Home > Oz Politics > Let’s hear it for a hung parliament!

Let’s hear it for a hung parliament!

October 14th, 2011

Two great outcomes in successive days[1], and neither would have happened without a hung parliament. I never accepted the horror with which many commentators viewed the election results (after all, minority governments have been common at the state level and have generally worked fine), but now I’m a positive enthusiast. It would be a pity if the independents who supported the government are punished by their electors – I’d say we need more independents of all kinds as a check on the executive power of the PM and the majority party

fn1. For subsequent record, the passage through the House of Representatives of the carbon tax/price legislation, followed by the rejection of the government’s “Malaysian solution” and the subsequent announcement of an end to off-shore refugee detention.

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  1. TerjeP
    October 14th, 2011 at 06:15 | #1

    I wonder if it was a Liberal government with say a bunch of libertarians holding the balance of power whether your enthusiasm would persist. I suspect that your admiration for hung parliaments is more about this hung parliament because it is delivering an agenda you’re broadly in agreement with.

    The next parliament will not be a hung parliament. Although there will be some metaphorical hangings at the next election. I suspect that at least two of the independents if they run again will not be troubling us next term. Oakshott in particular is gone, gone, gone.

  2. John Nightingale
    October 14th, 2011 at 06:15 | #2

    The govt forced to do what most voters want in defiance of the shock-jocks and their running dogs in News Ltd! Extraordinary!

  3. TerjeP
    October 14th, 2011 at 06:19 | #3

    Most voters did not want a carbon tax.

  4. Ikonoclast
    October 14th, 2011 at 06:47 | #4

    TerjeP :
    Most voters did not want a carbon tax.

    Most adults don’t want to go to the dentist either. But they take themselves anyway because they know it is in their long term self-interest to do so.

    Overall, any weakening of the major parties, Labor and Liberal (who are suborned, subservient and grovelling towards corporate capital) is a good thing. Increasing power to a loose alliance of Greens, Democrats, social democrats and general moderate left independents will be a good thing too.

    TerjeP also says, “I wonder if it was a Liberal government with say a bunch of libertarians holding the balance of power whether your enthusiasm would persist.”

    Dream on TerjeP. Libertarianism is the American disease. It won’t take hold here. It simply does not make sense to Australians. Australians understand democracy because they actually have one. Australians understand that for democracy to be effective, democratic government must be effective and not reduced to a minimalist condition.

    Libertarianism = The Dictatorship of Capital.

  5. KB Keynes
    October 14th, 2011 at 08:20 | #5

    Terje, they haven’t got one.

    you cannot buy a permit if it was a carbon tax. you could not then buy and sell the permits if it was a carbon tax.

    I am staggered that both parties focus groups have people supporting an ETS but not a carbon tax and this is why they do not like the present set up.As I have said previously this is yet another wonderful triumph for those brilliant ALP political advisors.

  6. October 14th, 2011 at 08:21 | #6

    Most voters didn’t want a GST either. Nor is an election result a mandate for anything. People vote for multiple reasons. All economists want a price put on externalities.

    It has always been my view that every parliament should have a make-up that has a balance of power, preferably of Independents not ideologues like Labor, Liberal/Libertarian, Greens under the current system, to moderate the extremes of the major parties. If the major parties don’t like what they raise as issues, they can join together and oppose it, moderating the cross-bench’s extremes.

    This is politics is how it is meant to be – the art of compromise.

    Terje proposal would never happen a group of libertarians will never get elected & there are none left in the Liberal party (at least none with any influence) so it is not worth considering as it is not a realistic option.

  7. paul walter
    October 14th, 2011 at 08:24 | #7

    I thought Windsor again really good on tel yesterday and just wish that lazy, apathetic voters would at least make a token effort to acquaint themselves the political life of this country.
    Most of all the silly half senile gooses and illiterates who do Alan jones rallies.

  8. Tom
    October 14th, 2011 at 08:42 | #8

    TerjeP :I wonder if it was a Liberal government with say a bunch of libertarians holding the balance of power whether your enthusiasm would persist. I suspect that your admiration for hung parliaments is more about this hung parliament because it is delivering an agenda you’re broadly in agreement with.
    The next parliament will not be a hung parliament. Although there will be some metaphorical hangings at the next election. I suspect that at least two of the independents if they run again will not be troubling us next term. Oakshott in particular is gone, gone, gone.

