Monday, 7 September 2009

To MMP or not to? [updated]

John Boy has launched a counter-strike to assuage resentment at his refusing to listen to last month’s referendum on smacking by announcing a binding referendum on MMP.

Some years overdue and not an election promise [oops, yes it was], but a welcome promise nonetheless. MMP has delivered Winston Peters, the Greens and Alamein Kopu, and along with them the abandonment of principle, the rise of propagrandstanding, and (since they always slither back in on the list) the inability to vote any particular bastard out.

Not a lot to cheer about there then – although MMP did slow some of the bastards down for some of the time.  And, mind you, what we had before did deliver Muldoon: so don’t  go thinking a change in the voting system is a panacea for the few checks and balances NZ’s politicians have as a restraint.

So as someone once said, or should have, “The idea that a change in the system by which your dictators are elected will change you from slave to subject is like hoping that a change in your swimwear will alter the tides.”

What’s more important than changing the voting system would be putting our most fundamental rights and freedoms beyond the vote altogether.  That would be something to really get excited about.

UPDATE: By the way, if you’d like to understand the vehement knee-jerk opposition to electoral change of the more collectivist political commentators around the traps, then you need to understand why they were so vehemently in support of MMP in the first place – and why Rod Donald was the prime mover in its introduction. Simply put, it’s because the left has a history of using the ‘leverage of democracy’ to make the tail wag a dog who doesn’t realise what’s going on.

Observe for instance how (with the help of compulsory student unionism) a small group of vocal collectivists on a student body can so easily take over the wallets of a larger group, and then claim to speak on their behalf?

Observe for another instance how a small group of militant Liverpudlians who called themselves the Militant Tendency began the take-over by vote-packing of local Labour Party electoral committees and then the Labour Party in Liverpool – and eventually, in 1983, with the Militant tail of each committee wagging the dog’s bodies to which they were delegates, The Tendency under Derek Hatton took over the the city and led it down a hole blacker and deeper than Arthur Scargill’s members’ mines.  (It was to expel the Militant Tendency and their allies from UK Labour that Tony Blair courageously took on the Clause 4 battle – and it’s for this principled stand more than even his alliance with George W. that he’s still reviled by the Trotsky lovers.)

That same process – of leveraging the votes of a few into becoming the voice of many – was used as well by Sue Bradford and her Maoist and Marxist colleagues to effect a reverse take-over of the Green Party after it left the Alliance, long before the genuine sandal-wearers even realised what was going on. (And you thought it was just coincidence there were so many former NLP, SWL and Socialist Action types in positions of power in the Green Party, and wondered why so few of their MPs have a genuine environmental background.  Head over and read Phil U.’s account here at Update 3 of Bradford and Catherine Delahunty, fresh from McCarten’s NLP, rejoining the Greens and declaring “the party is ripe for taking over.”)

And having achieved that, when Rod Donald et al kicked off the campaign for MMP in New Zealand, the collectivists were ready, willing and hoping for precisely the same effect on New Zealand’s body politic as they’re just had on the Greens and Derek Hatton had on Liverpool – for a small group of politically committed collectivists to use the leverage of MMP to wag the whole body politic.

Didn’t they do well.

Now do you understand their vehement opposition to any attempt to overthrow that system now?

Now do you see why they’re playing the “elected dictatorship” and “we’re-going-to-be-ruled-by-old-white-men” cards?

Do you think John Key is ready for a battle on a scale that Tony Blair faced when he faced down Militant Tendency and their allies to overturn Clause 4?  Are you?  Because that’s what you’re going to get.


  1. PC, but in the meantime, I'll take STV please. No more "oh, but my vote will be wasted".

    That said, it might deliver a lot more for the ever-wet Greens too, given the extreme handwringy nature of the average NZer these days.

  2. You won't believe this, Greig, but the word verif right now says "bleedn".


  3. MMP also 'delivered' ACT, but for some reason the author fails to mention that.

  4. Sean Fitzpatrick7 Sept 2009, 11:59:00


    I am with you. The only criticism of STV I have ever heard is that amazingly thick people won't understand how to do it.

    Well, that eliminates about a third of the Greens vote in one fell swoop, dunnit??

  5. From that link to Wikipedia: "The Single transferable vote (STV) is a system of preferential voting designed to minimize "wasted" votes and provide proportional representation while ensuring that votes are explicitly expressed for individual candidates rather than for party lists. "

    The problem with this is of course that we don't live in 17th century Britain, and like it or not, most people are uninterested in who their local member is and are rightly much more interested in who the governing party is.

    Any system that doesn't determine the government along party lines won't be representative of the people's wishes.

