Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Defanging all the power-brokers

I freely confess that when it comes to stories about who gave what to which politician, and how much, and what it was for - and why it might be either illegal or against the cabinet manual -- my eyes begin to glaze over, as I suspect do most of yours. Which is what, or course, politicians like Mr No-No-Yes rely upon, that seven days from now you'll all be hard pressed to even remember the details about Winston's donations from Owen Glenn and the Velas, and why they mattered.

WINSTON-YES In a better organised world, they wouldn't matter.

There are arguments about whether donations follow policy or policy follows donations, and it's frankly impossible for anyone but the donor to know which is which and whether they're getting value for money, which points to the primary problem here -- that politicians have almost unlimited power to deliver policy and favours in which their donors are interested. Policies that so often deliver special privilege, or special favours, or monopoly interest.

WINSTON-Maybe They're all in on the same scam, it's just that Winston is the one being pinged for it this week.

The problem is not with the donations, it's with the power politicians have to deliver those special privileges. The problem is not chiefly that policy might follow donations, but that politicians have the power to deliver the policies favoured by this sort of donor. That's the problem that those decrying Winston need to face up to, and that both sides of the Electoral Finance Act debate need to address -- that there are no constitutional restrictions whatsoever on how much parties can do once they have power, ands as long as that remains the case, the temptation will exist to buy one's laws or special favours direct from the political wholesaler.

But isn't this just another reason why the levers of political power should pull so much less weight? That there should be constitutional restrictions not on how much we can spend on our favoured party so it can gain power, but instead on how much parties can do once they have power. Isn't that infinitely more important, and far more supportive of genuine free speech?
As PJ O'Rourke says,

When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators.
Isn't that the point in a nutshell? Restrict the range of areas in which legislators can meddle, and you immediately lessen the interest in buying political power.

1 comment:

  1. Forgive my ignorance - I'm a relatively recent immigrant to NZ - but does the coalition government structure mean that this buffoon is virtually un-sackable from his ministerial position?


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