    Err….. sorry but you comment didn’t make sense to me. If liberal party is the balance of power which two parties would be the major parties in politics? Labour, Greens, Democrats, Independence? I would love to see any two of these parties become majorities because then the political issues would be different and I don’t think any of these parties other than liberals like News Ltd. A party can only be called in “balance of power” when it is a minority party.

  9. Dan
    October 14th, 2011 at 08:53 | #9

    @Ikonoclast:

    “Libertarianism = The Dictatorship of Capital.”

    Amen – that’s *exactly* what it is – the conflation of the political process with market processes. Which suits those shoulder-deep in capital very nicely thank you.

  10. Dan
    October 14th, 2011 at 08:56 | #10

    The asylum seeker thing reminds me of Churchill on the US:

    “[They] can always be counted on to do the right thing… after they have exhausted all other possibilities.”

  11. TerjeP
    October 14th, 2011 at 09:00 | #11

    Capital is just stuff like tractors and shovels. I don’t think we are every likely to have tractors and shovels as our overlords.

  12. Dan
    October 14th, 2011 at 09:02 | #12

    You’re deliberately not getting it.

    What happens to, in your simplified, rhetorical example, the people who don’t have tractors and shovels?

  13. Tom
    October 14th, 2011 at 09:13 | #13

    Dan :You’re deliberately not getting it.
    What happens to, in your simplified, rhetorical example, the people who don’t have tractors and shovels?

    Spot on, that is what “exactly” is happening in the US. A country where they like the whole world to believe that they have “democracy” or “liberty” is forcing people to sell their homes; living in cars and basements; choose between how many meals to have a day; what food they can afford; working more than 60 hours a week “just” to feed themselves; and getting told to get a job when they work more hours than we do here in Australia.

  14. October 14th, 2011 at 09:42 | #14

    Terje has a point.

    Alternatively, replace “libertarians” with “Hansonites” and rerun the argument.

  15. Chris Warren
    October 14th, 2011 at 09:47 | #15

    TerjeP :
    Capital is just stuff like tractors and shovels. I don’t think we are every likely to have tractors and shovels as our overlords.

    Terje

    This is just blatant dogma and a sign of pure ignorance. Marx was very clear on this in Ch 33 of Capital and elsewhere, and it is clear that “stuff like tractors and shovels” are only capital under particular social circumstances (ie capitalism). Under socialism they would just be ‘means of production’.

    Capital is also a sum of finance that has been accumulated from workers.

  16. Chris Warren
    October 14th, 2011 at 09:51 | #16

    @Robert Merkel

    Yes – it is Terje’s dream.

    You can replace Libertarians with Terjenism and rerun the argument.

  17. October 14th, 2011 at 09:56 | #17

    My point is that a hung parliament with a bunch of Hansonites holding the balance of power could produce some pretty horrible outcomes.

  18. Alan
    October 14th, 2011 at 09:56 | #18

    @#6

    You cannot reasonably specify, in a democratic system, who gets to hold the balance of power. What you can do is recognise that the Labor/Coalition monopoly of power in the House of Representatives is an artefact of the electoral system and move to propositional representation. Since 1949 the share of the popular vote held by the major parties has fallengrom an average around 92 per cent from the 1950s to the 1980s to an average of 84 per cent elections since 1990.

    Although the Senate is inherently malapportioned, the Senate electoral system has been much more successful in actually representing what the electorate wants.

    You would use the same STV system as the Senate. You would make each of the small states and territories a single electorate. You would divide the large population states into electorates with an odd number of members between 5 and 9.

    The major parties are obsessed with a level playing field in the economy but strangely reluctant to allow it in the House of representatives.

  19. Jim Birch
    October 14th, 2011 at 10:16 | #19

    Ha. Most voters want to sit on couches eating snack food that has been designed to appeal to pleistocene tastes but produces type II diabetes, while addictively watching tv programs that are designed to appeal to tribal social instincts. This doen’t make sedentry death syndrome a great idea. :)

  20. Tom
    October 14th, 2011 at 10:21 | #20

    Alan :@#6
    You cannot reasonably specify, in a democratic system, who gets to hold the balance of power. What you can do is recognise that the Labor/Coalition monopoly of power in the House of Representatives is an artefact of the electoral system and move to propositional representation. Since 1949 the share of the popular vote held by the major parties has fallengrom an average around 92 per cent from the 1950s to the 1980s to an average of 84 per cent elections since 1990.
    Although the Senate is inherently malapportioned, the Senate electoral system has been much more successful in actually representing what the electorate wants.
    You would use the same STV system as the Senate. You would make each of the small states and territories a single electorate. You would divide the large population states into electorates with an odd number of members between 5 and 9.
    The major parties are obsessed with a level playing field in the economy but strangely reluctant to allow it in the House of representatives.