  6. Rimu: Perhaps because "the author" doesn't view ACT's presence in the Parliament in the same way you do?

    Greig: In the meantime, yes, I'm inclined to agree with you. I suspect Libz would find a lot of people ticking them as their preferred second option. Perhaps now's the time for you to fire up that pro-STV campaign you've been talking about? It worked for Rod Donald. ;^)

    TWR: I agree with Jefferson. I'm not so sure that rule by party is anything to feel excited about.

  7. No, it's not necessarily anything to get excited about, however I was merely commenting on the ability of the electoral system to reflect reality of the party system we have, rather than whether reality was the ideal situation.

  8. Sadly PC, I'm in the worst city in NZ to promote STV since we tried it here for local body elections, but the general populace of Hamilton was too damn stupid to understand it. We must be heavily settled by that third that Sean was speaking of. ;) I'll certainly be doing my utomst to educate everyone I know about it though. Back to being "that guy" at parties for me! Perhaps if I bring beer...

    Sus - my current one is "wootr". I'm not sure what to make of that. :)

  9. Why not retain MMP but make a few minor changes to it ?

    Like say, lower the threshold to 0.0499%. Then with the corresponding increase in MP's we could finally get a Lib in Parliament.

    Ha Ha Ha

  10. What a confused post.

    The basic question is why the House of Representatives should not in terms of composition represent the voting wishes of most voters but rather should only represent in terms of composition the votes only of some voters.

    In any proportional system the Left only have as much “democracy leverage” as voters are prepared to give them. However they can also get leverage in a FPTP system.

    As to the militant tendency in the UK (internal party factionalism is a feature of broad church parties under a FPTP electoral system), compulsory student unionism here (created under FPTP) Alamein Kopu (FPTP John Kirk).

    Of course one could apply proportional systems to say the analogy of a market system and ask why should a firm not get the economic power from the customers it attracts; why should one adopt a market model that creates a substantial barrier to new entrants or one where the business of non incumbents (who don’t profit from their custom) empowers/enriches incumbents.

  11. I will be voting for the old electoral system...(you know, the one where the chap with the most votes won)

    The sooner we get rid of the MMP disaster..(and I opposed it back then, realising what a confidence trick Donald et al were playing)..the better!

    The list of lunatic MPs is extensive -

    *Alamein Kopu
    *Pam Corkery
    *All ACT MPs except Prebble and Quigley (who at least walked the walk when in Government unlike Hide)
    *NZ First except Ron Mark (remember that hysterical female from Timaru?)
    *The Greens without exception.
    *The Alliance members without exception.

    What MMP has done is debase the Parliament; it has turned the institution from being a legislative and deliberative body to be respected and admired into a circus full of Peter Keatings - where little men and women talk endlessly about spending other people's money on their own pet projects; where Keatings and Tooheys shape public opinion to their own evil agendas (and New Zealanders being fundamentally thick swalled it whole)

    Similarly MMP has debased the Executive; there was a time when being a Minister was based on merit ...until Winston handed Cabinet seats to Jack Elder, Peter McCardle and some teenage girl who quit after a couple of years.

    Clark continued the debasing with Leila Harre, Jim Anderton and numerous others who would never have been serious contenders in Governments' of the past.

    So yes, let's return politics and Government back to the adults; let's get rid of the lunatics, rid of the apparatchiks, rid of the fringe and return things to the way they were; where all MPs are accountable to constituents, speak in debates about things of concern to constituents (something long since ended in Parliament where half of MPs don't have any constituents), raise the standard of debate, allow party candidate selection panels to weed out the dross (which is extensive) and give the voters a candidate who is at least 'normal' to have as their MP.

    Obviously there is the small matter of the inevitable end of the Libz, but we had a good run and enjoyed ourselves.

  12. Nothing confusing about it at all, Chris.

    First, I say that the single most important thing is to get away from this knee-jerk notion that changing the voting system will somehow take power away from politicians. It hasn't. It won't. It never will.

    Put bluntly, it's not so crucial how you vote or through which system you vote. What is crucial is what you get to vote on -- or more specifically, what you don't get to vote on. More on that in a minute.

    Second, I don't agree with your or with Rousseau that government should express the unrestricted wishes or "the will of the people" -- that the make-up of government should necessarily reflect that will, or that the more perfectly it does that the better the system that achieves it.

    In my view that notion is completely flawed.

    The job of government is not to express "the will of the people." That destructive notion should have died with the French Revolution. That's not the job of government. Instead, the job of government is to protect individual rights. Full stop. As was demonstrated by the constitution (however imperfect) that grew out of the American Revolution , that is achieved by putting individual rights beyond the vote.

