laurent GUERBY

For referenda, please use the Venezuela version (where the incumbent can present again) and not the California one (where he can't, so he can reach 49.9% at the referendum, and a candidate having 5% will be subsequently elected).

Anyway, I think the main thing to do is not mentioned, here it is:

3. Take advantage of the zero-cost media internet to publish every single public "legal" act of our representatives: who are they sending money too.
And force detailed releases of statistics made by public servants.

Andrew Brown

Aren't you assuming all the problem lies with the politicians?

I’d argue that politicians act in a relatively rational manner, discounting quite a lot of what the public say. They do that because what the pubic say and what they reward are quite different. Politicians who change their mind and admit mistakes run a huge risk of being pilloried in the press and hammered by the electorate.

We tell pollsters that we dislike control freakery, but consistently vote against parties which are perceived to be split. We say we dislike negative campaigning but vote for parties that use those tactics.

This isn’t to say that the spiral that this creates where neither the public or politicians better instincts are allowed space to grow doesn’t have a corrosive effect on democratic institutions. But if we’re changing the incentives for the politicians shouldn’t we change them for the public and the media as well?

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