    Marginal votes for Labour/Liberal’s have fallen over time, but there is a problem with that is a lot of the Liberal voters are average Australians whom don’t really have any economic knowledge (no disrespect here, I’ve always understand the difficulty of making a living, abd to take time to do researches about unmodified news or economy knowledge are not possible for a large proportion of people). So a majority of them obtain information from the media of Australia which the majority is owned by News Corp and not known that News Corp works for Corporations and don’t care about the general public at all. While a larger proportion of labour voter (comparing to liberal voters) are well educated/caring people that really cares about misforunate people, but they are the people that swings their votes between labour, greens, independence etc. The problem here is that Greens and Independence will never have the number of votes to get them into power and voting for them would just give the liberals a bigger chance of winning which would be worse than labour being in power.

  21. Ikonoclast
    October 14th, 2011 at 12:54 | #21

    TerjeP :
    Capital is just stuff like tractors and shovels. I don’t think we are every likely to have tractors and shovels as our overlords.

    TerjeP is probably just trolling flippantly of course. But just in case he doesn’t know the difference between “capital”, “capital equipment”, “inventory”, “miscellaneous assets” etc. About.com gives the following definition of “capital”;

    “The term Capital has several meanings and it is used in many business contexts. In general, capital is accumulated assets or ownership. More specifically;

    Capital is the amount of cash and other assets owned by a business. These business assets include accounts receivable, equipment, and land/buildings of the business.

    Capital can also represent the accumulated wealth of a business, represented by its assets less liabilities.

    Capital can also mean stock or ownership in a company.”

    It is clear that I meant “capital” in its widest sense. (Though my argument would not be obviated by any narrow view of a sub-set of capital.) Terje”s flippant attempt to reduce the definition to one physical subset is of course an attempt to pretend that the physical and inanimate nature of this subset means that “capital” has no social or economic meaning, force or power beyond its actual physical inert existence. It is an attempt to pretend that the particular modes of ownership and use of capital (in its various forms) have no impact on economic, social or individual life. It is crude reductionism, easily refuted and very typical of libertarian “intellectual” argument in general.

  22. Dan
    October 14th, 2011 at 13:00 | #22

    Yeah, it’s pretty vapid stuff. If it wasn’t so well-bankrolled, I doubt it would have any intellectual traction at all. Of course, as Michael Hudson points out, a lot of mathematical economics is ultimately just PR/an intellectual(ish) veneer for the policies expedient to the people who paid for the “research”.

  23. Alan
    October 14th, 2011 at 13:03 | #23

    @Tom

    Classifying your opponents as fools and your supporters as wise may be comforting but it does not really advance the argument. There may be someone, somewhere who that believes their supporters are fools and their opponents wise, but I have not heard of them.

    I am surprised to hear that Independents and Greens will never get into power, given that they now determine which of the major parties is to govern. In any case, under preferential voting you cannot waste your vote. If your vote cannot elect a Green or Independent by all means give a second preference to Labor.

    The ALP really needs a better pitch than all our opponents are dumb and the Greens can’t win seats.

  24. Tom
    October 14th, 2011 at 13:10 | #24

    Alan :@Tom
    Classifying your opponents as fools and your supporters as wise may be comforting but it does not really advance the argument. There may be someone, somewhere who that believes their supporters are fools and their opponents wise, but I have not heard of them.
    I am surprised to hear that Independents and Greens will never get into power, given that they now determine which of the major parties is to govern. In any case, under preferential voting you cannot waste your vote. If your vote cannot elect a Green or Independent by all means give a second preference to Labor.
    The ALP really needs a better pitch than all our opponents are dumb and the Greens can’t win seats.

    No, you’ve miss read my post. I did not say all opposition voters are fools at all. I’m saying that a larger proportion of labour voters understands economics than liberal voters. I have also said that not many people have time to do researches about information and knowledge which I understand because making a living is not easy and that the media (News Ltd) presents news in favour of liberal party. In what way did I say that opposition voters are fools? Just because people don’t understand economics doesn’t make them fools, hell I don’t understand how to build a computer from scratch, how to design a home and there are a lot of things I don’t have the knowledge of. If there are people that misunderstood my comment, please accept my apology for my poor grammar.

