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Too much democracy

5 Nov 11 | Re: Government that can’t work

Just as an addition to my thoughts on Europe from a few days ago, I think there’s a similarity between the trouble we have with Europe, and privatised services.

Hugo Rifkind wrote an article in the Spectator recently making a very good point about energy suppliers. He doesn’t disagree with the principle that several competing energy suppliers ought to drive down prices. But when that system operates for electricity, and gas, and phones, and broadband, and water, and numerous other (near) essentials, it’s a dedicated consumer who takes the time to get, and keep, the lowest price for all of them. Most people will end up paying more than they strictly need to, and some companies might do very well from charging high prices, simply because it’s not realistic to expect customers to stay on top of where the best deals are to be had.

In short, the libertarian’s logic about the invisible hand is flawed in practice. Oh, well. James Delingpole was hardly going to be right, was he?

Now, our democratic system suffers from this a bit too. We elect representatives to go to Westminster and govern on our behalf, and we have all kinds of information at our disposal to make sure they do; and if they don’t, we can vote them out, or even put pressure on them to leave early. A lot of people don’t bother to keep up with politics, of course, but generally speaking I’d say that enough do to make this parliamentary system work. But where it falls down is when you start adding other parliaments.

Englishmen now have the European Parliament to keep track of as well as Westminster and their own local politics. Scots and Welshmen have their own regional assemblies on top of that, and some maniacs in England are even campaigning for an English assembly to add to that – as if anyone remotely normal can keep on top of the parliaments we already have. When you have one parliament to vote for, staying informed about it is a duty; but when there are three or four, the duties are too much for the citizenry. It’s an unfair imposition.

The result is, of course, that people lose track of the situation in whichever place seems the most remote and unimportant. That’s Europe. So now we have two reasons why Britain engaging properly with the EU Parliament is flatly impossible:

  1. The psychological: It wasn’t established in the proper way, so it has no narrative, so it isn’t a proper parliament and people will never be able to treat it like one even if they want to.
  2. The practical: We can’t possibly be expected to have time to follow all these different bits of our democracy.

The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that the EU Parliament should be replaced with a small number of delegates appointed by each country. Ours should be appointed by a vote taken by both chambers of our real parliament. That way, the people we send would have some real legitimacy, and crucially, we normal people wouldn’t have to do any extra voting.

A general summation: Beyond a certain point of usefulness, an increase in democratic participation for citizens yields no extra representation, but does increase the demands placed on them in terms of time and effort, for which they (of course) receive no compensation. Too much democracy might, in its way, become as much of a tyranny as too little.

Posted by GRANDPA CANYON at 18:23

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