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March 08, 2007


Mike Baldwin

The problem is that politicians and hence governments are pretty much crap at everything. What is required is a constitution that strictly limits the power of governments and returns power to the individual, however how we get there short of everything going tits up resulting in a collective coming to our senses I really dont know.

Tom H

It's perhaps worth noting that the other half of his column is a self-congratulatory account of Marcel Berlins' supposed role in encouraging Jerry Rawlings to mount a military coup against what he describes as "an elected president and parliament" in Ghana. Which suggests he's not entirely convinced by "people choosing who should govern them".

Maybe the second half of the column is deliberately constructed to undermine the argument of the first half.

Dan Goodman

Another view of parliamentary democracy is that it serves more of a negative function than a positive one. It ameliorates the very worst excesses of government and prevents tyranny, but it doesn't actually guarantee a government that is representative or effective in any way. Specific democratic systems encourage a wide range of odd outcomes, for example the two party system forces the two parties to have almost identical policies that favour the median voter.

That's not to say it should be like that of course.


Here's an alternative scenario. Instead of you having to chose between Bullingdon Boy and Insecure Bully, you could have a more meaningful choice between a number of people in your locality who you have had the opportunity to meet and engage with.

You would be able to chose the candidate who was most able to engage you in a conversational way and leave you with the impression that your arguments would have a bearing on - nay, improve - the measures that they advocate in their role as small-time legislators.

And these local representatives would - by the policies that they advocate - create an aggregate demand that would allow you the illusion of contributing to the process of public policy formation.

And if these representatives were well-disposed to allowing policies to be shaped in a deliberative way (including the use of various demand-revealing exercises) you would have more of the kind of participatory democracy than you are likely to get by advocating direct democracy.

This would only work, of course, with a political settlement that is more bicameral and decentralised than ours.

I suppose that I'm arguing that our current settlement may be broken, but that it can be made to work the way that it was always intended. And decentralisation is the essential first step. Your positon seems closer to 'start all over.'


"The problem here is that I, along with 99.999% of the electorate, just don't know Cameron or Brown personally, so I don't know enough to make an informed choice."

Difficult, I'd agree. But isn't the choice you have in representative democracy more a) retrospective and b) collective? Your choice is usually better informed when you compare parties rather than individuals and how they have performed in the past rather than how you anticipate they will perform in the future. Why would knowing Brown or Cameron help you? You could know them in the Biblical sense and still not have a scooby what a Brown or Cameron administration would look like or how they would perform. Moreover, isn't this for you irrelevant anyway since your understanding of managerialism tells you that regardless of their personal qualities or defects, they will by virtue of the job they attempt set themselves a task that cannot be accomplished?

Sam H

Paulie says pretty much what I wanted to say, the only people who actually vote for Cameron or Brown are their own constituents. When you vote you should vote for the candidate who is most likely to listen to your views and is willing to rebel against his/her party if they disagree with the party line, obviously if you have such a candidate in your area then you are very lucky.

That's why I think, elected or appointed Lords should be banned from being members of political parties, then they will be more effective as there will be less worry about their political careers and will only have the people to answer to.


No democracy is about people being able to remove those they don't want to govern them any more.

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