  25. Chris Warren
    October 14th, 2011 at 13:17 | #25

    @Ikonoclast

    Yes – and Terje [deliberately] missed the obvious point – under capitalism, owners of tractors and shovels can become overlords. They just need to ensure that everyone doesn’t have the same rights or opportunities to accumulate capital.

    It was all explained in the reference Terje has not been able to read.

  26. may
    October 14th, 2011 at 13:56 | #26

    today,a description in the fin of the application of large amounts of vested interest money to rev up fear of another effort to restrain parastitic behaviour on another small,vulnerable and lucrative section of the community.

    a re-run of the miners misleading squawk.

    a quite long piece beginning in the front page about the continuing “fake fear” program.

    lots of money,blanket misconceptions.

    easiest repudiation would be stick on strips about the width of the fin and 5 or 6 cm deep,block letters,white on black and black on white, straight across the face of any reachable poster.not blocking any print if possible.

    and the words?

    FAKE FEAR

    maybe it’s not illegal.

    would be quite inexpensive.

    oh well.

  27. may
    October 14th, 2011 at 14:01 | #27

    and the current topic?

    the so called hung parliament?

    working rather well.

    all this debate ,i can see why the opposition doesn’t like it.

    it gets in the way of the knee jerk sloganeering that disguises their lack of costed policies.

  28. Fran Barlow
    October 14th, 2011 at 15:10 | #28

    @Robert Merkel

    Just so Robert. While the Indies we have are clearly on the right of the spectrum, those supporting the ALP are not doctrinaire crazies. Wilkie, Windsor and Oakeshott seem to make a genuine effort to seek out evidence as the basis for policy, and Oakeshoot and Wilkie are arguably liberals.

    What we have is a centre-right government depending on a slightly centre left fringe to hold onto power.

  29. J-D
    October 14th, 2011 at 15:49 | #29

    Chris Warren :

    TerjeP :
    Capital is just stuff like tractors and shovels. I don’t think we are every likely to have tractors and shovels as our overlords.

    Terje
    This is just blatant dogma and a sign of pure ignorance. Marx was very clear on this in Ch 33 of Capital and elsewhere, and it is clear that “stuff like tractors and shovels” are only capital under particular social circumstances (ie capitalism). Under socialism they would just be ‘means of production’.
    Capital is also a sum of finance that has been accumulated from workers.

    What Terje said was silly: when somebody talks about ‘dictatorship of capital’ it’s clear the usage is metonymous and not literal.

    But it’s also silly to denounce ‘blatant dogma’ and then without pause to invoke Marx as if his words must settle the matter.

  30. Donald Oats
    October 14th, 2011 at 15:53 | #30

    I think that the Greens picked up a seat in the HoR, and their seats in senate, through Labor being deliberately obtuse before the last election. Labor chucked a landmark policy (ie CPRS/ETS), chucked a sitting prime minister in Kevin Rudd, and then proposed a ludicrous “Citizen’s Assembly” of 150 voters, picked out of a hat.

    I can only guess how other people responded to Labor’s behaviour, but for me it pushed me towards the Greens and away from Labor. I felt at the time that the Citizen’s Assembly was a ploy to hold onto voters who still wanted an AGW policy of some sort. Once the election happened, and the minority Labor coalition government formed, Labor had little choice than to dust off the climate change policy and to run with it again; the Greens would have chucked the government out if AGW wasn’t addressed at some significant level. It is still to the credit of the current government that the Carbon Tax policy has passed through HoR, and I believe the PM Julia Gillard has shown real mettle in seeing it through to this point in time.

    Quite frankly, the irony of watching people who had claimed the Greens were alarmists now being the ones claiming a carbon tax is economic armmageddon—just precious!

  31. J-D
    October 14th, 2011 at 16:01 | #31

    Chris Warren :

    TerjeP :
    Capital is just stuff like tractors and shovels. I don’t think we are every likely to have tractors and shovels as our overlords.

    Terje
    This is just blatant dogma and a sign of pure ignorance. Marx was very clear on this in Ch 33 of Capital and elsewhere, and it is clear that “stuff like tractors and shovels” are only capital under particular social circumstances (ie capitalism). Under socialism they would just be ‘means of production’.
    Capital is also a sum of finance that has been accumulated from workers.

    What Terje said was silly. The expression ‘dictatorship of capital’ is obviously metonymous and not literal. It would make no more sense to say that as swords will never be our overlords there can be no ‘dictatorship of the sword’.

