the corner office

a blog, by Colin Pretorius


I enjoy Milton Friedman, not just because he looked a bit like my late grandfather. He had a way of seeing things that was refreshing and which very often resonate with my own world view. This is him on politics and the need for 'change':

To wit:

Congress are in a business... they're trying to buy votes. They're in the business of competing with one another to get elected. The same congressman will vote for a different thing if he thinks that's politically profitable... It's nice to elect the right people but that isn't the way you solve things. The way you solve things is by making it politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right things.

The problem is I don't think this really applies to the UK - this week has highlighted the perverse possibility that the Lib Dems could get the most votes in the election, and Labour the least, and Labour could still end up with the most seats in parliament. That's just how first-past-the-post works. Labour retained power in 2005 with something like 35% of the vote. This doesn't strike me as meaningful democracy.

The Tories have favoured first-past-the-post, I presume, because while it left them at a disadvantage to Labour, they've not had to worry about the likes of the Lib Dems or UKIP. How ironic it would be if first-past-the-post ruined their first real chance of victory in over a decade.

Point being though, that in past years Labour haven't needed to fear the electorate, and the corruption and arrogance of the Labour government in latter years was inevitable with so little real accountability.

I don't particularly like them but I've believed that the Tories ought to win because, in addition to being at least notionally more in favour of less government intrustion in our lives, and perhaps having the most taste for the deficit reduction that will be needed in years to come, I've thought it important that Labour be crucified, eviscerated, thoroughly destroyed and defeated. Not only for the sheer pleasure of seeing the likes of Gordon Brown and his cronies get their come-uppance, but to restore the balance of power between voters and politicians.

Now, I can imagine that the only thing the Lib Dems would reasonably be pushing for in a hung parliament is a move towards proportional representation. Get that right and they can fight other battles more fairly in future. I wonder whether the Tories would concede to this - the Lib Dem genie is out of the bottle, and I suspect that they'll be harder to write off in future. If first-past-the-post means Labour in perpetuity, the Tories would be better off under PR as well.

That strikes me as being the only positive outcome that could come from Lib Dem success. I like some of what they have to say, but their support for the EU and joining the euro is dangerous and their economic policies strike me as populist and batshit crazy. Would it be worth it if a more democratic system left parties more accountable in future?

Time will tell. I won't be watching tomorrow's debate, I'll be going out for a pint instead. A far more productive way to spend an evening, I'm sure.

{2010.04.21 18:01}


1. chris (2010.04.23 - 07:11) #

cor blimey he does look like grandpa

« Can jumbo jets glide?

» The cost of the volcano II