Wednesday, 29 November 2006

Why we need chains

I've been meaning to respond, however briefly, to Idiot/Savant's post on the lessons of Nicky Hager's book: Why we need transparency.

People donated money to a political party. Big deal? Hager thinks so. Hager refers to pots of money "reportedly promised" to National in meetings, letters and emails before the 2005 election -- and frankly neither I nor Idiot/Savant nor Hager have any idea whether any of this money or any of those promises were anything more than hot air -- and from that money proffered by business donors, I/S and Hager and others draw the conclusion that the money was spent (or at least promised) to buy policies. I/S quotes Hager:
When National MPs oppose measures to control smoking or gambling, or to allow greater subsidies for or advertising of pharmaceuticals, the public has every right to know whether those interests have been giving the party money.
We need, concludes I/S, "an end to money laundering and anonymous donations."

Do we? I take a different view.

In the present context governments "redistribute" upwards of forty-five percent of the country's GDP, and vote on legislation that at the stroke of a pen can help one company (Fletcher Building, Slingshot, Air New Zealand) and devastate another (Telecom, Origin Pacific, Air New Zealand). That's a lot of potential winners and losers, an awful lot of favours to deliver, and a lot of motivation for a lot of controls, subsidies, and legislation to be "bought off."

As PJ O'Rourke famously observed, "When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators."

So do we need controls on party donations? NO! We need controls on legislators being able to control buying and selling. Controls on Governments who use their office to buy elections. We don't need controls on whom people may donate to (that's their business): We need controls on what those donations can buy. In short: We need controls on the legislators, and on legislation!!

In my view, people may donate money to whomever and to whichever political party they like, but what can be done by those political parties in the way of delivering policies should be severely and constitutionally circumscribed. You see, as long as politicians can deliver absolutely anything (as they can presently), then -- rules or no -- everything will be delivered, everything will be bought and sold, everything is potentially up for sale.

But as long as politicians are properly chained up, there would very few favours they would be able to deliver.

And that's my preference.

LINKS: Why we need transparency - No Right Turn (Idiot/Savant)

RELATED: Politics-NZ, Constitution, Law, Darnton V Clark


  1. Absolutely! And while we're at it, why is it that politicians are so enthusiastic about stuff like drug-testing workers, but not if those workers happen to be--er--politicians?
    The rot starts at the top.


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