    But it’s also silly to denounce ‘blatant dogma’ and then without pausing invoke the words of Marx as if they must automatically settle the point in dispute.

  32. Paul Norton
    October 14th, 2011 at 16:34 | #32

    Here’s a paper by Andrew Scott which is germane to this thread.
    http://law.anu.edu.au/COAST/events/APSA/papers/131.pdf

  33. Mulga Mumblebrain
    October 14th, 2011 at 20:26 | #33

    Libertarianism is not just a dictatorship of capital, it is also, and more perniciously, the projection onto society of the psychopathology of extreme misanthropes like Ayn Rand. A society run along libertarian lines, with grotesque inequality a given, cannot but be cruel, unjust and dominated by sadists, utterly indifferent to the fate of others.

  34. Fran Barlow
    October 15th, 2011 at 06:53 | #34

    @J-D

    Exactly so J-D. Terje has tried this piece of equivocation on several occasions here. I usually just raise my eyebrows and move on.

    I’m not sure though that Chris cited the reference to Marx to settle the point as much as to lend it context. The use of capital in this way alludes directly to Marx and for Terje to pretend not to know this and build a cheap shot on it called this response.

  35. Charles
    October 15th, 2011 at 07:27 | #35

    “My point is that a hung parliament with a bunch of Hansonites holding the balance of power could produce some pretty horrible outcomes.”

    The interesting thing is we done get Hansonites or libertarians as independents, we get moderates that want to get things done. I’m sure there is a lesson in there for Liberal and Labor party.

    This “hung parliament” has delivered a progressive government that gets things done. We wouldn’t have a carbon trading scheme without it, the would be no attempt to curb clubs fleecing the vulnerable and even though all other options were tried first; no sane solution to a handful of people arriving on our shores in boats.

    It is a pity it requires the alignment of several moons to have such an event.

    And as for TerJeP, do yourself a favour and read some Dickens before trying to have a rerun.

  36. J-D
    October 15th, 2011 at 08:02 | #36

    Fran Barlow :
    @J-D
    I’m not sure though that Chris cited the reference to Marx to settle the point as much as to lend it context. The use of capital in this way alludes directly to Marx and for Terje to pretend not to know this and build a cheap shot on it called this response.

    I don’t know about Terje, but when I see the expression ‘dictatorship of capital’ I don’t automatically think of Marx. To me, it’s not obviously a direct allusion to Marx. Hence my suspicion of the automatic reference to Marx in response.

  37. October 15th, 2011 at 18:55 | #37

    Pr Q said:

    Two great outcomes in successive days[1], and neither would have happened without a hung parliament…fn1. For subsequent record, the passage through the House of Representatives of the carbon tax/price legislation, followed by the rejection of the government’s “Malaysian solution” and the subsequent announcement of an end to off-shore refugee detention.

    Be careful what you cheer for. For sure the carbon tax legislation is a great result after inauspicious beginnings with the late un-lamented carbon trading scheme. But the ecologic and economic science of carbon taxing is pretty settled.

    I would not be so confident about “good outcomes” for the new policy of on-shore processing of asylum-seeker claims. Howard’s off-shore processing, whilst undoubtedly tough on genuine refugees, stopped the people smuggling and stopped people drowning. Back in May 2004 I argued that off-shore processing had reduced the incidence of people-drowning.

    And sure enough, throughout the middle of the noughties the incidence of people-smuggling and people drowning fell off dramatically. A “good outcome”, although cheered by no one in the media-academia complex.

    Then, after the election of the ALP in 2007, the GREENs and Rudd got in on the act, shutting down Nauru, authorising community detention and generally giving the green light to people smugglers. Result: the boats flooded back in, and we ended up fishing survivors of off the waters of Christmas Island.

    Predictable. As I observed back in 2004 if “political acts to be judged by their intentions” then dont expect “great outcomes”.

    Gillard, to her credit, got the mail and set out on a more humane version of off-shore processing, acting on the sound advice of her department, who might be expected to know a thing or two about such matters. Subsequently the relevant officials were publicly traduced by Bob Brown in an ugly attack on the Westminster tradition of free and fearless advice by anonymous public servants. He’s not a man who greatly relishes swallowing ideologically unpalatable facts.

    I’d say the odds are better than even that there will be another mass drowning episode within the life-time of this Parliament. And if so, who wants the Minister of Immigration’s job of standing up in Parliament and accepting responsibility for all the bodies washing up on our shores? I can well understand why Bowen argued strenuously in cabinet for accepting the resurrection of Nauru as the lesser of the remaining two evils.

