Ephemera #1: What’s the Deal With Politicians?

The Ephemera series will be for post of lower consideration, in particular mainstream politics and policy. I hope the name of the series demonstrates sufficient contempt for the subject matter, however many years a slave to ordinary politics has left an almost indelible mark. Every now and then the thirst needs to be quenched.


Without trying to muscle in on Jerry Seinfeld’s schtick, what’s the deal with politicians? Historically, politicians have at least been of some calibre, but today, there is virtually nobody worth speaking of. Maybe Tony Abbott. Kinda, sorta, if you squint. But he still believes everything the left tells him he is required to believe. The only question remaining is what concession he will have to make for whatever small and temporary move to the centre he attains. It certainly isn’t Senator Bernardi. If he stepped back from the pulpit and realised that he might be able to sell his economic views, maybe he could do some good. But in the interim, it’s just gays and abortion like the world’s most pointless sermon.

A Left Libertarian friend in the Inner Party was asking a similar question regarding politician quality from both sides, and suggested that the nature of machine politics weeds out the ‘crazy’ in parties, the person willing to say that party policy is wrong and that a new direction is required. He believes that it creates a network of yes men who only differentiate from each other by how well they undercut rivals and put people down. Quality doesn’t matter, only election and temporary power. Hoppe on democracy is vindicated once again, although my friend remains both a democrat and republican. Takes all sorts, I suppose.

But it didn’t always seem that way. The 18th and 19th centuries appeared (if nothing else) to elect superior candidates. Could you imagine Edward Gibbon entering Parliament today? Or Theodor Mommsen in Germany? It would be unfeasible for a candidate of their intellect and substance to be elected. They were from the elite, and wrote their great histories for an elite audience, but I would wager there was less of a divergence between the views they held and the views of the common man than there is today. Certainly, the electoral role was more oligarchic than it is today with our obsession with franchise, and I would never discount the possibility that Universalism and the declining average IQ of the voter is to blame.

But I suggested to him that the issue, in particular, lies with Fabianism. Given the rapid and unabated move to the left over the last century, and with it the acceptable boundary of the opposition to the left, candidates from the Outer Party must be all of bland, unthinking, and willing to betray their instincts for some temporary power. The left, on the other hand, has no interest in rocking the boat, given their strength, and so preselects mindless candidates to manage risk while everything moves left. Barely useful idiots.

An idea for alleviating the problem would be to legislate that no preselection can occur before candidates have declared their intention to run and paid the nomination fee (perhaps $3000), at which point they are contractually obliged to have their name appear on the ballot paper regardless of circumstances. The various parties then offer to endorse whichever candidate they want.  This way, the party is for the candidate, rather than the candidate being for the party, which is more in line with the Westminster system.

Whipping (binding backbench MPs to vote with the party line) is then irrelevant, as there are 150 members in the House who were willing to run as Independents, and therefore should be willing to sit as such.

As for the Senate, merge Tasmania and Victoria into a single state, allow the State Parliaments to appoint ten of their Senators, while the other two are reserved for functional constituencies (like Hong Kong) determined by the Federal Parliament.

A little less democracy just might do a world of good.


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