Tuesday, July 13, 2010
The End of Britain as We Know It
The article below has considerable logic to it but reality can be peskily complex. Australia has had the voting system proposed for Britain for around a century now and is one of the most stable, conservative and prosperous countries in the world. It was also one of the few countries that was virtually unaffected by the global financial crisis. How about that?
Additionally it is far from a done deal that the new voting system for Britain will be approved at the proposed referendum. Britain has few referenda but Australia has had rather a lot -- and they have mostly been lost (i.e. got a majority "no" vote)
And the agreement to hold elections at strict 5 year intervals is only an agreement of the moment. It is nothing like America's 4 year constitutional requirement for Presidential elections. It can be overturned at any time by the British parliament and there are already rumbles of dissatisfaction over it. Few observers think it will outlast the present coalition government and it may not even last that long -- JR
By Dick Morris and Eileen McGann
The United Kingdom, the mother of all democracies, is about to change its political system in fundamental ways -- changes that will spell disaster for the nation and for its politics. For those who love Britain, the news of these impending alterations can only cause angst and distress.
As a result of the inability of either the Conservatives or Labor to win a majority in Parliament in the recent elections, both parties had to bid for support from the Liberal/Social Democratic Party. The price the Conservatives ultimately paid was to agree to some of these changes and to refer others to the electorate for a referendum.
The changes that the parties have agreed to will transform the British government from a decisive decision-making machine into a morass of compromise, half-measures and deadlock. Gridlock will be exported across the ocean to the United Kingdom.
Right now, the prime minister can dissolve Parliament anytime he wants, forcing new elections. He is also obliged to order new elections if he loses a vote of confidence. This power holds the members of his parliamentary majority in check and restrains them from turning on their leaders since, should they succeed in a vote of no confidence, it would plunge them into the uncertainty of a new election, which would imperil their own seats.
The new rules would bar the prime minister from dissolving Parliament during its five-year term and vest that right in a two-thirds majority of parliament. In other words, Parliament would have to vote itself out of office -- something likely never to happen.
So, under the new rules, if a government loses a vote over a major legislative item -- or fails to survive a no-confidence motion -- it must resign, but there need not be new elections. Instead, Parliament can refuse to order new elections and just re-form a new government out of the old Parliament.
The effect of this rule change is likely to be that governments will rise and fall all the time since they may do so without forcing members to face new elections. Like in Italy, the new governments will just be formed by reshuffling the current parliamentary deck into new combinations and coalitions.
Whereas now, if a government falls, there is an election to decide the issue, under the new procedure, the deadlock could just go on and on without resolution.
More dangerous is the proposed new voting system that must be approved by a popular referendum. Rather than vote for one candidate for Parliament in each district, voters will be obliged to rank the candidates in their order of preference. If nobody gets a majority of first-place rankings, the candidate with the least votes drops off and his second place votes are distributed among the other remaining candidates. The Liberal/Social Democrats are pushing this change in the hopes that there may never again be a parliamentary majority for the Conservatives or Labor and that they will always hold the balance of power in a hung parliament.
And they are likely to achieve their objective if the new voting system passes. Most districts in the United Kingdom, as in the U.S., tend either to the left or to the right.
In a leftist district, for example, the Labor Party usually finishes first, the Liberal/Social Democrats second and the Conservatives third. If the Labor candidate did not win a majority of first place votes on Election Day -- and they frequently don't -- the Conservative candidate will drop off and his second-place votes will determine the winner. But what Conservative voter is going to name Labor as his second choice in the polarized politics of the U.K.? Most will name the Liberal/Social Dems as their second choice, and that candidate will win the seat. In right-wing districts, the same process will happen in reverse, again to the benefit of the Liberal/Social Dems.
That means more hung parliaments, less decisive election results and more mush compromise. Together, these changes will tend to paralyze the British government, substituting muddled, mushy compromise for decisive and bold action. We will miss the old United Kingdom.
Should the U.S. Adopt Compulsory Voting?
The Author below obviously knows the Australian electoral system better than the authors above. And I agree with her. The Australian system of COMPULSORY voting would be a disaster in the USA. The conventional wisdom in Australia is that politically indifferent people who are forced to vote distribute their votes randomly so compulsion has no systematic ideological effect.
America is different, however, Blacks and Hispanics at present have very low rates of turnout and forcing them to the polls WOULD have a systematic effect. It would ensure permanent Democrat majorities
There are no similar large and disgruntled minorities in Australia -- JR
By Debra J. Saunders
California GOP gubernatorial nominee Meg Whitman has been taking a lot of heat for her voting record. Or non-voting record. The former eBay CEO didn't register to vote in California until 2002. She failed to vote in the 2003 recall election. She didn't register as a Republican until 2007.
Too bad Whitman didn't spend her business-big-shot years Down Under. In Australia, it's against the law for citizens age 18 or older not to vote.