    I’m guessing that in the event this happening the GREENs and their camp followers will suddenly go very quiet, for a change.

  38. Dan
    October 15th, 2011 at 19:44 | #38

    Boat arrivals aren’t really affected by refugee policy. It’s all just a pantomime for the “benefit” of the electorate.

    http://blogs.crikey.com.au/pollytics/2009/04/17/why-andrew-bolt-should-be-sodomised-with-a-calculator-–-part-142/

  39. Alan
    October 15th, 2011 at 19:59 | #39

    @Dan

    I agree boat arrivals are not much effected by refugee policy and the principal motive is a pantomime for certain voters in marginal seats. However I think there are elements of both government and opposition who are so drenched in the managerialist religion that they think good policy can solve anything. I suspect that the prime minister and the opposition leader may actually be sincere in their folly.

  40. Freelander
    October 15th, 2011 at 20:03 | #40

    Oh, no. I am sure potential boat people get the latest on Australian refugee policy with a special app on their iPhones.

  41. Charles
    October 15th, 2011 at 20:25 | #41

    Jack Strocchi

    Gillard had a policy, it was the Malaysian solution, “whilst undoubtedly tough on genuine refugees” it was regional solution, it was voted down by Abbott.

    Now every boat that arrives is a reminder of Abbott’s failure to adopt the solution that was “undoubtedly tough on genuine refugees” and forced onshore processing.

    Mu ha ha ha ha ha.

    I love a political manoeuvres that puts the protagonist right in it.

    Mu ha ha ha ha ha.

  42. Ken Fabos
    October 16th, 2011 at 08:08 | #42

    I think the current hung parliament only works because the independents we have aren’t ideologues bolted to fixed policy on all positions, even if they individually have specific issues they won’t back away from. They seem to be hard workers willing to do their homework – I don’t believe they’ve supported carbon pricing or all the other legislation that’s gone through blindly. Even if they aren’t necessarily extraordinary I think we are extraordinarily fortunate to have MP’s like them; One Nationites or Bush Tea Party types would prefer to remain ignorant to preserve the purity of their thinking than do the homework that doing the best for our nation truly requires. In that context even Managerialism without ideology can look good.

    Time and brain work assessing what comes before them is something that members of governments with clear majorities in both Houses aren’t required to do. In the case of Coalition members and climate/emissions policy close scrutiny of the problem and potential solutions is something they seem required to avoid doing.

  43. BilB
    October 16th, 2011 at 08:31 | #43

    Robert@17,

    While we are playing “what ifs”, take News limited out of the picture and I believe we have a stable Green/Labour coalition for a long time. This is because you cannot take Climate Change out of the picture as it is neither democratic, subject to legislation, or convenient.

  44. BilB
    October 16th, 2011 at 08:36 | #44

    News Limited = Limited News

  45. John Brookes
    October 16th, 2011 at 17:53 | #45

    The other great thing from the hung parliament – which has yet to happen, is the pokies legislation. Neither the ALP or the coalition would have put this legislation forward itself.

  46. John Brookes
    October 16th, 2011 at 18:03 | #46

    John, I’m going entirely OT and asking a question, in the light of the “occupy wall street” protests.

    It seems to me that the protesters have had enough of the conservative argument, “If you take any money off the rich, everyone will suffer”, and its corollary, “If you give to the rich everyone will benefit”.

    I would think, that there is some income/wealth distribution that maximises overall happiness. Do economists have any idea what this distribution is? Is there any realistic goal for the “occupy wall streeters” to aim for?

  47. Dan
    October 16th, 2011 at 18:44 | #47

    John,

    Happiness is a really nebulous concept. How people subjectively experience happiness, and the extent to which their economic circumstances predicate it, is only really measurable through proxies. Also, don’t forget the intergenerational aspect of this – supposing it was possible, should the current generation have all the economic benefit leading to happiness at the cost of innumerable future generations?

    So, to sum the answer to your question up: No.

    Although in any event I think it would be mitigated by culture and history anyway.

    (Using something like the weak anthropic principle: if such an solution was available, it would have made a lot of reform a cakewalk, and we wouldn’t have any need for OWS.)

  48. Dan
    October 16th, 2011 at 18:50 | #48

    (There’s a sci fi dystopia story in this concept, imo)

  49. John Brookes
    October 16th, 2011 at 21:27 | #49

    Hmmm. Dan, I’m not sure that happiness is that nebulous. While you can be fabulously rich and unhappy, there are many fairly straightforward things that get in the way of happiness.

