Monday, 19 May 2008


MMP?  STV?  First Past the Post?  Doesn't matter to me which electoral system is used in New Zealand -- frankly, the whole argument is a populist sideshow.

What's important is not the method by which governments are elected, but the way in which they're tied up.

What's important is not the counting of heads regardless of content -- whichever method is used to count the empty heads -- but putting things beyond the vote that are far too important to leave at the mercy of an empty-headed majority.

Sure, we can look forward every three years or so to several weeks of no government while the power-lusters negotiate how the cake is carved up, 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 Gold Cards?).

Sure, it can slow down legislation.  A little.  But it's also true that the minority 'tail' gets to wag the whole country, introducing legislation that's a real dog (how amusing that Greens's co-leader Russel Norman sees minorities gaining power through the construction of the electoral system as a problem).

As Lindsay Perigo points out, "MMP has already done its damage, giving unreconstructed socialists like Banderton and the Luddite Greens clout in government out of all proportion to their popular support."  The point is not to change the electoral system, but to to protect ourselves from Nanny governments.  We might begin by remembering that

Democracy, so often and so tragically confused with freedom, allows for the destruction of freedom at the behest of majorities or pluralities. In particular it enfranchises welfare cannibals who vote for the party that promises them the greatest amount of money stolen from its legitimate owners. Elections become, in H. L. Mencken’s immortal words, ‘an advance auction of stolen goods.’

"Any meaningful electoral reform must at minimum disenfranchise those who suck on the state tit. Bailey Kurariki, who is no doubt looking forward to voting Labour, the party that most conscientiously spawns his ilk, should not have the vote at all until he is self-supporting.

"Most importantly, the inalienable rights of every individual to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness must be placed out of harm’s way, beyond the vote. Politicians must be constitutionally prevented from violating those rights, no matter how many state-indoctrinated zombies demand such violation.

"Every adult human being has the right to live his life as he/she chooses, constrained only by the requirement to respect the right of others to do the same. This right should be enshrined in a constitution and made sacrosanct in law,” Perigo concludes.


  1. The best evidence suggests that the electoral system does matter. I'm not saying that we don't need more constraints on government: far from it. But the electoral system still matters. Persson and Tabellini find that PR-type systems have, on average, governments that are 5 percentage points bigger than those running FPTP.

    I suppose you could make one of those "the worse the better" kinds of arguments for keeping the type of electoral system that tends to produce the biggest and most wasteful governments, in the hope that it makes things bad enough that we have to engage in substantial reform. I'd still be very happy to see us switch away from MMP back to FPTP or some system that substantially reduces the bargaining power of small parties.

  2. I agree with Crampton. Some voting systems are better than others.

    Besides, in a libertarian country, political parties would have little basis for existence, as there would be no room for parties advocating destructive socialistic and authoritarian policies, (if such a party got into power, they would be impotent). For this reason MMP would be rendered obsolete.

    I myself support a system of mixed FPP and sortition (random choosing).

    Of course, as you have said Peter, the only purpose of government is the protection of citizens from foreign goverments, and each other. The only purpose of legislative government is to decide how this protection is to be implemented.

    At the very least, voting systems make interesting math.



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