Ask Aussies about the system and they generally support it. The Australian government passed mandatory voting in federal elections after voter participation slipped to 59 percent in 1922 from an earlier high of 71 percent. In recent years, about 95 percent of Australian citizens have voted.
Besides, some Australians will note, it is not a crime to fail to vote if you are not registered. For the vast majority of those who are enrolled but do not vote, it also is easy to get out of the fine -- about $20 for a first offense -- by citing illness or another extenuating circumstance.
Then there's the phenomenon known as "donkey voting" -- or just randomly ticking off names on the ballot. Call it a protest, call it lazy. The outcome is the same.
Brookings Institution Senior Fellow William Galston has proposed that America adopt the same system to increase voter participation. In the 2008 presidential election, 61.7 percent of eligible Americans voted, according to George Mason University.
I object. For one thing, Washington should not coerce citizens by making them vote. In a free country, those who do not wish to vote should be free to abstain. For another, if people are so ill informed as to believe their votes have no import, well, they're probably right.
And while there is no proving that higher turnout means more left-leaning votes, political scientists of both stripes tend to believe that mandatory voting delivers more votes to the left than to the right. Again, quantity does not mean quality.
Even in Australia, even with compulsory voting, however, high-profile, big-money candidates with poor voting records can prevail. Peter Garrett -- you know, the tall bald singer from the rock band Midnight Oil -- ran for office in 2004. At the time, he was forced to admit that for all his politically correct lectures and exhortations for political activism, he himself had not been on the federal election rolls for 10 years.
At the time, conservative Treasurer Peter Costello told the Herald Sun of Melbourne, "If you haven't been interested enough to have registered and voted in elections, it's a bit rich to ask other people to vote for you." And: "It's like the pope saying he hadn't been to church for 10 years."
Today, Garrett is the Labor Party's minister for the environment. In both hemispheres, apparently, rich and famous count for something.
Signs of the Times
If you could spend vast amounts of other people's money just by saying a few magic words, wouldn't you be tempted to do it? Barack Obama has spent hundreds of billions of dollars of the taxpayers' money just by using the magic words "stimulus" and "jobs."
It doesn't matter politically that the stimulus is not actually stimulating and that the unemployment rate remains up near double-digit levels, despite all the spending and all the rhetoric about jobs. And of course nothing negative will ever matter to those who are part of the Obama cult, including many in the media.
But, for the rest of us, there is a lot to think about in the economic disaster that we are in.
Not only has all the runaway spending and rapid escalation of the deficit to record levels failed to make any real headway in reducing unemployment, all this money pumped into the economy has also failed to produce inflation. The latter is a good thing in itself but its implications are sobering.
How can you pour trillions of dollars into the economy and not even see the price level go up significantly? Economists have long known that it is not just the amount of money, but also the speed with which it circulates, that affects the price level.
Last year the Wall Street Journal reported that the velocity of circulation of money in the American economy has plummeted to its lowest level in half a century. Money that people don't spend does not cause inflation. It also does not stimulate the economy.
The current issue of Bloomberg Businessweek has a feature article about businesses that are just holding on to huge sums of money. They say, for example, that the pharmaceutical company Pfizer is holding on to $26 billion. If so, there should not be any great mystery as to why they don't invest it.
With the Obama administration being on an anti-business kick, boasting of putting their foot on some business' neck, and the president talking about putting his foot on another part of the anatomy, with Congress coming up with more and more red tape, more mandates and more heavy-handed interventions in businesses, would you risk $26 billion that you might not even be able to get back, much less make any money on the deal?
Pfizer is not unique. Banks have cut back on lending, despite all the billions of dollars that were dumped into them in the name of "stimulus." Consumers have also cut back on spending.
For the first time, more gold is being bought as an investment to be held as a hedge against a currently non-existent inflation than is being bought by the makers of jewelry. There may not be any inflation now, but eventually that money is going to start moving, and so will the price level.
Despite a big decline in the amount of gold used to make jewelry, the demand for gold as an investment has risen so steeply as to more than make up for the reduced demand for gold jewelry, and has in fact pushed the price of gold to record high levels.
What does all this say? That people don't know what to expect next from this administration, which seldom lets a month go by without some new anti-business laws, policies or rhetoric.
When you hire somebody in this environment, you know what you have agreed to pay them and what additional costs there may be for their health insurance or other benefits. But you have no way of knowing what additional costs the politicians in Washington are going to impose, when they are constantly coming up with new bright ideas for imposing more mandates on business.
One of the little noticed signs of what is going on has been the increase in the employment of temporary workers. Businesses have been increasingly meeting their need for labor by hiring temporary workers and working their existing employees overtime, instead of hiring new people.
Why? Because temporary workers usually don't get health insurance or other benefits, and working existing employees overtime doesn't add to the cost of their benefits.
There is no free lunch-- and the biggest price of all is paid by people who are unemployed because politicians cannot leave the economy alone to recover, as the American economy has repeatedly recovered faster when left alone than when politicians decided that they have to "do something."
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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)
Posted by JR at 11:57 PM