    Hunger is a biggy. Unstable housing is a bit of a downer. Insecure income doesn’t help. Poor health makes it harder to be happy.

    I find it hard to believe that we can’t fix these things……….

  50. Dan
    October 16th, 2011 at 21:36 | #50

    Sure, but that’s basic provisioning though – some of the proxies I referred to – not happiness per se. And there’s definitely a variety of arguments in favour of differing levels of “free enterprise/individual responsibility” vs. “social safety net” as far as the greatest level of overall happiness goes (I tend towards the latter camp myself). But it’s even more complicated than that, however, as the utilitarian calculus resulting in the best hedonic result overall might throw some people to the wolves, a result that I know I’m not the only one with deep misgivings about.

    Leaving economic/distribution questions aside, though – measuring happiness – actual happiness – is hard. I have a good psych hons degree and I can promise you that was one of the take-away messages.

  51. John Brookes
    October 16th, 2011 at 21:45 | #51

    I’ll believe you on the happiness thing then Dan. You can find yourself quite irrationally happy of unhappy, which I guess proves your point….

  52. October 17th, 2011 at 04:42 | #52

    Of course, anyone who looks at the record of ‘representative democracy’ over the last four decades when Parliaments have not been hung — privatisations and two illegal wars against Iraq and one against Afghanistan, etc. — could not help but agree with Professor Quiggin.

    But let’s not forget the hated Goods and Services tax which Howard was able to get a hung Senate to adopt after he rorted Australia’s parliamentary and electoral processes to just scrape back into office in 1998, having lost the two-party preferred popular vote.

    Hung parliaments are still only a second-rate alternative to the democratic rights guaranteed in Switzerland’s constitution. Direct Democracy in Switzerland’s constitution gives Swiss citizens the right to overturn, at periodic referendums, scheduled to be held every three months, any government decision they don’t like provided they they can first obtain 100,000 signatures calling for its overturn. (A roughly equal figure, given Australia’s larger population population, would be 250,000.) If they obtain a double majority, that is a national majority and a majority of votes n a majority of cantons, the law is overturned. The Swiss can also have put to a referendum any other proposal for a change to Switzerlands laws.

    If we had Direct Democracy in Australia, what privatisations would not have been overturned? The list of laws enacted by federal and state parliaments and local councils which would have been overturned if we had Direct Democracy in Australia’s constitution is considerable.

    For more information, listen to the ABC Radio National Rear Vision program Direct Democracy of November last year or read the trascript. if you are convinced as I was that Direct Democracy would fix a good many problems that Australia now faces, then please add your support to the GetUp proposal at tinyurl.com/3nmwwjq.

  53. TerjeP
    October 17th, 2011 at 20:14 | #53

    I’m a big fan of including direct democracy structures into our system. I especially like the idea of TABOR to limit tax increases and citizens initiated referendums for the repeal of unpopular legislation. We could ditch the carbon tax pretty quickly if we had such democratic tools in place. And taxation would be a lot lower under TABOR.

  54. Dr Nick
    October 18th, 2011 at 13:13 | #54

    Sure, direct democracy sounds nice – but have a look at California for how it plays out when you’ve got aggresively polarised political parties.

    Further, I am reminded of Anatoly France’s comment: “If fifty million people say a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing.”

    It would be nice to think direct democracy would be used to overcome a lack of political will to address major problems like climate change and social inequality, but I fear it would simply become a semi-legislative form of tea-party-style liberalism where selfishness and short-term vested interests become (or remain?) the dominant force in our society.

  55. Alan
    October 18th, 2011 at 13:45 | #55

    @Dr Nick

    There are some very specific features in the California constitution that encourage attempts to entrench policies. Amongst other things a constitutional referendum requires the same majority as a legislative referendum so every petition becomes a constitutional one. We should also recall that Switzerland ended up with the famous minaret ban because they submit fundamental rights to popular vote. You could design a system that avoided both problems. For myself proportional representation in the House of Representatives is a more important reform.

  56. Ken Fabos
    October 19th, 2011 at 09:49 | #56

    I’m not a fan of direct democracy in the absence of media neutrality or an informed public; ignorance and fear harnessed by the unscrupulous for the manipulation of the susceptible is more than capable of delivering horrendously self defeating and regrettable outcomes. Gunboats to sink refugees? Declaring CO2 a harmless gas that can’t impact climate and defunding climate science to boot? Demanding free medical care combined with elimination of taxation? Actually I think there is something to be said for governments that use the expertise at their disposal to professionally explore and develop policy options. Harnessed by a better class of politician with real commitment to outcomes it looks superior to mob rule.