    Putting individual rights beyond the vote is the single most important goal for any principled freedom lover. Once (or if) that's achieved then what the power-lusters get to vote on is less important, and who those power lusters are is much less relevant.

    As Ben Franklin affirmed, it wasn't a democracy that the Founding Fathers delivered, but a republic - a republic in which individual rights were constitionally protected. That's what freedom lovers here should be aiming for, not to argue for this or that voting system as some panacea for the liberty we don't have.

    Third, you say that the Left only have as much “democracy leverage” as voters are prepared to give them. With respect, this is nonsense.

    Ask yourself why the collectivists were almost one-hundred percent behind the MMP campaign then, and will be opposed to to ending it this time. It's because the entry to parliament they can acquire based on only a small level of support, and the people they can get in through this back door without without being properly examined by those they claim to represent. Entry for Pol Pot supporters like Keith Locke, and unreformed Marxists like Sue Bradford.

    The leverage they acquire through MMP off this tiny support base has been more than enough, even without cabinet ministers, for their small tail to wag the entire dog -- just as Sue Bradford did with the smacking campaign, and they're all now doing with pressure for the bloody carbon tax scam.

    I know that you harbour illusions, Chris, that your own party will one day take advantage of MMP sufficiently to be the ones wagging the dog in perpetuity -- an illusion that is also fuelling your party's ridiculous power game in Auckland. Frankly, both ideas are deluded. As far as promoting freedom goes, ACT is a busted flush -- just as your "super" city will be.

    Fourth, you decry a "model that creates a substantial barrier to new entrants." I put it to you that this is self-serving cant, and that this comment reveals the real reason for your support for MMP: that without it your party would be toast.

    As it deserves to be.

  13. Few will remind people that this debate is about counting heads rather than what's in them.

  14. Elijah,

    Your blue-tinted glasses are ridiculous. The NZ Parliament under FPP was nothing to be respected or admired.

    This was a parliament that played host to Robert Muldoon. That (under FPP) selected cabinets who played host to (just off the top of my head) Winston Peters, Frank Gill, Jonathan Hunt, Pat Hunt, Bob Tizard, Bill Rowling, Frank O'Flynn, Lance Adams-Schneider, Roger Sowry, Russell Marshall, Simon Upton, George Gair, Paul East, Tony Friedlander, Maurice Williamson, Colin McLachlan, Doug Kidd, Koro Wetere, Doug Graham, Bob Semple, Warren Cooper, Julius Vogel, Duncan MacIntyre, Phil Amos, Lockwood Smith . . .

    And you say "there was a time when being a Minister was based on merit"?!


  15. Elijah

    the biggest single problem in NZ politics isn't ACT. NZF, Greens or the Alliance. It's Labour.

    Similarly the worst MP since WWII isn't Kopu, Tuku, Tiler Field, Corkery, Ulrike Bradford, Winston, Dunny etc... It's Hellen, followed closely by Cullen, Mallard etc.

    Going back to FPP will not solve the big problem.

    As PC says: Second, I don't agree with your or with Rousseau that government should express the unrestricted wishes or "the will of the people" -- that the make-up of government should necessarily reflect that will, or that the more perfectly it does that the better the system that achieves it.

    Of course this is a very bad idea indeed! It is the absolute heart of Leftism, Unionism, Labourism, and all the rest. Unfortunately "the job of government is to protect individual rights." is just as bad - just more leftism also from the French revolution. And - unlike the US - NZ isn't based on French political ideas.

    The point of government is to protect the economy of the country. That's it. To protect its own existence, if you like. Rights, Votes, the People --- all those are accidently to the business of government.

    In NZ's case, the single most important change would be preventing the 60% of the population who are on benefits, who are civil or local government servants, who are on WFF, students, teachers, nurses, who do not contributed to the export performance of the country, preventing them all from voting.

    The the remaining portion of the country can get on with doing what we all know must be done!

  16. Anon said "The point of government is to protect the economy of the country. That's it"

    No it is not. The job of a government is to protect the rights- the individual rights- of the citizens. That's it. Once the government does this, then the economy (which is just a whole bunch of individuals trading with each other) will function just fine. As soon as the government starts to 'protect the economy', then you open the door for any statist politician to adopt whatever measures *they* deem necessary to 'protect' the economy, including price controls, capital gains tax, whatever.


  17. The point of government is to protect the economy of the country. That's it. To protect its own existence, if you like. Rights, Votes, the People --- all those are accidently to the business of government."

    You don't get it, either. And you mean "incidental," not accidently."

  18. Interesting how when all the flowery words are stripped aside posters like "anonymous" are nothing more than worshippers kneeling at an altar of collectivism. Make no mistake about it, she's a socialist- might deny it but a socialist all the same.


