Thursday, October 20, 2005

MMP or not?

The MMP electoral system used in New Zealand and Germany is a mess. Sure, we can look forward every three years or so to several weeks of no government -- something for which we can at least be thankful -- but when the new Government is inevitably formed it frequently looks like a mongrel combination of both fish and fowl, and it frequently ends up spending even more than it would otherwise due to the need to buy off smaller parties (did someone say Families Commission, solar panels and Superannuation?).

Political paralysis is one of the features of the MMP system; while all the MMP-generated ducking and shoving does perhaps discourage significant reform, when the appetite for reform is mostly in the direction of more government rather than less, it seems to me that any paralyis is a good thing. When 'reform' means the imposition of more meddling, as it usually does in Helengrad, then a handbrake is what you need, not the promise of an open road. Frederic Sautet of the Austrian Economist has surveyed the landscape after the recent German and NZ elections however, and he disagrees:
Germany and New Zealand are in difficult situations: they both have similar electoral systems and they both have coalition governments. Whether Merkel will be able to implement social change à la Ludwig Erhard is difficult to say. While this is what Germany badly needs, my guess is that it won’t happen. As for Clark, she will be in the hands of her coalition partners and more backsliding is to be expected for the next three years in NZ.
In Clark's case, 'backsliding' is to be encouraged; imagine what she'd be doing if she really had her druthers.

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