  57. Peter Kirsop
    October 23rd, 2011 at 21:16 | #57

    The present system (with majority governments) is an elective dictatorship. We should have a stronger and less partisan Senate (no Senator ministers would be a good start) and the Governor General should be able to take advice from other sources than her government; statutory officers (perhaps appointed by the Senate ) such as the Auditor General, the Ombudsman, the Head of the Public Service Board (yes bring it back..we need all of the Chilfley/Menzies “seven dwarfs” ) with the Speaker (elected as in England) should together be a counterweight to the Executive Council and be able to give Her Exec. separate advice.

  58. Fran Barlow
    October 24th, 2011 at 10:41 | #58

    @Peter Kirsop

    I am, as others will know, sympathetic to your claim that the current system amounts to “elective dictatorship”. (I think I’ve used the term plebiscitary for elective in your text).

    I’m not sure I can make the journey with your recommendations though. Personally I’d prefer to abolish the senate entirely. At best, it’s an unnecessary piece of duplication. More practically though, it’s a veto over executive power that in practice will only ever be cast against progressive reform.

    I’d also abolish the state governments and councils too amalgamating the functions of these two tiers of government into genuinely regional government. In practice though, such moves are improbable. Privileged stakeholders aren’t going to give up that feeding trough so easily.

    Proportional representation is often proposed and there is something to be said for it, relative to what we have now. I’ve previously sketched out in this place how a single-member electorate PR system could work. In my version of the scheme, every significant community of opinion has an MP somewhere, and localism and independents also get a shot, yet the weighting of the parliament strongly reflects actual voting. There’s less emphasis on local pandering and pork barrelling as well.

    That said, I would prefer a combination of sortition (for candidate selection and subsequently, with deliberative voting, in choosing successful politicians) and direct democracy (to approve/amend “National Plans” and amend, rescind or approve measures the parliament wasn’t able to pass). That’s a fairly radical structure and I fancy that it would be even harder to get up than abolition of the states and the senate of course.

  59. Freelander
    October 24th, 2011 at 11:47 | #59

    All forms of government are ideal, until they are tried. It follows that their problems, like communism and a variety of other ideal solutions, must be in their implementation and not in the or their conception.

  60. Tom
    October 24th, 2011 at 12:04 | #60

    @Fran Barlow

    Direct democracy will only work if the media is neutral.

  61. Alan
    October 24th, 2011 at 13:52 | #61

    Since 1972 the Senate has more often had a progressive majority than the House of Representatives. Occasionally the case has been that the House has rejected progressive reforms proposed by the Senate. A unicameral parliament may well have passed the asylum-seeker bill. There is just no case that the modern Senate always vetoes executive power and there are cases like WorkChoices where a Senate veto would have been a very good thing. The function of parliament is not to rubberstamp what the Executive wants.

  62. Fran Barlow
    October 24th, 2011 at 14:34 | #62

    @Tom

    Direct democracy will only work if the media is neutral {intellectually rigorous} {neutrality is a bankrupt concept and implies a bipartisan system rather than a pluralistic polity}.

    It’s the other way around — direct democracy in concert with the other measures I’ve suggested would force the media in the direction of policy analysis rather than tribal or personal analysis. The media would have no fixed target to aim at, other than the population as a whole. That would be a poor strategy.

    Under a system such as I have suggested, it would be very difficult for gthe media to create a consensus around its own preferred ends or even devise an independent narrative.

    @Alan

    I can recall only one occasion in the last 40 years in which the senate blocked a reactionary campaign from the HoR*. Just one. They have however blocked lots of progressive things and aided and abetted much that was ill.

    The senate also creates moral hazard. Howard probably wouldn’t have been elected in 1998 if there had been a unicameral legislature. He lost the popular vote, but most thought (wrongly as it turns out) that the Dems would block the GST and Telstra sell off. Had he run with those things as certainties, Beazley would have won. There’d have been no GST or Telstra sale or Tampa. We’d have ratified Kyoto. There’d have been no Latham or Iraq or Afghanistan interventions by us. We would have had a price on carbon by 2007. etc …

    * The CPRS of 2009

  63. Fran Barlow
    October 24th, 2011 at 14:35 | #63

    testing to see if my last post was modded for content … or links

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