  19. Peter, I am correct about the quality of MP and standard of debate being considerably higher pre-MMP.

    I am not of the knee-jerk "MP = Bad" ilk, or even the "Not a libertarian MP = Bad" (which would therefore cover virtually everyone, leading to perpetual malcontent)..quite the opposite in many ways; I would like our Parliament to be respected by returning to its original purpose.

    One of the things about a return to the old electoral system I am eagerly awaiting is the thing the left is getting hysterical about ....NZ being governed by old, rich, white, men ("normal" people, in other words)

  20. OK - so I should have said "nurture" not "protect".

    And yes, "incidental" rather than accidently. I blame the iPhone.

    But I'm not a socialist. Oh no. But I do believe in the initiation of force against socialists: as soon as possible, and as much as possible.

  21. Peter, I am correct about the quality of MP and standard of debate being considerably higher pre-MMP

    I suspect you may be right, but lower standards are a sign of the times - nothing to do with MMP. Even if we went back to FPP you will never restore Tara to it's former glory ;-)

  22. "Even if we went back to FPP you will never restore Tara to it's former glory."

    That's my first belly laugh of the day. Very good. :-)

  23. One of the reasons the quality of debate (and MPs?) was higher in earlier times was they had no electorate offices, no secretary (or 3 MPs may have shared one), no 'research unit' people.

    This meant they did things themselves and instead of just being handed a research unit 'brief' and then making a speech MPs actually had to sit down and think about an issue, write a speech themselves and deliver it.

    Similarly without an electorate office or secretary they had to go out and do electorate/constituent work themselves.

    All this meant you had MPs, for better or worse, who stayed close to their electorates, spoke on behalf of constituents and actually thought about what they were saying in Parliament.

    Those chappies may have been a bit dull, but they certainly earnt their money in those days! ha ha!

  24. Good grief - how long ago was that?

    Jonathan Hunt was our electorate MP when I was a child (and for years after that!) and he only ever showed his face once every 3 years. And my mother remembers signing petitions to get rid of the Waitakere Licensing Trust when I was in a pushchair. It still hasn't happened. So much for MP's listening to the electorate.

    I think your view of politicians is somewhat...romantic.

  25. Let's remember how clinically inert half of the National caucus was in the 1970s and 80s, sparks from the likes of Gair, Quigley were exceptions rather than the rule. These hard working chaps helped nearly bankrupt the country because they were terrified of a short fat accountant who bullied them. It took a politically malaligned rural lesbian to confront him and help bring down the government.

    Labour similarly whimpered along with Rowling for so long and then picked a lively witty though not hard working or particularly well read large man to take on Muldoon. He was swayed by whoever got his attention and flattered his ego.

    I am no fan of MMP, but politicians have always been a bit of a spectrum with few who ever stand out.

  26. PC

    The longer you type the more I think you are on the defensive.

    No knee jerk at all. I have never thought that any particular electoral system (even one party ones) takes the politics out of politics or removes power from politicians. If one wants to limit the powers of politicians one does not do that through the electoral system simpliciter.

    As libertyscott notes electoral systems for me are about how votes are counted; how those votes are reflected in the candidates elected to the HofR; not what politicians can do with the power they are entrusted with when they get there.

    I am looking for the system that most closely resembles the candidate choices of most voters, with low barriers to entry, maximum possible freedom of expression and rigorous competition.

    This has little to do with Government (the Executive) in the technical sense or a broader constitutional discussion, except perhaps freedom of expression.

    What you are actually addressing is the overall constitutional framework. That wasn’t my intention – I am more narrowly focused on the composition of the House of Representatives.

    As an aside I might have some sympathy for political power to limited by special rules. Societies do overtime change the basket of rights that you would term “individual rights” even in societies where the creation/recognition of such rights are in special rules. The special rules tend to work best when bolstered by cultural practices.

    Regarding the left and MMP, yes that is because the left are generally more intellectual than most on the right (aside from those who are classical liberals) and are willing to change things. Conservatives on the right tend to resist change.

    Keith Locke and Sue Bradford might be all the things you say but still might be right on electoral systems. And at any rate isn’t this stuff just ad hominem. Consider; a broken clock is correct twice a day.

    Sue Bradford didn’t wag the dog on smacking – John Key and National did.

    On the ETS, it will probably be National and Labour together putting through the amended scheme – that is National’s intention. Its Labour’s scheme now.

    There has been no MMP tail waging here – in fact it’s the reverse: the big parties making the small one’s their female dog and then the voters dispatching them.

    As to the rest of your post it’s simply more ad hominem.

    I note you avoid the analogy of firms in the market place and parties in the political market place.


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