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March 29, 2009

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"These aren’t that they would be more independent of parties; party machinery would still be necessary to get elected."

Someone who had already made money in another walk of life would presumably not enter Parliament for the money (especially if the job was unsalaried). They might therefore be less easily bribed by government sinecures.

Diversity

Yes we need to pay them; but it seems we also need much better disincentives against plundering the joint. If MPs had to pay back three or five times the amounts over-claimed, or not declared, the rules would be more stictly adhered to. Not that this would excuse us from the chore of setting better rules

Will

The best disincentive to plunder is proper transparency in accounting: note the Minister for Benefit Fraud's sudden cessation of his accommodation allowance claim once the prospect of it staying secret had been defeated. We do need to pay MPs' legitimate expenses, and these will obviously vary case by case, so the upper limits should be generous as long as each item is properly recorded.

But sssuming we're paying all reasonable expenses, why do they need £40k+ pocket money on top? There's no shortage of people wanting to become MPs, so surely the law of supply and demand requires that their basic salary should fall to equilibrium (which may well be zero)?

Bishop Hill

The way this works in the New Hampshire legislature is that not only are they not paid (well, they get a couple of bucks or so) but they are also only allowed to turn up four days a year. There's only so much plundering you can do in such a short time and it does stop all that mischief-making.

Bishop Hill

The way this works in the New Hampshire legislature is that not only are they not paid (well, they get a couple of bucks or so) but they are also only allowed to turn up four days a year. There's only so much plundering you can do in such a short time and it does stop all that mischief-making.

Shuggy

"Better still, age brings scepticism."

Indeed. Tis a sceptical eyebrow one raises in response to this essentially 19th century idea you're trying to dust off for the 21st here.

Richard T

Is there something I'm not gettng here? As I understand the column in the Times, the only people who could get into Parliament because MPs are unpaid would be those who have made their fortune in their youth and middle age. So presumably anyone else wishing to be an MP would have be to be supported by a rich patron or maybe a trade union. Sounds like a good idea to me - back to the 19th century and the Whig party eh.

Ideas of Civilisation

There's definitely problems with the current system - but that doesn't justify not paying MPs.

The argument about older MPs being better in many ways is a valid one but it still means the restriction of people that can actually do it.

For instance I know plenty of people that have 'real life' experience working in business, science, teaching and so on. But few of them could then afford at the age of, say, 45 to take 10+ working years off.

As Richard T says this would just seen a return to the nineteenth century or - even worse - MPs' services being bought by private interests.

Thus big business could have their own MP - and they'd be bound to vote for what their paymasters wished for fear of losing their salary. That would only hurt the country.

An open expenses system, with restrictions on what can be claimed is the only reasonable way forward. Not limiting political representation to those with money.

Will

But MPs (at least the ones who're inclined to do so) cosy up to big business and private interests already, so that's not an argument against change.

And having an expenses-only system doesn't reserve Parliament for the already wealthy: it's still a step up for most people, whose salaries in other fields barely cover their expenses anyway. It might even level the playing field, since the rich tend to be less willing to work for free and would have more to lose by getting elected in the first place.

Pete

Seriously guys, if you haven't accumulted enough by the time you are 45 to live a comfortable lifestlye (ie not extravagant) without working.

Then you are either very unlucky, a chump who doesn't think about the future, or greedy.

There is not much to be done about the first but I am sure we dont want the other two sorts of people in parliament.

David

Wow, it seems Chris has an axe to grind against young people. Your third and fourth paragraphs essentially argue that old people are smarter than young people, which seems unsubstantiated. There are a lot of closed-minded stupid old people, just as there are some smart young people who would make excellent politicians. You're an economist; show me some empirical evidence that old people make more qualified politicians than young people and I'll listen.

But if we are to believe your logic that politicians simply follow the money and are more likely to plunder public coffers if they're not paid, we should expect younger people to be more effective politicians. Younger people have more to lose from unscrupulous behaviour than older people; the risk to unscrupulous behaviour is that you get caught and your reputation is destroyed, thereby hindering future earnings. Since younger people have a whole lifetime of potential earnings ahead of themselves, they've got a lot more to lose by tarnishing their reputation than some old MP past retirement age who tries to rip off taxpayers to make a few easy bucks.

roy

Pete,

thats a tough ask isnt it? say you graduate from uni with 10K of debt at 21. you have to land a job straight off the bat that will allow you to pay off your mortgage and accumulate a significant lump sum that will pay you a "comfortable" annual income (150K?) in 24 years. How about travel and similar life experiences? getting married? children?

Pete

Roy,

150K (pounds???) today is far above a comfortable level. Once you own your house you should be able to live comfortably on GBP 25 K.

This should be quite achievable to most prudent and intelligent people. Provided they are not extravagent, foolish, or have some significant bad luck. And I am afarid i don't want the foolish and extravagant in parliament (and the unlucky won't be there anyway).

roy

oops,

i meant a 150,000 lump sum to give you a living once you're an unpaid MP!

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"MPs' services being bought by private interests."

The trade unions have voting interest - in effect, part ownership - of the governing party anyway. And no one seems to think of that as a problem.

David, Chris did not say that older people were smarter than young ones - just that they were more experienced. Certainly, anyone who has made his money and they decided to go into an unpaid position must have something to be said for him.

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