Friday, 15 February 2013

3 or 4 year terms?

Sinclair Davidson spotted the interesting debate in the The New Zealand Initiative's weekly email update on whether or not to lengthen the three-year parliamentary term to four year.

Oliver Hartwich wants the term lengthened:

Elections are about choosing people we trust and task with decision-making on problems we may not even know at the time of the election. If you are uncomfortable with that then you have not understood the concept of parliamentary democracy.
    The more substantive problem with three-year terms is that it leaves little time for parliamentary work. With new MPs and positions reshuffled, it takes the best part of a year for a new parliament to start functioning. Parliament also typically descends into a pre-election campaign well before the likely end of its term.
    Currently this leaves just about one year for good, substantial governance. Increasing electoral terms to four years would double this quieter mid-term period when parliament can properly fulfill its role as the legislature. It would allow more time for good law-making, and it could well result in a better quality of policy. It might even encourage governments to undertake necessary reforms, even if their positive results do not materialise immediately.

Luke Malpass disagrees:

The arguments for four- (or five-) year fixed parliamentary term can be summed up as stability, predictability and giving government time to implement its agenda. By having a longer fixed term, government governs better.
    This is all well but ignores the basic principle that liberal democracies are founded upon: fear of tyranny. This fear is institutionalised through checks and balances to limit power of government.

“I’m inclined to agree with Luke,” says Sinclair. Me too.  “Luke’s point about tyranny is decisive. The only way to keep the bastards honest is to throw them out of office. That means shorter not longer electoral periods.”


Oliver reckons the “substantive problem with three-year terms is that it leaves little time for parliamentary work.” But this is not a bug, it’s a feature!  It’s the parliamentary work they’re doing that is making our lives worse.

“Increasing electoral terms to four years would double this quieter mid-term period when parliament can properly fulfil its role as the legislature,” says a deluded Oliver Hartwich.  Because these bastards are not in there legislating to make our lives better, or freer, or more prosperous, and they haven’t been for a very long time indeed--and if Oliver or anyone truly thinks they are then they’re either blind or stupid.

As Mark Twain used to say, neither life, liberty nor property is safe while parliament is in session. If a three-year term means parliament is in session for fewer hours—and in those fewer hours less work is being done—then I’m all for shortening parliamentary terms, not making them longer.

Indeed, if a three-year term really only leaves one year when parliament fulfils its role as the legislature, then I’m all for making the parliamentary term only two years. Then the bastards wouldn’t have time to do anything at all substantial.

And how bad could that be?


  1. Yes, it is no fluke that the freest and most prosperous state in America, Texas, is the one whose legislature only meets for 140 days every two years. If I had my way, our Parliament would only be allowed to meet for the hours between 10pm and midnight on February 29th. I think that is more than enough time to deal with the essential business of government.

  2. Yes, I've been advocating a monthly term for some time now.

  3. It's also not a doubling!

    Two years in four, is not twice one year is three.

    It's a 50% increase. 6 years in every 12 years, up from 4 years in every 12.

  4. I felt we should increase the number of MP's. There must be a number (200, 300) at which they can never agree on anything and nothing gets done. Yes it would be expensive to run parliament, but a fraction of what it costs us every time they do something.

  5. Unfortunately it took that thieving bastard Michael Cullen about five minutes flat to raise the tax rate when he got in.

    Luckily most of the time you've got an utterly worthless bunch of ex-unionists, teachers, lawyers and beneficiaries who are cataclysmically unqualified for what they're tasked with doing that you can breathe easy for a few months while they play with their shiny toys and chauffeur driven cars and can't do as much damage.

  6. Probably doesn't matter how long the parliamentary term is, as long as MPs are constrained in what atrocities they can perpetrate on the citizens they represent.

    A constitution strictly limiting state power to protection of individual rights would do the trick nicely.

    Here's one I prepared earlier:

    Well not me, actually, but Ashley Chan et al.

  7. There is little evidence that 5 year term Britain gets better policy than 3 year term NZ.

    Although similarly, the 2 yearly elections in the US also seem to result in constant short termism and paralysis for fear of confronting the entitled (but also taxpayers).

    Quite simply, this issue makes little difference, so I'd stick to 3 years. Besides, there was a referendum on this 20 years go, little need for another one so soon.

  8. I agree that a three-year term is desirable however a more pressing issue, and one which garners almost no debate, is the very real need for an upper house, a senate perhaps, to act as a check.

    A concept far too complicated for the MSM.

  9. Assuming that it is inevitable that we have to put up with politicians, the question remains how can we improve the quality of the decisions they make? If we are of the view that the will of the majority is not a good indicator of good policy, then what purpose is there in testing that will more frequently?

    It is fallacious logic to assume that, because an election every four years is a great check and balance by which we can limit government, an election every two years is an even better check and balance. Not necessarily so - we are in the realm of psychology here. Legislators are always going to act on their incentives. My argument is that an MP will be more inclined to implement a good policy that will show benefits in four years time if he actually has four years until the voters get to pass judgment. With a three year term, he is already out of office, so he will choose the bad policy instead.

    I'd rather risk a little more "tyranny" than be subject to the tyranny of bad decisions.

  10. If the current politicians are in favour of it , it must be a bad idea. If we could trade a longer term( 4 years) for term limits (say
    2 terms), I wonder how many would still support it?

  11. Vote the scum out every 3yrs. It is the only language they understand.

  12. What we really need is a citizens justice group to hold garage sales at the homes of MPs whenever they make grossly unacceptable use of taxpayer funds.

    There is unfortunately no legal way to hold politicians to account as long as they dictate the laws of the land.

    The average taxpayer can't even protest in the street because they are too busy working 50+ hours a week to contribute towards lifetime perks and backdated pay rises for MPs.

  13. The problem is not the term, it's the electorate who put them there. Get the incentives right for the voters. Tradable Citizenship is the way to go. With the price shown constantly, we could see immediately what the market thinks of things politicians do.

    If the share price of a tradable citizenship dives when the government announces importation of another 10,000 refugees to go on welfare from Islamistan, then the public would be displeased. If there was an election the following month, the rogues enacting such a swindle on the public would be evicted.

    At present people vote to get what they can while the getting is good. It's a financial tragedy of the commons. The producers are fleeing and the bludgers are breeding. The number of people working for the government [directly or indirectly], and those on various forms of benefit is now well in excess of those working independently.

    An annual or monthly election would help get incentives right.

  14. The supposedly diametrically opposed national socialists and social nationalists agree on one thing and that is the productive sector must be parasitized even more.

    The arguments over the remaining scraps in the trough will get nasty but Democracy's one redeeming feature is that this wrestling does not result in war between these sides, which is a vote for three year terms as opposed to four from me.

    Having said that, the threat to shoot or incarcerate or steal from non-coercionist objectors or non participants in the fraud is an undeclared war and another mutually-agreed-to policy by all trough-feeders...the fucking pricks

  15. @Kiwiwit I endorse your proposal, the sooner the better.

  16. This discussion is a distraction. Limiting, by constitution, the scope of government should be a first priority. Then I care less about term.

  17. Shane - having a constitution hasn't stopped the booldsuckers draining the host dry in the U.S.

  18. J Cuttance - indeed, and therin lies a lesson.

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